May 31, 2010

Channeling my Inner Scalzi

In true Whatever fashion, here are a couple of sunset pictures I took in Hawaii. I don't have mad photoshop skillz or a billion dollar camera so all are exactly as taken with my crappy 6.1 megapixel camera.

Here is one from Kauai

And another from Maui

I want to go back to there again.

May 28, 2010

Does Anyone Else Have This Problem?

I find that after completing a book, I have a hard time selecting my next read from my ridiculously long reading list. It's not that there isn't anything good in there: quite the opposite in fact. But even when I have a book I've been dying to read like China Mieville's Kraken or Ian McDonald's The Dervish House, I find myself struggling to get into it. I'm tempted to pick up other books

I think this problem stems from two key points. First, no matter how good a book is, whether it's the latest Joe Abercrombie blood-drenched fantasy or Paolo Bacigalupi's newest eco-SF adventure, the collective quality of the rest of the other choices will always outweigh it. Why read a SF Space Opera when you could be reading Urban Fantasy, Near-future SF, Alternate History, Epic Fantasy, Steampunk, Theopunk, Cyberpunk, Treepunk, Punkpunk? For all that a book is, there is so much more it's not. I know it's stupid to think like this but like Jacob of LOST, I have a hard time selecting which of the many candidates is worthy of my limited reading time. More often that not I false start, reading 20-30 pages of one tome before setting it down in favor or something else.

Adding to this fact is the way I read, which is probably similar to most people. It take me a while to get into a book. I need to reset my brain to read sentences the way the author writes them. I also tend to read every word, in admiration of the skill of writing rather than purely absorbing plot. Authors put a lot of time into their prose and making sure things are worded to their satisfaction, and I feel like a lot of the time and for a lot of readers, that effort is wasted. Few things make me happier than a perfectly worded sentence. Michael Chabon, I'm looking at you.
But anyway, back to the topic of the post. Until I reset my mind for the new prose stylings, I read much slower. Eventually, after 50 or 100 pages my mind is able to acclimate to the new style and I can pick up the pace. More often than not, I read the last three quarters of the book in the same time it took me to read the first quarter if not faster.

Both of these tendencies are particularly problematic when I am reading collections or anthologies. Even more so when they feature multiple authors. An anthology introduces many more clean stopping points, many more prose styles, and many more options than a single novel. And this is ignoring the fact that by the time I adjust to the new style, the story is frequently over. Heck, I've been reading The World Book of SF for about 5 months now.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy short stories. They just don't get along well with the way my gray matter functions. It just have a hard time moving from one story to the next.
I don't know.

Maybe it's just me.

May 27, 2010

Paul S. Kemp Unveils New Star Wars Novel, Deceived

Over at his livejournal, SFF author Paul S. Kemp has posted the news (ok, it was like 3 weeks ago, be patient I'm catching up) that he is now able to share some detail on his 2nd Star Wars novel, DECEIVED, including the stunning cover.

Here is what Mr. Kemp had to say:

The man on the cover is Darth Malgus, who led the attack on the Jedi Temple, a precursor to the Imperial sneak attack that led to the sacking of Coruscant. He is also the man featured in the “Deceived” trailer, which you can see in the post below.

So, why did I choose to write about Malgus? Well, I saw that cinematic trailer and said to my editor, “I want to write about that guy.” And she said, “Funny thing, we want you to write about that guy, too.”

Here is the video that Kemp was talking about.

Funny thing, because I want to read about that guy. Star Wars tie-in work is one of my guilty pleasures. Sometimes it's not the best, but I can't help getting excited about it. Paul S. Kemp's Star Wars debut, Crosscurrent was not only the best Star Wars novel I've read in a long while, it was also a damn good SF novel in it's own right. You can read my full review here.

I knew that Kemp was working on a tie-in for the new MMORPG (entitled The Old Republic) but I was still slightly more excited for his third SW novel, a follow-up to the characters and events of Crosscurrent. But now that I've learned a bit more about Deceived and seen the cover, I'm equally excited to find out more about the newest Sith on the block.

The Old Republic MMORPG and all of the tie in novels, comics, and toys appears to be an absolutely huge event for Lucas & Co. so it's going to be very interesting to see how this relatively unexplored period of Star Wars history develops. I don't know if I will be playing the game or not (MMORPGs eat time like few other activities) but I will definitely be exploring the new story through the secondary sources. With Kemp on board, it's sure to be more fun than sniping wamp rats.

Now to test my Jedi powers. "Paul S. Kemp, you will send an ARC my way"


May 26, 2010

Yeti Review: Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi

30 words or less: Although slightly restrained by the YA nature of Ship Breaker, Bacigalupi demonstrates the talents for developing realistic characters and show-not-tell worldbuilding that won him a Nebula award.

My Rating: 4/5

Pros: Stellar worldbuilding that only explores a fraction of its depth; dynamic characters that are deeper than your average YA protagonists; story is accessable on multiple levels and appropriate for both teenagers and adults

Cons: The events of the novel don't match the bleakness of the setting; Bacigalupi occasionally resorts to YA cliches; Bacigalupi tones back on the darker elements that he usually writes about (if that is your thing)

The Review: Paolo Bacigalupi has a knack for capturing the best and the worst humanity has to offer and his latest novel is no exception. Readers experienced with his fiction will discover yet another brilliantly constructed dystopia filled with intriguing ideas. Newer readers will find the same thing but for the first time. More adult than Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan and no-less imaginative, Ship Breaker is poised to introduce a whole new set of eager readers to the rising SF talent that Bacigalupi represents.

Ship Breaker chronicles the adventures of Nailer, a teenage boy eking out an existence working salvage on the Gulf Coast of a future America on the catastrophic side of peak oil. Exploring the inner workings of derelict freighters is hard, dangerous work and Nailer longs to escape the daily collection quota of feet of wire and pounds of scrap. Bacigalupi does an excellent job of quickly capturing the harsh reality of this future, making the first portion of the book particularly gripping as we accompany Nailer through a particularly memorable day in his scavenging career as things go awry deep within the bowels of an oil tanker.

With every page of Nailer’s introduction we learn more about his character and the world he inhabits. Where the average author resorts to what is derogatorily referred to as infodumping, Bacigalupi demonstrates his world in enviable show-not-tell fashion. As a result, the future culture of Ship Breaker feels authentic and rooted in our own history rather than an artificial construct. The strong foundations of the novel allow for more fully developed characters and in turn, a more enjoyable narrative.

After the strong opening that cements Nailer in the hearts of the audience, the main plot is realized as the young protagonist stumbles upon a shipwrecked state-of-the-art clipper ship and its priceless cargo: a discovery beyond his wildest imaginations. Nailer soon must make a difficult decision and make it fast before his abusive, alcoholic father discovers his son's secret and claims it for himself. As the action ramps up, the plot quickly travels in interesting directions, exploring the boundaries of a future begging to be exposed and leaving ideas in the background that could support entire novels in their own right.

It's worth repeating that Ship Breaker is being published as a YA novel. Ignoring the debate over what should or shouldn't be allowed in a YA book, there is no denying that some of his early work is by no means appropriate for younger audiences. Bacigalupi has written stories full of shocking material, covering topics that include population control squads hunting down and executing illegal children in cold blood and the traumatic regenesis of beings created primarily for sexual pleasure as they come to terms with the perverted nature of their existence. Bacigalupi writes this dark material well, using it to provoke thought rather than to shock and disturb but it can get pretty messed up, even for seasoned genre veterans.

The dichotomy between the unadulterated humanity of Bacigalupi’s early work and the restrictions of the YA market was one of my primary concerns going into Ship Breaker. After reading, it’s clear that he is capable of toning down some of the more adult themes that have been prevalent in his early work without losing his touch. There is a strong balance to the novel as Bacigalupi includes the trademark darker elements but relegates them to the background. There are drugs, slaves, and organ thieves in the periphery of the story but at its core, Ship Breaker is about a boy overcoming his fears.

At the same time, there is no denying that Ship Breaker is guilty of conforming to certain YA staples. A budding romance between the two main characters develops. Young characters must face older antagonists in “authoritative” positions and eventually decide the type of person they want to be in the face of pressure. Even the ending is a little bit too positive when you consider the bleak background that Bacigalupi has painted behind his cast. However, when this occurs, it’s not to excess and the strengths of the characters and the setting clearly outweigh any perceived weaknesses.

Ship Breaker is an excellent novel and a worthy successor to the Nebula-Award-Winning The Windup Girl. Bacigalupi makes worldbuilding look easy, explaining complex ideas clearly with an economy of word that allows for richer characters and a dynamic plot. Every Bacigalupi story demands further exploration of the well-crafted worlds that he only hints at. Based off the strength of his first two novels, limiting him to only one imagined world would be a mistake, both for his creativity and the good of the genre as a whole. Despite the occasional blunder into YA tropes, Ship Breaker is still thought provoking science fiction at its best; effortless to read and difficult to forget.

May 21, 2010

Call for Comments: How Do You Organize Your Library

As I'm sure you're tired of hearing about, I recently moved. That means 1000+ books packed up, transported, and unboxed

Now I've got 1,000 books and a wall to wall book shelf consisting of forty 18''x18'' square shelves. I'm also contemplating expanding it to be floor to ceiling and adding another twenty 18''x18'' booknooks but that would require another trip to IKEA. It may or may not be a necessity...

Partially Filled Shelves with Computer Station

Alternate View

While I'm unboxing and organizing, I'm still not sure how I want to shelf my collection. Luckily, I can compartmentalize books in subsets of 5-15 (depending if it's a Peter F. Hamilton Hardcover or a Charlie Huston TPB). Still what gets top shelf eye-level treatment and what gets relegated to the bottom corner?

So how about you? How do you organize your books?

May 20, 2010

Covering Covers: Metatropolis [Tor Edition]

A while back at the always entertaining Whatever, SF author John Scalzi debuted the cover of the Tor edition of the collaborative world anthology that he edited and co-wrote along with Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, and Karl Schroeder.

Cover Artist: Peter Lutjen

Entitled Metatropolis, this book visits 5 very different cities set in the same bleak tomorrow. Most would consider these settings dystopian, although a more realistic dystopia than your typical apocalypse. These novellas are futuristic visions of a world concretely grounded in the present. Metatropolis was originally published as an audiobook and later as a limited print special edition by the always spectacular Subterranean Press. For those readers who aren't clued in to the fantastic but expensive Subterranean Press, Tor is rereleasing Metratropolis in a mass hardcover edition next month (June 8th).

Metatropolis features an absolutely spectacular lineup of authors and if near to mid future SF is your thing, I'd definitely do some more investigation. The length of the stories perfect for familiarizing yourself with the authors' writing without investing in an entire novel (even though you couldn't go wrong with any of the featured writers).

I also really like this cover. It's got a great graphic vibe that hints at the larger world hidden within. Between the title and the buildings there are a lot of different hues but they manage to work together rather than distract. It's hard to determine how well the cover appears to speak to the target audience, mostly because it's hard to determine who that audience is in the first place. I would assume that it's the same crowd that enjoyed Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl and other ecological tinged stories. There aren't really enough sample books to notice a trend although I can see some parallels between the dilapidated buildings that grace both covers.

If you are looking for new authors, try Metatropolis. I guarantee you will find at least one you'll love, if not all five.

May 18, 2010

Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!

Photograph by Amy Carroll
After a few weeks away from the computer and a life-changing event or two, I have returned alive, excited and tan. Aside from a pair of glasses or two that had to return to the ocean from which they came, I'm mostly intact. Actually, you can consider me more than intact as I gained a beautiful better half (see wonderful picture by fantastic photographer Amy Carroll above). Look closely, I'm the arm candy on the right.

Close followers of the blog may have noticed that my output has diminished slightly the past few months, mostly a result of planning a wedding, a honeymoon, buying a first home, and working enough hours to somewhat afford it. On a completely related note, I do accept review submissions from publishers... Or if anyone needs a graphic designer or photographer, my new roommate is pretty good at it. But ignoring all that, I anticipate being a bit more productive over the next few months, particularly once we finally get our lives unpacked.

One of the frightening realities benefits of moving is that you realize exactly how many books you have and you get an opportunity to rearrange them all. I've just put together a few new bookcases (and a sweet bookcase/desk combo) and within the week I expect to be organizing a second bedroom/library that is closer to my dream of wall-to-wall books than I've ever been. It's looking to be a fairly stunning BookCave 3000 and I'll sure to post pics once it's a fully operational Blogger Station.

So what to expect in the coming weeks and months?

More Reviews! - I think I'm currently four books behind at the moment and I should be able to find some more reading time around here somewhere.

Books Pending Review

  • Bitter Seeds - Ian Tregillis - (Dark but excellent, can't wait for the sequel)
  • Ghosts of Manhattan - George Mann - (Somehow I ended up with an incomplete ARC, hopefully the finished copy was better)
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - N.K. Jemisin - (Strong debut from a promising storyteller)
  • Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi - (There is a reason why he just won the Nebula. Ship Breaker is Bacigalupi Lite)
Reading Queue
  • Zoo City - Lauren Beukes
  • Shades of Milk and Honey - Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Occultation - Laird Barron
  • King Maker - Maurice Broaddus
  • Under Heaven - Guy Gavriel Kay
  • For the Win - Cory Doctorow
  • The Last Page - Anthony Huso
  • Gardens of the Sun - Paul McAuley
  • New Model Army - Adam Roberts
  • Spellwright - Blake Charlton
  • The Conqueror's Shadow - Ari Marmell
New Interviews! - Due to other commitments and a determination to make sure my pieces are well researched, I only got through 3 of the 5 introduction pieces for my new interview series, Authors Worth Watching. I intend on spotlighting the last 10 authors and kicking off the first few interviews most likely with authors N.K. Jemisin and Ian Tregillis whose debut novels were excellent.

Opinion Pieces! - My new wife got me a Kindle for my birthday and I haven't really given my impression yet. I've got a lot of half finished pieces lying around that I just didn't have the time to write. I hope to wrap those up and get my thoughts down and finalized.

Finished Blog Updates! - I've been trying to organize things around here so you could see who is sending me what and what I've reviewed or who I've interviewed in the past. I lost the drive after an epic IE crash destroyed about 4 hours worth of work and haven't went back since. I'm going to give that another go.
Anyway, I'm back and ready to stomp. What have you been doing?

May 12, 2010

Guest Post - Waiting for ADWD: An audio guide

Today's featured guest post comes from Ryan, the musical mind behind the fantastically named blog, Battle Hymns.

Hey people, Patrick has been kind (or crazy) enough to let me do a guest blog post. I'm Ryan, the man behind Battle Hymns, a blog where I talk about my three big loves, fantasy books, music and comics. I've been at this blogging thing for about four months, and so far I love it. I hope you enjoy the post, and feel inspired to come check out my blog as well...ok, enough about me, on to the good stuff!

If you are like me, then you are likely awaiting the next installment of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. If you are like me then you probably have days where you are impatiently cussing Mr. Martin out in your mind and muttering under your breath whenever he talks about mini pewter knights on his Live Journal, or New York Jets football. But, since I'm not crazy, and you likely aren't either, then you probably also, almost all the time, patiently await A Dance with Dragons and fill your time reading other great works of fantasy and empathize with Mr. Martin and try to be understanding of the situation...but then doubt starts creeping in, and you get tired of holding your breath each time you read his Live Journal in hopes of some ASoIaF news, and you feel that impatience creeping in.

Well, I'm here to help.

You don't just have to fill your time by reading other stuff, you can now pass the time by rocking out to five kick-ass albums that will cure your ADWD blues. BEHOLD:

2112 by Rush: This is probably Rush's coolest album and a great album to help you forget about life for awhile.

Put your headphones on and get ready for the first track, a twenty minute cyberpunk odyssey that takes you to the year 2112, where the world is ruled by the Priests of the Temple of Syrinx. These priestly bastards control all aspects of life, including music, art and reading material, (so enjoy GRRM while you can!). Then some dude finds a guitar and learns to shred. He travels to the temple to show the priests, but they his destroy the guitar. In agony, the guy commits suicide, and the galaxy plummets into war and the song ends with the message: "Attention all planets of the Solar Federation: We have assumed control." EPIC!

It's a bit of a cliff hanger of a song ending and sadly, the rest of the songs on the album don't continue the story but are quite solid. There is something for everyone on this album. Some straight up heavy stuff, smooth melodic bits and everything in between.

Blood Mountain by Mastodon: This list would be incomplete if I didn't include at least one concept album. That's where Blood Mountain comes in. The album is meant to represent the element of Earth, so there's that for starters. The album's concept is about climbing a mountain, becoming stranded on the mountain, and the different things you could face: starvation, hallucinations, being hunted, and of course, running into strange creatures.

The album is filled with mystic beasts and other fantastic has a song about a "Cysquatch"!! (a cyclopian sasquatch!) The instrumental track Bladecatcher has all the frenetic energy of a sword fight. Few albums are as sonically amazing as this, and since it is filled to the brim with fantasy elements, it should keep you busy.

Deliverance by Opeth: Deliverance is the album to go to when you're feeling a bit of hatred and anger towards GRRM. Maybe you just read his Live Journal and saw a long ass post about the NFL, or you're feeling queasy about all the time he's spent writing blurbs for internet cage matches...Opeth will be your cure.

Easily one of the band's heaviest albums, Deliverance is great for those times when you want to headbutt a brick wall, or something similarly drastic. For me, listening to loud heavy music has a calming effect. So if you are in the need of a heavy metal injection, let Opeth be your doctor. This album has power, and emotion. Give it a listen and you'll feel a strong personal connection to the music.

Tales from the Thousand Lakes by Amorphis: Need to be inspired? How about a concept album about an epic poem from Finland? Further proof that epic music is a great compliment to epic tales, Amorphis' second album is a fine example. Tales from the Thousand Lakes is a concept album based on the Kalevala, the Finnish National Epic. I don't know much about the Kalevala, but Wikipedia says it inspired a national awakening which led to Finland gaining independence from Russia back in 1917, so that is pretty amazing.

The one thing I do know is that this album is awesome. Filled with amazing guitar work, Amorphis hits you with riff after brutal riff. Each song gallops along with great pace and is solid from start to finish. This album marks Amorphis' transition towards more melodic material, it strides the gap between aggressive and melodic music in a way that makes the sound of this album unique.

Gods of the Earth by The Sword: Possibly the most unheralded band on the list, (think of them as a hedge knight) The Sword's music directly references works of fantasy. A bunch of their songs reference Robert E. Howard's Conan, and the song To Take the Black is an obvious reference to Mr. Martin himself.

Apparently when they aren't reading fantasy, they are writing inspired music. The Sword's musical style is reminiscent of Black Sabbath, with a stoner swirl. At times there's a bit too much cymbal crashing for my tastes, but their songs are a lot of fun and there is no arguing with the subject matter of the songs. Their musical themes are a great compliment to the works of fantasy they reference.

There, I hope that helps you cope with the waiting. If you are unfamiliar with these albums I urge you to check them out and let me know what you think. If you do already own them, or some of them, then I hope you are employing them to help ward off the waiting blues. So until ADWD hits shelves, keep reading and keep listening!

Thanks to Ryan for contributing! I'm got plenty to read while waiting for A Dance With Dragons but not too much to listen to! I should be back next week, don't trash the house too much.

May 10, 2010

Call for Comments: Anticipated Books for the rest of 2010

Last week I posted asked the internets what their favorite book was four months into 2010. There are still 8 months to go but for the most part, there won't be many new additions to the 2010 release calendar.

Given that the selection is now all but locked in (and Rothfuss and GRRM didn't make the cut), I'd like to revisit the topic of anticipated books.

Hypothetically, if you could only read 3 more books that will be released this year, which would you choose?

For reference, there is a great guide to upcoming books over at Locus Magazine's website. [Forthcoming Books]

Note: If any publishing outfits would like to send me advance copies of any of these books, I will very begrudgingly accept.

Here are my top three.

The Dervish House - Ian McDonald - I've got an ARC of this sitting beside me right now and if I didn't have so many other things to do, I'd be reading it right now. McDonald is one of the best cultural SF writers there are and his examinations of India and Brazil have been stellar. This time he takes on Turkey and if the book is anything like Brasyl or River of Gods/Cyberabad Days it will well be worth reading. If you like dense, detailed and not-so-implausible SF you should check this book out. Plus that cover is gorgeous.

Zoo City - Lauren Beukes - Moxyland was the suprise hit of 2009 and I came away more than impressed with Beukes's near future vision of South Africa. Zoo City is her sophomore effort and one I am looking forward to greatly. I've only heard bits and pieces about the book but there was a reason why I picked Beukes as one of my 25 Authors Worth Watching. Fresh, captivating, and provocative, Beukes is a welcome new voice in the genre scene.

The Way of Kings (Book 1 of The Stormlight Archive) - Brandon Sanderson - Sanderson starts his next fantasy epic. Sanderson, Abercrombie, and Rothfuss are the holy trinity of fantasy authors to debut in the last several years. Rothfuss and Abercrombie don't have books coming out this year, Sanderson has two. And The Way of Kings doesn't require 13 books of backstory. Need I say more?

Here are some other notable titles that just missed the cut.

Cover Art Not Final

Shades of Milk and Honey - Mary Robinette Kowal - Kowal is another of my favorite authors (and another on my Worth Watching list). The subject matter for her debut novel is just slightly outside of my comfort zone but based on the strength of her other writing, I will definitely be reading this one. Kowal's prose is elegant and efficient, pouring more emotion into fewer words and getting me to connect with her protagonists suprisingly quick. I loved her debut collection, Scenting the Dark and Other Stories and her dialogue is some of the most natural I've read, which even more impressive considering she is a relatively newcomer. Kowal won last year's Campbell Award for Best New Writer and she continues to prove she earned it.

Behemoth (Book 2 of the Leviathan Series) - Scott Westerfeld - Last year's steampunk Leviathan was absolutely fantastic and the combination of beautiful artwork and Westerfeld's alternate vision of World War I has me anticipating the follow up greatly. Leviathan's biggest flaw was that it ended too soon (YA books typically have inflated page count due to font size). I wish I could show off Behemoth's cover because I'm sure it will be fantastic. If you haven't read Leviathan yet, do yourself a favor and see what you're missing.

The Quantum Thief - Hannu Rajaniemi - Hannu sold this book (and its two sequels) based only on a few pages of work. I'm hesitant to put this into the top three because I have yet to see any concrete reviews but based on the early buzz, this is a debut book to watch for. The Quantum Thief makes its UK debut this September.

With Great Power . . . - Lou Anders (editor) - Lou Anders is one of the best editors working in the genre today and his name combined with the group of authors showcased in this superhero themed anthology has me salivating over this book. The only reason this book didn't make the first list is a numbers game. This is going to be a highly enjoyable book. Check out the full ToC here.

The Passage - Justin Cronin - I don't know if anyone would dispute that Cronin's The Passage is the most hyped book of the summer. I'm not sure if it's purely publisher hype or there is any substance to it but there is no denying that people are talking about it. I'm curious to read it but I don't necessarily know what to expect.

So that's my list, what are your 3 most anticipated books for the remainder of 2010?

May 5, 2010

Guest Post - What Do Bloggers Owe Publishers?

The first guest post of my extended vacation comes to us from Chad Hull of Fiction is so Overrated. I wouldn't necessarily agree with that name but Chad volunteered some very interesting thoughts on the subject of what a bloggers owes to a publisher. Without any further delay, here's Chad.

Does a blogger "owe" anything to a publisher? If what is owed means commentary on a book then I would answer, no. Below are my reasons why, and my perception of bloggers who write about books they received for free.

Any sense of pressure a blogger feels to review a publisher's material is completely self-imposed. As I've never accepted such generous gifts from a publisher (i.e. Don't have a leg to stand on in making this argument) I feel I'm the correct person to comment on such a topic. When publishers send out ARC's, or in some cases a finished copy, to bloggers they are going fishing; trolling, if you will. If the effort is an expenditure that a publisher can justify with zero expectations in return, then it's a good practice; if they can't… they won't. I don't respond to eighty-percent of what's sent to me in the mail. (And I wish I could ignore the remainder as well.)

Some friends and I--both of the book blogger variety and real living people types--have limited faith in reviews from bloggers who do comment on material sent to them gratis. Any review ending with something to the effect of, "This one is well worth you money," makes ill. Was it worth the bloggers money? Did they support the author or are they merely reveling in any real or perceived authority bestowed upon them due to the fact that they were chosen to receive a complimentary book? A blogger's opinion isn't invalidated due to the means they acquire a book. However, if a book is sent free of charge with it being prominently known that said book is the headliner for the fall catalogue and the book gets great reviews from said blogger; well, let me say that for me, and many others I know (all book buyers), the grain of salt I must swallow gets exponentially bigger toward any praise given to such a book.

I like to read. I like to collect books I like. I go through four to six a month and at that point, it's an expense. The summation of these points is that I am a very discerning book buyer; nor am I the only one. Spend twenty dollars on a book then tell me how you liked it; I'll be much more inclined to apply credence to what you say. Things we work for are generally much more meaningful to us than hand outs. (And if there's a voice of dissent to that--read: if your money doesn't mean that much to you--then contact me and pay off my credit card. While the value of a handout may not be lessened one's appreciation arguably is.) "Hey this just came in the mail and it's free. Well, I don't have anything else to read. Why not give it a shot?" If you had to pay to open such a package and could only view a packing slip prior to opening the box, you may be inclined to write 'Return to Sender' on the box and go about your day.

If you buy a book and hate it, I can assure that you'll have very strong feelings about the book. Get a book from a publisher, and don't care for it? Well, then it's got to be really God awful for you to profoundly bash it with impunity, 'cause hey, after all, they sent you a free book, right? And who knows? The next free one they send might just be the greatest book ever… You wouldn't want to bash a book too badly, or worse still, consistently bash books from the same publisher, because wouldn't it be terrible if the free books stopped coming? Worst thing you may do for a book you didn't like--and in some cases, never even read--that was a handout is have a lottery and send it to one of your blog readers as a reminder as to how awesome (and privileged) you are. That's not to say that anyone receiving free books won't write up a bad review, but I have a hard time believing that such remarks aren't tempered in the subconscious.

Writer's with an outstanding contract certainly have an obligation to publishers, but there is no such weight on readers shoulders. I can't shake the feeling that if there were some sense of obligation, ridiculous as it sounds book bloggers would be nothing more than literary fanboys. That however, is a different topic and I've digressed enough. If someone sends you a free gift by all means be polite and say, 'thank you.' We are all entitled to go fishing, but there is no social contract stating that the fish are obliged to bite.

Interesting stuff, no? I don't agree 100% with everything he had to say but I certainly feel comfortable saying that my relationship with a publisher isn't going to be reflected in my review. I read books I want to, not books I get sent. The only books I guarantee a review on are the books I personally request and even then, there is no guaranteeing a good review [See upcoming Ghosts of Manhattan review for proof].

May 3, 2010

Call for Comments: 4 months in, what's the best thing you've read this year?

We are one third of the way through the year and I am behind on my reading. Scratch that, not behind, woefully behind. My continuing goal is to read 50 pages a day or approximately 1 book a week. Therefore, I should be through about 17 books at this point. My sad total?

Nine and a half.

Now there are reasons for being so far behind. On the other hand, I'm not sure if I will be able to catch up this year. Or if I even want to try. I don't think it's really worth rushing through books just to read more.

So out of the paltry pile of conquests, which book has been the best? Right now it looks like Mary Robinette Kowal's short story collection: Scenting the Dark and Other Stories tops the list. The collection was short but stellar, proving why Kowal took home last year's Campbell award for best new writer. I'd suggest you read the full review here and possibly pick up a copy or two. Mary's debut novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, is coming out from Tor late this summer and one of my most anticipated books for the remainder of 2010.

At the same time, the book I'm reading (or trying to find time ot read), Ian Tregillis's Bitter Seeds, is giving Scenting the Dark a run for it's money. It's well-written, extremely fun, and developing into a fantastic example as to why the WWII alternate history isn't dead yet. Plus there are supermen and demons. (The demons are on the British side!) What's not to like?

But I don't really have too much authority to be judging the overall sum of genre work this year. To those of you have read more (and it's okay if you haven't), what book is sitting at the top of your lists this year?

May 1, 2010

YetiStomper Picks for May

Today is May 1st. I'm getting married today but that doesn't mean I'm going to skip out on the monthly preview, although this is a very annotated version. [Don't worry this was written well in advance, keep the comments clean.]

Moxyland - Lauren Beukes

Standalone near-future SF set in South Africa. Brilliant stuff, full review here.

For the Win - Cory Doctorow

YA near future SF involving internet culture. Recommended for fans of Little Brother

Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi

YA sort-of-near future SF with a bit of an environmental twist. Ship Breaker isn't as good as The Windup Girl (my favorite novel of 2009) as Bacigalupi works slight better writing torward an adult audience but Bacigalupi is still in fine form.

Occultation - Laird Barron

Horror short-story anthology from Night Shade Books. Barron is one of the brightest new stars in the horror short market and he returns to his particular horror stylings in his second collection.

Lesser Demons - Norman Partridge

Horror short-story anthology from Subterranean Press. Partridge is one of the best prose stylists I've ever read and Lesser Demons witnesses his take on several types of American pulp fiction. Full review here.

Slights - Kaaron Warren

US release of horror standalone novel from Angry Robot Books. Warren is one of my Authors Worth Watching and the UK release of Slights made several Best of 2009 lists.

Kid Vs. Squid - Greg Van Eekhout

Another Author Worth Watching, Eekhout has penned a middle school novel pitting child against cephalopod. Eekhout is an up and coming genre writer and this kiddie tale should be fun for all ages.

The Prince of Mist - Carlos Luiz Zafon

Foreign writer Zafon's follow-up to The Angel's Game sees its English translation.

The Devil in Green - Mark Chadbourn

Chadbourn and Pyr return to the world established in Chadbourn's Age of Misrule trilogy with this first of three follow up books.

House of Suns - Alastair Reynolds

PB US release of one of Reynolds latest. Reynolds is one of, if not the best British SF Writers today and his work is well worth buying in any format. But I like books to line up on my shelf and I have plenty of books to read so paperback for me.

Even though it's been out in the UK for about a year, I'm still declaring Moxyland my YetiStomper Pick for May AND the YetiStomper Debut for May. It's just that good. If it doesn't sound right for you, you also can't go wrong with Bacigalupi or Doctorow (or any of these books). Lots of YA and horrot this month, I'd suggest not getting the two confused. Anyway, as always, if you are interested in more details regarding any of the above books, just click on through the Amazon links. I'm more interested in telling you why I recommended them rather than simply what the books are about. Let me know if there is anything I may have missed in the comments. And which one of these covers is your favorite?

You can view previous installments of YetiStomper Picks here
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