Monday, February 28, 2011

A Refresher Course for “The Name of the Wind”…

Rothfuss-2-WiseMansFear

First, some advice from Mr. Rothfuss himself:

“My best advice, of course, is that if you really can’t remember what happened in book one, you should probably re-read it. Most of what’s in there is pretty important to the story, y’know. I put it all in there for a reason…”

If, however, you do not wish to start all over again, or do not have the time to do so, then look no further than the hilarious cartoon-version that Rothfuss has put together with Nathan Taylor, and posted on his website, here. It will set you straight, refresh your memory, and make you laugh.

The second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle, Wise Man’s Fear, was published today, and is also available as Kindling.

I hope to get Wise Man’s Fear read and reviewed (not to mention ‘bought’ – I’m being slow) soon, but I have some work commitments that have to be taken care of first, so I’ll be reading and reviewing some shorter novels in the meantime. Needless to say, I loved the first book in the series, The Name of the Wind, and I’ve been impatient for this ever since.

[Thanks are due to Suvudu and A Dribble of Ink for tweeting links and thereby drawing my attention to this.]

Sunday, February 27, 2011

“A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness (Headline)

Reviewed by Emma Newrick

Harkness-ADiscoveryOfWitchesUKAn Academic, a Book, and Daemons, Witches and Vampires…

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it's an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft.

Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she's kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana's discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels...

This book has received lots of hype, which usually either makes me desperate to read something, or very determined not to. Thanks to Twilight and the other zillion books that have featured fanged heroes, I was rather tired of supernatural romance, but this one did intrigue me...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

“O, A Presidential Novel” by Anonymous (Simon & Schuster)

Anonymous-OAPresidentialNovel

A satirical portrait of the people trying to win the presidency in 2012

Among them are: Cal Regan, a rising political star who takes over the president's 2012 re-election campaign after O’s veteran campaign chief is forced to resign because of an affair with a teenage prostitute; Maddy Cohan, a dazzling young journalist whose sharp reports for an upstart website are a frequent source of conversation among the political elite, and whose relationship with one of her sources could complicate her career; Walter LaFontaine, one of O’s earliest Chicago supporters, who despite being left behind when O went to Washington, yearns for a larger role in his hero’s re-election campaign; Tom “Terrific” Morrison, a one-term governor with a military background, who is emerging as the likely nominee and a formidable opponent. Privately derisive of O, Morrison seeks to run a classic change campaign similar to O’s historic march to victory in 2008; Allen Knowles, a wealthy Silicon Valley campaign donor who gives Cal Regan secret information which could be damaging to Morrison’s campaign.

Meanwhile, O is chafing under the demands of the presidency. His senior aides are running him too hard and, to his irritation, have advised him not to play golf on the weekends. To win re-election, he realizes he may have to adopt political methods he had once denounced.

President Obama is fast becoming the most written-about (modern-day) president. Following on in a new sub-genre, we get O: A Presidential Novel (henceforth, O:APN) – an anonymously-penned fictionalisation of Obama’s campaign for re-election in the upcoming 2012 presidential election. Filled with insider detail, and satirical jabs at Washington culture and many familiar faces from the Obama White House (all given different names, of course), O:APN is a novel of mixed strengths and weaknesses.

Monday, February 21, 2011

“Broken Honour” by Robert Earl (Black Library)

Earl-BrokenHonourA trial by fire for a new, wholly unprepared regiment of convicts

The armies of Hochland are at breaking point. Beset on all sides by the feral beastmen, the safety and prosperity of the province is shattered. These are desperate times. Mercenary Captain Eriksson looks to capitalise on the conflict, buying the freedom of a group of prisoners to form a new free company.

The criminals are delighted to be released, but this comes at a terrible price – to fight and die in the upcoming conflict. Eriksson must lead his makeshift company into one bloody conflict after another, putting his faith in those who gave up on honour long ago. On the battlefields of Hochland, either damnation or redemption awaits them.

A new regiment is thrust straight into battle, as a devastated Hochland military groans in the wake of a devastating loss to the rampaging beastmen. With some good characters, solid (but not excessive) action, a dark and cynical sense of humour, and some intrigue thrown in, Broken Honour is a great Warhammer novel that stands up to Gotrek & Felix in quality and entertainment, and certainly shows room for growth and maybe some sequels...

Upcoming: “Snuff” by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday)

SamVimesThe next Discworld novel to be a new Vimes novel!

It feels like an age since Sam Vimes was the focus of a Discworld novel, but he is back as the star of Snuff, published in October 2011. Snuff is the ninth novel in the City Watch/Guards series, following on from the excellent Thud! (2005); and it will be the 39th Discworld book overall.

Here’s the synopsis:

According to the writer of the best-selling crime novel ever to have been published in the city of Ankh-Morpork, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse.

And Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in the pleasant and innocent countryside, but not for him a mere body in the wardrobe. There are many, many bodies and an ancient crime more terrible than murder.

He is out of his jurisdiction, out of his depth, out of bacon sandwiches, and occasionally snookered and out of his mind, but never out of guile. Where there is a crime there must be a finding, there must be a chase and there must be a punishment.

They say that in the end all sins are forgiven.

But not quite all…

No artwork available as yet, but I’ll keep an eye out for it, and feature it on the site as soon as possible. Needless to say, the Guards have always been my favourite series-within-the-series, and I can’t wait for Snuff.

In other Pratchett news, The Long Earth series is going ahead (two books – one an omnibus of two novellas, one full-length novel) – a collaboration between Pratchett and well-known and successful science-fiction author Stephen Baxter, the first book should see an early 2012 release.

TerryPratchett

Saturday, February 19, 2011

“Vegas Knights”, by Matt Forbeck (Angry Robot)

Forbeck-VegasKnights

Harry Potter meets Ocean’s Eleven

When two college freshmen decide to use Spring Break making magic on the gambling tables of Las Vegas, little do they imagine that Vegas harbours a dark magical secret of its own…

And as they say, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas – alive or dead.

I am familiar with Matt Forbeck’s previous writing for Black Library (his amusing series of Blood Bowl novels), so I was eager to read his take on urban fantasy set in Las Vegas. Brisk and action-packed, Vegas Knights is an entertaining read.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Upcoming: Journalists getting in on Sci-Fi Action

JournoSciFi

Two novels coming out in the near future feature journalists embedded (in one form or another) with military units as their main protagonists. I’m surprised it’s taken so long for this premise to take hold, given the attention it received during the current Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In some ways, the Horus Heresy series from Black Library has adopted the idea of journalists accompanying military forces, but it was never really central to the story – rather, it was a device to portray the story.

In Dan Abnett’s Embedded and T.C. McCarthy’s Germline, the embedded journalist takes the top spot.

Having studied both international journalism and the role of the media in foreign policy, I think both of the novels sound pretty appealing. The idea of seeing conflicts from the frontlines, but from an outsider’s perspective, offers great scope for intelligent discussion of the nature of war, so transferred onto these speculative settings, we could be in for a real treat.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

“The Quantum Thief”, by Hannu Rajaniemi (Gollancz)

A Science Fiction Heist set amongst a complex and bizarre, post-human civilisation

Rajaniemi-TheQuantumThief

UK   |   US

Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy – from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to steal their thoughts, to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of the Moving Cities of Mars. Except that Jean made one mistake. Now he is condemned to play endless variations of a game-theoretic riddle in the vast virtual jail of the Axelrod Archons – the Dilemma Prison – against countless copies of himself.

Jean’s routine of death, defection and cooperation is upset by the arrival of Mieli and her spidership, Perhonen. She offers him a chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self – in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed...

Mind-bending science-fiction. With a heist. Sounds like a brilliant premise. Rajaniemi is a gifted author, and writes in oft-sublime prose, but don’t expect to just sink into this universe – I was left a little adrift as I juggled the various terms that were thrown about without much explanation. That being said, it’s interesting, highly imaginative, well-paced, and often amusing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book on Film: “Absolute Power”, by David Baldacci

AbsolutePower-MovieBook

Movie   |   Book

A career thief witnesses a horrific crime involving the U.S. President.

In this adaptation of David Baldacci’s debut thriller, Clint Eastwood makes a good attempt to bring the novel to life on screen, however the story does not ultimately lend itself to the restrictions imposed by Hollywood.

An Interview with Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Grimwood-FallenBladeHot on the heels of his excellent new novel, The Fallen Blade – a novel I very much enjoyed, Jon Courtenay Grimwood took some time to answer a handful of questions for this here humble blog. Given the subject matter of The Fallen Blade, I decided to keep the questions topical and focus on the supernatural.

Tired of Twilight and related teeny-bopper vampire literature? Well, Jon offers recommendations for the more refined palate, and also talks about his writing practices, what he’s looking forward to in 2011, and also the influence of other cultures on his work.

Monday, February 14, 2011

“Changes”, by Jim Butcher (Orbit)

Reviewed by Emma Newrick

Butcher-ChangesUK

The most explosive, compelling Dresden novel yet

Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard P.I. Turns out the ‘everyday’ world is full of strange and magical things – and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in.

But even a career of narrow escapes and supernatural shenanigans hasn’t prepared Harry for this. A vampire with a grudge has kidnapped his daughter. A daughter he never knew he had. Furthermore, this vampire plans to use her blood in a violent ritual sacrifice – designed to kill Harry, his ex-partner Susan and their child.

As allies are perilously thin on the ground, Harry must find a new source of strength. In the past, there had always been a line he wouldn’t cross, and he’s never given in to the full fury of his own untapped dark powers. But then, only his own life was at stake.

Magic – it can get a guy killed.

The latest instalment following wisecracking wizard and Chicago P.I. Harry Dresden is Butcher’s darkest and best yet, as Harry’s fight to save the daughter he never knew existed forces him to cross lines not easily re-crossed, as he descends into a darkness that is sure to shape the remaining books in this bestselling series.

Friday, February 11, 2011

X-Men: First Class

Superhero Franchise gets a Re-Boot

XMen1stClass2

The X-Men have long been one of my favourite superhero franchises, and I loved the comics and cartoon when younger, and also the first three movies and Wolverine. This year, 20th Century Fox has decided to re-boot the series, starting at the very beginning.

X-Men: First Class charts the epic beginning of the X-Men saga, and reveals a secret history of famous global events.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

“City of Ruin”, by Mark Charan Newton (Tor)

Newton-CityOfRuin

The Second book in the Legends of the Red Sun

Villiren: a city of sin that is being torn apart from the inside. Hybrid creatures shamble through shadows and barely human gangs fight turf wars for control of the streets.

Amidst this chaos, Commander Brynd Lathraea, commander of the Night Guard, must plan the defence of Villiren against a race that has broken through from some other realm and already slaughtered hundreds of thousands of the Empire’s people.

When a Night Guard soldier goes missing, Brynd requests help from the recently arrived Inqusitor Jeryd. He discovers this is not the only disappearance on the streets of Villiren. It seems that a serial killer of the most horrific kind is on the loose, taking hundreds of people from their own homes. A killer that cannot possibly be human.

The entire population of Villiren must unite to face an impossible surge of violent and unnatural enemies or the city will fall. But how can anyone save a city that is already a ruin?

I read Nights of Villjamur a good while back, at a time when I was only just getting into reading fantasy. It was a revelation, proving that my opinion on fantasy had been based on generalised misconceptions. The novel weirded me out, at times, and I couldn’t always relate to the characters, but I was nonetheless impressed with Newton’s imagination and prose.

City of Ruin, which I left for far too long on my shelf, is improved in almost every way and I was hooked very early on. This is a truly superb novel.

An Interview with Mark Charan Newton

Newton-BookOfTransformations

In advance of my review of City of Ruin (coming tomorrow), Mark Charan Newton, author of the wonderfully weird Legends of the Red Sun fantasy series and all-round great fellow, took some time to answer a few questions about his novels, writing, influences, the speculative genre community, and his favourite whisky…

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Upcoming: February-March on CR

2011FebMar-Upcoming

Just wanted to write a quick post to let everyone know what’s coming up on the site over the next couple of months. As always, there will be plenty of reviews, but I’m also trying to increase the number of interviews I get up here. I’ll try to do one of these posts every couple of months, rather than the large “Recent Acquisitions” posts, which were rather long. Although, if there is a week where something particularly exciting comes in, I might highlight that, too.

One thing I have noticed, is that I tend to get genre-fatigue quite quickly, so I’m going to make more effort to switch between fantasy, sci-fi and thrillers, in order to keep things fresh both on the site and also for myself. We’ll see how this works out.

So, here are the books that will be featured over the next eight weeks or so, along with some scribbled thoughts. (This is not an exhaustive list, as there’s every possibility that something else will come up and grab my attention – this is just based on the books I already have in my possession.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

“The Neon Court”, by Kate Griffin (Orbit)

Reviewed by Emma Newrick

Griffin-TheNeonCourtUKThe third Matthew Swift adventure in a magically-charged, alternate London

When the city was founded, he was the mad native spirit that waited in the dark, on the edge of the torchlight. When the streets were cobbled over, he became the footsteps heard on stone that you cannot see. When the Victorians introduced street lighting, he was the shadow who always shied away from the light, and when the gas went out, there he was. The shadow at the end of the alley, the footsteps half-heard in the night.

A daimyo of the Neon Court is dead. So are two warriors of the Tribe. And a freshly-prophesied ‘chosen one’ is missing. Each side blames the other and Matthew Swift is right in the middle of it, trying to keep the peace. Because when magicians go to war, everyone loses. But Swift has even bigger problems. A dead woman is trying to kill him and the city itself is under attack from a force of unimaginable power. As if trying to stay one step ahead of an assassin and juggling magical politics weren’t challenging enough, Swift must also find a way to defeat a primal threat from humanity’s darkest nightmares. Or there may not be a London left to fight over...

Kate Griffin’s London is as memorable as Neil Gaiman’s, and just as dark. Her urban magic ebbs and flows with the rhythms of city life, and her Londoners rub shoulders with sorcerers, oracles and supernatural beings. In The Neon Court, the third novel following urban sorcerer (and not quite human) Matthew Swift is as gripping as The Madness of Angels and The Midnight Mayor.

Monday, February 07, 2011

“The Sentinel Mage”, by Emily Gee (Solaris)

Reviewed by Alyssa Mackenzie

Gee-TheSentinelMageAn intriguing introduction to The Cursed Kingdoms Trilogy

In a distant corner of the Seven Kingdoms, an ancient curse festers and grows, consuming everything in its path. Only one man can break it: Harkeld of Osgaard, a prince with mage’s blood in his veins. But Prince Harkeld has a bounty on his head – and assassins at his heels.

Innis is a gifted shapeshifter. Now she must do the forbidden: become a man. She must stand at Prince Harkeld’s side as his armsman, protecting and deceiving him. But the deserts of Masse are more dangerous than the assassins hunting the prince. The curse has woken deadly creatures, and the magic Prince Harkeld loathes may be the only thing standing between him and death.

In The Sentinel Mage, Emily Gee combines a fast-paced plot and compelling characters to create a dark and absorbing work of fantasy. This is a magical adventure, a tale of self-discovery, and, at times, a horror story, and should captivate readers from beginning to end.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

An Interview with Dan Abnett & Nik Vincent

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I am quite fond of Dan Abnett’s writing – indeed, I have reviewed seven of his novels (not including short-stories featured in anthologies), making him the most-featured author on this blog, I believe.

From his highly successful and long-running Gaunt’s Ghosts Warhammer 40,000 war series, his three contributions to Black Library’s New York Times Bestselling Horus Heresy series, and his stand-alone humorous alternate-history novel Triumff, there seems to be no end to the man’s talent for writing engaging, thoughtful speculative fiction. I do not know his comic work as well as I think I should, but I do know that I’ve read a good deal of his work for 2000AD, which I read when I was younger.

guess-the-gaunt

This past week, I was lucky that both Dan and his partner-in-all-things, Nik Vincent, were able to take some time from their busy schedules to answer some questions about their work. So without further ado, here’s what they had to say…

Friday, February 04, 2011

“The Trinity Six”, by Charles Cumming (Harper Collins)

Cumming-TrinitySix

Spies, Cold War politics, and one unsuspecting history professor caught in the middle…

London, 1992. Late one night, Edward Crane, 76, is declared dead at a London hospital. An obituary describes him only as a ‘resourceful career diplomat’. But Crane was much more than that – and the circumstances surrounding his death are far from what they seem.

Fifteen years later, academic Sam Gaddis needs money. When a journalist friend asks for his help researching a sixth member of the notorious Trinity spy ring, Gaddis knows that she’s onto a story that could turn his fortunes around. But within hours the journalist is dead, apparently from a heart attack.

Taking over her investigation, Gaddis trails a man who claims to know the truth about Edward Crane. Europe still echoes with decades of deadly disinformation on both sides of the Iron Curtain. And as Gaddis follows a series of leads across the continent, he approaches a shocking revelation – one which will rock the foundations of politics from London to Moscow…

This is the second novel by Charles Cumming I’ve read, and both have been superb in every way: prose, plot, pace, and characterisation – Cumming really knows how to write. The Trinity Six harkens back to the glory years of Cold War espionage thrillers, but with a contemporary feel and a historian’s perspective. From the very beginning, I was utterly riveted by this thriller, and loved every minute I was reading it.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

An Interview with Sam Sykes

black_haloWhile perusing author Sam Sykes’ singular website, I stumbled across this statement:

No other author loves you more than Sam Sykes.  This is fact, proven by science.  There is simply no way to comprehend a world in which Sam Sykes does not want to hear from you on all topics, whether it be praise for the book, praise for the author, questions about the book, questions for the author, recipe exchanges, brick-hurling techniques, tips for preventing wolf attacks or cannibal recipe exchanges.

So, naturally, I took this invitation at face value, and sent over some questions to the young author of Tome of the Undergates. (Only, with hindsight, I forgot to ask about wolf attacks…)