Monday, July 25, 2011

Ghost Story: a Book Review

Ghost Story
Dresden Files 13
By Jim Butcher
BUY IT


When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn't doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.

But being dead doesn't stop him when his friends are in danger.

Except now he has nobody, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.

To save his friends-and his own soul-Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic...
________________________________________________________

For the first time in a long time I finished a book in one day. (There are minor spoilers for previous books in this blog post).

Yay me!

Unfortunately it means I am now probably going to have to wait something like 18 months for the next Dresden Files novel... but at least this book didn't end on a cliffhanger the way Changes did.

Butcher continues his masterful job of building a world in which magic pulses like blood in the veins. The fallout from the destruction of the Red Court has caused as much upheaval in the world as the war they fought with the White Council. New enemies are emerging from the sidelines and fighting over the territory the Red Court has left behind, and Butcher weaves intrigue and possibility onto this canvas with breathtaking excitement.

I'm not going to talk much about the plot if the book - you get all you need to know about that from the blurb. What I love about Butcher's writing is how real  everything feels. The magic he paints onto the canvas is not unsubstantial, it is incredibly solid and I would dearly love to get my hands on his notes (if he uses any). It would be quite easy to turn the Dresden Files into a soap opera (and I love a good soap) yet Butcher is inventive enough that he doesn't short change the reader by pulling his punches or taking an 'easy route'

The Sidhe play a part again - namely Dresden's faerie godmother - and I am in awe at how he makes them so alien and so convincingly powerful.

I desperately want to play in Dresden's world lol.

I am so looking forward to the next book.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Expanse

Now I am not a big reader of science fiction but  I was very keen to get my hands on LEVIATHAN WAKES.

I'm not entirely sure why - I have never really connected with Daniel Abrahams fantasy work and I have never read anything by Ty. Yet I still wanted to read it.
And I am very glad I did.

LEVIATHAN WAKES (Expanse #01)
James S. A. Corey
Trade Paperback $27.99

Humanity has colonized the planets - interstellar travel is still beyond our reach, but the solar system has become a dense network of colonies. When Captain Jim Holden's ice miner stumbles across a derelict, abandoned ship, he uncovers a secret that threatens to throw the entire system into war.






Part adventure, part detective story and all space opera. Leviathan Wakes is a rip-roaring tale of the near future, and while most of the technology they use/reference has the novelty of being understandable there are definite suggestions that the tech will be going far future in the next book. Humanity has colonized the solar system but the stars are still out of reach.  There are strong tensions between Earth, Mars and the Belt and someone carefully plucked the strings to ignite those tensions into all out war. Leviathan Wakes is a faced paced tale with strong characterization and plot. Book two has already gone to the top of my wishlist.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Long Quiet

Agh!

How slack have I been? No posts in like forever.

Well... I've been very busy.

I've been hosting signings with Fiona McIntosh, Jennifer Fallon, Kristin Cashore and having coffee with Robin Hobb... haha, I'm such a name dropper ;)

Not mention hanging out at the Aurealis Awards!

We have also moved the store back into the mother-ship. This has been a trial all on its own - and it is on going.

But what have I been reading you ask? As well you might I suppose. I've not been reading much of anything that has truly grabbed me (although I have been reading). I have discovered in the course of my frustration over the lack of books to gush about that I am a reader of epic fantasy, I don't read simply for the sake of story.

Epic fantasy is what I like, it's what I love, and I get bored (not always) and very critical of work that doesn't fit that mold - which is completely unfair on the book and author. So rather than be scathing about those books I will simply put them aside as 'not for me'.

I've also been working on the second draft of my own epic - not as much as I'd like unfortunately. Don't you hate how life gets in the way of things? I would dearly love to be the type of author who can lose themselves in writing, who can find solace in their work. Unfortunately I am not that type of writer at all.

While I love having written the act of writing is very much work and not at all a comfort when I am experiencing emotional distress. Woe is me.

Anyway.

To distract myself I have been engaging in 'comfort reading' - which involves re-reading The Song of Ice and Fire by GRRM - and in playing WoW.

Any other WoW players out there? An old guild mate and I have relaunched our old guild STORM - we were once raiders and while Av is still raiding I am not. STORM this time around is going to be a social guild and a refuge (for me) from my own preoccupation with 'things'.

We are a very small guild at present, but if any of you readers out there play Alliance, or want to roll it on the Khaz'goroth US server you are very welcome to come join us *g*

You can check out the guild website here.

Yes I will get back to book reviewing (and writing news) soon. I promise- in the meantime I am sure I have more old fav reviews in the 'archives' I can dig out for you.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

More Game of Thrones

I'm so excited I almost wet my pants!

Epic Fanasty - we need more of it

Thank the gods.

At last a new Epic Fantasy has been published (or will be shortly) - I really really miss new Epic Fantasy's, the trend these days seems to be 'gritty' and 'dark', leaning more towards 'reality' - if that's what I wanted I'd read fiction - and those books that are just fantasy with nothing particularly epic about them.

That's not to say that I don't enjoy the grittier side of fantasy - or that Orullian's debut doesn't have some dark moments - but I cut my teeth on the likes of Jordan and Brooks, and not many books are offering that type of world-building or storytelling these days.

THE UNREMEMBERED is BIG, it has depth and power, and (as in the vein of Janny Wurts) Orullian's prose is the sort that where you would do well to pay attention to every line because the even the smallest phrase can have the greatest meaning.

This is a very promising debut and I look forward to the next book in the series!

And check out the short story Peter has going on youtube - it's awesome!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What I've Been Reading

So, I finished The Twilight Herald for a second time this past week - and I must say I enjoyed it much more than I had Stormcaller. I still had issues with Lloyds lack of what I can only call explaination. I know you find a lot of writers these days going for minimal 'info-dump' and that's great, but even authors like Erikson who land you smack-bang in the middle of events with little point of reference pepper their work with event landmarks that give the reader something to buikd a picture with. The use of a glossary would be good here - at least Lloyd does use a character list which I found myself referring to quite often as I read to recall just who particular characters were. That's not something I find myself doing often as I read (usually). But that being said Twilight Herald is a dark and broody novel, Lloyds dialogue is fantastic and Zhia Vukotic is one of the best characters I've ever read.

I am now reading The Unremembered by Peter Orullian - the great folk at Tor sent me through an ARC - and yes I am reading this even though I have in my hands The Crippled God by Steven Erikson. That will come next but as I beging writing the second draft of my 'epic' it might take me longer than I'd like to get through it.

But of course the most exciting news to pass my desk this week is that Janny Wurts has handed in the manuscript of the latest volume of The Wars of Light and Shadow to her editior at HarperColins in the UK (thanks to Laneth for the heads up! - I really need to pay more attention to her forums /sigh). Now I shall begin to bombard my contacts there with emails to get a copy for review - I can't wait!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Balancing Act

The Dragon's Path, first book in the Dagger and Coin series by Daniel Abraham, is worthy edition to the shelves of any reader of fantasy fiction.

Abraham has created an epic landscape on which to set his tale. It is a world, as many you would find in fantasy, that is rich with culture and history and has a lot of potential for future volumes. 

Unfortunately as I feared (and wrote of in my last post) this is not a book I can gush about because while Abrahams writing is good it just doesn't grab me. I can't explain it anymore than that. I know that I can be very picky, and I know from working in a genre specialist bookstore that there are lots of readers out there who will love this book, but it only worked for me partly - and I dare say not the way the author probably intended.

One of the things I have come to understand about this story is that while it is epic fantasy it is not an epic fantasy that is an adventure. It is more a political and economic fantasy.

And this is fine. In fact the story following Cithrin and the Medea Bank was my favorite of the lot.

But I can't help feeling that Abraham's has erred to much on the side of caution in writing what is a more 'mainstream' fantasy (a great evil looming in the distance that threatens to take over the world) and trying to keep it - as so many authors are wont to do these - different. So much so that while he uses the looming threat as a prologue and an epilogue we have 400 odd pages in between to forget about it - rendering that plot point moot, because by the then I no longer cared, nor did it create any suspense for me as to 'what might happen next?' The looming threat became window dressing - regardless of the fact that Geder goes looking for a secret weapon lost in the mountains (that we readers can link to the mountains in the prologue) in the last eighty pages of his storyline. I was much more involved in Cithrin's story - which at the end of the book I have no clue as to how it might fit into a sequel that could possibly focus more on the 'rising darkness' - or 'dark forces' that are referenced in the blurb.

I went into this book with the idea that it would be more the type of fantasy that grabs me than The Long Price was (and btw - I loved the world of the TLP, its culture and its history - it was the kind of world that, in my mind, popped the way Kelewan did when Feist allowed Wurts to play at the Great Game in the Empire trilogy, but it never got off the ground).  And Dragon's Path was more traditional fantasy (read europeanish setting), but only on the surface. That makes it more accessible than The Long Price and yeah it has dragons, but that was about it.

The thing Abraham's does really well is characters and economics. In fact it is because of Cithrin and her journey building a bank (interestingly enough it was Amat Kyaan's story in TLP that interested me the most also) that I will pick up book two - because I want to read what happens next!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Currently Reading

Woot! My lovely friends at Hachette have just sent me a bound manuscript of The Dragon's Path.

The Dragon's Path
The Dagger and The Coin #1
by Daniel Abrahams

Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities.

Marcus wants to get out before the fighting starts. His hero days are behind him and simple caravan duty is better than getting pressed into service by the local gentry. Even a small war can get you killed. But a captain needs men to lead -- and his have been summarily arrested and recruited for their swords.

Cithrin has a job to do -- move the wealth of a nation across a war zone. An orphan raised by the bank, she is their last hope of keeping the bank's wealth out of the hands of the invaders. But she's just a girl and knows little of caravans, war, and danger. She knows money and she knows secrets, but will that be enough to save her in the coming months?

Geder, the only son of a noble house is more interested in philosophy than swordplay. He is a poor excuse for a soldier and little more than a pawn in these games of war. But not even he knows what he will become of the fires of battle. Hero or villain? Small men have achieved greater things and Geder is no small man.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. What should have been a small summer spat between gentlemen is spiraling out of control. Dark forces are at work, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon's Path -- the path of war.

Aidan Moher has already reviewed it very favourably here, I'll get through more of it over the weekend and see if I can't do the same later in the week.

One of the issues I have, I guess, is that while I find Abraham's writing good,  it doesn't grab me the way that Martin, Rothfuss or even Lynch does. And unfortunately the little catalogue blurb that was winging it's way around the 'net six months ago has missed the mark of what the story is actually about/like - but it certainly did a great job of selling it (which was what is was meant to do I suppose)! Based on that little blurb, and what I had read in the first half of the Long Price quartet I was expecting more - stylistically.

But I am only at the beginning and all of that could go completely out the window in a chapter or two more., so fingers crossed!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A book that matches the hype

I love this guys writing. Just love it.

The Painted Man
Demon War #01
By Peter V Brett

Sometimes there is very good reason to be afraid of the dark...

As dusk falls upon Arlan's world, a strange mist rises from the ground, a mist carrying nightmares to the surface. A mist that promises a violent death to any foolish enough to brave the coming darkness, for hungry corelings - demons that cannot be harmed by mortal weapons - materialize from the vapours to feed on the living. As the sun sets, people have no choice but to take shelter behind magical wards and pray that their protection holds until the creatures dissolve with the first signs of dawn.




Late 2008 brought us the debut novel of Peter V Brett, The Painted Man, and brought me a new author to add to my ‘must read’ list. The novel received a great deal of hype but it took me a while before I jumped on the band wagon – but that had the added bonus of not having to wait quite so long for the sequel, Desert Spear, which was released early last year. This is a novel of vibrant characters and a driving story in a world of unique magic and a deadly enemy.

In the world of The Painted Man mankind only has dominion over the earth during the day, as the sun sets he retreats to shelter for fear of the coreling – elemental demons – that rise from the center of the earth and prey on humanity without quarter. Three centuries ago the corelings brought civilization to its knees and now humans live behind walled cities and towns, desperately seeking safety from an enemy they cannot fight or defeat, their only protection are the ancients runes that form ‘wards’. These are painted, drawn (and in some cases carved) on all buildings, fences and walls, creating geometric barriers of energy that are the only thing that will stop the demons and keep mankind safe. There are legends of wards that where once in mankind’s possession that allowed them to wage war on the corelings but these were lost centuries ago and are relegated to the status of myth and the superstitious belief that one day a Deliverer will come to save them.

There are no massive info-dump’s in Brett’s writing; he cleverly reveals the world and its history through his characters that are fleshed out with real emotion and real issues, relatable to many people regardless of how they are dressed up to fit the ‘stage’ of the tale. Grief and rage cause Arlen to run heedlessly from the safety of shelter and get caught outdoors as night falls – the tale of his journey from boy to man is filled with danger and discovery; of himself and the world he lives in. Leesha’s journey to self-discovery is one that takes place within the confines of the town in which she lives. She is forced to wade against the tide of expectation and convention and blaze a trail that leads her to come upon an understanding of wards that has been forgotten centuries ago; while Rojer, orphaned by a coreling attack grows up an outcast in the ‘care’ of a drunken Jongleur, he takes refuge from the world in a prodigious musical talent and inadvertently discovers more about the corelings than anyone had ever guessed.

Brett weaves these three separate stories with a consummate skill that belies his tag as a first-time writer. Slowly he tightens the strands, bringing each thread together to form a strong and exciting whole. This is a brilliant debut of a fresh and compelling new voice in fantasy fiction; and where once I waited with anticipation for the next Jordan book I now do so for the next one by Brett.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I'm so excited

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Art of Making Something New

Have you ever read any Eberron books? You should - being someone who LOVES worldbuilding I really get into the Eberron stuff.

I am not ALWAYS a fan of shared world stuff, but Wizards have been doing an excellent job of find really good writers these days and the Eberron world setting has quickly become the sort of world I wish I had thought up myself.

STORM DRAGON
Draconic Prophecies #01
by James Wyatt

(From the Archives:)

The Prophecies were old when humans first began to forge their civilisation. Said to give meaning to the past, guidance to the present and to predict the future – a future of the world’s remaking – a future in which Gaven d’Lyrander has unwillingly become the most important player.

Scion to one of the great Dragonmark Houses, whose heirs have the chance to manifest a dragon-like birthmark of great power at puberty, Gaven spent most of his time exploring dark caves looking for valuable dragonshards in the depths of the earth. But in one dragonshard he found more then he or his House were looking for and it invaded his mind, filling him with the most intimate knowledge of the Prophecies a human had ever held. His resulting delirium escalated to all-out madness, and his ravings lead to exile from his House and a life sentence in the island prison of Dreadhold, where he manifested the highest and rarest potential of all Dragonmark Houses, a Siberys Mark.

While Gaven is all but lost in his own mind, a daring rescue springs both himself and his cell neighbour out to a higher calling. Now on the run, the verses of the Prophecies begin to find fulfilment and sanity begins to reclaim its hold on Gaven’s mind. Now he must try to make sense of the visions that plague him waking and sleeping, and figure out the true intentions of his so called ‘rescuers’. For Haldren, a general from the Last War and Gaven’s former inmate, has joined forces with a Dragon who wishes to use the draconic prophecy to attain godhood.

The world of Eberron has been overlooked by most as just another generic medieval fantasy world made for players of Dungeons & Dragons. This is unfortunate because I have found it is much more than that. Eberron is a world that pushes the boundaries of the traditional settings that its sibling Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms tend to embrace. In this world, a world almost bordering on ‘steam-punk’, arcane magic has been applied like science and massive, towering cities defy gravity and elemental-powered airships cross the skies. Its history has been marked by extra-planar incursions, some of which have caused massive devastation and others that are as accepted and as frequent as the seasons. The books explore vibrant, diverse cultures that are scarred by a cataclysmic ‘Last War’ and united in a commitment to keep history from repeating itself, while various organisations and Great Houses look to the ruins of Goblin and Giant empires for powerful secrets and forgotten magic, and one of the greatest mysteries of the world are the Draconic Prophecies.

The books carry a contemporary, yet distinctly fantasy, feel to them and are packed with adventure and mysticism that is the hallmark of entertaining and fast-paced writing. I really enjoyed this book and am slowly exploring others.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Breaking the Fourth Wall

Where is all the 'really good' epic fantasy going?

There is a lot of fantasy out there, and many of it wears the trapping of 'epic' but when you get down to it's just bland - and often 'breaks the fourth wall'. Honestly I am beginning to think that many authors these days are just lazy. I mean I know they are not - I know the effort required to finish a first draft, let alone the re-writes, but come on... you know what I mean?

This is becoming an regular rant of mine, but here I am trawling through my over flowing bookshelves (at home, not in the store) looking for something to read and coming up short.

An example. It really pisses me off when I get a book that has great world building, really epic and original stuff - inventive, fully formed and unique - and then they lift what is essentially a model of the Catholic Church and dump it into their fantasy world with only the smallest of tweaks to make it fit. But it doesn't fit. It sticks out like a sore thumb. And it's really frustrating. The author has gone to so much trouble building their world only to drop the ball with this?


Yeah, I know there is some great stuff coming (Michelle West's new one is out next week, and Rothfuss' is due in March etc) but I'm looking for something now. <stamp foot>

It's just disappointing. And it's also annoying when you get 'reviewers' reading books by writers like Scott Lynch who a brilliant job (for the most part) and snidely make comments like 'but where is the fantasy?' because it's not dripping in magic - um, ever read GRRM?

There was a time that the market was awash in true epic fantasy - what happened? Is it publisher pressure or is this all they are being offered? Is it the market or marketing?

I am sure as hell going make sure that I don't go that route with my own work.

- end rant.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Beginning

For many years now we've had people come into the store and ask after the Chung Kuo books by David Wingrove. Nearly as many people ask after them as they do Patrick Tilley's (also Out-of-Print) Amtrak Wars books.

Well Wingrove's epic is returning to print as of February this year.

SON OF HEAVEN
Chung Kuo Book 1
David Wingrove

2065, two decades after the great economic collapse that destroyed Western civilization, life continues only in scattered communities.

In rural Dorset Jake Reed lives with his 14-year-old son and memories of the Fall. Back in ’43, Jake was a dynamic young futures broker, immersed in the datascape of the world’s financial markets. He saw what was coming – and who was behind it. Forewarned, he was one of the few to escape.

For 22 years he has lived in fear of the future, and finally it is coming – quite literally – across the plain towards him. Chinese airships are in the skies and a strange, glacial structure looms on the horizon.

Jake finds himself forcibly incorporated into the ever-expanding ‘World of Levels’: a global city of some 40 billion souls, where social status is reflected by how far above the ground you live.

Here, under the rule of the mighty Tsao Ch’un, a resurgent China is seeking to abolish the past and bring about world peace through rigidly enforced order. But civil war looms, and Jake will find himself at the heart of the struggle for the future.

Here's the press release:

‘This is a major publishing event. Over twenty years in the making, the Chung Kuo series is a 2.5 million word, 20-book epic that brilliantly fuses Shogun and Blade Runner to rival the scope of Frank Herbert’s Dune or Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. In a genre of big ideas and even bigger books, this is one of the biggest and most ambitious of them all – we’re all going to need bigger bookshelves.’

Set 200 years in the future, the Chung Kuo sequence introduces a world dominated by China. History has been rewritten, the West’s great four-century-long experiment of Enlightenment erased and utterly forgotten. There is no official record of Shakespeare or Mozart, DaVinci or Einstein, any reminders of the past having been quite literally buried beneath the Han’s mile-high, continent-spanning cities. Within those cities, an ornate, hierarchical society of 34 billion souls is maintained only by unremitting repression. Revolution seems inevitable but in such an overpopulated world any change could spell the end of humanity.

Chung Kuo has been in development for over two decades. Eight books were published between 1988 and 1998, and the series was hailed as ‘one of the masterpieces of the decade’ [Washington Post]. The series is now being recast in nineteen volumes, including a new prequel and an entirely different ending, with over 500,000 additional words of new story. David Wingrove said ‘This is no Director’s Cut, but a total revision, giving the last few volumes the power and breadth of vision they were always meant to have. In the prequel I depict a world in the throes of violent change, a world in which all that is now familiar is about to pass. As the two great empires of our age clash there can only be one winner, that victory effectively ending the centuries-long rule of the West.’

Corvus will publish the new series prequel, Son of Heaven, in September 2010 and embark on an ambitious, multi-format (including special collector’s editions and e-books) publishing programme that will see all twenty volumes available by 2014.

[ this schedule seems to have been amended since it was first released, here's an update from the author:  In late-autumn 2011, Corvus will publish volume 2, Daylight on Iron Mountain, before beginning a sixbook-a-year publication programme in 2012 that will see all remaining 18 volumes available by June 2015]

I tried the Chung Kuo books many years ago and just couldn't get into them. But my awesome rep from Allen & Unwin (who are distributing Corvus in Australia) sent me a reading copy of Son of Heaven: Chung Kuo Book 1 and having started it last ight I am now 2/3 of the the way through it.

Its not bad at all. I think - and this is all a vague memory - that I never liked the technology (or what I felt was it's lack) in the original books. Thats not to say it isn't there, but whereas authors like Peter F Hamilton and Hannu Rajaniemi infuse their story telling with it I didn't feel that Wingrove used it much at all and I was unhappy with the lack because the story didn't grab me as it was - and I was sorry to say that I thought this new book was heading in the same direction.

However.

I really enjoyed his work in the second part of the book (the story is told over 3 parts) where he goes back to tell the story of the Collapse, and how he used technology in it. As I said it was many years ago (nearly 20 I guess) that I first tried the original book one and my memories of it are vague and most likely uninformed. I am pleased to say that this time around I am very much looking forward to what is to come  - and should be finished Book one tomorrow.