Aug 30, 2010

Yeti Review: The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson

In A Few Words: The Way of Kings delivers on the hype, introducing a new fantasy series that echoes Wheel of Time in scope and complexity and has the potential to surpass it in writing quality and readability.

Pros: You will not get a better bang for your buck than the 1,000 pages of The Way of Kings; Highly readable fast-paced prose atypical in a fantasy doorstop; Sanderson takes standard tropes and make them his own, creating a cast of characters both recognizable and original; Subtle clues that will inspire discussion and rereading 

Cons: Very much an introductory volume, leaving a lot of questions unasked or unanswered; Kaladin flashbacks end up being somewhat prolonged and anticlimactic; Book 2 not due until 2012 at the earliest.

The Review: The most anticipated fantasy tome of 2010 is undoubtedly Brandon Sanderson’s Towers of Midnight. The best epic fantasy title of 2010 is also penned by Sanderson but that book does not belong to the classic saga started by the late Robert Jordan nearly two decades ago. Instead, that honor belongs to The Way of Kings, the first volume of The Stormlight Archives, in which Sanderson introduces us to Roshar, a world ravaged by torrential rain and torn apart by war, and the small cast of characters destined to stand against its storms.

At a high level the cast is generic - Dallinar, the noble noble playing a game of thrones – Adolin, the questioning son, loyal but unsure – Kaladin, the Gladiator-esque once-hero-now-slave trying to regain the honor and respect he once held – Shallan, a con-woman who becomes enamored with the person she pretends to be – Szeth, the unstoppable assassin who wants nothing more than to stop killing – but Sanderson uses his intimate familiarity with the genre to great effect, creating characters that are recognizable to fans but also distinct and memorable.

The forty odd words given to the characters above cannot do justice to the hundreds and hundreds of pages of complexity Sanderson uses to make the cast his own. If Sanderson’s cast is lacking is anything it is the scene-stealing antagonist that fans can love to hate. The closest character Sanderson provides is Szeth, more of an anti-hero than antagonist, whose vertigo inducing assassinations are some of the most spectacular scenes in the book. Either way, Szeth is destined to gather a loyal following as one of the genre’s favorite fighters.

This deficiency is not a problem per se but it is indicative of a frustrating aspect of The Way of Kings - there is no clear overarching plot to measure progress against. As such, it is difficult to fully judge The Way of Kings without knowing more about the series as a whole. Sanderson’s latest is very much a series debut, spending a wealth of words developing the complex world of Roshar and the people who inhabit it but only hinting at the overall plot of the planned ten book series. Despite the massive page count of the book, the vast majority of the action focuses on these five characters, four of which are tightly focused on the politics of Alethkar and its war with the Parshendi nomads following their assassination of the Alethkari king (and Dalinar's brother).

This leaves the fifth and shortest of the “major” POVs to lay a bloody foundation to The Stormlight Archives along with a small number of one-off “interludes” that appear to be only tangentially connected to the major perspectives. Even when taken together, these few pages barely scratch the surface of the larger tapestry on which The Way of Kings is woven. Likewise, Sanderson only provides brief glimpses into Roshar’s magic system. Somehow combined the incredibly curious Spren, Stormlight and Shardplate, the teases suggest that Sanderson has yet another of his trademark systems in store even if he is not ready to fully divulge its secrets.

Even though The Way of Kings provides disappointingly few overt clues at the overall direction of the series as a whole, that disappointment itself speaks to the quality of the story Sanderson has begun to craft rather than a flaw in his creation. Even with the 1,000+ pages of action and intrigue he supplies, the world of Roshar still begs for further exploration. Some doorstop fantasy novels claim to be epic in scope but the only thing epic about them is the nature of the editing fail they represent. When you struggle to get through page after page of tedium the end is a welcome blessing not a curse. This is not the case here.

Sanderson belongs to the less-is-more faction of worldbuilders and it shows in the relentless pace of The Way of Kings. The book moves swiftly, jumping from perspective to perspective and constructing Roshar through active exploration rather than passive infodumping. The only slow threads in the book are some of those which detail Kaladin’s backstory before becoming a slave. They feel somewhat prolonged and when Sanderson finally reaches the pivotal moment of his life, the revelation borders on the anticlimactic. Considering the aforementioned page count, much of his backstory could have been compressed and the extra pages could be removed or, even better, repurposed to explore more of Sanderson’s brilliant new world.

The last act is particularly demonstrative of the success of this introductory volume. As the fates of Dalinar and Kaladin align on the Shattered Plains, the story begins to move at such a pace and scope that it’s impossible to put down. At the same time, it’s hard to want to finish too quickly, considering that it will be years before the second volume hits shelves. Even when I did reach the dreaded conclusion, I found myself returning to reread some of the more initially ambiguous sections. While I faulted the book earlier for lacking overt direction, upon revisiting the most cryptic sections there is a seemingly endless supply of subtle clues to discover and discuss. Sanderson accomplishes the incredible, making a dauntingly long book read quickly and leaving the reader still wanting more.

In the end, it’s impossible to deny Sanderson’s talent for storytelling. Sanderson’s prose is impressive, possessing an almost cinematic quality. While most of the thousand or so pages read effortlessly, there are several scenes which transcend good storytelling and become utterly entrancing. Whether it’s Lord Dalinar resplendent in his Shardplate (an incredible creation in its own right), Kaladin in the midst of battle, or Szeth’s capacity for gravity defying carnage, his words leap off the page and into your imagination. The storytelling is further enhanced by the beautiful illustrations dispersed throughout the book, depicting some of the more abstract portions of his storm-influenced world on the rare occasion when Sanderson’s descriptive prowess is insufficient.

Based on the introductory volume alone, it’s hard not to agree with the bold claim that The Stormlight Archives has the potential to be for the newest generation of fantasy readers what The Wheel of Time was to the last. The subtle hints at the larger scope of The Stormlight Archives are sure to attract a rabid fan base that could easily rival Jordan’s, especially with the carry over that Sanderson’s Wheel of Time books are sure to generate. But I don’t want to make any guarantees based on only ten percent of the overall story.

At this point, the best praise I can provide to The Stormlight Archives is that I devoured the thousand pages of complex worldbuilding and imaginative storytelling contained in The Way of Kings and at the end I was still hungry for a thousand more. The most disappointing aspect of Sanderson’s new series is undoubtedly the fact that the second volume will not be out until 2012 at the earliest. I’ll be waiting.

Aug 24, 2010

Big News from Joe Schreiber

Over at his blog, The Scary Parent, horror writer Joe Schreiber has some exciting news. First, he has sold a new YA novel, entitled Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick. Schreiber mentions that he wrote Au Revoir in a three week fit of whatever the opposite of writer's block is earlier this year and after a choice bit of editing, he's been trying to find a home for it. Well that home is Houghton Mifflin, and they've bought not only Au Revoir but an unwritten sequel as well.

Schreiber goes on to provide some more information about the book.

"Au Revoir is a middle-aged novelist's attempt to recapture what it feels like to be back in high school again, that simultaneous sense of anything-is-possible exhiliration and sheer adrenalized panic."

"...what might happen if John Hughes had been hired to write La Femme Nikita.Basically, Au Revoir is about a high school kid with a female foreign exchange student living in his house, who turns out to be an international assassin with a one-night multi-kill job in New York City before she gets sent back home. As the night gets progressively wilder, our teenage hero gets roped into driving her around whether he likes it or not. The idea kind of drove me nuts, in a very pleasant way, like a pop song that you can't get out of your head..."
Sounds like your standard novel sale right? It was, and then someone mentioned the sale in a industry magazine with the tagline "Ferris Bueller meets the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." To put it more bluntly, "Classic Movie Beloved Across Generations" + "Biggest Book on the Planet Right Now"

Any guesses what happened next?

If you are thinking, Joe Schreiber solo dance party, you are only partially correct. But if you guessed Hollywood bidding war, you're right. Paramount eventually ended up with the rights and while by no means a guarantee any movie will ever be made, it's still a step in the right direction and a sign that there is something special in the story. And while Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick isn't the catchiest title I've ever heard the book itself does sound pretty cool. I'll be keeping an eye out for this one.

In an industry where rejections outweigh sales by a sizeable margin, it's always cool when you hear news like this. Congrats to Joe and good luck with the new property!

Aug 23, 2010

Winners of The Long Price Giveaway

Out of all the entries in the contest for Daniel Abraham's complete The Long Price series, somehow selected two winners from the same city. What are the odds?

Without further ado, the two winners are

#11 - Ben O' C. from Washington, DC


#18 - Josh W. also from Washington, DC

Congrats to the winners! If you weren't lucky enough to win, I encourage to still go out and buy the series, it's well worth the price of admission.

Aug 20, 2010

Covering Covers: Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars and Other Unusual Suspects - Ken Scholes

Cover Artist: Paul Swenson

I hate it when people settle for the obvious choice...

Table of Contents
  • A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon
  • The Night the Stars Sang Out My Name
  • The God-Voices of Settler's Rest
  • The Music of the Spheres
  • Four Clowns of the Apocalypse and the Mecca of Mirth
  • The Boy Who Could Bend and Fall
  • The Second Gift Given
  • Invisible Empire of Ascending Light
  • There Once Was a Girl from Nantucket (A Fortean Love Story) with John A. Pitts
  • The Taking Night
  • On the Settling of Ancient Scores
  • In Time of Despair and Great Darkness
  • Of Missing Kings and Backward Dreams and the Honoring of Lies
  • Grief-Stepping to the Widowers Waltz
  • Love in the Time of Car Alarms
  • What Child is this I Ask the Midnight Clear
  • Grail-Diving in Shangrilla with the World's Last Mime

Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars and Other Unusual Suspects is out now from Fairwood Press. Order directly from them and support a small press.

Aug 19, 2010

Covering Covers: Vicious Grace - M.L.N. Hanover

Cover Artist: Unknown

Ah the Urban Fantasy cover... Admire it in it's generic beauty. Attractive White Female? Check. Uncomfortable Pose? Check. Tattoo? Check. Bare Midriff? Check. Weapon that may or may not appear in the book? Check. Random Gust of Wind? Check.

All joking aside, these covers are constructed to convey one simple message:  "Look! Urban Fantasy! Right Here!" And there is no denying that they do that. I would even say that the red tint provides a vibrant touch and the rifle is not your trademark sword. And is that symbol of the Galactic Empire in the background? [Ok, I'm not done with the kidding yet]

But ultimately, it's not what's on the cover that counts, but what's inside it. Inside this cover is Vicious Grace. Vicious Grace is Book Three of M.L.N. Hanover's The Black Sun's Daughter Sequence, one of my favorite Urban Fantasy series alongside Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and Mike Carey's Felix Castor books. Black Sun's Daughter features Jayne Heller, your typical kick-ass heroine. In the first book, Heller inherits her uncle's friends and fortune and discovers the mysterious world in which he made his millions. The books are fun, fast-paced, and the cast of characters is one of the best ensembles outside of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You can read my reviews of Darker Angels (Book 1) and Unclean Spirits (Book 2).

Here is what Jayne (don't ask me to pronounce that) is up to in her latest adventure:
For the first time in forever, Jayne Heller's life is making sense. Even if she routinely risks her life to destroy demonic parasites that prey on mortals, she now has friends, colleagues, a trusted lover, and newfound confidence in the mission she inherited from her wealthy, mysterious uncle. Her next job might just rob her of all of them.

At Grace Memorial Hospital in Chicago, something is stirring. Patients are going AWOL and research subjects share the same sinister dreams. Half a century ago, something was buried under Grace in a terrible ritual, and it's straining to be free. Jayne is primed to take on whatever's about to be let loose. Yet the greatest danger now may not be the huge, unseen force lurking below, but the evil that has been hiding in plain sight all along - taking her ever closer to losing her body, her mind, and her soul...
And if you didn't know M.L.N. Hanover is a pen name for Fantasy Author Daniel Abraham. There is only one day left to enter the contest for Abraham's complete fantasy series The Long Price.

Vicious Grace will be out from Pocket Books on Nov. 30th of this year.

Aug 17, 2010

Books Received: Early August

Experimenting with a new format for the Books Received posts.

If you would like to see what books I obtained this week, click through to the main body of this post. Otherwise, do what you will.

Aug 16, 2010

SubPress Announces New Peter V. Brett Novella

Like many of my fellow genre readers, I am somewhat of a completist. And by somewhat, I mean that I have 100+ Star Wars novels and counting. It's an addiction, and an expensive one. But on the plus side, it means I keep an eye out for material that flies under the radar. A great place for that kind of material is Subterranean Press, a small press that features high quality, signed, and often exclusive titles.

Today they announced another exclusive Peter V. Brett novella set in the same world as The Painted Man and The Desert War. Earlier this year, they offered The Great Bazaar and Other Stories, a signed collection of Brett's work that tied into his larger mythos. That book sold out upon printing and is now very difficult to find (impossibly so if you are looking for something cheap). The new novella is titled Brayan's Gold and will feature exclusive art as well as some interior illustrations from Lauren K. Cannon. I think interior illustrations are a brilliant touch.

Included with the announcement was a basic summary:

Humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction. Each night, the world is overrun by demons-bloodthirsty creatures of nightmare that have been hunting the surface for over 300 years. A scant few hamlets and half-starved city-states are all that remain of a once proud civilization, and it is only by hiding behind wards, ancient symbols with the power to repel the demons, that they survive. A handful of Messengers brave the night to keep the lines of communication open between the increasingly isolated populace.

Arlen Bales is seventeen, an apprentice Messenger in brand new armor, about to go out for the first time alongside a trained Messenger on a simple overnight trip. Instead Arlen finds himself alone on a frozen mountainside, carrying a dangerous cargo to Count Brayan's gold mine, one of the furthest points in the duchy. And One Arm, the giant rock demon, hunts him still.

But Brayan's Gold may offer a way for Arlen to be free of One Arm forever, if he is willing to wager his life on the chance.
 Subterranean doesn't have the cheapest books, but they sure are pretty. Brayan's Gold should see print in Jan 2011 and will probably sell out way before that. You don't need to buy it, but if you're interested I'd recommend ordering sooner rather than later.

Aug 12, 2010

YetiContest: Complete Long Price Quartet - Daniel Abraham

I don't do contests around here very often. I consider it one of the cardinal sins of blogging. I've given away a few books when I've somehow ended up with an extra copy or two for one reason or another. I just don't think that contests = content. But for every rule there is an exception.

So I present to you a contest. Daniel Abraham is an author who I originally interviewed last year and an author I've enjoyed immensely. He's also a criminally underread author, particularly his excellent Long Year Quartet which was inexplicably undermarketed by Tor. Since then, he has shifted to Orbit, who has republished The Long Price Quartet in a pair of giant omnibus editions. Orbit is also publishing his new fantasy series, The Dagger and The Coin which I am very excited to read (as is everyone's favorite Inkboy who has an early synopsis over on his blog). Unfortunately, I don't have any early copies of that to give away.

What I do have though, is not one but two sets of the handsomely covered Omnibus editions from Orbit - Shadow and Betrayal and Seasons of War.

Shadow and Betrayal - In a remote mountain academy, the politically expendable younger sons of the Great Houses study for an extraordinary task. Most will fail, some will die, but the reward for the dedicated few is great: mastery of the andat, and the rank of Poet. Thanks to these men - part sorcerers, part scholars - the great city-states of the Khaiem enjoy wealth and power beyond measure, and the greatest of them all is Saraykeht: glittering jewel of the Summer Cities. There are those in the world, however, who envy such wealth. There are great riches to be had in the Summer and Winter Cities, and only the threat of the andat unleashed holds the enemies of the Khaiem in check. Conflict is brewing in the world. Alliances will be broken and friends betrayed. The lowly will be raised up, the mighty will fall and innocents will be slaughtered. And two men, bound to each other by an act of kindness and an act of brutality, may be all that stands between the civilised world and war. War and something worse ...

Seasons of War - The poets and their magical andat have protected the cities of the Khaiem against their rivals in Galt for generations. Otah, Khai of the Winter City of Machi, has tried for years to prepare his people for a future in which the andat can no longer be safely harnessed. But his warnings have been ignored, and now it-s too late.A ruthless, charismatic Galtic general believes he has found a way to strip the andat of their power. If he is wrong, Galt will be destroyed. If he is right, the Khaiem will fall. Only one thing is certain: conflict is inevitable, and Otah and his old friend and enemy the disgraced poet, Maati, must fight a desperate battle to protect their cities from slaughter. These two men, bound together by shadow and betrayal, will bring the world to the edge of a cataclysm unlike anything either side had imagined. For if the cost of war is high, the price of peace may be unimaginable . . .

To enter, simply send an email with "The Long Price" in the title and your name and snail mail information in the body to yeticontest [at] gmail [dot] com. Obviously, if you have used email before, you know you need to replace the words with an @ symbol and a .

The contest will run until Friday, August 20th at 11:59pm when two lucky winners will be drawn using a randomizer. That is if I don't decide to just pocket these awesome editions for myself. Good luck!

Aug 10, 2010

Covering Covers: Knife of Dreams eBook - Robert Jordan

Tor has been recovering the Robert Jordan's classic fantasy series The Wheel of Time in lead up to the final two books, due out at the end of this year and late 2011/early 2012, respectively. While I'm not the biggest fan of the original covers to Jordan's books, I do applaud Tor for sticking with the artist through the end.

This morning, Irene Gallo debuted the new artwork for Knife of Dreams over at

Cover Artist: Michael Komarck

I hope that when the series is done, Tor republishes the series in physical format with these new covers, either in paperback or HC. I would have to assume this is the case because it's a shame for such great work to only see the light of day in electronic format. My kindle doesn't even support color.

Michael Kormarck's reenvisioning of Knife of Dreams is no exception to the trend established by the previous artists. Kormarch has previously done a lot of work depicting scenes and characters from GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire, one of the only series capable of competing with Jordan's masterwork. Irene Gallo comments on a sense of frozen motion and permanent imbalance in the work over in the blogpost and I must say I agree. And that photorealism is quite amazing.

Aug 6, 2010

Covering Covers: The Heroes (w/ final summary)

  UK Cover                                                               US Cover
Map: Dave Senior                                                    Artist: Steve Stone
      Axe: Didier Graffet.                                           Design: Lauren Panepinto
Design: Laura Brett                                                                              
Coordination: Gillian Redfearn                                                                          

I have to declare victory for the team over at Gollancz for yet another great cover. The bloody US cover is alright (and much better than the atrocity that was their version of Best Served Cold) but Abercrombie covers have become synonymous with objects placed over a bloody map. It just conveys the tone of looming bloodshed so perfectly, and so much more subtly than the gorefest on the US cover.

Earlier this week, Abercrombie shared the final copy for The Heroes over on his blog:
“They say Black Dow’s killed more men than winter, and clawed his way to the throne of the North up a hill of skulls. The King of the Union, ever a jealous neighbour, is not about to stand smiling by while he claws his way any higher. The orders have been given and the armies are toiling through the northern mud. Thousands of men are converging on a forgotten ring of stones, on a worthless hill, in an unimportant valley, and they’ve brought a lot of sharpened metal with them.

Bremer dan Gorst, disgraced master swordsman, has sworn to reclaim his stolen honour on the battlefield. Obsessed with redemption and addicted to violence, he’s far past caring how much blood gets spilled in the attempt. Even if it’s his own.

Prince Calder isn’t interested in honour, and still less in getting himself killed. All he wants is power, and he’ll tell any lie, use any trick, and betray any friend to get it. Just as long as he doesn’t have to fight for it himself.

Curnden Craw, the last honest man in the North, has gained nothing from a life of warfare but swollen knees and frayed nerves. He hardly even cares who wins any more, he just wants to do the right thing. But can he even tell what that is with the world burning down around him?

Over three bloody days of battle, the fate of the North will be decided. But with both sides riddled by intrigues, follies, feuds and petty jealousies, it is unlikely to be the noblest hearts, or even the strongest arms that prevail…

Three men. One battle. No Heroes.”
More Black Dow! Very excited for that. Right now I plan on ordering the UK version for the cover art continuity but as I mentioned yesterday, The Heroes is probably my most anticipated fantasy tome for 2011. I may just defer to whichever method gets me the book faster.

The Heroes will be published by Gollancz in the UK on Jan 20th, 2011. Orbit will publish the US edition two months later in March. I don't think I'll be able to wait. 

Aug 5, 2010

2011: The Year of the Fantasy Doorstop

SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: 2011 Fantasy Lineup May Cause Wrist Injury, Eye Strain, Loss of Employment, and Severe Head Asplode
You're probably anticipating a new fantasy doorstop or two in 2011. But what you don't realize is that ALL of the new fantasy books you've been excited for will hit shelves in the next calendar year.

Let's take a brief look at the fantasy lineup scheduled for 2011

You've got your decade-long-series-enders

A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time #14) - Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The Crippled God (Malazan Book of the Fallen #10) - Steven Erikson

The Young Superstars
The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicle #2) - Patrick Rothfuss

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3) - Scott Lynch

The Heroes - Joe Abercrombie

Requiem (Psalms of Isaak #4) - Ken Scholes

The Series Debuts

The Fallen Blade (Assassini Trilogy #1) - Jim Courtney Greenwood

The Dragon's Path (The Dagger and the Coin #1) - Daniel Abraham

The Genre Giants

Book 2 of the Legends of Shannara duology - Terry Brooks

Raising Taxes (Discworld Book #1,141,746) - Terry Pratchett

A Kingdom Besieged (Chaoswar Saga #1/Riftwar Cycle #27) - Raymond E. Feist

The Grim and Gritty

The Cold Commands (A Land Fit for Heroes #2) - Richard Morgan

The White-Luck Warrior (The Aspect-Emperor #2) - R. Scott Bakker

His Father's Fist (Acts of Caine #4) - Matt Stover

The British Invasion

The Order of Scales (Memory of Flames #3) - Stephen Deas

The Iron Jackal (Tales of the Ketty Jay #3) - Chris Wooding


The Sea Watch (Shadows of the Apt #6) - Adrian Tchaikovsky

New Blood

Percepliquis (Riyria Revelations #6/6) - Michael J. Sullivan
Black Halo (Undergates #2) - Sam Sykes

Spellbound (Spellwright #2) - Blake Charlton
Fenrir (Wolfsangel #2) - M.D. Lachlan


The Warlord's Legacy (Warlords Trilogy #2) - Ari Marmell

And thats not including books from Mark Charan Newton, Lev Grossman, Jon Sprunk, Col Buchanan,  among others.

Thats over 20 highly anticipated books not counting the potential for another debut on the order of Rothfuss, Abercrombie, or Rothfuss.

I'm betting the stack would be taller than me. To test this, advance editions of all of these books may be sent to my review address. Do it. For science.

And if we get A Dance With Dragons, the most anticipated fantasy title of the past 25 years?

Animated Gifs  

So which one of these books is at the top of your list?

For me it's The Heroes or The Dragon's Path

Aug 4, 2010

Covering Covers: The Republic of Thieves - Scott Lynch

Cover Artist: Benjamin Carre

This. This is the cover of 2011's The Republic of Thieves. This is also gorgeous cover art. It plays to the sword and cloak crowd while managing to be vibrant and unique. The lettering in blood is a nice touch. But to be fair, the cover art should be fantastic, because they've had years to perfect it. I normally hate when cover art goes away from the series trend but The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies didn't really match anyway so my rage is already spent [as long as they don't change the size format of the book]

And here's the standard blurb
After their adventures on the high seas, Locke and Jean are brought back to earth with a thump. Jean is mourning the loss of his lover and Locke must live with the fallout of crossing the all-powerful magical assassins the Bonds Magi. It is a fall-out that will pit both men against Locke's own long lost love. Sabetha is Locke's childhood sweetheart, the love of Locke's life and now it is time for them to meet again. Employed on different sides of a vicious dispute between factions of the Bonds Sabetha has just one goal - to destroy Locke for ever. The Gentleman Bastard sequence has become a literary sensation in fantasy circles and now, with the third book, Scott Lynch is set to seal that success.
The Republic of Thieves is due for Spring 2011 from Gollancz [UK] and Ballantine Spectra [US]. Probably. I hope. Please?

Aug 3, 2010

Fast Fiction Friday: Tidhar, Ballingrud, Bobet, Sanford

This week's Fast Fiction Friday (I know it's on a Tuesday, give me a break, this weekend was gorgeous) is a long one as I've been doing some reading for Part 5 of Authors Worth Watching. 8 stories in total from Lavie Tidhar, Nathan Ballingrud, Leah Bobet, and Jason Sanford. In the interest of time, the reviews are going to be short but sweet.

Where Away You Fall - Jason Sanford

Originally published in Analog: Science Fiction and Fact, December 2008. Available as a PDF on Sanford's website here.

Sanford's Where Away You Fall combines hard and social sci-fi in an interesting tale where a woman's faith prevents her from reaching heaven (so to speak). The ability to predict changes in technology is often seen as the mark of  a good science fiction writer. People hear sci-fi and think robots, aliens, and faster than light space ships. But the best science fiction contemplates realistic restructuring of social science, regardless of the technological details. Sanford demonstrates that ability here, creating a religion/cult of extremists focusing on living simply to realize an individualize goal in order to reduce the clutter that has polluted the world. Where Away You Fall is a complete story within a much larger world that could easily accommodate further exploration.

304 Adolph Hitler Strasse - Lavie Tidhar

Originally published in Clarkesworld Magazine. Available for free at here.

I read a few stories from Tidhar this week and the common thread seems to be strange but short. They are almost guerrilla in nature, making a quick strike to your imagination and then retreating, leaving you to contemplate the words long after they've ceased to flow. 304 Adolph Hitler Strasse is a short piece of alternate history in which the Nazis have won but are now suffering from the corrupting influence of the internet. A Hanzi Himmler (unsure of implied relation) born long after the Jews were erased from the earth. begins to research forbidden knowledge via the anonymity of an early BBS and eventually begins to write Jewish/Nazi slash-fic. This bizarre concept just hints at the birth of the same internet culture we participate in today but under radically circumstances. The metafictional aspect of it is particularly intriguing as Tidhar actually provides the slashfic Himmler produces within the short. I don't think the story could have been successful at a longer length but it entertains for what it is.

Jews in Antarctica - Lavie Tidhar

Originally published on Fantasy Magazine here.

Another short story but a fun one. Tidhar's Israeli roots color his fiction in a powerful way much more distinct than that of a typical American or English writer. The story starts by acknowledging that the Jewish faith believes that when the day of judgement comes, all the dead will rise. To the young male protagonist however, the lines between this religious tenet and the zombie outbreaks of popular culture are not entirely clear. When his zealous grandfather assures him that the coming of the messiah is only 5 years away, the boy resolves to be ready for the Zombie Jew Apocalypse. I loved the way Tidhar played on the naivete of a child trying to understand their faith in terms of what they know. The same story could be written about the tradition of the Catholic Eucharist and how vampiric it seems at first glance. My favorite Tidhar story from the bunch with a healthy dose of humor and a few great scenes.

The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String - Lavie Tidhar

Originally published on Fantasy Magazine here.

After a pair of stories that hit his Israeli roots hard, Tidhar changes gears and explores a South Asian setting in a tale of love, loss, and longing. Even though the title appears to suggests hard sci-fi, The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String barely brushes string theory, instead touching on duality of memory in the joy and pain it simultaneously and paradoxically creates. Mrs. Pongboon offers the ability to compartmentalize your most treasured or tragic thoughts inside her mystical lockets where they will stay until purposefully recalled. The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String is a very bittersweet story: don't be surprised if Tidhar dredges up a few thoughts or emotions you thought you had buried away.  

Kimberly Ann Duray Is Not Afraid - Leah Bobet

Originally published at Strange Horizons. Available for free at here.

In Kimberly Ann Duray Is Not Afraid, Leah Bobet preys on reader expectations by setting up a commonly controversial topic and then going someone else entirely. The concept here is an intriguing but dangerous one that works well in the short form. Bobet wisely plays it safe by stopping the story where she does, avoiding territory that could quickly put even the most experienced author in uncharted waters. Bobet also strikes a careful balance between exposition and length, providing a launching point for the imagination but not forcing you to go into any one direction.

The Girl with the Heart of Stone - Leah Bobet

Originally published at Strange Horizons. Available for free at here.

With a decidedly mythic vibe, The Girl with the Heart of Stone tells the simple story of a girl whose heart is stolen and replaced (quite obviously from the title) by one of stone. Bobet demonstrates her range here, creating an atmosphere of "oral tradition" unlike the nonchalant realism attained in Kimberly Ann Duray Is Not Afraid. I was surprised with how different the stories were both in content and style. A lot of authors start out as one-trick ponies, often exhausting their favorite ideas and prose styles with overuse. They can get away with this at first but when their first collection reads like the same story rewritten a dozen times with different names, it's hard to deny. Leah Bobet has nothing to worry about as she demonstrates a knack for understated prose in a variety of different settings.

The Monsters of Heaven - Nathan Ballingrud

Originally published in Inferno (2009) edited by Ellen Datlow.

As I slowly work my way into Ballingrud's writing, it is becoming clear that he doesn't write horror for horror's sake as much as he uses it as a mirror for exploring character. What makes a monster a monster besides a lack of humanity, whether it is physical or emotional? The Monsters of Heaven starts off with a couple torn apart by the unexplained disappearance of their son. As Brian struggles with the guilt for not watching his son closely at the playground, his wife begins to distance herself from him in order to get the emotional support she needs. At first it seems like a generic broken family short story but the introduction of the supernatural "angels" saves it from such a fate. The origin of the angels isn't touched upon (a common occurance in Ballingrud's work) but they influence the story nonetheless, becoming a physical manifestation of everything that is unexplained, including Toby's mysterious abduction. This was a particularly though provoking story and while I'm not sure if it was intended, Ballingrud seemed to suggest a wrongness in the grotesquely one-way relationship humans expect from the divine. There is a gluttonous aspect to the catharsis the characters ultimately experience that leaves the conclusion rather, well, uncatharitic. Because of this I can't help but believe this was intentional. On the surface, The Monsters of Heaven was a bit of enigma but the more I reflected on it, the more I enjoyed it.

Sunbleached - Nathan Ballingrud

To be published in Teeth, a YA Vampire anthology, edited by Ellen Datlow and due out in 2011.

My favorie story from Ballingrud so far, the vampire in Sunbleached is what they should be. With Twilight and True Blood turning vampires into seductive sex maniacs who are more likely to love you that exsanguinate you, the vampire is rapidly becoming defanged. Ballingrud takes a step back in the right direction, crafting his vampire as a dangerous creature that wants to do nothing more than kill you and everything you love. He is still seductive and manipulative but he wants to eat you, not grow old with you. The vampire under the floor boards soon become a confidante to the two children living above him, providing a commentary on the trust issues that often arise from paternal abandonment. But as you might suspect, a bloodthirsty demonspawn is ultimately a poor choice for a father figure. Ballingrud's proclivity for broken families is hit-and-miss with me but Sunbleached is an excellent story on multiple layers, suggesting good things for Datlow's Teeth due out sometime next year. [Although it's suprising that for a book called Teeth, none are visible]

That's it for this week. Any other good short stories out there?

Aug 1, 2010

YetiStomper Picks for August

I wonder what the best month for stand-alone books is. August isn't a good example, offering a number of series entries and a handful of collections, albeit some really strong ones. 

The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson

The Stormlight Archives, Book 1. As far as I'm concerned this is the book for August. I had the fortune of obtaining an early copy of The Way of Kings and it shows all the signs of being the premiere fantasy sequence of the next decade, taking over the torch from The Wheel of Time. Even at 1004 pages, the book barely begins to get into the Sanderson's new world full of chaos, storms, and magic. The world is brilliantly constructed, the characters are three-dimensional and likable and the pages fly by, what more could you ask for? The book is by no means perfect, but most of the flaws are a result of wanting more, not less. Also, if your book budget is small, you aren't going to get more pages per penny than you are with this doorstopper. Look for a full review later this month. (August 31st from Tor)

Shades of Milk and Honey - Mary Robintte Kowal

Glamour Series, Book 1. The 2009 Campbell Award winner for best new writer makes her debut with a quiet novel of magic and manners set during the Regency time frame (early 19th century). While the book doesn't live up to the promise that I think Kowal is capable of, it still demonstrates her ability to create realistic, smooth dialogue and captivating, relatable protagonists. The speculative nature of the book seems to be oriented towards fans of Austen-esque novels looking to dabble in something different rather than traditional fantasy fans exploring an atypical period setting. To be followed by Glamour in Glass next year. (August 3rd from Tor)

The Evolutionary Void - Peter F. Hamilton

The Void Trilogy, Book 3. The master of the modern Space Opera and disputed king of British SF concludes his latest trilogy with The Evolutionary Void.  I've read Hamilton in the past but haven't gotten to the Void Trilogy yet but I know a lot of people are excited for this one.  (August 24th from Del Rey)

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games, Book 3. The final book in the excellent YA series that started with The Hunger Games. I just wish this series got the attention it deserves rather than that Twilight trash. Like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games are marketed towards kids but enjoyed by all ages. (August 24th from Scholastic Press)

The Terminal State - Jeff Somers

Avery Cates Sequence, Book 4. I'm less than happy about Orbit's decision to switch the cover style and format of Somers latest entry in his Avery Cates series but I am excited to see another book in one of the few and best cyberpunk/technothriller series going today. The Terminal State sees resident badass Avery Cates unexpectedly sold to an "old friend" for "one last job." Expect fast paced, action packed SF. (Available Now from Orbit.)

The Ragged Man - Tom Lloyd

Twilight Reign, Book 4. Pyr continues producing strong fiction with yet another unique fantasy series. Interested readers are going to want to start with The Stormcaller but if you are up to date with Lloyd' s Twilight Reign series, than this is a must read for you. (August 24th from Pyr.)

The Best of Kim Stanley Robinson - Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson Collection.  This one is pretty self explanatory. Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Kim Stanley Robinson has been publishing excellent SF for a long, long time. Night Shade Books has taken 22 of those stories and collected them in one hardcover edition. Among the 22 stories selected are the Nebula Award-winning "The Blind Geometer," and World Fantasy Award winner "Black Air." Take a look at the full list of stories here if you need to but with an author of Robinson's caliber chances are you can't go wrong. (Available Now from Night Shade Books.)

Sympathy for the Devil - Tim Pratt (ed.)

Devil Themed Original and Reprint Anthology. Sympathy for the Devil is an interesting collection unlike any I've seen before. It's not that the stories all share a common theme (the devil), it's the timeline of the entries. Some of the stories are from contemporary genre authors like Scott Westerfeld, Charlie Stross, or Cory Doctorow. Others are by classic authors including Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, or Nathaniel Hawthorne. Throw in a few more mainstream authors like Michael Chabon, Jeffery Ford or Neil Gaiman and you've got one hell (get it?) of a diverse collection. View the full table of contents here. (August 1st from Night Shade Books.)

Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars and Other Unusual Suspects - Ken Scholes

Ken Scholes Collection. Scholes is mostly known for his Canticles of Isaak series but his short fiction is worth reading. I've sampled his first collection, Long Walks, Last Flights & Other Strange Journeys, as part of my research for Authors Worth Watching and his work is as diverse as it is good. I haven't read any of the stories in Diving Mimes (full Table of Contents here) but I'm excited for the opportunity to get them all in one place. (August from Fairwood Press.)

While The Evolutionary Void is a tempting choice, YetiStomper Pick of the month goes to The Way of Kings.There is so much potential in Sanderson's world and I'm sure it's only a matter of time before everyone is talking about it. Shades of Milk and Honey is my debut pick for August but it's not representative of what Kowal is fully capable of. 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? My favorite has to be The Best of Kim Stanley Robinson. I'm not sure what the artist responsible for covering Scholes latest collection was thinking. It's a mishmash of content and a train wreck of composition.
You can view previous installments of YetiStomper Picks here.
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