Monday, March 30, 2009

Paul Kearney - This Forsaken Earth (Book Review)

"This Forsaken Earth" (Amazon: UK, US)
Format: Paperback,
368/336 pages
Publisher: Bantam Press/Spectra (July/November 2006)

KEARNEY needs no introduction on RoSF, as we have already given him a lot of attention; I reviewed a couple of his books: (1) “The Mark of Ran”, the first book of The Sea Beggars trilogy (2) and “The Ten Thousand”, a heroic tale of a highly organised mercenary army and its epic journey through a hostile empire. “This Forsaken Earth” picks up where “The Mark of Ran” left off - with Rol Corthishane running from himself and his past to live as a ruthless but loyal pirate captain. While this book cleverly eschews some of the pitfalls of the middle-book syndrome it is in other ways still deeply trapped by those same dangers: the most obvious one is how the story, which was sublimely set up in “The Mark of Ran”, develops but little.

But if the plot progression disappoints to an extent, the reading experience itself is still as emotionally mesmerising as was with the previous book, if not more so. The novel doesn't resolve any of the questions raised in the first novel, it even raises some new ones, but while both the story and the main protagonist stagnate, author nevertheless manages to put a few hints here and there that he has something great in store for the reader in the final book of the trilogy, which is yet to be released (hopefully by the end of this year).

Cortishane and his motley crew of followers are flawed and morally ambiguous, but feel real and are likeable. Sadly, Cortishane's most trusted sidekicks lack a bit of character development, but I guess it's hard to fully flesh out a plethora of characters, if you write in such a condensed way as KEARNEY does (this is even more prominent in “The Ten Thousand”, his latest book). I still believe that the author has excellent skills for characterisation, but he intentionally (or unintentionally) chooses not to put it to the forefront of his novels. The bits of story that are character - not plot - driven are brilliant; I especially enjoyed how he handled the interaction between Rol and Rowen, Rol's lost love, when they happen to meet again. If anything, she is a true femme fatale, a woman I could find my self falling for. She is cold, haunting, distant, but scarred and also caring in her own way.

The world wherein the story transpires is lush and mysterious, but again, it remains largely unexploited (and unexplored). One third of the story takes place in the hidden pirate city that we were introduced to in the first book, another part of the story takes place in the war-riven state of Bionar, which was presented all to sketchy for my tastes, and the final part of the story unfolds in a bleak, wintry setting of a certain mountain ridge that Rol and the people that follow his lead have to pass to escape prosecution. To be honest, I enjoyed the first book's setting more, even if it was more static (and small-scale) compared to how this book's story resonates with the surroundings; I'm referring to the large household that was run by a charismatic and vile master, ruled by protocol and riven with hidden chambers (this was freshened up sporadically with Corthishan's forays into the city beyond). But I think I'm straying from the point here.

If I summarize my impressions of “This Forsaken Earth”: I must say, that despite all the niggles I had, the book remained a compulsive read throughout, KEARNEY's storytelling abilities are as sharp as ever and his style leaves the impression of being intentionally brash, simple, primordial and uncompromising at times. I wouldn't say that this book impressed me as much as I wanted it too do, but it certainly has some brilliant moments and is, generally speaking, a work of quality that I can nothing but recommend.
~ Thrinidir ~

Monday, March 23, 2009

The ULTIMATE (and somewhat bloated) Best Of 2008 List [part 7] - THE RoSF LIST


And now, finally - and also long overdue - Realms of Speculative Fiction Best of 2008. The only guidelines we followed while making this list were (1) that the books had to be read (but not necessarily published) somewhere in between January 2008 and March 2009 (2) and that most of the books comprising the list have to be genre related (the terms sf, fantasy and horror were perceived in the broadest sense possible). TRIN, MADWAND & THRINIDIR started regurgitating the books we read in the past year and you can find out which books we thought were more special than others from here on; let's start with Trin's reading highlights of 2008...
TRIN: I've already listed some of my favourite books of 2008 in Thea and Anna's Smugglivus post, but as soon as that list was posted, I realised I forgot to include some of the other books I've read last year as well. So, here goes: the full list of my favourite books of 2008, in alphabetical order.

Ender's Game (1985) by ORSON SCOTT CARD: I enjoyed this one greatly, but sadly never wrote a review for it (though I plan to do that after a re-read). It's one of the classics of the SF genre, but I didn't even know it existed until last year. The funny thing is that despite my love for this book, I don't plan to read any of the following instalments, at least not in the near future. Probably because I doubt they can get any better than Ender's Game.

Flowers For Algernon (1966) by DANIEL KEYES - Another classic! (In fact, about half of this list is made of classics … I'm slowly discovering some great things that others read ages before. I blame it on not being from US/UK.) Also, one of the first reviews I wrote. I suspect it'll stay one of my all time favourites, because it's one of the best books I've ever read.

Heroes Die (1998) by MATTHEW WOODRING STOVER – I'd never have thought that such a great book can hide behind such a funny cover. I can't get the second installment anywhere, though, since it's out of print, and I'm not going to read the third one without reading the second one first, so I'm kinda stuck. I also don't want the e-book (what good is an e-book without an e-book reader? True, I could spend some extra hours at the computer screen, but that doesn't sound very appealing to me) – as someone said: I need a dead tree in my hands when I read. Sorry, trees.

I Am Legend (1954) by RICHARD MATHESON – A classic again, and one of the rare 'horror' books we've reviewed on RoSF (I don't really think it a horror book, but I can hardly call it sf or fantasy …). I find it funny that at the time of reading it, I was perfectly sure that it was written in the 90s and kept asking myself why doesn't he use some technology. Hah! Also, I didn't watch the movie – I mean, they failed at choosing the main character (Neville from the book has pale skin, blue eyes and blond hair), so I didn't want to know at what else they've managed to fail.

It (1986) by STEPHEN KING – I don't know if this one should be called a classic, but it surely is a notorious book. I guess it's a sort of book that you love or hate, and I'm clearly on the former side. One of my little pleasures is creeping out people who only watched the TV series and think they know what "It" is about. Did that with Thrinidir and he swore that he's never going to read this book. Awww. :(

Orphan's Tales
(2006, 2007) by CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE – Finally, a book (two of them actually; Book One: In the Night Garden and Book Two: In the Cities of Coin and Spice) that's pretty fresh! It's a criss-cross between a fairytale storybook and 1001 nights (which could also be called a storybook, I suppose), written in a very poetical language. Very nice.

Otherland (1996-2001) by TAD WILLIAMS – This series has been sitting on Thrinidir's bookshelf for quite some time, but it never seemed really interesting to me. Thrinidir, however, insisted that I should read it, and I finally did so in the last days of 2008. I'm glad that he insisted.
- - - -
The Name of the Wind (2007) by PATRICK ROTHFUSS – Still trying to write a review of this one. It's one of the best fantasy books I've read lately, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment.-
The Road (2007) by CORMACK McCARTHY – I can't believe I almost forgot to include that one. Another one of my beloved post-apocalyptic books with a sociological note and a beautiful story. I can't wait to see what the movie will look like.

The Steel Remains (2008) by RICHARD MORGAN – An actual 2008 book :) I loved every part of it – the realism, the explicit language that went with it, the characters, everything. A thought: there can hardly be any strange slash fanfic written for this one.
The Terror (2007) by DAN SIMMONS – I've read Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion before this one, but it's The Terror that made me a real fan of Simmons'. The only book I've read and re-read in 2008.

Wasp Factory (1984) by IAIN BANKS – Not sure if this is speculative fiction at all, but I nevertheless loved it. I can't explain what's so great about a book where almost everyone is obviously crazy, though, but Banks is one hell of a writer who managed to successfully pull the whole thing off.
MADWAND: Even though I managed to read only a few books in 2008, there was one that stood out; Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006). I should thank Thrinidir for having been such a pest [Thrinidir: "Oh rlly?"]: he has continuously badgered me about this book until I caved in and finally read it.
Locke is a young thief whose talent is recognized and nurtured by a con artist, Chains. A man with a vision, Chains moulds Locke and the other orphans he took under his tutelage into a group of confidence tricksters feared by the wealthy nobility. But then the plot thickens... :) Lynch did manage to spoil the experience near the end, but the overall impression was a very positive one. How can one not like a well written tale of charismatic con artists set in a fastastic rendition of Venice?
THRINIDIR: I don't read as much as some of the people I know and I'm not as genre knowledgeable as others, so I wouldn't take my year's pick as a definite indicator of sublime quality or some other serious referential pointl (i.e. I'm not saying that the books I'll be highliting represent the actual top of the crop), but I'm doing this in hope that people will be able to find at least a few noteworthy suggestions to add on their reading list.
Last Argument of Kings (2008) by JOE ABERCROMBIE. Though I was slightly less satisfied with the final volume of the superb "The First Law Trilogy" (Blindman was even more disgruntled by it) than with its two predecessors, especially "Before They Are Hanged", I still highly value Abercrombies' satirical wit, feel for characterization and utter disregard for what the endings should be like by the genre standards. This trilogy is definitely one of the highlights of the new millennium.
- - - - -
The Painted Man (2008) by PETER V. BRETT. While I called this book light-weight and suffused with genre staples it is still one of the best - if not the best - fantasy debuts of 2008. This is book one of the "Demon Trilogy" and its main purpose is to set up the world and introduce the main protagonists, but here this is not that much of a problem, since the characterization is sublime and a few innovative elements are thrown into the mix with the genre archetypes. This is a traditional fantasy, but it feels modern without the explicit content that a lot of authors abuse to try and make their book distinguished from the genre classics (and the dross).
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The Shadow of the Wind (2001) by CARLOS RUIZ ZAFÓN. I'm in the process of writing a review for this monster of a book. What defines it as a monster isn't its length or even the inclusion of horror elements, but the richness of the prose and chock-full of thematic content and references. This is a book about life, but carefully hidden behind a mystery story that unfurles in the fascist Spain under general Franco. While not a fantasy, horror or science fiction book in the strictest sense of the word, it is still one of the finest books I've had the privilege to read in the past recent years. Highly recommended.
- - -
Chronicles of the Black Company (the original novels were published in 1984,1984 and 1985; the omnibus was published in 2007) by GLEN COOK. In a recent review of the "Black Company" books that I've came across the author of the article refers to these books as a "...revered ancestor that should be honored as well as awarded a significant place in the history of the genre, but they shouldn't be (re)visited often, because while they left their mark on the genre, they have been outlived and outperformed by its successors." While I agree with this estimation to an extent, I was nevertheless left more appreciative (as opposed to the author of this review) of the Black Company and Glen Cook when I finished this terrific omnibus. While the Black Company books might be labeled as sort of an revered ancestor, I still think that they should be visited at least once, by anyone who loves down-in-the-trenches first person narrative, charismatic protagonist or simply put - great fantasy.
The Road (2006) by CORMAC McCARTHY. The most evocative and touching book I've read in ages. Somber, moody, oppressive and primal, but never falling into the pit of pathetic. This is the book you need to read as soon you can. You really mustn't miss the sad journey of one father and his son following the road to nowhere in a fictional post apocalyptic world. Simply brilliant.
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The Mark of Ran (2004) by PAUL KEARNEY. Paul Kearney, who? I've never heard of this author before I've started following online book reviews; Adam from The Wertzone referred to Paul Kearney as one of the most under appreciated fantasy authors out there and every since I've decided to read "The Mark of Ran", book one of The Sea Beggars trilogy, I have to agree. After this book I've read two more of his titles ("This Forsaken Earth" and "The Ten Thousand") and each of them is marked by the distinctive quality of Kearneys writing. He is a master storyteller who knows how to weave a tale and I promise you, when you'll pick up a book signed by Kearney - if you haven't already - you will be everything but disappointed.
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Flowers for Algernon (1966) by DANIEL KEYES. If I'd have to pick a favourite book I read last year, it would arguably be this one. "Flowers for Algernon" is Daniel Keyes' opus magnum that won the Nebula for Best Novel (with Babel-17) in the year that it was published. This is, technically speaking, a diary of a man who undergoes a surgical procedure that allows him to slowly progress from a state of idiocy to become nothing less than a genius and then gradually regresses to his previous state. The author shows tremendous insight into the human condition and has a knack for making you care for the protagonist. This is an ingenious work of fiction, you just have to be smart enough to pick it up.


I promise that the next article in the series (part 8, if I counted right) will be the last one; we only need to tally up all the books people refered to as special in 2008 and give you the final numbers (i.e. the books that were mentioned on the most lists).

Friday, March 20, 2009

In the Limelight - 2009 Hugo Awards Nominations

The nominations for arguably the most important genre award are known and are as follows:

Best Novel

“Anathem” by Neal Stephenson (Morrow; Atlantic UK)
“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)
“Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen; HarperVoyager UK)
“Saturn’s Children” by Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
“Zoe’s Tale” by John Scalzi (Tor)
Best Novella
“The Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
“The Political Prisoner” by Charles Coleman Finlay (F&SF Aug 2008)
“The Tear” by Ian McDonald (Galactic Empires)
“True Names” by Benjamin Rosenbaum & Cory Doctorow (Fast Forward 2)
“Truth” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
Best Novelette
“Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Jan 2008)
“The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2)
“Pride and Prometheus” by John Kessel (F&SF Jan 2008)
“The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” by James Alan Gardner (Asimov’s Feb 2008)
“Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)
Best Short Story
“26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Jul 2008)
“Article of Faith” by Mike Resnick (Baen’s Universe Oct 2008)
“Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume Two)
“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
“From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled” by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Feb 2008)
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Aliette de Bodard*
David Anthony Durham*
Felix Gilman
Tony Pi*
Gord Sellar*
Best Related Book
Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan University Press)
Spectrum 15: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art by Cathy & Arnie Fenner, eds. (Underwood Books)
The Vorkosigan Companion: The Universe of Lois McMaster Bujold by Lillian Stewart Carl & John Helfers, eds. (Baen)
What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction by Paul Kincaid (Beccon Publications)
Your Hate Mail Will be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 by John Scalzi (Subterranean Press)
Best Graphic Story
The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle Written by Jim Butcher, art by Ardian Syaf (Del Rey/Dabel Brothers Publishing)
Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones Written by Kaja & Phil Foglio, art by Phil Foglio, colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
Fables: War and Pieces Written by Bill Willingham, pencilled by Mark Buckingham, art by Steve Leialoha and Andrew Pepoy, color by Lee Loughridge, letters by Todd Klein (DC/Vertigo Comics)
Schlock Mercenary: The Body Politic Story and art by Howard Tayler (The Tayler Corporation)
Serenity: Better Days Written by Joss Whedon & Brett Matthews, art by Will Conrad, color by Michelle Madsen, cover by Jo Chen (Dark Horse Comics)
Y: The Last Man, Volume 10: Whys and Wherefores Written/created by Brian K. Vaughan, penciled/created by Pia Guerra, inked by Jose Marzan, Jr. (DC/Vertigo Comics)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer, story; Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, screenplay; based on characters created by Bob Kane; Christopher Nolan, director (Warner Brothers)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army Guillermo del Toro & Mike Mignola, story; Guillermo del Toro, screenplay; based on the comic by Mike Mignola; Guillermo del Toro, director (Dark Horse, Universal)
Iron Man Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway, screenplay; based on characters created by Stan Lee & Don Heck & Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby; Jon Favreau, director (Paramount, Marvel Studios)
METAtropolis by John Scalzi, ed. Written by: Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell and Karl Schroeder (Audible Inc)
WALL-E Andrew Stanton & Pete Docter, story; Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon, screenplay; Andrew Stanton, director (Pixar/Walt Disney)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
“The Constant” (Lost) Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof, writers; Jack Bender, director (Bad Robot, ABC studios)
Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog Joss Whedon, & Zack Whedon, & Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen , writers; Joss Whedon, director (Mutant Enemy)
“Revelations” (Battlestar Galactica) Bradley Thompson & David Weddle, writers; Michael Rymer, director (NBC Universal)
“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” (Doctor Who) Steven Moffat, writer; Euros Lyn, director (BBC Wales)
“Turn Left” (Doctor Who) Russell T. Davies, writer; Graeme Harper, director (BBC Wales)
Best Editor, Short Form
(377 Ballots)
Ellen Datlow
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Gordon Van Gelder
Sheila Williams
Best Editor, Long Form
Lou Anders
Ginjer Buchanan
David G. Hartwell
Beth Meacham
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Best Professional Artist
Daniel Dos Santos
Bob Eggleton
Donato Giancola
John Picacio
Shaun Tan
Best Semiprozine
Clarkesworld Magazine edited by Neil Clarke, Nick Mamatas & Sean Wallace
Interzone edited by Andy Cox
Locus edited by Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, & Liza Groen Trombi
The New York Review of Science Fiction edited by Kathryn Cramer, Kris Dikeman, David G. Hartwell, & Kevin J. Maroney
Weird Tales edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal
Best Fanzine
Argentus edited by Steven H Silver
Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Challenger edited by Guy H. Lillian III
The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia
Electric Velocipede edited by John Klima
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
Best Fan Writer
Chris Garcia
John Hertz
Dave Langford
Cheryl Morgan
Steven H Silver
Best Fan Artist
Alan F. Beck
Brad W. Foster
Sue Mason
Taral Wayne
Frank Wu
Congratulations to all the nominees!

The ULTIMATE (and somewhat bloated) Best Of 2008 List [part 6]


It's been quite a while since I've posted the last recap, but I've been waiting for other pages to announce their lists etc. Namely, I've been waiting for and (forum) to come up with their best of 2008 list. You can see the other lists I've accounted for on the following links: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.


SF Site's Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2008 list is divided in two; the two lists are the editor's choice list and the reader's choice list. Let's start with the books that the editor's felt deserve commendation: (10) "City at the End of Time" (Greag Bear, SF), (9) "Busted Flush" (ed.GRRM, SF/Fantasy), (8) "Screamland" (Harlod Sipe & Hector Casanova, comic book), (7) "Little Brother" (Cory Doctorow, YA), (6) "Girl Genius, Book 7: Agatha Heterodyne and the Voice of the Castle" (Phil & Kaja Foglio, webcomic), (5) "The Graveyard Book" (Neil Gaiman, YA), (4) "Toll the Hounds" (Steven Erikson, Fantasy), (3) "Echo: Moon Lake" (Terry Moore), (2) "Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Volume 2: No Future for You" (Brian K. Vaughan, Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty, Cliff Richards, et al.) and (1) "Anathem" (Neal Stephenson, SF). Some pretty odd choices there, wouldn't u agree? Now for the reader's choice list: (10) "Zoe's Tale" (John Scalzi, YA SF), (9) "Dragons of Babel" (Michael Swanwick, "anti-fantasy"), (8) "Matter" (Iain M. Banks, space opera), (7) "The Steel Remains" (Richard Morgan, Fantasy), (6) "The Graveyard Book" (Neil Gaiman, YA), (5) "Toll the Hounds" (Steven Erikson, Fantasy), (4) "Pump Six and Other Stories" (Paolo Baciagalupi, short story collection), (3) "Little Brother" (Cory Doctorow, YA), (2) "The Last Argument of Kings" (Joe Abercrombie, Fantasy) and (1) "Anathem" (Neal Stephenson).

The second source I've been eagerly awaiting for is, or rather the result of the ongoing poll they had on their forum, which I value greatly. The members of the forum voted the following books as the best of 2008: (10) "Reaper's Gale" (Steven Erikson, Fantasy), (9) "Red Seas Under Red Skies" (Scott Lynch, Fantasy), (8) "Anathem" (Neal Stephenson, SF), (7) "The Painted Man" (Peter V.Brett, Fantasy), (6) "The Hero of the Ages" (Brandon Sanderson, Fantasy), (5) "The Shadow Isle" (Katherine Kerr, Fantasy), (4) "Small Favor" (Jim Butcher, urban fantasy), (3) "Toll the Hounds" (Steven Erikson, Fantasy), (2) "The Name of the Wind" (Patrick Rothfuss, Fantasy) and the book that got the most votes was "Last Argument of Kings" by Joe Abercrombie. Check out the thread with results and commentaries for yourselves.

Last but not least, Locus magazine has posted its own list of a sort (technically speaking, it's not a "best of" list, but a recommended reading list, published in the Feb issue of Locus mag, created consensually by the Locus magazine editors, reviewers and with imputs from outside professionals); the SF NOVELS they recommend are: "Matter" (Iain M. Banks), "Flood" (Stephen Baxter), "Weaver" (Stephen Baxter), "City at the End of Time" (Greg Bear), "Incandescence" (Greg Egan), "January Dancer" (Michael Flynn), "Marsbound" (Joe Haldeman), "Spirit" (Gwyneth Jones), "Escapement" (Jay Lake), "Song of Time" (Ian R. MacLeod), "The Night Sessions" (Ken MacLeod), "The Quiet War" (Paul McAuley), "The Company" (K.J. Parker), "House of Suns" (Alastair Reynolds), "Pirate Sun" (Karl Schroeder), "Anathem" (Neal Stephenson), "Saturn's Children" (Charles Stross), "Rolling Thunder" (John Varley), "Half a Crown" (Jo Walton) and "Implied Spaces" (Walter Jon Williams). FANTASY NOVELS: "An Autumn War" (Daniel Abraham), "The Love We Share Without Knowing" (Christopher Barzak), "The Knights of the Cornerstone" (James P. Blaylock), "The Ghost in Love" (Jonathan Carroll), "The Island of Eternal Love" (Daina Chaviano), "The Shadow Year" (Jeffrey Ford), "Shadowbridge/Lord Tophet" (Gregory Frost), "The Memoirs of a Master Forger" (William Heaney); "As How to Make Friends with Demons" (Graham Joyce), "Varanger" (Cecelia Holland), "Lavinia" (Ursula K. Le Guin), "The Bell at Sealey Head" (Patricia A.McKillip), "The Hidden World" (Paul Park), "The Engine's Child" (Holly Phillips), "The Enchantress of Florence" (Salman Rushdie), "The Alchemy of Stone" (Ekaterina Sedia), "The Dragons of Babel" (Michael Swanwick) and "An Evil Guest" (Gene Wolfe). FIRST NOVELS: "The Ninth Circle" (Alex Bell), "The Painted Man aka The Warded Man" (Peter V. Brett), "A Curse as Dark as Gold" (Elizabeth C. Bunce), "Graceling" (Kristin Cashore), "Alive in Necropolis" (Doug Dorst), "Thunderer" (Felix Gilman), "Black Ships" (Jo Graham), "Pandemonium" (Daryl Gregory), "The Gone-Away World" (Nick Harkaway), "Last Dragon" (J.T. McDermott), "Singularity's Ring" (Paul Melko), "The Red Wolf Conspiracy" (Robert V. S. Redick) and "The Cabinet of Wonders" (Marie Rutkoski). YA BOOOKS: "City of Ashes" (Cassandra Clare), "The Hunger Games" (Suzanne Collins), "Monster Blood Tattoo" (D.M.Cormish), "Little Brother" (Corry Doctorow), "The Graveyard Books" (Neil Gaiman), "Eon: Dragoneye Reborn aka The Two Pearls of Wisdom" (Alison Goodman), "Tender Morsels" (Margo Lanagan), "How to Ditch Your Fairy" (Justine Larbalestier), "Ink Exchange" (Melissa Marr), "Chalice" (Robin McKinley), "The Knife of Never Letting Go" (Patrick Ness), "The Adoration of Jenna Fox" (Mary E. Pearson), "Nation" (Terry Pratchett), "Zoe's Tale" (John Scalzi), "Flora's Dare" (Ysabeau S.Wilce). COLLECTIONS: [I'm editing the list; for full list check the link] "Pump Six and Other Stories" (Paolo Bacigalupi), "The Wall of America" (Thomas M.Disch), "The Drowned Life" (Jeffrey Ford), "Nano Comes to Cliffor Falls and Other Stories" (Nancy Kress), "The Best of Lucius Shepard" (Lucius Shepard), "The Best of Michael Swanwick" (Michael Swanwick) etc. ANTHOLOGIES (orig.): [I'm editing the list too] "Fast Forward 2" (Lou Anders), "The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy" (ed.Ellen Datlow), "Galactic Empires" (ed.Gardner Dozois), "Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology" (ed.Nick Gevers), "A Book of Wizards" (ed.Marvin Kaye), "The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction Volume Two" (ed.George Mann), "Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy" (ed.William Schafer), "Eclipse Two" (ed.Jonathan Strahan), "Fast Ships, Black Sails" (ed. Jeff&Ann VanderMeer) etc. For Anthologies (best of the year), non-fiction, art books, novellas, novelettes and short stories recommendations I suggest you check the link I've provided.

This was the penultimate article in the series of this articles, which will be followed in a couple of days by the RoSF best reads of 2008 and "the ultimate-ultimate best of" a.k.a. the recap of all the lists we've covered (Trin was the busy little bee this time). Patience grasshoppers :p.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sarah Rees Brennan - The Demon's Lexicon (Book Review)

"The Demon's Lexicon" (Amazon: UK - paperback available for pre-order, US - hardcover)
Format: Paperback/Hardcover, 336 pages/336 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's/Margaret K. McElderry (June 2009)

SARAH REES BRENNAN is in a way connected with my first steps into the world of English language books. When I was 13 and couldn't wait for the next Harry Potter book to be translated, I bought the original, made my way through it (I remember being mystified by the word 'dunno' - I didn't understand half of the words, of course, but this one appeared most often) and almost immediately went fan fiction hunting on the Internet. It took me quite some time (2 years, I think) to discover that there are other books worth reading in English and that the realm of fanfic is one of the creepiest places possible, but when I finally did, I ditched fan fiction for good. Well, almost – there was one girl who wrote really good fan fiction and who I often envied her ability to make me fall off a chair laughing. The general opinion about her was that she should write real books because she was really good. So you can imagine I was pleasantly surprised when a friend of mine told me that she wrote a YA trilogy whose first part, "The Demon's Lexicon", is to be published in June 2009.

However, the book didn't really make a good first impression on me. I know the saying 'do not judge the book by its cover', but, as you can see in various posts all over the blogosphere, the cover is, in fact, a crucial factor when deciding whether to buy a book or not. I certainly wouldn't buy "The Demon's Lexicon" if I judged it by its US cover, because I find it totally unappealing. Everything, from fonts to colours and the pretty-boy, screams 'cheap pulp fiction'. Also, there is a slight spoiler on the back cover, which made me decide that I'll never read the summaries on the back cover again. Luckily, the UK version looks much better (I don't know about the spoiler, though).

The content of "The Demon's Lexicon" is another story altogether. Lately, every urban fantasy book seems to be either about vampires, angels or demons and wizards, and BRENNAN went for the latter type – which was a relief for me, since I've only had good experience with this one, but lots of bad ones with the vampire type. For all of those who like to compare books: I found "The Demon's Lexicon" a bit similar to the Barthimeus Trilogy, but that's really all I can say – there's too much of unique in "The Demon's Lexicon" to lead the comparison further.

---Everything Nick and Alan wish for is a normal life – but sadly, it's not very likely that they'll ever have one. Constantly moving from town to town in attempt to flee from their pursuers, watching over their crazed mother and battling against demons, they are anything but ordinary. Things get even more complicated when Alan's latest sympathy shows up on their doorstep, claiming that her brother has been marked by some kind of magic …

I found it nice that the main characters are neither 'innocent children' nor 'the good guys' – in fact, Nick is a cold-blooded killer at the age of 16 and Alan is just as dangerous, but not as emotionless. Nick is sometimes a bit naïve, as are Mae and Jamie, but that goes perfectly well with their age – after all, they are teenagers. Also, there is something in BRENNAN's style of writing that urges you to read on and on; the reader is warned about that on the back cover and in the foreword, but I dismissed that as a marketing gesture and was later proven wrong. I didn't read "The Demon's Lexicon" in one sitting, but it took me just one evening, which is close enough. What bothered me, though, was that the first two major plot twists were too predictable – not because they'd be really obvious, but because there were details throughout the whole story that gave the twists away. However, the third major twist was completely unexpected, so I guess that pretty much evens things out.

Overall, "The Demon's Lexicon" is a nice enough read. While I remember BRENNAN's fan fiction mostly for being full of humorous events, I can't exactly say the same for "The Demon's Lexicon" – it is a much more mature work where BRENNAN shows her real talent for storytelling and where tidbits of humour serve mostly to keep things lively and not too serious (although some of those attempts at humour don't really come out as funny); t's not the laughing out loud kind of humour, but more of a break in the tension. There are also (too) many clues throughout the story that partially give away the ending, but on overall, it's a great YA debut and I expect the next two installments to be even better.
P.S.: You can read the first chapter here.
~ Trin ~

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Eye Candy Covers X


Richard Morgan, a rising a risen star in the realm of the speculative fiction writers, has been outdoing himself with every subsequent novel he writes. His first sf trilogy, named after it's protagonist Takeshi Kovacs, garnered much praise and was noted for its gritty content and noir approach. His thought provoking novel "Black Man" won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2008 and his latest novel - and at the same time his first foray into fantasy genre - "The Steel Remains" made quite a few of the "best of 2008" lists. The original UK cover is absolutely stunning, but who would have thought...the forthcoming US version is just as swell :). For latest news regarding the sequel to "The Steel Remains", "The Dark Commands" you can visit Morgan's blog or A Dribble of Ink where Aidan posted his commentes on the latest turn of events.
-----UK cover-------------------US cover (forthcoming)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

In the Limelight - Nebula Award Final Ballot

A while ago I posted the preliminary ballot for 2009 Nebula Awards and although I'm a bit late with the news (the final ballot was announced more than a week ago) I'll nevertheless post the latest list. The awards will be announced and presented at the Nebula Awards Weekend on April 24-26.


"Little Brother" by Cory Doctorow (Tor, Apr08)
"Powers" by Ursula K. Le Guin (Harcourt, Sep07)
"Cauldron" by Jack McDevitt (Ace, Nov07)
"Brasyl" by Ian McDonald (Pyr, May07)
"Making Money" by Terry Pratchett (Harper, Sep07)
"Superpowers" by David J. Schwartz (Three Rivers Press, Jun08)
“The Spacetime Pool” by Catherine Asaro (Analog, Mar08)
“Dark Heaven” by Gregory Benford (Alien Crimes, Resnick, Mike, Ed., SFBC, Jan07)
“Dangerous Space” by Kelley Eskridge (Dangerous Space, Aqueduct Press, Jun07)
"The Political Prisoner” by Charles Coleman Finlay (F&SF, Aug08)
“The Duke in His Castle” by Vera Nazarian (Norilana Books, Jun08)
“If Angels Fight” by Richard Bowes (F&SF, Feb08)
"The Ray-Gun: A Love Story" by James Alan Gardner (Asimov's, Feb08)
“Dark Rooms” by Lisa Goldstein (Asimov’s, Oct/Nov 07)
“Pride and Prometheus” by John Kessel (F&SF, Jan08)
“Night Wind” by Mary Rosenblum (Lace and Blade, ed. Deborah J. Ross, Norilana Books, Feb08)
“Baby Doll” by Johanna Sinisalo (The SFWA European Hall of Fame, James Morrow & Kathryn Morrow, Ed., Tor, Jun07 )
“Kaleidoscope” by K.D. Wentworth (F&SF, May07)
Short Stories
“The Button Bin” by Mike Allen (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, Oct07)
“The Dreaming Wind” by Jeffrey Ford (The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, Ed., Viking, Jul07)
“Trophy Wives” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Fellowship Fantastic, ed. Greenberg and Hughes, Daw Jan08)
“26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s, Jul08)
“The Tomb Wife” by Gwyneth Jones (F&SF, Aug07)
“Don’t Stop” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, Jun07)
"Mars: A Traveler's Guide" by Ruth Nestvold (F&SF, Jan08)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Stephenie Meyer - Breaking Dawn (Book Review)

"Breaking Dawn" (Amazon: UK, US)
Format: Paperback, 768 pages
Publisher: Atom (August 4, 2008)
Though I’m probably late to jump on the bandwagon, I feel I must warn you, the unsuspecting masses, of the atrocity that is Breaking Dawn. While I was less than pleased with the hype around Stephanie MEYER’s Twilight saga (read Trin’s review of Twilight here and New Moon here), I do admit that the series is addictive. I found myself waiting impatiently for the release of the much awaited fourth installment of this young adult vampire series, but then it ended up sitting on my shelf for around four months before I decided to pick it up and get my moneys worth.

My God, what a waste of twenty dollars.

I was appalled at the ridiculousness of it all. What was supposed to be a thought-provoking, intelligent romance ended up being something a twelve year old fan girl with some writing skills could have conceived, I found myself re-reading almost every sentence just to see if I read it wrong, telling myself no author would allow a novel to get so outrageous. Apparently, STEPHENIE MEYER finds herself exempted from the lines of logic.

It starts off well enough, with Bella’s anticipation of her upcoming wedding to the over-perfect Edward Cullen and worrying about Jacob Black, who ran off at the news of hers and Edward’s engagement. When the wedding does arrive, and Jacob comes to visit, she lays out the big business of her and Eddie getting horizontal on their honeymoon. Needless to say, Jacob is less then pleased.

A bit of angst, conflict, and some feuding can be turned into some pretty good literature. My hopes were raised. Perhaps some character development will happen. Perhaps this will go beyond Bella’s utter uselessness. Perhaps this fourth installment will find its way into my best of ‘08 list. Sadly, these hopes were quickly crushed.

Where do I begin? Ah, how about at Isle Esme, where Bella suddenly switches into her fresh temptress skin. She does not just ask Edward for sex. She sits there and begs for more and more sex, even after the first time, which left her pretty bruised up. Edward initially refuses, but when Bella insists … well, he’s only a man, right? (The question of how pops into my mind, though – all bodily fluid supposedly dies out when vampires are created, blood included, so …?)
Needless to say, Edward has even less personality than in the previous books. His life - as usual - revolves around Bella, and Bella can think of little else on their honeymoon than getting it on. Edward and Bella’s relationship in a nutshell: Bella watches Edward sparkle, Edward sparkles, they get married, sparkle some more.

The main twist follows shortly: surprise, surprise, Bella gets pregnant (with the whole tidbit on immortal children in the first two chapters, having nothing to do with the then-plot direction, it was in fact pretty predictable). I won’t even go into the logic of this and I’ll ignore the aforementioned fact that Edward is devoid of bodily fluid (sperm included). Instead, I’ll provide three words that express my feelings: JUMPING THE SHARK! I’ve come to the conclusion that STEPHENIE MEYER was so completely out of ideas that she went on to some fan fiction website, chose the most ridiculous plot possible, and wove a tale around it. I am not pleased, Ms. MEYER, not pleased at all. Thankfully, that is the end of Book One of Breaking Dawn, and we move on to the saving grace of the series; Jacob Black.

For a lovely portion of the novel, we are brought into the heavily sarcastic cynicism that is Jacob’s mind. It is possible that, in these four hundred or so pages, MEYER has written the best she has ever written in any of her published works (The Host included). I love Jake’s dark humor, and the way he is so conflicted between his love for Bella and his devotion to the pack. I love how he also hates her and what she does to him, and how he hates everything she’s chosen to do with her life. It all would paint the picture of a real relationship. When Bella’s with Jacob, she sparks something resembling a personality. They have playful fights and kid around and don’t always bow to each other’s whims. It’s something real, not this desperate, obsessive, controlling fight for power that Edward and Bella have. All in all, I love Jacob. I also enjoyed the pack’s transgressions, and I LOVED Leah. She’s tough, but she has semi-normal worries, such as that, being the only female werewolf, she believes she is destined to die alone. Plus, as a pack member, she is forced to see and hear her ex-boyfriends loving thoughts about Emily, the woman he imprinted on while he and Leah were still dating. She has no choice in the matter. It’s brutal, yeah, but in the greatest way.

Jacob’s narrative still doesn’t make up for the incredulous plot: Bella is not the least bit frightened of an unnatural being that has taken up camp in her womb – even more, she calls Rosalie to help her protect the thing (as though it needs it). I guess that by now her being only eighteen doesn’t matter anymore, or perhaps the birth scene is supposed to scare off any potential fan of hers who’d wish to follow her footsteps – it’s best described in one word: ewwww! Think Rosemary’s Baby combined with Dracula, add a bit of Blood and Chocolate and then just take every single female scream from every single movie ever made, and play it all at once.
Here’s the kicker--Jacob imprints on the baby. And that’s the end of his narrative. How awkward can you get?

Then, alas, we are back to the melodramatic insight of Bella. She wakes up and finds her daughter, whom she has named Renessme, appropriately nicknamed Nessie. That’s the only thing marring her first steps into a life of an immortal, though – she’s utterly perfect once she becomes a vampire. She’s able to control her bloodlust and doesn’t have to give up anything; it’s like she’s missing out on the whole vampire experience. She gets a perfect little ending, even after she’s made the dumbest choices anyone could possibly make. What’s that saying to young girls who are reading this? It’s OK to give up everything in your life for a high school boyfriend, ‘cause eventually it’ll all cool over.

There’s nothing even remotely worth mentioning about Breaking Dawn other than the plot: character development is zero to none. If you’re really into the series, you might like to read it just for some kind of closure, though I guarantee it will be messy. I don’t know, maybe you’ll love it. Maybe you already love it. Maybe you’ve read it multiple times. Debate is welcome. I’m curious as to what others think (that is, others who aren’t blinded by the beauty that is Edward).

Now, if you’ll just excuse me, I’m going to go read my Batman comics and attempt to cleanse myself of this nonsense.



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