Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Aug.1)


A quick review of some of this week’s comics. It’s another broad and pretty high-quality selection, with some of the best new series and intriguing continuing series.

I wish I could still offer more DC and Marvel series reviews, but I may be able to in the near future. Watch this space.

Reviewed: The Cape 1969 #2, Deadworld – War of the Dead #1, Higher Earth #3, Hypernaturals #2, Infected #1, Love & Capes – What to Expect #1, Magic the Gathering: Spell Thief #2

Monday, July 30, 2012

“Before Watchmen” Second Phase (DC)


Reviewed by Abhinav Jain

Last time I talked about Before Watchmen, my experience with these prequel series had been largely positive, with the exception to Brian Azzarello’s Comedian #1, which I rather disliked. The other three, Minutemen #1, Silk Spectre #1 and Nite Owl #1, I’d really liked and couldn’t wait to read more. You can find my review of them here. So it was with quite a bit of enthusiasm that I dipped back into the Watchmen-verse this month.

Reviewed: Ozymandias #1, Silk Spectre #2, Minutemen #2, Comedian #2

“The Litigators” by John Grisham (Hodder)

Grisham-LitigatorsUKHCThe latest legal thriller from the master of the genre

David Zinc has it all: big firm, big salary, life is in the fast lane.

Until the day he snaps and throws it all away.

Leaving the world of corporate law far behind, he talks himself into a new job at Finley & Figg. A self-styled ‘boutique’  firm with only two partners, Oscar Finley and Wally Figg are ambulance-chasing street lawyers who hustle nickel-and-dime cases, dreaming of landing the big win.

For all his Harvard Law Degree and five years with Chicago’s top firm, Zinc has never entered a courtroom, never helped a client who really needed a lawyer, never handled a gun.

All that is about to change.

Ever since I read Grisham’s The Brethren over a decade ago, I’ve been a big fan of the author’s work. I’ve tried to read as many of his new releases as possible (one day I’ll probably try his YA thrillers), as well as catch up with his back catalogue (to date, I’ve managed to read 15 of them). There have been very few disappointments, and each new novel I’ve found addictive and engaging. In fact, there’s only been one Grisham novel that I’ve not been able to finish (The Street Lawyer), despite trying to read it twice. I have no idea why I can’t get into that one. Anyway, with The Litigators, Grisham is on good form and, despite a second-half wobble, I was not disappointed; it was a very enjoyable read.

“Inferno” (Zenescope)

Undeveloped & Sadly Cliché

Writer: Ralph Tedesco | Artist: Gabriel Rearte | Colours: Jason Embury, Milen Parvanov

Grace is lost and restless in a big city where her nightmares seem all too real. Suffering from a form of amnesia, she only feels empty and confused.

Her therapist overmedicates, her boss sexually harasses her and her boyfriend beats her. The world is quickly closing in around Grace but when she learns the truth of her past she might just find the power within to redeem her life and battle her demons, no matter how real they might be.

I’ve been meaning to read this for a little while, now, and I finally decided to give it a go. I’m of two minds about what I thought – it has an interesting premise, one that is by-now typical of Zenescope’s output, but it suffers from weak characters and very weak dialogue and writing, not to mention ticking off almost every cliché of single-white-female-lost-in-the-big-city stories in the first chapter (thankfully they go away, and the story starts ticking off all the sarcastic-ass-kickin’-heroine clichés). To keep things interesting, Tedesco has thrown in some pretty weird stuff, and I did think the portrayal of Hell was rather well done.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Most-Anticipated Novels – August 2012


Just a quick run-down of my ten most-anticipated novels of August 2012. Given the lack of stability, frequent travel and relocation of the past few weeks, I’ve not been able to keep on top of my reviewing as well as I would have liked. Therefore, these books may not be reviewed in a particularly timely fashion (some because I don’t have them, others because I don’t have them with me at the moment). Nevertheless! Each of these is near the top of my to-read list, and I fully intend to feature more of them in the near future. Of course, the best laid plans…


Featured: Madeline Ashby, vN; Charles Cumming, A Foreign Country; James Enge, A Guile of Dragons; Jim C. Hines, Libriomancer; Darius Hinks, Orion: The Vaults of Winter; Mark Lawrence, King of Thorns; Tim Lebbon, The Heretic Land; T.C. McCarthy, Chimera; James Rollins, Bloodline; James Swallow, Fear To Tread

Friday, July 27, 2012

Guest Post: “The Origin of the Götterelektron” by Ian Tregillis

Ian TregillisI recently finished reading Bitter Seeds, the superb first novel in Ian Tregillis’s Milkweed trilogy. To celebrate its release in the UK, and the release of the sequel, The Coldest War, in the US, Ian was kind enough to write a guest post for Civilian Reader….

Bitter Seeds features a cadre of soldiers who have been imbued with superhuman abilities thanks to a liberal dose of mad science. The twisted genius who created these übermenschen is Doctor Karl Heinrich von Westarp: a sick but brilliant man, short on compassion but long on determination.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cherie Priest Finally Coming to Blighty…?

After being distracted by Cherie Priest’s latest Twitter video of her new puppy (who is very cute), I noticed this photo had also been posted by the author:


These are cover flats for the UK editions of two of Priest’s Clockwork Century novels – in this case, books three and four. First off, I think that cover for Ganymede is really good, but the Inexplicables cover is a narrower zoom on the US artwork, which I saw at BEA2012, and much prefer:


I had mixed feelings about Boneshaker, but I fully intend to catch up with the series at some point (I bought Dreadnought and Ganymede while I was in the US, but ran out of time before I could read them – Alyssa is kindly storing them for me until I return). The premise for each novel is great, and I think Priest has done a good job with the world-building. Perhaps the second, third, and fourth books in the series will live up to my expectations. I really hope they will, so expect reviews of them in the near future.

Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series will be released in the UK through Tor. The series will be released on a monthly schedule, according to Amazon UK’s listings: Boneshaker (November 2012), Dreadnought (December 2012), Ganymede (January 2013), Inexplicables (February 2013).


The Rise of “Mini-eBooks” (or “Short Stories”, as we usually call them…)

On USA Today yesterday, Craig Wilson published a story about “mini ebooks”, which are “being served up this summer as bite-size appetizers for the main course to follow”. I wasn’t aware that this was particularly news-worthy, having seen plenty of these short stories and prequel minis released over the past couple of years. Also, Amazon’s been releasing it’s Kindle Singles for a long time, so there’s more evidence that it’s not a new idea.

Gerritsen-JohnDoeUKThey are, however, clearly on the rise. Wilson picks up on three – a new Rizzoli & Isles short from Tess Gerritsen (John Doe UK/US), an early Jack Reacher story from Lee Child (Deep Down UK/US) and a new Walt Longmire story from Craig Johnson (Divorce Horse).

I am entirely in agreement with Johnson, who said these eBook shorts were “a good way of providing a bridge between books,” and also Wilson’s support for them:

“[They are] an opportunity to feed a voracious, digitally savvy public no longer willing to wait between books. The public appears willing to plop down a couple of bucks for a teaser before paying $25 for the real deal.”

Child-DeepDownUKEven excusing the impatience-born appeal, I think they really serve best as tasters for new readers – which is why I’ve bought both of Child’s eBook short stories – Deep Down and last year’s Second Son (I’ve never read a Reacher novel, and to this day I have no idea why not…). I’m not sure if I’ll buy Gerritsen’s, as I have the first full-length novel in the Rizzoli & Isles series, and John Doe isn’t a prequel.

In the SFF genre, I’m not aware of too many examples, but off the top of my head T.C. McCarthy’s Somewhere it Snows, Brad Beaulieu & Steve Gaskell’s Strata, Nick Harkaway’s Edie Investigates, Brent Weeks’s Perfect Shadow, and Orbit Books’s Short Fiction initiative, which now has 22 titles (sadly still only available in the US, except for Perfect Shadow).

Weeks-PerfectShadowI would certainly be interested to read more short stories from other authors I already know and like, so I definitely see this as a win-win for eReading fans.

The real issue, I suppose, would be more about whether or not the short fiction should be series prequel, a continuation, or something entirely unrelated to the author’s next full-length release. I personally would like a mix of all three.

How do other people feel about this?


CORRECTION: Orbit Short Fiction initiative HAS rolled out for UK customers! Just go to the website, and each title has a handy list of vendors. Hurrah! This is great news! I really want seven of them…

“Captain America: Civil War” (Marvel)

CaptainAmerica-CivilWarWriter: Ed Brubaker | Artist: Mike Perkins | Colours: Frank D’Armata

Captain America has fallen into a clash with his government and his friends, and the people close to him are paying the price. The life of Cap’s girlfriend, Agent 13, is torn apart as her superiors use her divided loyalties against her. Elsewhere, a new villain emerges; the Red Skull begins to make himself known; and the Winter Soldier again comes face-to-face with Cap. But which side will he choose?

Collects: Captain America (2004) #22-24 & Winter Soldier: Winter Kills

I read the first two volumes of Brubaker’s Captain AmericaWinter Soldier and Red Menace – quite a while back. However, despite really enjoying them, I decided I wanted to read the Civil War collection before diving into this third installment to the series. The main event book was a little disappointing, but this volume as a part of the Captain America series was far more satisfying.

Comics Round-Up (Jul.25)


A smaller selection this week, and a pleasantly varied one yet again – some horror, off-beat thriller (with an alien), some ninja-military action, and a pair of Star Wars adventures. I’m not entirely impressed with all the issues (in fact, I only really liked two of them, while each of the others fell slightly short of meeting my expectations).

Reviewed: Bad Girls #1, B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth – Exorcism #2, Resident Alien #3, Snake Eyes #15, Star Wars: Blood Ties – Boba Fett Is Dead #4, Star Wars: Darth Maul – Death Sentence #1

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Booker Prize Longlist Announced

The Booker Prize longlist has been announced. The prize is awarded for the “best English-language novel by an author from the Commonwealth”. Here is the list:


Nicola Barker, The Yips (Fourth Estate)

Ned Beauman, The Teleportation Accident (Sceptre)

André Brink, Philida (Harvill Secker)

Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books)

Michael Frayn, Skios (Faber & Faber)

Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Doubleday)

Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (And Other Stories)

Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies (Fourth Estate)

Alison Moore, The Lighthouse (Salt)

Will Self, Umbrella (Bloomsbury)

Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis (Faber & Faber)

Sam Thompson, Communion Town (Fourth Estate)

I have read none of them. More can be found on the prize’s website (which is also where I got the image). The shortlist (of six) will be announced on September 11th, and the winner will be named October 16th.

An Interview with E.J. SWIFT


E.J. Swift is another of Night Shade Books’ highly anticipated 2012 debut authors. Her first novel, Osiris, is a sci-fi novel set in a post-environmental-disaster world. As one of my most-anticipated reads of the year, I decided to get in touch with Ms Swift, and ask her to tell us a little more about her novel, writing, the genre, and her sword-fighting skills…

Monday, July 23, 2012

“Batman: The Killing Joke” (DC)

Batman-KillingJokeFan-favourite graphic novel

Writer: Alan Moore | Artist: Brian Bolland

When the Joker commits an unspeakable crime, Batman must use all his skill to outwit the crazed criminal. But in the end, how different are the Dark Knight and his quarry?

I wasn’t originally going to review this book, but I had a few things I wanted to say about it. And I can’t seem to help myself when it comes to reviewing stuff… So here are just some quick thoughts.

“Bitter Seeds” by Ian Tregillis (Orbit/Tor)


The Milkweed Triptych Begins

The year is 1939. Raybould Marsh and other members of British Intelligence have gathered to watch a damaged reel of film in a darkened room. It appears to show German troops walking through walls, bursting into flames and hurling tanks into the air from afar.

If the British are to believe their eyes, a twisted Nazi scientist has been endowing German troops with unnatural, unstoppable powers. And Raybould will be forced to resort to dark methods to hold the impending invasion at bay.

But dealing with the occult exacts a price. And that price must be paid in blood.

It’s been a long time coming to these shores, but Bitter Seeds is finally available in the UK. The wait has been entirely worth it, too, as this is one of the best novels I’ve read this year. It’s original, inspired and engrossing from the first page until the last. It is a very assured, well-written, and accomplished debut.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Jul.18)


Things are finally getting back to normal after the terrible (comparatively short) era in which a Virus Ate My Computer. This means the weekly comics round-ups should start appearing as before (except for the occasional week when nothing available catches my eye). And this week, it’s a rather nice mix.


Reviewed: Cobra #15, Danger Girl & G.I.Joe #1, Extermination #2, Grimm Fairy Tales #75, GFT – Myths & Legends #18, Irresistible #1, Jungle Book #4, Star Wars: Darth Vader & the Ghost Prison #3, Wonderland Annual, Wonderland #1

Saturday, July 21, 2012

“The Dark Knight Rises”


This is just a very quick post to say I really enjoyed it. Lots of allusions to the storylines that influenced it, excellent acting, and it never felt like the story dragged.

Bane’s re-done voice was perhaps the only thing I didn’t like, as it robbed him a little of the sinister air. I do, sort of, understand why they did it, but… still. A little disappointing. Nevertheless, I think all of the actors did great jobs (except for Marion Cotillard in one scene). Visually great, too.

A worthy, superb end to the trilogy. And I really want Bane’s coat (see middle picture, below). Now. When can I go see it again…?


Friday, July 20, 2012

X-23, Vol.1 “The Killing Dream” (Marvel)

X23-Vol.1Writer: Marjorie Liu | Artist: Will Conrad, w. Sana Takeda (#3), Marco Checchetto (#4), David Lopez & Alvaro Lopez (#5-6) | Colours: John Rauch

Government-controlled killing machine. Child of the streets. X-Man. X-23 has lived many lives, but none of them have ever felt right. She knows she’s a killer, but she’s not sure she can be anything else. The X-Men offer her a home and help facing her demons, but she’s done being someone’s project. She wants to be her own woman, and she’ll do it on her own terms.

Leaving the X-Men’s island home of Utopia on a mission all her own, she’s already found trouble. Even with the mutant thief Gambit at her side, her past haunts her. With new enemies rising, can X-23 trust herself not to succumb to her deadly ways? Or is it all just in her head? Free of her chains, can this killer finally taste true freedom?

I tried this series on a bit of a whim – I’ve heard great things about Liu’s writing, and I think X-23 is an interesting character. When I saw this in the local Bargain Bookstore (it was remaindered, like oh-so-many Marvel collections these days), I decided to finally give it a try. And I’m quite glad that I did, despite missing a fair bit of background knowledge.

Upcoming: “Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye” by Paul Tremblay (ChiZine)


I’m only just learning about ChiZine Publications (CZP), a Canadian “dark fantasy” publisher. The first time I heard of them was via David Nickle’s Rasputin’s Bastards, but I’ve been doing some research, and they have some pretty weird and wonderful-sounding novels. Which brings me to Swallowing A Donkey’s Eye, Paul Tremblay’s latest novel. Here’s the synopsis:


Farm is the mega-conglomerate food supplier for City, populated with rabidly bureaucratic superiors, and sexually deviant tour guides dressed in chicken and duck suits. City is sprawling, technocratic, and rests hundreds of feet above the coastline on the creaking shoulders of a giant wooden pier. When the narrator’s single mother, whom he left behind in City, falls out of contact, he fears the worst: his mother is homeless and subsequently to be deported under City to the Pier. On his desperate search to find his mother, he encounters ecoterrorists wearing plush animal suits, City’s all-powerful Mayor who is infatuated with magic refrigerators and outlaw campaigns, and an over-sexed priest who may or may not have ESP, but who is most certainly his deadbeat dad.

Whether rebelling against regimented and ridiculous Farm life, exploring the consumer-obsessed world of City, experiencing the suffering of the homeless in Pier, or confronting the secrets of his own childhood, Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye’s narrator is a hilarious, neurotic, and rage-filled Quixote searching for his mother, his own dignity, and the meaning of humanity.

And I’ll admit, the main reason I looked more at this novel is because of the cover art. It’s just so weird…!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

“Guardians of the Phoenix” by Eric Brown (Solaris)

Brown-GuardiansOfThePhoenixReviewed by Bane of Kings

A distant, dry future dystopia…

For ten years, Paul has scrabbled for survival among the sand-shrouded ruins of the once-great city of Paris. The seas have dried up, deserts cover much of the Earth’s surface, and humanity has been all but annihilated, as much by the drought as by the nuclear and biological conflicts following the great Breakdown.

Desperate bands of humans still survive. Some scrape a living in the remains of shattered cities; others resort to murder and cannibalism to survive. When Paul is rescued from one such group of killers, he joins his benefactors in their journey south in search of water and salvation.

Guardians of the Phoenix tells the story of the last survivors on planet Earth, their desperate fight for survival and their last hope to save the world.

Whenever you pick up a book by an author who you’ve never heard of, you don’t really know what to expect when you go into it. Is it going to be a good read? Is it going to be a bad one? With Eric Brown though, I’ve heard a lot about him and his work before, and most of it good. The author is prolific, with fifteen novels already published (not including children’s books), and has also been a reviewer and an editor. I’ve been interested in picking up Brown’s novels for a while now, but I finally decided to take the plunge with the standalone novel Guardians of the Phoenix.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ultimate Comics: “X - Origins” (Marvel)

UC-X-OriginsWriter: Jeph Loeb | Artist: Arthur Adams | Colours: Peter Steigerwald | Digital Inks: Mark Roslan

Wolverine is dead. The X-Men are no more. Captain America is a fugitive. The Fantastic Four disbanded. Lives have been destroyed and nothing can ever be the same-is there any hope left? It all begins with a search for a brand new character whose identity will leave jaws on the floor and change the Ultimate Universe forever.

This is the first post-Ultimatum X-Men title. It was apparently meant to be a new series in itself, but due to less-than-stellar sales, it became an introduction/prequel to Ultimate Comics X-Men. I actually really enjoyed this. Given that this series is set in a new, seriously anti-Mutant world, with a radical new premise for the X-Gene, it ran the risk of being too jarring and disappointing. Thankfully, however, it turned out to be an engaging, addictive and beautifully rendered graphic novel.

An Interview with PAUL TOBIN


Art by Anthony Palumbo

Prepare To Die!, the debut novel from Paul Tobin has been on my radar for a little while, now – pretty much since Night Shade announced it. However, because I’m writing a super-hero-related novel myself, I’ve been hesitant to read it in case I get unduly influenced, or depressed about the competition… [In case you’re wondering, yes, my dilemma over Prepare… is one of the two books that sparked the “Should You Read What You Write” post.]

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Upcoming: Blackwell’s FANTASY NIGHT, August 17th

If you’re in London on Friday August 17th, then be sure to head to Blackwell’s bookstore on Charing Cross Road! Fantasy titans Joe Abercrombie and Peter V. Brett will be signing along with CR-favourite, military-fantasy upstart Myke Cole!


This promises to be a fun event. Not sure if there will be readings, etc., but I’m sure there will be some general milling-about before and afterwards.

I really should use this as an opportunity to read something by Abercrombie, huh? I own all of his novels, but have never read any of them! I even have a book-tour t-shirt from Joe’s Heroes tour a year ago! (Yeah, I didn’t know they made t-shirts, either, but it’s very comfortable). I’ll have to read The Blade Itself next-but-one, I think. It’s also the first decent event I’m actually going to be able to attend! So. I’ll be there with bells on. Figuratively speaking. Maybe.

Anyone else going?

Guest Post: Adventures in Authorland – Kathleen McCaul

McCaul-GraveSecretsInGoaAs a writer, I’ve done some foolhardy things. I flew to Iraq, a week after my final university exams, to help set up a newspaper in newly worn-torn Baghdad. I’ve hopped on a bus to Srinagar, leaving London behind for a job on the Kashmir Observer. And there were times in these places where I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew.

When Saddam’s sons were caught and the whole country erupted in a celebratory gun shower, I thought it was the start of a civil war. As I tossed up between hiding in the wardrobe or under the bed of our tiny, insecure, house, I realized I had been a bit irresponsible and might cause my parents some grief.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Comics Catch-Up & Review: IDW


A mixture of catch-up titles and also a handful of new releases. A nice selection, too, ticking off fantasy, sci-fi, military action, thrillers, and more – not only that, they were all pretty good issues as well.

Reviewed: After the Fire Special, Battle Beasts #1, The Cape 1969 #1, The Crow #1, G.I.Joe #15, Magic The Gathering: Spell Thief #1, Memorial #6, Smoke & Mirrors #4, Snake Eyes #14

Breaking News! The Way Of Shadows gets Manga Adaptation

Weeks-NA1-WayOfShadowsOk, so it’s not really breaking news, as Brent Weeks already announced it on his website on Friday. Nevertheless! This is news for me! And it’s very good news, I think, so just wanted to share a quick mention on the blog.

Here’s what the man himself had to say about the deal:

I’m so happy I can FINALLY share this! This afternoon, at their annual San Diego Comic-Con panel, Yen Press announced their upcoming adaptation of The Way of Shadows. The Way of Shadows graphic novel will be a single-volume adaptation, and is slated for release in 2013.

Yen Press is a leader in the field of graphic novels, having adapted works like Witch & Wizard by James Patterson and Gail Carriger’s Soulless among many others…

I’ve already been discussing artists with Kurt whom we believe will bring a unique and bold vision to The Way of Shadows. I’ll announce who we’ve contracted and release samples of their art as I am able to do so.

I’m a huge fan of Weeks’s writing, and can’t wait to check out the adaptation.

Also on CR: Reviews of Way of Shadows, Shadow’s Edge & Beyond the Shadows, Perfect Shadow, Black Prism

[Writing this post, I also realised I’ve never interview Brent… I will have to rectify this…]

Catching Up with MD LACHLAN


MD Lachlan’s Wolfsangel reinvented the werewolf lore, turning it into in a very dark twist on Norse mythology. The novel has since been followed up by the equally excellent Fenrir and the just-released Lord of Slaughter. Lachlan was also the first interview I did for this blog, so I thought I’d send him a few, quick follow-up questions about how he thinks things are going…

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Upcoming: MAN OF STEEL

I am a huge fan of Superman. Not Grant Morrison’s Action Comics or All-Star Superman. The Christopher Reeve movies, though, were a large part of my childhood (I watched them multiple times). I also really liked Mark Waid’s Birthright, J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman: Earth One (very happy there’s a new volume coming out very soon), and I’ve really enjoyed the New 52 Superman issues I’ve read (#1-9).

A lot of people didn’t like Superman Returns – I did, despite the fact that Lex Luthor was, effectively, attempting an evil real estate deal. With Man of Steel, the long-in-production next Superman movie, though, I think things may turn around for DC’s cinematic output (Marvel have totally dominated Super Hero Hollywood).

A new poster was unveiled at ComicCon:


Director: Zack Snyder

Writer: David S. Goyer.

Stars: Henry Cavill (Clark Kent/Superman), Russell Crowe (Jor-El), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent), Diane Lane (Martha Kent), Michael Shannon (General Zod), Laurence Fishburne (Perry White)

The movie is released in June 2013.

Upcoming: “The Explorer” by James Smythe

Not a whole lot of science-fiction features on Civilian Reader (save for WH40k, and a select few others). I’ve always been drawn more to fantasy and thrillers than science fiction, for some reason. I’ve enjoyed most science fiction I’ve read, though, so I don’t know why I don’t feature more on here. Maybe that should be my mid-year’s resolution?

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I wanted to share the cover for James Smythe’s upcoming science fiction novel, The Explorer:


I really like this cover. There’s something beautiful in its simplicity. And frightening in the imagery. I’m really looking forward to this novel. Here’s the synopsis:

When journalist Cormac Easton is selected to document the first manned mission into deep space, he dreams of securing his place in history as one of humanity’s great explorers.

But in space, nothing goes according to plan.

The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod. They mourn, and Cormac sends a beautifully written eulogy back to Earth. The word from ground control is unequivocal: no matter what happens, the mission must continue.

But as the body count begins to rise, Cormac finds himself alone and spiralling towards his own inevitable death… unless he can do something to stop it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Music: The Unguided

Just a quick post – one of my favourite bands, Sonic Syndicate, seems to be going through some major line-up changes. In fact, they’ve lost their two original vocalists (Richard Sjunneson and Roland Johansson) as well as their founding guitarist (Roger Sjunneson – apparently, they had a strict “R”-first-name membership policy…). Anyway, the three former members have got together in a new band, The Unguided. I haven’t heard much of their music, but it’s quite similar (if heavier and slightly-less-polished at this point), so I’m hopeful this new band will have a promising and long career. Here’s a video for their latest single:

The Unguided’s new album, Hell Frost, is out now (CD, MP3, etc.), as their debut EP, Nightmareland.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Avengers – New, Old, Assembled, Secret, Dark, Mighty… I’m a little lost, here… (Marvel)

I recently read the first volume in Brian Michael Bendis’s first run on New Avengers. I have also read the first couple of issues in his new Avengers Assemble series. Nevertheless, I have no frikkin’ clue which to read next, or even if I should bother reading more of Bendis’s various Avengers-related series.

This is not a statement on their quality – I really enjoyed both New Avengers (the premise, writing and especially artwork are pretty great) and Avengers Assemble (a lot of fun and a really interesting lead-off story and villain). It’s just, well, I have no idea how I’m supposed to read them all. There are just so many, and they seem to be a bit of a mess for new readers…


New Avengers Volume 1 (2005) & Volume 1 (2011)

“Straight Razor Cure”/“Low Town” by Daniel Polansky (Hodder)

Polansky-StraightRazorCureThe excellent first Low Town novel

Welcome to Low Town.

Here, the criminal is king. The streets are filled with the screeching of fish hags, the cries of swindled merchants, the inviting murmurs of working girls. Here, people can disappear, and the lacklustre efforts of the guard ensure they are never found.

Warden is an ex-soldier who has seen the worst men have to offer; now a narcotics dealer with a rich, bloody past and a way of inviting danger. You’d struggle to find someone with a soul as dark and troubled as his.

But then a missing child, murdered and horribly mutilated, is discovered in an alley.

And then another.

With a mind as sharp as a blade and an old but powerful friend in the city, he's the only man with a hope of finding the killer.

If the killer doesn’t find him first.

I put off reading this for way too long. The delay had nothing to do with perceived quality of the novel, I just never got around to it. This is a fantasy that perfectly incorporates a lot of crime thriller elements, making for a thoroughly engaging and rewarding read. Straight Razor Cure is one of my favourite reads this year. It’s gritty, engaging, cynically humorous, and everything just worked for me. This is superb. Which makes this a tricky review to write…

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Guest Post: “Influences & Inspirations” Shaun Hutson

Shaun Hutson is one of Britain’s best known and most successful horror authors, with over 50 books published. With some new projects on the way for Hammer Books, I thought this would be a great time to ask him about his influences and inspirations…

“Influences and Inspirations” by Shaun Hutson

Hutson-XTheUnknownMy influences as a writer have always been cinematic.

Ever since I first started scribbling things down as a kid I was always influenced by things I’d seen on a big screen rather than stuff I’d read. My books were always constructed more like screenplays, they always relied on dialogue as much as prose to set scenes and establish characters. This moves the novel along more quickly and is less irritating than a writer attempting to showcase his ‘talents’ by droning on and on for pages at a time.

“Luthor Huss” by Chris Wraight (Black Library)


Reviewed by Brennon Shaw

Imperial Faith’s Hammer

Witch Hunter Lukas Eichmann investigates a series of bizarre murders, which ultimately lead him into the haunted depths of the Empire at the head of an army of fanatical warriors. In the Drakwald Forest, Luthor Huss, warrior priest of Sigmar, battles to free the denizens of the forest from a plague of the walking dead. As their fates entwine, the two warriors confront a threat that will decide their future, while Huss must face a secret from his past if he is to survive and embrace his destiny as the Hammer of Sigmar.

Chris Wraight certainly does the warrior priest and witch hunter justice in this story, where the fates of both are joined by forces beyond their control. Any fan of both the Empire and, especially, the specifics of faith within fantasy will get a kick out of this novel. It had been quite a while since I last read through a Black Library book, but this was a welcome return to the world.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Comics Catch-Up: Dark Horse


Another catch-up post, this time focusing on Star Wars and BPRD-related comics from Dark Horse. A rather mixed bag, actually, despite being drawn from only a small selection of larger series. I think I’ll need to read more BPRD and Baltimore to properly appreciate the issues reviewed today, but overall I really like the aesthetic and supernatural-heavy stories.


Reviewed: Baltimore: Dr Leskovar’s Remedy #1, BPRD: Hell On Earth – Devil’s Engine #2, Hell On Earth – Exorcism #1, The Massive #2, Resident Alien #2, Star Wars: Blood Ties – Boba Fett Is Dead #3, Star Wars: Darth Vader & the Ghost Prison #2, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi #5, Star Wars: Knight Errant – Escape #2

The Joker Returns for “Death of the Family” (DC)


via iFanboy

Paul Montgomery has interviewed Scott Snyder over on iFanboy about the author’s plans to bring back the Joker to Batman. The giggling, maniacal super-villain has only played a minor role in the New 52 so far, but he is going to return in full force in Batman #13. Here’s what Snyder says about the Joker, his “favorite villain” ever since he started reading Batman. The Joker, who gives readers “a glimpse at how rich and psychologically deep and dark the Bat mythos [can] be”, also “exposes the darkest corners of Bruce’s heart.” Which is part of where the series gets its appeal. The Joker “revels” in his relationship to Batman, believing he has a “special bond” with him.

“He loves pointing out the pathology in Batman… In a way he’s like a demon on Batman’s shoulder… he’s an incredibly rich and wonderful, wonderful villain. As terrifying as he is, he’s everything I love about creating a villain in one package. To me, the greatest villains are the ones that really are your greatest fears about yourself come to life. the Joker revels in that in a self aware way. He knows you inside and out. That makes him consistently dangerous and deadly, both psychologically and physically.”

An Interview with D.B. JACKSON


D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker has received some great feedback around the book-related blogosphere. As a sucker for American history, thrillers, and the fantastic, I am very interested in reading this novel. While I wait to get my hands on a copy, I thought I’d get in touch with Jackson to pick his brains about his new novel, pen-names, writing, and more.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man “Who Is Miles Morales?” (Marvel)

US-SpiderMan-Vol.1A superb introduction to the new hero

Write: Brian Michael Bendis | Artist: Sara Pichelli | Colours: Justin Ponsor

Miles Morales is the new Spider-Man. What's the secret behind his powers and how will he master them? What new and familiar enemies will rise to challenge this all-new Spider-Man? And will Miles live up to Peter Parker’s legacy?

I was dancing around getting this book for quite a while. I’m not sure why, but I was labouring under the assumption that the “Ultimate Comics” line was for younger readers. I have no idea why… Anyway, I decided to pick this up, and I’m very glad that I did. It’s a superb introduction to the new Spider-Man – how he got his powers, how he got used to his powers, and how everyone else started to get used to him and who he will become. This is a really good comic.

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter – Guardian Interview

I’d love to read The Long Earth at some point. In the meantime, check out this interesting interview from The Guardian (conducted by Alison Flood), in which Pratchett and Baxter “hold court on the writing process, the nature of collaboration, the beauty of hard science-fiction literature and creating the start of a trilogy”:

Upcoming: Chuck Wendig Grounds the Gods


In summer 2013, Abaddon Books will publish Gods and Monsters: Unclean Spirits, the first novel in a brand new shared-world series. Here’s the synopsis:

Exiled to Earth, the gods now walk amongst us, bringing with them their children and their servants and their monsters. Their power is a mere fraction of what it once was, but even a mote of divine magic is awesome – in the truest sense of the word.

Cason Cole knows this firsthand. He’s been serving the gods for the better part of a decade, their leash fastened tight around his neck. But when his most recent divine master gets killed – a thing Cason didn't even know could happen - he finds himself once more a free man. All he’s got left is a burning need for vengeance against the very gods who forced him to kneel, but he'll soon discover that getting revenge against the gods is no easy feat. He’ll have to put his life, love, sanity and soul on the line. Will he pay the cost? How priceless is his wrath?

I am a big fan of Mr Wendig, so I am always happy to hear of a new novel in the works. In the spirit of fanboy discovery, I fired a couple questions over to Chuck, to get just a little bit more info on the series…

Monday, July 09, 2012

More Sebold on the Horizon!


A Madame’s work is never done

That’s right, Gaie Sebold will be writing and Solaris will be publishing the sequel to the excellent Babylon Steel! This pleases me very much. Babylon Steel was a great mélange science-fiction novel, with humour and serious content, a fantastic heroine and a great story.

Here’s some more information on Dangerous Gifts, the second novel. First, the synopsis:

Babylon Steel runs the best brothel in Scalentine, city of portals. She’s escaped her past and it’s all going pretty well. Apart, that is, from the racial conflict and economic misery boiling up in Scalentine.

Her lover, Chief Bitternut of the City Militia, is trying to keep the lid on, while hunting a killer whose real target is a lot closer than he knows. Just as things are getting really tense, Babylon is forced to take another job. Bodyguard to Enthemmerlee Entaire: symbol of hope or object of disgust for most of her country’s population, and a prime target for assassination, along with anyone who happens to be in the way. Such as her bodyguard.

Unintentionally dragging a very annoyed government employee along in her wake, Babylon struggles to turn Enthemmerlee’s squabbling household guard from liability into security, dodge the rigid Moral Statutes of Incandress, and keep both herself and her client alive. She soon realises that the situation is far worse than she thought, her past hasn’t quite let go of her yet, and she will be driven to a choice that will have far-reaching consequences…

Dangerous Gifts is currently penciled in for a February 2013 release. No cover artwork available just yet, but I’m sure I’ll share it as-and-when it becomes public.


About the Author:

Gaie Sebold was born in the US, and lives in London. She has worked as a cleaner, secretary, till-monkey, stage-tour-manager, and editor. She now wrangles a database, runs occasional writing workshops, and is a member of the critique group T Party Writers. She is an obsessive reader, enthusiastically inefficient gardener, and has been known to run around in woods hitting people with latex swords and to declaim poetry in public, though not usually at the same time. She also has the standard cat apparently issued to most fantasy writers.

As well as the next Babylon novel, she is working on the blog Weeding and Writing with her partner, writer Dave Gullen; a poetry project; and a fantasy romance, with orcs. She likes orcs. You can find Gaie at her website.

“12.21” by Dustin Thomason (Dial Press/Random House)

Thomason-12-21It’s the end of the World as we know it!

For decades, December 21, 2012, has been a touchstone for doomsayers worldwide. It is the date, they claim, when the ancient Maya calendar predicts the world will end.

In Los Angeles, two weeks before, all is calm. Dr. Gabriel Stanton takes his usual morning bike ride, drops off the dog with his ex-wife, and heads to the lab where he studies incurable prion diseases for the CDC. His first phone call is from a hospital resident who has an urgent case she thinks he needs to see. Meanwhile, Chel Manu, a Guatemalan American researcher at the Getty Museum, is interrupted by a desperate, unwelcome visitor from the black market antiquities trade who thrusts a duffel bag into her hands.

By the end of the day, Stanton, the foremost expert on some of the rarest infections in the world, is grappling with a patient whose every symptom confounds and terrifies him. And Chel, the brightest young star in the field of Maya studies, has possession of an illegal artifact that has miraculously survived the centuries intact: a priceless codex from a lost city of her ancestors. This extraordinary record, written in secret by a royal scribe, seems to hold the answer to her life’s work and to one of history’s great riddles: why the Maya kingdoms vanished overnight. Suddenly it seems that our own civilization might suffer this same fate.

With only days remaining until December 21, 2012, Stanton and Chel must join forces before time runs out.

The Mayan calendar said the world would end in 2012. So, naturally, there have been a ton of novels working with that premise cropping up all over the place for the past two years (at least). This is probably one of the higher-profile options, given how successful Thomason’s co-authored The Rule of Four was.

I picked this book up at BEA 2012, and decided to read it on my epic bus journey from New York to Toronto (that is truly epic if you’re not from North America). The fact that I managed to read the whole thing over those hours is a testament to both the pacing and Thomason’s prose. However, despite how easy it was to get through, the novel was not without some weaknesses.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Marvel’s “Civil War”

CivilWarOne of Marvel’s most popular cross-title Events

Writer: Mark Millar | Artist: Steve McNiven | Inks: Dexter Vines w. Mark Morales, Steve McNiven, John Dell & Tim Townsend | Colours: Morry Hollowell

Whose side are you on? A conflict is brewing that threatens to pit friend against friend, brother against brother and all it will take is a single misstep to cost thousands their lives and ignite the fuse! As the war claims its first victims, no one is safe as teams, friendships and families begin to fall apart and the Marvel Universe super heroes go to war against each other.

Collecting the seven issues in the Civil War mini-series, which had tie-in issues across the Marvel comics line, this is a real show-stopper of a story. It’s not perfect, by any means, but it is an engaging and fast-paced read. It’s also much better than The Ultimates (also written by Millar). Gorgeous artwork, and warring super heroes make for a very good book – more so, when you consider that it is really very reasonably priced in the UK. Well worth reading.

Week in Review

This is the first of these I’ve done in a while, but there have been some pretty good articles cropping up around the internet, and I thought I would be remiss for not sharing them. I have, nevertheless, still missed plenty. Hopefully this series of posts will be back to normal from next week.

This Week: A flurry of K.J. Parker reviews and mini-interviews; Kameron Hurley discusses her first novel; Jon Sprunk is interviewed; Pornokitsch take a look at 50 Shades of Grey vs. fantasy hatred;

Friday, July 06, 2012

“Minimum” Carnage…?

Ok, I don’t mean to beat up on Marvel all week, but this can’t be a serious advertisement:


That’s right: Minimum Carnage… That word is hardly in the approved Selling Point handbook, and is utterly opposite to Marvel’s penchant for “Ultimate”, “Uncanny”, “Amazing”, “Astonishing” and other grab-words.

Minimum Carnage… What’s next? “Canny X-Men”?* “Average Avengers”?

* In this incarnation, they are all from the North of England…