Sunday, June 28, 2009

David Louis Edelman - Infoquake (Book Review)

"INFOQUAKE" (Amazon: UK, US)
Format: Paperback, 432/534 pages
Publisher: Prometheus Books / Pyr ( July 2006)

In the distant future, a few centuries after a big societal revolution and the war against the thinking machines, the science and business of bio/logics is what keeps the world turning. Bio/logics - the science of using programming code that helps manage and extend the capabilities of human body and mind - is the forte of Nacht and his personal fiefcorp. Nacht, a shrewd businessman and a brilliant programmer, and his employees find themselves at the crux of it all when Nacth receives a business proposal to implement, make practical and promote a revolutionary new technology under the name of MultiReal. While this is, without a doubt, the opportunity of their lives, no one really knows yet what this MultiReal is and on top of that, the worlds most powerful and pervasive force, The Defense and Wellness Council, doesn't look too kindly upon the emancipatory implications of this new technology...


DAVID LOUIS EDELMAN creates within "Infoquake" a vivid, high-tech future, of which he focuses mainly on what he knows most of - programming, marketing, technology, office and intercorporational relations. The author, however, does not completely neglect the human factor that keeps the reader from losing interest in the tale. There is much focus on the subjects mentioned above, and while they are of little interest to this reader, he nevertheless manages to present them in a lucid and, for the most part, unobtrusive manner. There are a lot of layers to the world EDELMAN created, but infodumps are surprisingly sparse. If there is anything left unexplained or you find something confusing, you can easily search it up in the handy appendix at the end of the novel. The author succeeded at extracting the essence of the contemporary corporate and capitalist driven world and projected it into a future setting. Thus, the story of "Infoquake" operates on a higher level as an effective allegory of here and now. All this brings credibility -- and the promise to the reader that he can decipher the story -- to the world of "Infoquake". The world-building is still fantastic enough to feel sf-nal, though.

EDELMAN is an apt writer. His style is clean and flowing. I especially admired the observations characters make about themselves and others. I often found myself reading aloud specific passages from the book to my significant other, because even though I wasn't as captivated by the novel as I'd like to be, I still wanted to state my appreciation for the author's writing skills (i.e. I could easily relate to his way of thinking and I enjoyed his lucid insights, whether it be into how society works, how one conducts business, how people relate to each other or what makes a person tick). EDELMAN does a great job at making you keep reading a story, even if you don't find the plot all that interesting.

Characters are, with the exception of Nacht, all a bit underdeveloped. Nacht is a strong-willed, goal-driven, charismatic and somewhat enigmatic protagonist who walks a thin line between being a hero or an anti-hero. Jara, one of the Nacht's employees, perfectly recapitulates the readers attitude towards Nacht: she is fascinated by and attracted to his strong vision and charisma, but she also despises him for his self-assured and sometimes obsessive ways.

The biggest problem of "Infoquake" is its lukewarm story. The start is slow and the climaxes, such as they are, lack emphasis. The ending, especially, doesn't provide the tension and/or catharsis the way EDELMAN leads us to expect. This is mostly due to the fact that the revolutionary new technology - the MultiReal, fails to impress. If you can't go without devious plot twists, high drama, swirling emotions, action-packed scenes, gritty violence or explicit sex scenes then this book offers little for your tastes. Emphasis lies elswhere and it's not such a drag I made it sound like.

Rat's reading sarcastically promotes "Infoquake" with the following words: "If you like to see all the office politics behind the creation of a Powerpoint presentation, then this book is for you!". While Rat's words are uncomplimentary to an extent I wouldn't mimic for they are a bit rude and simplify things way too much, but if I wouldn't like the book upon reading it, which I did, this appraisal by Rat would, I'm afraid, strike home. For there is wit and a bit of truth in his sarcasm.

Hallmarks of "Infoquake" are (1) a detailed and well thought out future society (especially the driving force behind it: bio/logics), (2) memorable writing (3) and a few really memorable sections of the story (e.g. Nacht's backstory), but this qualitities can't full compensate for some of the jutting drawbacks, namely, (1) a somewhat tepid plot, which is also (2) plagued by meandering pace and insubstantial climaxes - or lack thereof, (3) underdeveloped characters (with exception of Nacht), and finally: (4) MultiReal, a technology that fails to impress, even though it was obviously meant to since the whole novel is structured around it.

All in all, "Infoquake" is a slightly above average debut with a few brilliant features and storytelling moments, and it shows DAVID LOUIS EDELMAN as a promising new author, but it ultimatelly lacks substance and charisma for me to recommend it to you.
~ ThRiNiDiR ~

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Eye Candy Covers XI

BRANDON SANDERSON, if u haven't heard of him yet, is becoming one of the most recognisable names in the fantasy genre. His "Mistborn" trilogy garnered much praise from both readers and critics alike, as have his standalone novels "Elantris" and "Warbreaker". The latter was originally released under a Creative Commons non-commercial, non-derivative work license, but was recently (June 6 2009) re-realeased as a hardcopy by Tor Books. What this means is, while you can now buy a nifty hardcopy version of "Warbreaker" from a local bookstore, the rough version of the book is still available online for no fee at all. If the name BRANDON SANDERSON still doesn't ring a bell, he is the guy who will write the last three books of "The Wheel of Time" saga after the passing-away of ROBERT JORDAN. To deliver such a prominent franchise into the hands of a relative newbie is a great show of faith from the publisher, but you can be sure that their decision hasn't been incidental and I don't think we'll see a drop in quality. Quite the contrary actually. I think that SANDERSON will revitalize the series by infusing into it fresh ideas while remaining true to the spirit of JORDAN's original vision. The first of the three books, entitled "The Gathering Storm", has been completed and will see the light of day in early November 2009. The cover art for "The Gathering Storm" has been released and all I can say is that it is absolutely awful, maybe even a contender for this year's crappiest cover. Now, can you see the irony in this post? :)

The cover art I've posted above is going to adorn the first book in the UK edition of the "Mistborn" trilogy (US editions, both hardcover and paperback, were hit and miss as is to be expected by now) that was originally realeased in 2007 and 2008 by Tor Books. The cover art is stunning, if you appreciate the minimalist approach, as I do. If I could describe it with as little words as possible they would be something in the vein of: delicate, graceful, clean and unobtrusive to the senses. Good job.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fw: Where'd the Enthusiasm Go

This is not a review, a promotion, a give-away (it is, but of a diferent sort), a rant or anything that has to do with fantasy genre in general; this is about me. The lamentable thing is -- from my perspective -- that somebody else is advocating my, up until that moment, unrealised thoughts. Thoughts and reflection on why we started blogging in the first place. I could summarize and rehash Aidan's post...but honestly, I would just butcher a well-versed, poignant and lucid contemplation/confession/resolution that jarred me from my own stupor...

I'm not sure what needs to be done, or even if anything can be done, but I'll certainly try to set my priorities straight.

Thought of the moment (to cite one of my good friends): "Life is not a cake walk."

For an insight into many a blogger head -- mine included -- go and read Aidan's post.

Monday, June 22, 2009

China Miéville on J.R.R. Tolkien

MIÉVILLE's derogatory opinion of J.R.R. TOLKIEN is pervasive and documented. His leftist criticism from a few years back denotes TOLKIEN as stultifying (i.e. tending to humiliate), reactionary, pompous, petty and in favour of status quo among other things. He consciously strived to move fantasy away from TOLKIEN's influence. In other words, MIÉVILLE's goal -- as I understand it -- was to make fantasy more aware of the problems of contemporary world, to make fantasy socialist, subversive and revolutionary, critical of the ruling elite and in favour of the common man. MIÉVILLE's position on the genre is, as he admitted himself, also indebted to MICHAEL MOORCOCK. MOORCOCK's highly critical and somewhat elitist position on the genre, or rather, the genre paradigm stemming directly from TOLKIEN is evident in the article titled "Epic Pooh", which is also well worth reading.

Now, "Lord of the Rings" was the first fantasy book I've read -- how cliched, I know :) -- and I don't, or rather, I won't, say a bad thing about it. Of course, I'm open to criticisms directed at "LOTR", as long as they are rational and constructive, and I wouldn't go out of my way to stubbornly defend it (I'm stallwart, but I'm not that rigid). But when it comes to me thinking about reviewing the trilogy, I wouldn't want to do it, because I don't feel that I'm grown up to the task. I'm positive that my attempts at impartiality would be utterly thwarted by my own feelings of affection and nostalgia. All this holds true only, if I wouldn't be completely disillusioned upon rereading "LOTR", but which I wasn't when I did reread it a couple of years ago, so it does, hold true that is.

In one of MIÉVILLE's latest entries as a guest blogger on Omnivoracious, he tempers his past commentaries on TOLKIEN with what could be called a praise or even a hommage -- he even mentiones the words grateful and rocks -- to the forefather of the large piece of contemporary epic fantasy, if only from the perspective of MIÉVILLE's past barrage of denunciation. Although he still acknowledges that even an author of TOLKIEN's fame can and -- exactly because of such high standing -- must be open to intellectual reproach, he nevertheless gives TOLKIEN credit for the achievments and contributions he's made to the genre, which, MIÉVILLE admits, were seminal and substantial. The essayistic manner in which MIÉVILLE wrote "There and Back Again: Five Reasons Tolkein Rocks" makes it for a dense, scholary read, but the five reasons can, basically, be boiled down to this:

  1. TOLKIEN was responsible for a tectonic shift of focus in storytelling; a shift from Greco-Roman mythology to a more yeasty Norse Magic. Greco-Roman influence on fiction was run of the mill at that time and MIÉVILLE views it as "too clean," "overburdened with percision," and "as cold as Greek and Roman marble". Norse mythos is, on the other hand, more fleshy, anti-moralistic and, well...awesome.
  2. TOLKIEN's vision is tragic. This is a noble trait that most of those who followed in his footsteps forgot -- intentionally or unintentionally -- to take over. The ending of "LOTR" is not happy, even though the good guys win. It is an end of a glorious age: the magic is going west with the elves, a premonition of a more mundane, and thus poorer future. The book ends with strong melancholia and nostalgia for times that are not quite gone yet, but are in passing. All this, argues MIÉVILLE, deserves celebrating and reclaiming.
  3. TOLKIEN " good monster. Shelob, Smaug, the their astounding names, the fearful verve of their descriptions, their various undomesticated malevolence, these creatures are utterly embedded in our world-view. No one can write giant spiders except through Shelob: all dragons are sidekicks now. And so on." All this, coming from a man with seemingly unfathomable imagination, means a lot.
  4. "TOLKIEN explains that he has a 'cordial dislike of allegory'. Amen! Amen!" If "LOTR" would be allegorical, then it would, in one way or another, represent, reflect or suggest resemblance to reality. Metaphor on the other hand does not suggest any such thing. MIÉVILLE still cautions that TOLKIEN's work does "throw off metaphors" that do "all sort of things, wittingly or unwittingly, with ideas of society, of class, the war etc.", but where metaphors "evade stability", allegory, on the other hand, is, "in some reductive way, primarily, solely, or really 'about' something else, narrowly and precisely." An allegorical work of fiction gives promise to the reader that he can 'solve' it by finding a right key, by decoding it, and "TOLKIEN knows that that makes for both clumsy fiction and clunky code. His dissatisfaction with the Narnia books was in part precisely because they veered too close to allegory, and therefore did not believe in their own landscape." So, in MIÉVILLE's view, "LOTR" is worthwile, because it believes in itself and in the world created within. It is 'lartpourlart' in its true sense and whichever stereotypes it does reproduce and if it defends the status quo, it does so evasively and unintentionally. I'm curious though, how does MIÉVILLE's work relate to allegory? Isn't he guilty of the same thing he stands so firmly against in this treatise?
  5. "Middle Earth was not the first invented world, of course. But in the way the world is envisaged and managed, it represents a revolution." Middle Earth was not the first, but definitely "an outstanding herald" of the fantasy worlds that are not secondary to the plot. TOLKIEN represents a paradigm shift which reverses the order of things: "the world comes first, and then, and only then, things happen--stories occur--within it." TOLKIEN calls this process 'subcreation' and it is now, probably, the default fantasy mode and an extremely potent literary approach, whether you denigrate or praise it. MIÉVILLE laments the fact that there is little to no theoretical work on this technique as of yet.
MIÉVILLE concludes his article in a lenient, mannerly way: "There are plenty of other reasons to be grateful to Tolkien, of course--and reasonable reasons to be ticked off at him, too: critique, after all has its place. But so does admiration..." You can read the article in its entirety here.

While MIÉVILLE doesn't recall his past harsh criticism of TOLKIEN, he nevertheless tempers and balances it out by complimenting the Professor and giving him acclaim, where acclaim is due. I'm just curious what brought him 'about'? Was the article written as a consequence of the process of MIÉVILLE's 'wising up' with age or is there a more pragmatic reason behind it? James takes an educated guess and speculates that MIÉVILLE's article comes as an indirect reposte to the RICHARD MORGAN's rant and I'm inclined to agree with him.

~ ThRiNiDiR ~

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In the Limelight - The Winner of The David Gemmell Award for 2009 Announced

On April 12th the shortlist for the first DAVID GEMMELL LEGEND AWARD was announced and the final five nominees were as follows:

"Last Argument of Kings" by JOE ABERCROMBIE
"Heir to Sevenwaters" by JULIET MARILLIER
"The Hero of Ages" by BRANDON SANDERSON
"Blood of Elves" by ANDRZEJ SAPKOWSKI
"The Way of Shadows" by BRENT WEEKS
The award ceremony has taken place on June 19 in the Magic Circle in London and at the end of the night THE DAVID GEMMELL LEGEND AWARD went to:
"Blood of Elves" by ANDRZEJ SAPKOWSKI
Congratulations to the winner and condolences to the rest! I haven't yet read "Blood of the Elves", but if I could judge it by "The Last Wish" (SAPKOWSKI's first novel translated into English and reviewed here) then I'd say it was a strong candidate at the least. Now I have no excuse to delay reading it anymore.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

David Gunn - Maximum Offense (Giveaway)

Thanks to the folks at Transworld, we have two giveaway copies of DAVID GUNN's "Death Head's: Maximum Offense" (2008; Amazon UK) - a direct sequel to "Death's Head" (2007) - for you to win. If you'd like to find out more bout this in-your-face military sf title you can read the review at Graeme's Fantasy Book Review or over at Fantasy Book Critic. A section of what Graeme had to say about the book:
"No expense is spared in bringing the reader the most visceral hand to hand combat, that I’ve seen, along with lots of heavy machinery exploding in a variety of ways. There’s elements of ‘MacGyver’ here as Sven seems able to make use of pretty much anything to get himself out of a tight spot and bring down the enemy."

"‘Maximum Offense’ makes no apologies for what it is, a hefty slice of violent space opera that will entertain. It doesn’t do a lot more than that though so make sure you’re in the right mood to enjoy it before you pick it up (unless you’re a fan already in which case you’ll love it)."
...and here's what Fantasy Book Critic has to say about the book:
"In the end, “Maximum Offense” is basically more of the same in-your-face military SF that was on display in the author’s debut, but where I enjoyed “Death’s Head” I absolutely loved the new book. What’s even better is that there will be at least one more Death’s Head novel and if the first two are any indication, then the book is going to kick some ass…"
If you are interested in having this book for yourself send us an email at sf.fantasy.books[AT] (remember to replace [AT] with @) entitled "DEATH'S HEAD" and containing your full mailing address (name, surname, street etc.). If you don't want your real name/full name posted on our blog when we announce the winners, please include that information in your email.

Because our resources are, unfortunately, still of a very restricted nature, we can't afford to mail the book overseas. What it means is, that this particular giveaway is for European residents only. If you are a member of any particular message board you can include your nickname in the mail as well, but this is not obligatory.

Multiple entries and emails failing to follow the above guidelines will be disqualified.

We will announce the winners of the giveaway on July 7, 2009.

Good luck to all the participants!

Monday, June 8, 2009

James Enge - Blood of Ambrose (Book Review)

"Blood of Ambrose" (Amazon: UK, US)
Format: Paperback, 401 pages
Publisher: Pyr (April 21, 2005)
Like "Midwinter" by MATTHEW STURGES, "Blood of Ambrose" is a novel with a promising blurb and an appealing cover, but it took some time for me to convince myself to pick it up and start reading. Even then, I regarded the first few characters with skepticism: sure, they showed promise, but so did the opening chapters of "Midwinter" and look what those have lead to... Luckily, "Blood of Ambrose" is - among other things - much more coherent than Midwinter, and the opening chapters do not charm the reader in order to make up for a disappointment he will experience later, but rather lead him into a story about a child-king, growing up in a restless age of riots and uprisings.

John from Grasping for the Wind described the plot as "Lathmar's capture, rescue, recapture and rescue again", which correctly describes the gist of it, but there’s more to the story than just the adventures of the little King. "Blood of Ambrose" is an action-packed fantasy, which, despite seeming to revolve around the boy-king Lathmar, actually focuses more on Lathmar’s grown-up ‘assistants’ and his distant relatives: his ‘grandmother’ Ambrosia, her brother, the notorious Mordock, and his apprentice, who all fight Lathmar’s war in order to bring peace back to his kingdom. There is still a lot of focus on Lathmar’s adventures, though, which makes "Blood of Ambrose" a nice blend of YA and fantasy – the not-too-serious narrating tone prevents "Blood of Ambrose" to sound too bleak or ominous when regarding some of the graver events like the uprising of the ‘zombies’ and the painful past of the Ambrosii (i.e. Mordock and Ambrosia). At the same time, we get a pretty realistic picture of Lathmar as a boy: he hardly knows what the grown-ups are talking about half of the time, he has no special skills except for those which are more or less common in his family and his perception is, at times, rather naïve.

Some reviews claim that "Blood of Ambrose" lacks characterization, but I disagree. Sure, there is a lot of unused potential to the characters, but we get to know their main personality traits and since we view them mostly from Lathmar's perspective I think it's only logical that they all seem a bit mysterious and distant – after all, these are the basic attributes of an adult viewed from a child's perspective. There are also a lot of little tidbits of characters' pasts, which implies that we'll get to know them even better in the sequel, This Crooked Way (personally, I suspect that Mordock will appear there as the main character).

"Blood of Ambrose" has other problems, though – what I missed most was humour. There were some attempts at it, but I just didn't find them amusing enough. There were maybe two or three really humorous moments, but mostly, it just seemed as though there were a lot of little holes in the flow of narration or dialogue which should be filled with humour but were, for some reason, left empty.

At times, parts of the story are simply left unfinished, such as the part where Lathmar falls in love and then never mentions or remembers that again. What bothered me as well were the parts with Hope, who only appears a few times; her relationship with Ambrosia could use some more detail and overall complexity. Also, how come Morlock is still confused by the signature in her note to him, when he received a farewell from her just before that? Such small things make the book look unfinished, which is never good.

These flaws aside, "Blood of Ambrose" is still more than a decent debut with a nice, flowing style, intriguing characters and a unique idea. Its ending led me to expect that we'll see a great deal more of Ambrosii in the sequel, and I look forward to it.

---(4 out of five EvilFruitcakes)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

David Eddings has passed away...

DAVID EDDINGS, aged 77, has, sadly, passed away two nights ago, on June 2, 2009. He is most well known for his five-book Belgariad saga, written in 1980'. His fantasy was extremely popular, inspired many contemporary writers, and has helped to carve what we call modern epic fantasy. He was one of the most influential fantasy authors in the eighties and early ninties. Amongst his peers were such authors as Stephen Donaldson and Terry Brooks. While often criticized for his formulaic and repetitive approach to writing (he didn't deny that he started writing fantasy for profit), his works nevertheless possess some inate quality and appeal that made his such a prominent name.

It is always sad to hear that an author passes away, especially one that brought pleasure to so many of us. Our condolances to his family and friends, this truly is sad news for the genre fans. May you rest in peace Mr.Eddings...

source: The Wertzone, Graeme's blog &

Monday, June 1, 2009

Condensed&Appropriated BOOK RELEASES for JUNE 2009

Why condensed and appropriated? Because I shifted through the more extensive publication lists that were published elswhere (I wouldn't want to take credit for other people's work: The Deckled Edge,, The Ostentatious Ogre and Fantasy Book Critic) and I appropriated them for my own needs; since I'm rather picky the list I'm making is also of a condensed nature :).

Without further ado, the books of June 2009 that look especially promising are:

  • "Best Served Cold" (June 1, 2009 UK) by JOE ABERCROMBIE
  • "The Angel's Game" (transl. June 1, 2009 UK and June 16, 2009 US) by CARLOS RUIZ ZAFÓN
  • "Nights of Villjamur" (June 12, 2009 UK) by MARK CHARAN NEWTON
  • "Retribution Falls" (June 18, 2009 UK) by CHRIS WOODING
  • "Naamah's Kiss" (June 24, 2009) by JACQUELINE CAREY
  • "Warbreaker" (June 9, 2009 US) by BRANDON SANDERSON

For the rest of the books being released in June 2009 follow the links above.

As for what you can expect from us in the next couple of weeks is Trin's review of "Blood of Ambrose" by James Enge, my review of "Infoquake" by David Luis Edelman and a new giveaway, so stay tuned...
~ Thrinidir ~


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