Jun 27, 2013

Covering Covers - Ancilary Justice by Ann Leckie

Cover Artist: John Harris?

I think I spy a John Harris cover. If not, I still love it. Reminds me of the old vertical scrolling arcade games. As for the book itself, color me interested.

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren--a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose--to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

Some of you may know Ann Leckie as the secretary of the SFWA (for a few more days at least). As far as I am aware, this is her first novel so if you haven't read a book by a new author (or a female one) in a while, you might want to check it out. Ancillary Justice will be published by Orbit in October. Sign me up!

Jun 26, 2013

How Many Books Have You Read by Female Authors this Year?

Since it's about halfway through the year, it seems like a good a time as any to ask yourself "how many books have you read by female authors this year?".

I asked myself that question today and I found I wasn't particularly impressed with the response. While I haven't exactly read a ton this year (work and business school are keeping me plenty busy) I think I've only read two four works by women - The Shining Girls (Lauren Beukes) and The Poisoner's Handbook (Deborah Blum) and Catching Fire/Mocking Jay (Suzanne Collins).

I've got some women at the top of my queue - Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire, Elizabeth Bear, Helene Wecker, Rachel Swirsky - but after reflecting, I really need to should make an attempt to make sure I give those books the attention they deserve. The bias isn't intentional, but it is there.

You don't need to share your number but I hope you'll think about whether or not you're happy with it.

If you are happy with your number, what's the best book you've read that was written by a woman this year?

If you aren't happy with your number, hopefully you will find a list of books that are worth checking out from the first half of 2013.

I'll start with some books that I've heard a lot of good things about and hopefully we can build on this together.

Jun 24, 2013

The Biggest SFF Books of the Fall (According to Publisher's Weekly)

Twitter is abuzz (achirp?) with a few announcements from authors regarding the recent release of Publisher's Weekly Best Books for Fall 2013.

Here is the full list of SFF titles, including some must reads like Rachel Swirsky's first Subterranean Press collection and Mira Grant's Parasite. (Speaking of Mira Grant, she has to rival Daniel Abraham or Brandon Sanderson in terms of output. How do they do it?) 


Children of Fire - Drew Karpyshyn 

The Incrementalists - Steven Brust and Skyler White

Dead Set: A Novel - Richard Kadrey


Under a Graveyard Sky - John Ringo


Parasite - Mira Grant


Doctor Sleep: A Novel - Stephen King

Let the Old Dreams Die - John Ajvide Linqvist

Kabu Kabu - Nnedi Okorafor

I've had a look at a few of the titles on the list but I can't say there are a few surprises in there that I'm going to need to check out.

What do you think? Is anything missing?

Jun 19, 2013

Never Grow Up

"Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences."
                                                                             -Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Never grow up. I don't plan to.

Jun 16, 2013

Is This The First Big Fantasy Title of 2014?

Beating out the recently finished (and supposedly 864 page) Words of Radiance by just a week, the first big fantasy title of 2014 appears to be Brian Staveley's The Emperor's Blades.

Cover Artist: Richard Anderson

I really like this cover, especially for a character-centric design. It looks like a Chris McGrath / Stephan Martiniere mash-up and it's hard to go wrong from there.

But lets not let a pretty cover get in the way of a good story. One of the more recent hyped-up fantasies, John R. Fultz's Seven Princes, also had an Richard Anderson cover - arguably an even better one. Unfortunately, the content between the covers didn't make as much of a splash as Orbit was anticipating.

What about the book itself?

Per Tor.com "The Emperor’s Blades follows siblings Valyn, Kaden, and Adare, who are in different parts of the world when they learn about the assassination of their father, the Emperor. All of them are in danger of being the next targets, and all of them are caught in the maelstrom of conspiracy, intrigue, treachery, and magic that sweeps through Staveley’s auspicious debut novel."

And the expanded summary:
"When the emperor of Annur is murdered, his children must fight to uncover the conspiracy—and the ancient enemy—that effected his death.

Kaden, the heir apparent, was for eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, where he learned the inscrutable discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power which Kaden must master before it’s too late. When an imperial delegation arrives to usher him back to the capital for his coronation, he has learned just enough to realize that they are not what they seem—and enough, perhaps, to successfully fight back.

Meanwhile, in the capital, his sister Adare, master politician and Minister of Finance, struggles against the religious conspiracy that seems to be responsible for the emperor’s murder. Amid murky politics, she’s determined to have justice—but she may be condemning the wrong man.

Their brother Valyn is struggling to stay alive. He knew his training to join the Kettral— deadly warriors who fly massive birds into battle—would be arduous. But after a number of strange apparent accidents, and the last desperate warning of a dying guard, he’s convinced his father’s murderers are trying to kill him, and then his brother. He must escape north to warn Kaden—if he can first survive the brutal final test of the Kettral."
It will be interesting to find out if The Emperor's Blades will be able to live up to the quality of the cover it bears. See for yourself on Jan 14, 2014.

Jun 9, 2013

Covering Covers: Echoes of Empire by Mark T. Barnes

I may not be the most impartial observer these days but there is no denying that Stephan Martinière knows how to make a purdy cover.


The Garden of Stones was released earlier this month with The Obsidian Heart to follow in October. The third, final, and hopefully Martiniere-covered volume, The Pillars of Sand is due out in May of 2014.

If you're interested in more info, The Qwillery has a short interview with Mark.

Apr 21, 2013

20 Best Young SF Novelists: An Infographic

Here is an infographic I put together (rather badly, I might add) of Damien Walter's list of 20 best young (apparently defined as 40 or younger) SFF novelists. The list appears to be a little UK-centric and has some curious omissions (a debut novelist over Sanderson, Rothfuss, or Tregillis, really?) but it's hard to argue with many of these names.

For those of you who like simple lists, copying and pasting, or hate pictures - here is the list in a more digestible format.

Lauren Beukes
WtS: Moxyland (or Zoo City)
WN?: The Shining Girls

James Smythe
WtS: The Explorer
WN?: The Machine

Hannu Rajaniemi
WtS: The Quantum Thief
WN?: The Causal Angel

Madeline Ashby
WtS: vN: The First Machine Dynasty
WN?: iD: The Second Machine Dynasty

Aliette De Boddard
WtS: Obsidian and Blood
WN?: On A Red Station, Drifting

Hugh Howey
WtS: Wool (Independently Published)
WN?: Wool (Simon & Schuster Edition)

Joe Abercrombie
WtS: The Blade Itself
WN?: Red Country (with a new First Law trilogy forthcoming)

NK Jemsin
WtS: The Killing Moon (or The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms)
WN?: Untilted Magic Seismology Project (USMP)

Saladin Ahmed
WtS: Throne of the Crescent Moon
WN?: Book II of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms

China Mieville
WtS: Perdido Street Station (or The City & the City)

Joe Hill
WtS: Horns

Chuck Wendig
WtS: Blackbirds
WN?: The Blue Blazes

Seanan McGuire
WtS: Feed [as Mira Grant] (or Rosemary and Rue [October Daye #1] )
WN?: Chimes at Midnight [October Daye #7]

Robert Jackson Bennet
WtS: Mr. Shivers
WN?: American Elsewhere / City of Stairs

Carlton Mellick
WtS: Satan Burger
WN?: Village of the Mermaids

Catherynne Valente
WtS: The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden
WN?: The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Tom Pollock
WtS: The City's Son
WN?: The Glass Republic

Elizabeth May
WtS: The Falconer (Debut)
WN?: The Falconer

Francis Hardinge
WtS: Fly By Night
WN?: A Face Like Glass

Nnedi Okorafor
WtS: Who Fears Death?
WN?: Lagoon

Feb 21, 2013

Nebula Awards. Simply Put.

I don't think it can be said any simpler than this

Anyone who objects to this year's Nebula Award shortlist obviously hasn't read the books on it.

Feb 16, 2013

Ten Most Anticipated Books for 2013

Are you still reading this? If so, huzzah for RSS feeds!

Here's my list of (approximately) ten books I'm really looking forward to this year. I don't know if they're all going to turn out to be as good as I hope they will but I'll definitely be there to find out.

10. Dreams and Shadows - C. Robert Cargill

A brilliantly crafted modern tale from acclaimed film critic and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill—part Neil Gaiman, part Guillermo Del Toro, part William S. Burroughs—that charts the lives of two boys from their star-crossed childhood in the realm of magic and mystery to their anguished adulthoods 
There is another world than our own—one no closer than a kiss and one no further than our nightmares—where all the stuff of which dreams are made is real and magic is just a step away. But once you see that world, you will never be the same.
Dreams and Shadows takes us beyond this veil. Once bold explorers and youthful denizens of this magical realm, Ewan is now an Austin musician who just met his dream girl, and Colby, meanwhile, cannot escape the consequences of an innocent wish. But while Ewan and Colby left the Limestone Kingdom as children, it has never forgotten them. And in a world where angels relax on rooftops, whiskey-swilling genies argue metaphysics with foul-mouthed wizards, and monsters in the shadows feed on fear, you can never outrun your fate. 
Dreams and Shadows is a stunning and evocative debut about the magic and monsters in our world and in our self.
The year's first big speculative fiction debut, in my not so humble opinion. Contemporary fantasy in the vein of Gaiman, Mieville, or Grossman? Sign me up. 

9. You - Austin Grossman

When Russell joins Black Arts games, brainchild of two visionary designers who were once his closest friends, he reunites with an eccentric crew of nerds hacking the frontiers of both technology and entertainment. In part, he's finally given up chasing the conventional path that has always seemed just out of reach. But mostly, he needs to know what happened to Simon, the strangest and most gifted friend he ever lost, who died under mysterious circumstances soon after Black Arts' breakout hit. 
Then Black Arts' revolutionary next-gen game is threatened by a mysterious software glitch, and Russell finds himself in a race to save his job, Black Arts' legacy, and the people he has grown to care about. The bug is the first clue in a mystery leading back twenty years, through real and virtual worlds, corporate boardrooms and high school computer camp, to a secret that changed a friendship and the history of gaming. The deeper Russell digs, the more dangerous the glitch appears--and soon, Russell comes to realize there's much more is at stake than just one software company's bottom line. 
Austin Grossman's debut novel Soon I Will Invincible announced the arrival of a singular, genre-defying talent "sure to please fans of Lethem and Chabon" (Playboy). With YOU, Grossman offers his most daring and most personal novel yet-a thrilling, hilarious, authentic portrait of the world of professional game makers; and the story of how learning to play can save your life.

Has it really been 6 years since Soon I will Be Invincible? Is this 2013's answer to Ready Player One?

8. The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination - John Joseph Adams

From Victor Frankenstein to Lex Luthor, from Dr. Moreau to Dr. Doom, readers have long been fascinated by insane plans for world domination and the madmen who devise them. Typically, we see these villains through the eyes of good guys. This anthology, however, explores the world of mad scientists and evil geniuses—from their own wonderfully twisted point of view. 
An all-star roster of bestselling authors—including Diana Gabaldon, Daniel Wilson, Austin Grossman, Naomi Novik, and Seanan McGuire…twenty-two great storytellers all told—have produced a fabulous assortment of stories guaranteed to provide readers with hour after hour of high-octane entertainment born of the most megalomaniacal mayhem imaginable. 
Everybody loves villains. They’re bad; they always stir the pot; they’re much more fun than the good guys, even if we want to see the good guys win. Their fiendish schemes, maniacal laughter, and limitless ambition are legendary, but what lies behind those crazy eyes and wicked grins? How—and why—do they commit these nefarious deeds? And why are they so set on taking over the world? 
If you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, you’re in luck: It’s finally time for the madmen’s side of the story.

There are only one or two original anthologies each year that really catch my eye and the concept and line-up that Adams has assembled really has made Mad Science the anthology of the year for me.

7. Promise of Blood - Brian McClellan

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it. 
It's a bloody business overthrowing a king...Field Marshal Tamas' coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas's supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces. 
It's up to a few...Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail. 
But when gods are involved...Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should...

The second of two debuts on the list. I met McClellan back at ConFusion last year and I'm excited to finally see what all the fuss is about.

6. The Tyrant's Law / Abaddon's Gate / Graveyard Child - Daniel Abraham

The Tyrant's Law 

The great war cannot be stopped. 
The tyrant Geder Palliako had led his nation to war, but every victory has called forth another conflict. Now the greater war spreads out before him, and he is bent on bringing peace. No matter how many people he has to kill to do it. 
Cithrin bel Sarcour, rogue banker of the Medean Bank, has returned to the fold. Her apprenticeship has placed her in the path of war, but the greater dangers are the ones in her past and in her soul. 
Widowed and disgraced at the heart of the Empire, Clara Kalliam has become a loyal traitor, defending her nation against itself. And in the shadows of the world, Captain Marcus Wester tracks an ancient secret that will change the war in ways not even he can forsee.

Abaddon's Gate 

For generations, the solar system -- Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt -- was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark. 
Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

Graveyard Child 

It’s a homecoming, of sorts, for Jayné Heller—and she wants some long-awaited answers to her past, in this fifth book in the acclaimed Black Sun’s Daughter urban fantasy series. 
After years on her own, Jayné Heller is going home to find some answers. How did the powerful spirit calling itself the Black Sun get into her body? Who was her uncle Eric, and what was the grand plan to which he devoted his life? Who did her mother have an affair with, and why? And the tattoo—seriously—what was that about? 
Jayné arrives during the preparations for her older brother’s shotgun wedding, but she’s not the only unexpected guest. The Invisible College has also come to town, intent on stopping the ceremony. They claim an ancient evil is threatening the child that would be Jayné’s niece, and that the Heller family has been rotten at the core for generations. The deeper Jayné looks, the more she thinks they might not be wrong. And behind them all, in the shadows of Jayné’s childhood home, a greater threat waits that calls itself the Graveyard Child...

With the help of his Expanse partner Ty Franck, Jamsiel S.A.M.L.O.N. Abrahanoverey somehow manages to put out three books a year and make them all awesome. Suck it Sanderson! 

Abraham's also working on a Star Wars novel set in the Original Trilogy era. If I could pre-order it now, I would.

5. NOS4A2 - Joe Hill

NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns. 
Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country. 
Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.” 
Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

After the genius of Hill's Horns and Locke and Key, I'd buy a collection of his third grade spelling homework. Hill might be scientific proof that writing talent is genetic.

4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

It began for our narrator forty years ago, when the family lodger sole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. 
His only defense are three women on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

The only thing better than the prospect of a new Gaiman book is the prospect of a Gaiman narrating a new Gaiman book. (Seriously, he opens his mouth and liquid myth comes out)

3. The Water Knife - Paolo Bacigalupi

In a future hammered by climate change and drought, mountain snows have turned to rain, and rain evaporates before it hits the ground. In a fragmenting United States, the cities of Phoenix and Las Vegas skirmish for a dwindling share of the Colorado River. But it is the Las Vegas water knives - assassins, terrorists and spies - who are legendary for protecting Las Vegas' water supplies, and for ensuring Phoenix's ruin. 
When rumours of a game-changing water source surface, Las Vegas dispatches elite water knife Angel Velasquez to Phoenix to investigate. There, he discovers hardened journalist Lucy Monroe, who holds the secret to the water source Angel seeks. But Angel isn't the only one hunting for water, Lucy is no pushover, and the death of a despised water knife is a small price to pay in return for the life-giving flow of a river.

It's not clear if we will see Bacigalupi's next adult novel this year or not but I'm sure I'm not the only one hoping to see another one of his disasterpieces. 

2. The Shining Girls - Lauren Beukes

The Time Traveler's Wife meets The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in this story of a time-traveling serial killer who is impossible to trace--until one of his victims survives.
In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. He stalks them through their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back.
Working with an ex-homicide reporter who is falling for her, Kirby has to unravel an impossible mystery. 
THE SHINING GIRLS is a masterful twist on the classic serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing girl in pursuit of a deadly criminal.

I got an early peak at a few chapters of this one, can't wait to read the complete and shiny edition.

1. Necessary Evil / Something More Than Night - Ian Tregillis

Necessary Evil 

12 May 1940. Westminster, London, England:  the early days of World War II.  
Raybould Marsh, one of “our” Britain’s best spies, has travelled to another Earth in a desperate attempt to save at least one timeline from the Cthulhu-like monsters who have been observing our species from space and have already destroyed Marsh’s timeline. In order to accomplish this, he must remove all traces of the supermen that were created by the Nazi war machine and caused the specters from outer space to notice our planet in the first place.  
His biggest challenge is the mad seer Greta, one of the most powerful of the Nazi creations, who has sent a version of herself to this timeline to thwart Marsh.  Why would she stand in his way?  Because she has seen that in all the timelines she dies and she is determined to stop that from happening, even if it means destroying most of humanity in the process. And Marsh is the only man who can stop her.
Necessary Evil is the stunning conclusion to Ian Tregillis’s Milkweed series.

Something More Than Night 

The title of my next novel, SOMETHING MORE THAN NIGHT, comes from a quote by Raymond Chandler.  In an essay where he looked back to describe some of his earlier short fiction, written before he hit his stride with the Philip Marlowe novels, he said, in part, "The law was something to be manipulated for profit and power.  The streets were dark with something more than night." 
The book is a Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler-inspired murder mystery set in Heaven.  Imagine central casting for a 1930s detective novel juxtaposed with all the strange and terrifying members of the heavenly choir: Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Virtues, Seraphim, Cherubim… Swell dames and femmes fatales, dirty priests and the Voice of God.

The first two books of The Milkweed Triptych set up the third volume so well, I'd choose a crack at the Necessary Evil over anything else due out this year, short of an exclusive copy of The Winds of Winter. And the best part? You'll only have to wait a few short months for more Tregillis.  

So whats on your list?
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