Thursday, January 31, 2008

negative reviews

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David Anthony Durham offers up a little negative review quiz where the four books being harshly criticized are popular and acclaimed novels.

My favorite review?
Anyways, I sure hope he doesn't plan on writing anything else. I read this book, initially, in the author's native bulgarian language...and it was even worse!
Just wait until you see what book THAT is.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Minnesota Book Awards 2008

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The Nominees for the Minnesota Book Awards have been announced, and I don’t know if this is final nominee list, the Long List, or the Super Long List, but there are quite a few nominees in each category.

Alison McGhee picked up a nomination for Young Adult Literature for her novel Falling Boy. McGhee has won four previous Minnesota Book Awards (1 for Children’s Book, 1 for Young Adult, 2 for Novel), with an additional two nominations.

In my literary greed, I’d like to see fewer picture books and more adult novels (or at least young adult, because All Rivers Flow to the Sea is as good as anything out there). But that’s just me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Asimov's: March (?) 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008 0
The March 2008 issue of Asimov’s arrived yesterday afternoon. March? Really. I know this isn’t new to long time subscribers, but I don’t know what I think about issues being mailed out quite so far in advance of the month in which it is supposed be for.

I should really start reading my Asimov’s, but now I’m even farther behind. But! I may crack open this one first because there is a story by Elizabeth Bear: “Shoggoths in Bloom”.

Also in the issue is Cat Rambo’s first sale to Asimov’s.

And why won't they update the website to get the current issue up? They're two behind now. *grumble*

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Or Else My Lady Keeps the Key, by Kage Baker

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 0
Or Else My Lady Keeps the Key
Kage Baker
Subterranean Press: 2008

Taking a step away from the Company, Kage Baker takes a crack at a pirate novel and gives us her spin on piracy and a quest for buried treasure. Or Else My Lady Keeps the Key is a short novel rife with adventure, mystery, the supernatural, piracy, a damsel who may or may not be in distress, and the search for hidden treasure. The only thing missing is a treasure map with a big X on it.

John James is ready to leave a life of piracy behind. After risking his life and seeing friends killed he returns home with only 50 pounds. He wants to set up a blacksmith’s shop and the 50 pounds will be just enough, but he first must give a lady a letter from her now dead beau, his now dead friend. Rather than being the end of John’s adventures, this is the beginning to the next for the letter contains instructions on how to find a great deal of money he had buried. Mrs. Waverly offers to split the money with John if he will only help her.

What follows is a lean, fast paced story where each chapter brings the reader something new. Baker deftly advances the story while giving us greater details about the characters, a bit of romance and mystery, a bit of the supernatural, a bit of piracy and high adventure on the seas, and a bit of everything I might wish from a slim pirate novel.

Or Else My Lady Keeps the Key shows off Kage Baker’s range. She isn’t all about The Company (as great as that series is), and that while this novel is a bit of a period piece (set pre-Civil War), it moves as deftly as any modern tale of adventure. The simple path from A to B is not taken and Baker throws new perils and detours into the path of John James and the lady. I hesitate to use the word “rollicking”, but at times Or Else My Lady Keeps the Key does, indeed, rollick.


Or Else My Lady Keeps the Key will be published in April 2008

Reading Copy provided courtesy of Subterranean Press

Monday, January 21, 2008

William Shunn's Nebula Story: Not of this Fold

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John Klima, editor / publisher of Electric Velocipede and of William Shunn’s chapbook has posted the Nebula nominated story “Not of this Fold”. (Note - PDF, *grumble*)

Again, may I state my appreciation for publishers who allow stories nominated for major awards to be freely available? I can’t think of better publicity for the magazines / zines / authors than getting the chance to read the major award nominated stories.

This also reminds me that I want to place an order for this chapbook in the near future.

Shadow Unit Goodness

Everyone reading Shadow Unit? Until the official "episodes" start in mid-February we have been given 5 teasers so far and three easter eggs (that I'm aware of). Think of Shadow Unit as the new tv show that won't be strike shortened, the one with a secret FBI Unit investigating "anomalous" crimes.

I rather like the Paine Lake teaser.

Teaser 1 (Intro)
Teaser 2 (Paine Lake)
Teaser 3 (Hafidha)
Teaser 4 (Madeline Frost)

Teaser 5 is currently on the front page of Shadow Unit and will be until this Thursday night (new updates on Thursday and Sunday PM)

Hidden on the pages are Easter Eggs, like DVD bonus content. I've found three so far.

Easter Egg 1
Easter Egg 2
Easter Egg 3

The creators of Shadow Unit (Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly) have also created livejournals for various characters. I'm aware of three right now. There is no fourth wall, the LJ's are written from the perspective of the characters and, in general, they are like your average person's LJ with the occasional tidbit thrown in that I let people at the Message Board dissect.

LJ's
Daphne Worth
Charles Villette
Hafidha Gates

The kicker of the LJ's is that they'll link to real people and non-Shadow Unit LJ's. Like I said, no fourth wall. The characters aren't characters here, they're people too.

Shadow Unit can be, potentially, a fully immerse environment and I'm very excited about it. I am most looking forward to the actual episodes (first one written by Emma Bull, second by Elizabeth Bear) when we get deeper into the stories and content and not just the interesting, but short and incomplete teasers.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Conventions

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So, I would like to go to one of the two Twin Cities SFF conventions which I am aware of: CONvergence or Minicon. I’ve never been to a con before and I’m curious what the scene is all about and how it all works. I think the one in the summer would be better, rather than the Easter-Con.

I knew the big’uns like WorldCon, and Comic-con (or whatever the hell it’s called) were expensive, but I didn’t realize that our little Minnesota conventions were so damn pricy. $65 at the door? Must be out of your mind!

Maybe in 2009 or 2010 if I’m still interested in going. That’s a lot of money to spend on something I have no idea if I would possibly enjoy or find worthwhile. I don’t quite have that in the budget, I’d rather go to the Penumbra or to a couple of movies with my wife than to buy a solo pass for $65, at least this year.

Yikes!

Maybe if Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, Charles Stross, David Anthony Durham or a handful of other authors I would really love to listen to speak were announced for either con I might be more willing to spring for it.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Need a Break from the King

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From December 2006 through January 2008 I have read 17 books written by Stephen King. I think I need a break. I am reading (and will finish) Firestarter and I haven’t quite figured out if I am simply burnt out on King or if Firestarter just isn’t any good. I am leaning towards Firestarter not being very good, but these little King tics of aside comments in parenthesis and King hitting dialect of how people talk complete with stupid little phrasing – the tics are pulling me out of the story.

I originally planned to reserve Danse Macabre and Cujo as soon as I finished Firestarter so that I’ll have finished all of King’s work published before The Gunslinger. I want to read each volume of The Dark Tower having read everything that came before so I can better appreciate how King works his worlds into Dark Tower.

I just need a break. The novels are style is starting to run together. Hopefully this is just because some of the more recent reads of mine like Firestarter, Blaze, and The Colorado Kid just aren’t that good and not that I really am wearing out on King. We’ll see.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Asimov's Preliminary Nebula Nominees!

Thursday, January 17, 2008 0
One thing I appreciate about the SFF magazines is that for the major awards (Hugo and Nebula, not so much World Fantasy), the nominated stories will be posted for free online so everyone has a chance to see what the best of the best are. Even the print zines do this. Fantasy and Science Fiction already has their nominees for the Nebula up and today I found that Asimov’s has posted theirs. And this is only the preliminary ballot.

Novella
Fountain of Age, by Nancy Kress

Novelette
Safeguard, by Nancy Kress
A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange, by Beth Bernobich
Alistair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders, by Mike Resnick

Short Story
Always, by Karen Joy Fowler


I am surprised that Analog has not posted their story, considering it would be only one story they would be giving away to the public. Same goes to Realms of Fantasy.

Quick Takes: Elizabeth Bear, Kage Baker, George R. R. Martin


New Amsterdam, by Elizabeth Bear: New Amsterdam is something of a mosaic novel. Bear links several stories together so that each story builds where the previous one left off and enriches the overall experience, but each story is complete itself. Together, the stories of New Amsterdam feel more like chapters than separate entities. New Amsterdam opens in the late 1800’s with a story of a man making his way via dirigible from the old world of Europe to the new world of America, only this is an America which is still an English colony, where New York is still New Amsterdam, and magic and vampires are real. The choicest detail I found was that magic was as much a science as anything else and a character is a noted ThD (Doctor of Thaumoturgy). There is a formality to the language, or the storytelling, as if Bear was placing the novel in a tradition of a late 1800’s story. This is difficult for me to explain, but a feeling I had. Meanwhile we are introduced to the vampire and private detective Sebastian, and to the Crown Investigator Irene Garrett. Together they make a fascinating pair as they investigate various supernatural crimes with ties to the local government of New Amsterdam (initially). New Amsterdam required a bit more work to read than the average Elizabeth Bear novel (not that Bear’s novels are even remotely average), but this is due to the formality of the prose rather than the content of the stories. Interesting distinction, and while I would like to read more about Sebastian and Irene Garret, I think I would rather read about them on a per story basis, rather than a book.



Black Projects, White Knights, by Kage Baker: As much as I loved the four Company novels I have read from Kage Baker, and as high as my expectations were going into this collection of Company short stories, I was disappointed. Familiar faces flitted in and out of the stories, from Joseph and Lewis, to Kalugin, to Mendoza. Perhaps because these stories were tied to the Company milieu I expected Baker’s Company short fiction to expand our understanding of the characters, their situations, and the overall landscape. Outside of the Alec Checkerfield stories, I do not believe the stories did so (though the story of Lewis excavating a tomb was superb). I suspect that what I brought to the stories is what hampered my enjoyment of them. I was unable to read the stories as discrete piece of fiction, and because of the inherent tie to The Company, most disappointed. I am quite sure that some feel Baker’s Company short fiction is superior to her novels, but based on this first collection I cannot agree.



Wild Cards: Jokers Wild, by George R. R. Martin (editor): This third entry of the Wild Cards series brings the final showdown of Fortunado, Dr. Tachyon, and The Astromoner. Like the previous two volumes Jokers Wild is a mosaic novel. Unlike the previous two volumes Jokers Wild is a straight out novel rather than a series of interlocking short stories. Jokers Wild is still written by a team of writers and edited by George R. R. Martin, but there is a greater flow to the story here because there is one main storyline running through the entire novel rather than having various short stories jump around. This has made Jokers Wild a stronger work than the first two and a far smoother reading experience. Here we get to follow particular characters over the course of the novel and while it is difficult to remember who some characters who were only referenced earlier are, the characters who take center stage here really get to shine. In particular, that woman (Jennifer) who can phase through solid matter, and Spector (the one who can bring death by looking in your eyes) especially stand out. The main selling point of the Wild Cards series (besides the talent involved) is that this is a superhero story where the heroes are real people with real problems and the same varying shades of morality that the rest of humanity has. It is also interesting seeing the changes wrought after the Wild Cards virus was loosed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wastelands, by John Joseph Adams (editor)

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Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse
John Joseph Adams (editor)
Night Shade Books: 2007

What is in a name? A title? Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse suggests that the anthology will cover stories directly dealing with various versions of the apocalypse, the end of the world. That is not quite what this Wastelands anthology is about, though. The original title Wastelands: Stories of Life After Apocalypse was a bit more apt in describing the content of this anthology. The stories collected here by editor John Joseph Adams are not about the apocalypse, but rather about life after apocalypse. The wastelands made of our world is not the primary point of any individual story, but rather the survival of the species told in small human stories. In that sense the majority of the stories here are filled with beauty and not just the desolation of the landscape.

What is most remarkable about Wastelands is just how varied stories about living after the destruction of civilization is. Take Octavia E. Butler's Hugo Award winning "Speech Sounds", a story where humanity has lost the power of speech and must find other ways to communicate and society has broken down. Telling the story from the perspective of a woman named Rye, Octavia Butler is able to really give the reader a sense of the terror a woman may feel in such a situation and the emptiness of that life, of the snap anger and body language required to get by, and the barest hint of hope. "Speech Sounds" has been anthologized before, but is a truly outstanding story.

The range of stories collected in Wastelands runs the gamut from "Bread and Bombs" by M. Rickert, a post 9/11 story with kids feeling the fear of their parents, to the future history of "Dark, Dark Are the Tunnels" by George R. R. Martin, a post nuclear holocaust story with the remants of humanity living deep under ground, or Paolo Bacigalupi's "The People of Sand and Slag" where humanity is barely recognizable and a dog reminds the survivors of what life must have been like before, and filled with sadness of the setting and situation. Bacigalupi's story is especially surprising to me because of how negatively I reacted to his story "Yellow Card Man", but "The People of Sand and Slag" is a heartbreaking, beautiful, and painful story.

Other standout stories in Wastelands include Cory Doctorow's "When Sysadmins Ruled the World", "Artie's Angels" by Catherine Wells, and most surprisingly, the anti-Rapture and anti-religion "Judgment Passed" by Jerry Oltion. A spacecrew who were away from Earth return to find that Christ had returned and the Rapture occurred. I had expected that Oltion's anti-Rapture theme would overwhelm the story, but Oltion was very thoughtful and the way he had the characters respond seemed reasonable and plausible.

There are stories in the Wastelands anthology which did not quite work. Gene Wolfe's "Mute" is about as inscrutable as one would expect and despite Neil Gaiman's insistence on Wolfe improving with re-reading, "Mute" fails to connect. "Still Life With Apocalypse" and "Episode Seven" both did not seem to tell a coherent story.

"Episode Seven" is notable because John Langan was inspired to write the story in response, partly, by Dave Bailey's "The End of the World As We Know It", a very different story of "post-apocalyptic" fiction. In this story the survivor has a passive response to the end of the world, drowning it in alcohol rather than fighting actively for survival. Outstanding story, one of the best in the anthology.

Also notable are Elizabeth Bear's driven "And the Deep Blue Sea" and Neal Barrett Jr's "Ginny Sweethips' Flying Circus".

The bottom line is that collectively the stories John Joseph Adams has put together here in Wastelands shows off the range of the post-apocalyptic sub-genre of fiction. Wastelands is an excellent anthology of short fiction and one that would easily fit on any collector's shelves. There are far more standout stories than there are misses, and even that is subjective.

Post-Apocalyptic fiction is a favorite sub-genre of mine, and getting the chance to see just how wide ranging the genre can be is a treat. As a bonus, Adams includes a bibliography at the end of the anthology of other prominent post-apocalyptic novels and short stories.


Reading copy provided courtesy of Night Shade Books.

2008 Golden Gryphon Titles

2008 Titles!

Nano Comes to Clifford Falls and Other Stories by Nancy Kress (May 2008)
The Wreck of the Godspeed and Other Stories by James Patrick Kelly (August 2008)
Harvest of Changelings by Warren Rochelle (September 2008), softcover reprint
Budayeen Nights by George Alec Effinger (September 2008), softcover reprint

Jeffrey Ford — The Well-Built City Trilogy
Book 1: The Physiognomy
Book 2: Memoranda
Book 3: The Beyond
(October/November 2008), softcover reprints
From the Golden Gryphon Press website.

Also, I see in their “Future History” section a new title from M. Rickert: Holiday. Publication date TBD. Hmm.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Heinlein: Job

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Turns out I have read something by Robert A. Heinlein. Didn’t think I had. Job. I found this back in high school, thought the concept was interesting, read it, enjoyed it mostly, and never gave it or the author a second thought.

When I was in the bookstore last week and picked up the 2 Bear novels and 1 Jo Walton, I was browsing the Heinlein and saw that very same book I read back in high school. Now I’m at the point where I wished I had read more Heinlein and am starting with Starship Troopers (the movie is delightful shlocky violent fun), but I wished I knew of Heinlein at the time and was able to pick up at least his juveniles. I wonder how that would have affected my future reading.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Preliminary Nebula Ballot: F&SF stories available online

Saturday, January 12, 2008 0
John Joseph Adams provides a link to the 7 stories from Fantasy and Science Fiction nominated for the Nebula. Adams mentions they will only be up a limited time, so it's time to check them out!

We've got fiction from Gene Wolfe, Ted Chiang, and Lucius Shepard, among others.

I'll have to check these out. I've read Ted Chiang's story previously, and Geoff Ryman's story, but the other five are new to me.

Shelving Jo Walton

I check my library system’s website almost daily to see about updates on forthcoming books being entered into the system. I want to get that early reserve on the new (insert author’s name here) book. The 1/10 update has Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny listed as General Fiction rather than SFF.

Let’s see, I picked up Farthing in the SFF section of my bookstore, Walton has been published by TOR, she has won the Campbell for Best New Writer (2002), and Ha’Penny is a follow up to Farthing.

My guess is that because Ha’Penny is listed as being published by St. Martin’s Press, it automatically got shelved in General Fiction. But then it isn’t like Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America was shelved in SFF either. Or George Orwell, or Huxley, or...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Preliminary Nebula Ballot 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008 0
Thanks to Mary Robinette Kowal for this link.

According to Mary, the writers in the SFWA will select the top 5 in each category and that will be the final ballot for the Nebulas.

I have left the scripts and the “Norton” award off this list.

Novels (13)
Ragamuffin, by Tobias Buckell (Tor, June 2007)
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins, May 2007)
Species Imperative #3: Regeneration, by Julie E. Czerneda (DAW, May 2006)
Vellum: The Book of All Hours, by Hal Duncan (Del Rey, April 2006)
The Accidental Time Machine, by Joe Haldeman (Ace, August 2007)
The New Moon's Arms, by Nalo Hopkinson (Warner Books, February 2007)
Mainspring, by Jay Lake (Tor, June 2007)
Odyssey, by Jack McDevitt (Ace, November 2006)
The Outback Stars, by Sandra McDonald (Tor, May 2007)
Strange Robby, by Selina Rosen (Meisha Merlin Publishing, July 2006)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, July 2007)
Rollback, by Robert J. Sawyer (Tor book, April 2007)
Blindsight, by Peter Watts (Tor, October 2006)


Novellas (5)
"The Helper and His Hero," by Matt Hughes (F&SF, Mar07 (Feb07 & Mar07))
"Fountain of Age," by Nancy Kress (Asimov's, Jul07)
"Stars Seen Through Stone," by Lucius Shepard (F&SF, Jul07)
"Kiosk," by Bruce Sterling (F&SF, Jan07)
"Memorare," by Gene Wolfe (F&SF, Apr07)

Novelettes (13)
"The Children's Crusade," by Robin Wayne Bailey
(Heroes in Training, Martin H. Greenberg and Jim C. Hines, Ed., DAW, Sep07)
"A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange," by Beth Bernobich (Asimov's, Jun06)
"Things That Aren't," by Michael A. Burstein and Robert Greenberger (Analog, Apr07)
"The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate," by Ted Chiang (F&SF, Sep07)
"Sister of the Hedge," by Jim C. Hines (Realms of Fantasy, Jun06)
"The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs Of North Park After the Change," by Kij
(Coyote Road, Trickster Tales, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, Ed., Viking Juvenile, Jul07)
"The Sun God at Dawn, Rising from a Lotus Blossom," by Andrea Kail (Writers of the Future Volume 23, Algis Budrys, Ed., Galaxy Press, Sep07)
"Safeguard," by Nancy Kress (Asimov's, Jan07)
"Alastair Baffle's Emporium of Wonders," by Mike Resnick (Asimov's, Jan08)
"Tonino and the Incubus," by Peg Robinson (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, WS & LWE, Ed., Oct06 (Fall06 issue -- #2))
"Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter," by Geoff Ryman (F&SF, Nov06)
"The Fiddler of Bayou Teche," by Delia Sherman (Coyote Road, Trickster Tales, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, Ed., Viking Juvenile, Jul07)
"Not of this Fold," by William Shunn (An Alternate History of the 21st Century, Spilt Milk Press, Sep07)

Short Stories (7)
"Unique Chicken Goes In Reverse," by Andy Duncan (Eclipse 1: New Science Fiction And Fantasy, Jonathan Strahan, Ed., Night Shade Books, Oct07)
"The Padre, the Rabbi, and the Devil His Own Self," by Melanie Fletcher (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, WS & LWE, Ed., Oct06 (Fall06 issue -- #2))
"Always," by Karen Joy Fowler (Asimov's, May07 (apr/may07 issue))
"For Solo Cello, op. 12," by Mary Robinette Kowal (Cosmos, Mar07 (Feb/Mar07))
"Titanium Mike Saves the Day," by David D. Levine (F&SF, Apr07)
"The Story of Love," by Vera Nazarian (Salt of the Air, Prime Books, Sep06)
"Captive Girl," by Jennifer Pelland (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, WS & LWE, Ed., Oct06 (Fall06 issue -- #2))


When the final ballot of 5's are announced I'll post that, try to provide links (when available), and discuss the nominees I have read.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Patrick Rothfuss NOT eligible for Campbell?

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Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind, may not be eligible for the John W Campbell award for Best Writer. (info cribbed from Joe Abercrombie and David Louis Edelman)

This is news because I had expected this year's Campbell Award to be between Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch, with some Joe Abercrombie and perhaps David Louis Edelman thrown in.

From Abercrombie's post:
It would appear that, regrettably, Patrick Rothfuss isn't elligible because of some short fiction published way back when (Yes! Yes! Fist Pump!)
Now, I found an interview where Rothfuss reveals that he hasn't published short fiction before, but his webpage does reveal that he won the Writers of the Future contest in 2002 with a short story that was really an excerpt from the book which would be come The Name of the Wind.

Confused? Me, too.

Here's where it gets easy. Edelman linked this page about the Campbell. Follow over to the eligibility rules here.

To qualify for the award a writer must have published in the last two years in a qualifying market. Publishing includes short fiction (so, should I sell to Strange Horizons I'm eligible) and in 2002, that winning story which constitutes the entirety of Rothfuss's short fiction output? It was published in the Writers of the Future Anthology: Volume 18.

Which means that Rothfuss was eligible for the Campbell in 2003 and 2004. Before anyone else had heard of him or The Name of the Wind.

What does this mean? That Lynch / Rothfuss scrap fight for the award? It ain't happening.

My Lineup (based on name recognition and actually reading some of the work:
Scott Lynch
Joe Abercrombie
David Louis Edelman
Mary Robinette Kowal
Alex Bledsoe

Lynch doesn't need the bump, so I'll give it to Kowal over Bledsoe. Haven't read Abercrombie or Edelman (makes things unfair, huh?)

Dreamsongs: Volume 1 - Final Thoughts

I have written about the first two thirds of Dreamsongs: Volume 1 with the posts linked in this sentence, then things got busy and even though I continued to read the collection I did not have the opportunity to write about it.

By this time the story of “The Stone City” has pretty well escaped my memory, so I don’t believe it could be something I would recommend. “Bitterblooms” was an odd ice story on some far away planet which ends up mixing a little bit of Arthurian legend into it. Martin was not very successful in engaging my interest with “Bitterblooms”, but one thing I have come to appreciate reading these 700 pages is that his imagination is second to none. Martin is able to create these alien worlds and cultures, and human cultures set in the stars, and make them believable, comprehensible, but utterly alien to what we know. Tis a gift. This leads into “The Way of Cross and Dragon”, an imaginative wondering of what our Earth religions would be like if stretched out thousands of years and to the stars. “The Way of Cross and Dragon” is about heresy, lies, truth, expectation, dogma, and features one of three “true” Catholic churches attempting to stamp out a heresy. Fascinating story.

Section Four: Swords of Turtle Castle. Here Martin brings us back into fantasy settings, though on a smaller scale than his epic A Song of Ice and Fire. Strangely, and sadly, perhaps, this was a somewhat underwhelming section. Martin does large scale fantasy extremely well, and “The Ice Dragon” was a solid and sad story which featured a dragon actually made of ice, breathing ice, harmed by heat (video games following this story thank you, Mr. Martin), but neither “The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr” nor “In the Lost Lands” really stood out. Like “The Stone City”, I really could not say what “In the Lost Lands” was about.

Section Five: Hybrids and Horrors. This is where Martin truly shines, with the blend of fantasy and horror, or science fiction and horror. Pretty much whenever Martin is blending genres to tell the best story possible, that’s when he’s really hitting something special. We open with “Meathouse Man”, a story which in the intro Martin mentions that he had a difficult time placing. No surprise. It’s a tough story to take, but it’s a damn good one, too. One of the best in the collection (if not for “Sandkings”, I might call it the single best story here). Definitely not a family friendly story. The story features sex, depravity, and a bleak future where animated corpses are used for work and pleasure. “Remembering Melody” is yet another heartbreaker of a story (is there another kind in this collection?), something of a ghost story, and while not quite as good as the other stories in this section, it will stand up against the earlier work in the collection.

“Sandkings.” Forget the two hour episode from The Outer Limits. It got the gist of the story, but not the heart. The story is set on some far away planet (aren’t they all?), I think, but that doesn’t matter. What matter is we have a rich, eccentric man who likes exotic pets. At a store he had never seen before (isn’t it always?) the man is offered these insect like, but highly intelligent (they War on each other!) creatures called Sandkings. They build castles and can come to worship the owner like a god, engraving his or her face on their castles while they war. Because the man doesn’t just let the sandkings do their own thing in a smaller container, soon they grow and things get out of hand. This is a wonderful, amazing story that easily has to rank among Martin’s best (or anybody else’s for that matter). Martin’s descriptions of how everything spirals out control is a pure pleasure to read, as is the description of the sandkings and how they change over the course of the story. About that 2 hour episode – I watched it after I read “Sandkings” and I was very disappointed. Seemed like too much was added as fluff / chaff to the story. I know the screenplay was written by Melinda Snodgrass and she has collaborated with Martin in the Wild Cards shared universe (and still does), so I can’t imagine he was mad about the result, but the story is so far superior to not even be funny.

“Nightflyers” is another award winner set almost entirely on a starship. The passengers can’t see the pilot, he spies on them, and there is a good deal of tension and intrigue, but no matter how lauded the story has been I thought this was one of the weaker (in terms of what I enjoy) of the set. Maybe it is the fact that “Nightflyers” came immediately after “Sandkings” and in comparison did not hold up.

“The Monkey Treatment” and “The Pear-Shaped Man” are two stories which feel like Stephen King stories. “The Monkey Treatment” has shades of “Quitters, Inc”, only rather than smoking cessation Martin deals with weight loss. Creepy story, especially when you really think about what it entails. The desperation of the protagonist really comes across. “The Pear-Shaped Man” deals with that creepy guy who lives nearby. He is shaped like a pear, eats too many cheetos, and has a certain odor about him. What if he scares you, but nobody else understands and you can’t explain? What if there might actually be something to be scared about?

Dreamsongs: Volume 1 is an outstanding collection of short fiction and one that should be on the shelf of any fan of the fiction of George R. R. Martin. It shows the man’s range and his early work and even the earliest stuff is pretty good. And then there is “Sandkings.”

Volume 2 will pick up with Section Six, as Dreamsongs was originally published in 2003 by Subterranean Press as the one volume GRRM: A RRetrospective.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Abercrombie

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Joe Abercrombie cracks my shit up. His railing against anything short of perfection in reviews of his work have been damn near classic (uh oh!) and this latest mini tirade is even better.

As I have not had the chance to read The Blade Itself, I have not yet felt the ire of Abercrombie. However, I have called his railings only damn near classic, so one can hope.

If he writes fiction anything like he blogs, I am sure to LOVE it.

Interesting note: Patrick Rothfuss was thought to be the big name on the ballot for the Campbell award at this year’s Worldcon. Abercrombie spills the beans that Rothfuss’s earlier short fiction publication has made him ineligible for Best New Writer. Innnnteresting.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Shadow Unit

Tuesday, January 08, 2008 0
From the collective minds of Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, Emma Bull, and Will Shetterly comes an online collaborative work called Shadow Unit.

From Bear’s posting:
The brainchild of the amazing coffeeem (Emma Bull), Shadow Unit is, more or less, the website for a serial drama in internet form. Or possibly it's a fan site for a TV show that doesn't exist.

Over the next couple of months, the site will be updated on a weekly or biweekly basis with new information, vignettes, character sketches, character bios, a community message board, and other exciting things.

And starting in mid-February, there will be a series of novellas and novellettes, and one complete novel. Approximately one story every two weeks for sixteen weeks (though we are still tweaking the schedule), comprising the first season (of hopefully many) of a television show that doesn't exist.

Some of the content will be free. Some will be by subscription. (Subscriptions will be extremely reasonable.) There will be DVD extras, deleted scenes, background information, character-based digressions, and I dunno what all else.
(I hope it is okay I copied this much from Bear's livejournal)

I had to chance to read the opening posting on Shadow Unit and I'm very intrigued. Considering the collective talent involved, I am very excited for this. Not sure how much the very reasonable subscription fee will be for the extra content, but right now I'm on board.

I’ve been aware of this project for a while now, but Shadow Unit’s homepage was pretty well blank for a while and I wasn’t sure what this all meant other than Bear calling it “secrit project” and seeing it linked from time to time.

Should be interesting.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

more new books

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With two $10 gift cards to Barnes and Nobles in hand I ventured out into to the store with wild shelves of untamed, unowned books and chose three likely novels.

Dust, by Elizabeth Bear
Farthing, by Jo Walton
Undertow, by Elizabeth Bear

This is my Elizabeth Bear excitement alarm going off. I was all set to get three Bear novels, the third being Carnival, when I decided that maaaaaybe I should support another author too. I've heard good things about Farthing so picked it up instead. Sorry, eBear.

I almost picked up a Heinlein, too, but didn't.

And, in conclusion, if anyone who reads this blog has not picked up anything by Elizabeth Bear...I can do no more to convince you (pssst! Go read Blood and Iron!)

Friday, January 04, 2008

christmas bounty, and stuff

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Sure, it's a week or so late, but I got some great books for Christmas this year and would like to share.

Run - Ann Patchett: I've loved her earlier work (A Patron Saint of Liars and Bel Canto especially) and this was a great opportunity to read her newest novel.

Bowerman and the Men of Oregon - Kenny Moore: A biography of Bill Bowerman, legendary Oregon track and cross country coach. He coached Steve Prefontaine, among others. Oh, yeah, and he helped design the shoes that would eventually form the foundation of a little company called Nike.

Schulz and Peanuts - David Michaelis: I'm still enamored with the Peanuts comics after all these years, and I read a Schulz bio when I was in high school. Supposedly this is a much more in depth bio and paints Schulz is a partly unfavorable light (read: human light, warts and all).

Fledgling - Octavia Butler: Butler is one of my favorite authors and I am starting to collect her work. This vampire novel is her final novel.

Parable of the Sower
- Octavia Butler: This first of a two book post-apocalyptic series. Apparently writer's block kept her from writing a third. I would love a collection of Butler's notes, if they were detailed and available (or if they existed), but I don't think it would sell well enough to be published.

Not too shabby, huh? And I have $20 in Barnes and Nobles gift cards, which might allow me to pick up a small stack of Elizabeth Bear mass market pb's, if they are all in stock at the same time.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Nick Mamatas Sale - Move Underground

Thursday, January 03, 2008 0
Over on his Livejournal, Nick Mamatas has announced a sale of his novel Move Underground. $5 covers the book, shipping, and even a signature somewhere in the book. I'm sure copies are limited, but what a deal!

The complete text of Move Underground is available online at the book's website (linked above), but there is just something about holding the book in your hand, but check out a chapter or two and if it's good, why not order a book for $5?

I've only read his short story "Who Put the Bomp?", but I have heard nothing but good things about Mamatas' novel length fiction. For $5, it's worth a try. I ordered one.

December 2007 Reading

Here is my final reading list for 2007, linked up with the reviews written for these books.

1. Destiny's Way - Walter Jon Williams
2. Scarlet Sister Mary - Julia Peterkin
3. The Graveyard Game - Kage Baker
4. Naked Economics - Charles Wheelan
5. Sung in Blood - Glen Cook
6. The Sandman: The Doll's House - Neil Gaiman
7. The Bonehunters - Steven Erikson
8. The Natural Ordermage - L. E. Modesitt, Jr
9. Death Star - Michael Reaves and Steve Perry
10. She is the Darkness - Glen Cook
11. Republic Commando: True Colors - Karen Traviss
12. The Sword-edged Blonde - Alex Bledsoe
13. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home - Joss Whedon


The Long Way Home is Book Number 226 for the year. I have a difficult time imagining I will ever read this many books in a single year again. Doesn't even make sense.

It appears I missed reviewing Republic Commando: True Colors. Here's a quicky: It's really damn good. Traviss gives us a very tight perspective on elite clone troopers during the Clone Wars and it is a bleak vision, but Traviss is one hell of a storyteller and I have never been disappointed with one of her novels.


Book of the Month: The Sword-edged Blonde – Even non fantasy readers should enjoy this one.

Worst Book of the Month: Death Star – I may not have expected greatness, but Reaves and Perry have individually written good Star Wars, and together they wrote the Medstar duology, but this was baaaaaad.

Pleasant Surprise of the Month: The Long Way Home – Not that I expected this first trade paper of Buffy Season Eight to suck, per se, but I did not expect it would feel just like the show. Certain aspects may be a bit more graphic than would be aired on television, and the television budget would have to be higher to cover this detail, but The Long Way home is a great continuation of the show. This counts as my mini-review.

Disappointment of the Month: Sung in Blood – The best thing about the book is Glen Cook’s name on the cover. I had hoped for so much more.

The Rest of the Year in Reading and Reviews
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Dance with Dragons update and sample chapter

Wednesday, January 02, 2008 2
George R. R. Martin has posted a new sample chapter from A Dance with Dragons. Previously he had been rotating a Tyrion and Daenerys chapter. Now we have a Jon Snow POV chapter to enjoy. Unlike many others I have been avoiding the sample chapters because I want to get the full reading experience when I can get the book in my grubby little hands, but that's just me.

Martin has also posted a status update for the book, probably the last one until the book is finished. Martin mentions that there is a new POV character. A character which has never had a POV chapter and was featured in the first set of Ice and Fire miniatures.

Does anyone know if there was a miniature made of Hodor? That’s all I’m sayin.

The real news is that Martin believes a Fall 2008 publication is realistic pending completion / delivery by Summer 2008.

He then closes with a suggestion to check out Hunter’s Run and Inside Straight. Already in my plans, even though I’m only on Jokers Wild (Wild Cards Book 3). I want to check out the new one before 2012 (by which time there may be another dozen new WC books out, for all I know), and Hunter’s Run is a planned read. As is Dreamsongs: Volume 2, The Armageddon Rag, and Windhaven.

What else ya got?

John Scalzi in 2008

John Scalzi, Fun-to-Read-SF-Auteur-Something-or-Another, has posted a list of what he has coming out in 2008 as well as what he is working on in 2008. The highlights:

Coming Out
Zoe’s Tale: August 2008
The Rough Guide to the Universe, Second Edition: Springish.
Old Man’s War Short Story: Somewhen



Working On:
Two novels (including the sequel to The Android’s Dream), and two novellas

Busy man. Can’t wait to read all this. I am especially interested in the novellas, just because they would be something entirely new (one would even be a fantasy story). My hope is that they would be actual stories with a narrative arc and not pieces like "Alien Animal Encounters" which as fun as it was, does not do much with characters or narrative.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Sword-edged Blonde, by Alex Bledsoe

Tuesday, January 01, 2008 3

The Sword-edged Blonde
Alex Bledsoe
Night Shade Books: 2007

Private Investigator Eddie LaCrosse takes a case: Find the missing princess. Her father, the king, will pay good gold to ensure that her honor is preserved, no matter that she may well have run off with the hoodlums herself. The case is simple, but the case is only the beginning. Eddie LaCrosse finds himself pulled from the easy gold and into a case which stretches into his own past, a past which Eddie has avoided for nearly twenty years.

The Sword-edged Blonde is a cross-genre novel, mixing high fantasy with the hardboiled detective novel. Eddie LaCrosse would find himself very comfortable in the worlds of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, except for the fact that Eddie swings a Fireblade Warrior three foot sword rather than carrying a gun. The world-weary attitude, wise-cracking, extreme confidence, and deeply personal moral code, Eddie LaCrosse has it all.

This is what makes The Sword-edged Blonde such a blast to read. Alex Bledsoe gives the reader something not commonly found in fantasy (Glen Cook's Garret PI notwithstanding): that blend of fantasy and mystery. The Sword-edged Blonde just happens to be set in a low technology, medieval setting. It does not have to be. The setting gives an air of freshness to the story, though, and combined with Bledsoe's sure hand at creating the character and the mystery The Sword-edged Blonde is a winner! If a book can be feisty, this one is.

Alex Bledsoe is able to draw the reader in with that gruff "hardboiled" dialog and characterization of Eddie LaCrosse, but he keeps the reader gripped with the mix of the investigation and LaCrosse's backstory. The backstory is absolutely essential to the mystery.

Bottom line, The Sword-edged Blonde works and earned a place on my Best of 2007 list. No kidding, it's the real deal.

On his website, Alex Bledsoe mentions that there is another Eddie LaCrosse novel tentatively scheduled for 2008. If Bledsoe can hold the quality from The Sword-edged Blonde he should have a series which will well deserve popularity and sales.


Reading copy provided courtesy of Night Shade Books.


Alex Bledsoe's website has an Eddie LaCrosse short story, "Things That Flit". I have not read this story, but it is worth pointing out because the novel is just that damn good that I need to read more Eddie LaCrosse.

The Best of 2007: What Other People Think

I have a small variety of 2007 lists, from the Best Books Published, my Best Reads, the Worst Books, and the nine Author Discoveries of the year. But, I am just a small corner of the world and I have read a variety of other opinions.

Here are some links to those other opinions.

Asking the Wrong Questions
A Variety of Words
Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
Fantasy Book Critic
Fantasy Debut
Grasping for the Wind
The Gravel Pit
Jay Tomio: The Bodhisattva
OF Blog of the Fallen
Neth Space
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
SF Signal
SFF World's Annual Review
Stainless Steel Droppings
The Wertzone


Link help from The Gravel Pit, Stainless Steel Droppings, and SF Signal.
 
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