Sunday, April 26, 2009

In the Limelight - 2008 Nebula Award winners announced

The winners of 2008 Nebula Award have been announced yesterday (April 25); the recipients of the Nebula Award are as follows:

Best Novel: "Powers" by URSULA K. LeGUIN

Best Novella: "The Spacetime Pool" by CATHERINE ASARO

Best Novelette: "Pride and Prometheus" by JOHN KESSEL

Best Short Story: "Trophy Wives" by NINA KIRIKI HOFFMAN

Andre Norton Award for YA fiction: "Flora's Dare" by YSABEAU S. WILCE

Bradbury Award

Script: Wall-E
...and the Grand Master Award was awarded to HARRY HARRISON, respectively.


Congratulations to all the winners! I'd like to thank Larry from OF Blog of the Fallen for breaking the news to me. The nominees from the final ballot are listed here (you can read the long list here), Joe Sherry from Adventures in Reading has been diligently reviewing all the nominated works he could get his hands on (with the exception of the nominated novels) and you can read his thoughts on the nominated short stories, novellas and novelettes. If you're interested in reading the winners and the rest of the nominated work that is available online for free, then follow this link. Finally, you can read about the last years winners here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reviews? Reviews! Reviews.

The Hard Way.

Reivews? Reviews! Reviews. The hard way. is a new fiction review blog that sprouted up on the blogosphere this April and it's run by Ripley "who doesn't write about herself" and she's "sorry about it". Thank's to our Danny who pointed us towards her sister's blog. Be kind, drop by and wish her luck. Godspeed Ripley, we'll be seeing you around :).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Matthew Sturges - Midwinter (Book Review)

"Midwinter" (Amazon: UK, US)
Format: Paperback, 345 pages
Publisher: Prometheus Books / Pyr (March 2006)
You probably know how it is when a book's cover looks so great and its summary sounds so intriguing that you want to adore it straight away, without even reading it. In fact, you could almost say you're afraid to read such a book because you don't want to get disillusioned. I felt like that when I got "Midwinter" in the mail – but to my relief, when I finally dared to open it, I found out that its beginning was great.

The opening scene shows us directly into a prison brawl, where we meet two of the main characters; a warrior called Mauritane and the mysterious Raieve. There is no introduction to the world in which the story takes place or to the events that lead to either one’s imprisonment, which is one of the reasons why the beginning is so gripping and intriguing. When the plot became quest-oriented soon after the opening chapters, I was not disheartened – even though there is a danger of getting trapped into the usual cliché of quest-oriented fantasy (the great hero goes on a quest, saves the world and gets the girl), there are still really great books with quest-based plots. I was also charmed by the amount of humour present (you can find an example at the beginning of SQT’s review) and I often laughed out loud while reading. Plus, there were curious little tidbits of mystery: different worlds, the strange Gifts and re energy of the elves, Mauritane and Purane-Es’ past … The first third of "Midwinter" showed great potential – honestly, I was certain that it could get better than, say, one of the Abercrombie’s books.

The problem is that all the initial potential went more or less to waste. In fact, the book deteriorates so much after the first third that the reader wonders whether STURGES simply got lucky with the beginning. First signs that the story has started to go wrong appear soon enough: on about one third of the novel, more and more of the details don’t get explained, and the adventurers are revealed to bear the most typical roles of adventuring party members:
  • a near-omnipotent, loyal and honourable leader
  • a mysterious elven woman who is, depending on situation, either a cold-blooded fighter or a damsel in distress
  • a wizard whose sole point in life seems to be chasing young women
  • a human physicist who serves as the clumsy, confused provider of comic relief and
  • a few elves, who seem to be there only because STURGES felt that not all of the party members should survive but couldn’t spare any of the important ones.
Other characters are, sadly, none the better. Hy Pezho is your typical frustrated villain who abhors the fact that he is of no interest to women and wants to achieve greatness in order to finally win the hearts of the court ladies. The two Queens of the opposing sides appear to be little less than statues when it comes to their character – we don’t even get to know why exactly our party of ‘good guys’ follows one and not the other, since the only vague reason we get is somewhere along the lines of ‘ well, we’re used to being loyal’. Lady Anne is one of the rare brighter spots here and the only character who isn’t strictly black or white; she is shunned by society because of her noble husband’s imprisonment and must choose between loyalty and social life. Purane Es is half mindless, vengeful jerk and half romantic poet who is forced to obey his father’s wishes. My almost-extinguished hopes rose when Purane-Es decided to win Lady Anne for himself and delivered the ‘you’re so special, I’ve never felt like this before’ speech – I was delighted with how evil, cunning and convincing he was. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that he was, in fact, being honest.

At that moment, I put "Midwinter" down for a week. I can’t describe how disappointed I felt – I kept hoping that all those little mysteries will be solved, that the questions will get answered and things like Gifts will get explained, but as I neared the ending, I saw that this was not the case. When I finally decided to pick "Midwinter" up again, I saw that it would be better if I left it unread – the conclusion is the lowest point of the book, not because it were badly written but because it is the end of all hopes that Midwinter’s potential will be put to good use. The party almost trips over the quest’s objective, but we still don’t get to know what good the quest actually was. The aforementioned Gifts and re energy are only mentioned once or twice after the beginning, the humour is completely gone after the first third and it is painfully obvious that things like Silverdun‘s transformation and the human settlement subplot were meant to have a purpose which was then lost in the process.

This might sound a little harsh, but I was reminded of the time when I was 14 and trying to write a ‘book’. I had lots and lots of ideas (not terribly innovative ones, but still), but I just piled them all up and then filled the holes with random stuff. When I look at that text now, I see a few good ideas, some unused potential and a lot of useless junk. "Midwinter" is pretty similar in that aspect – piled up ideas, lots of fillers and a potential to be something much, much better. For now, though, "Midwinter" is more of a raw draft than anything else, and will leave a bad taste, regardless of how good the sequels are, but they can push the trilogy onto an average level and maybe even past that if they return to the style of Midwinter’s first third. If it weren’t for the latter, "Midwinter" would be a total waste of time.
~ Trin ~

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The David Gemmell Award 2009 (shortlist)

On April 12th the shortlist for the first DAVID GEMMELL LEGEND AWARD has been announced and the final five in alphabetical (bold) order are 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
Congratulations to all the nominees! I've only read the first book so my (partial) vote lies with LAoK; I've heard a lot of good stuff about Sanderson (Mistborn is sitting by me pleading to be read), Sapkowski (The Witcher was brilliant) and Weeks though...nothing about Marillier, but I don't doubt the book deserves recognition. So, where lies your vote?

Hugo Nominees 2009: Free Reading

Asimov's Science Fiction has made available all of their Hugo and Nebula award nominees for 2009 as a free read up on their website.




"The Erdmann Nexus" by NANCY KRESS
"Truth" by ROBERT REED

"Alastair Baffle's Emporium of Wonders" by MIKE RESNICK
"The Ray-Gun: A Love Story" by JAMES ALAN GARDNER
"Shoggoths in Bloom" by ELIZABETH BEAR

Short Story
"26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss", by KIJ JOHNSON
"From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled", by MICHAEL SWANWICK


"The Ray-Gun: A Love Story" by JAMES ALAN GARDNER
"Dark Rooms" by LISA GOLDSTEIN

Short Story
"26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss", by KIJ JOHNSON
I'd like to thank Joe Sherry From Adventures in Reading for the heads up.

EDIT: Thanks to MentatJack for directing me to his Hugo tracking post, where he offers quite a few more links to free online versions of Hugo nominees ("Little Brother" by Cory Doctorow, all of the nominees for Best Novellete as well the nominees for Short Story and almost all the nominees for Best Novella). Good stuff.

~ Thrinidir ~

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The ULTIMATE (and somewhat bloated) Best Of 2008 List: Recap & Conclusion

Finally, here is the absolute "Ultimate Best Of 2008 List"! I perused every single article in this ongoing series of articles we've been posting over the last couple of months [links: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6 & The RoSF List] and the linked sites that were referred to in each subsequent article, including the huge database of various 'best of' lists over at FANTASY BOOK CRITIC (link). Here I've compiled a list that's made up from all the books that were mentioned at least 6 (5) times (on different lists, of course, and regardless of the ranking, if the list in question happened to rank the books in any manner); also worth mentioning is that this is technically not a real 'best of' list, but more of a 'most popular' books list, since - among other things - some of the lists sorted the books from best to worst and others listed them in no particular order, making it very hard to determine the absolute winner of 2008. What is more, the books we've taken into account weren't necessarily released in 2008, they just had to be read last year. The books with the same number of mentions are listed in alphabetical order and are as follows.
1. Last Argument of Kings [review: 1, 2] – JOE ABERCROMBIE, 2008 (12 mentions)
Little BrotherCORY DOCTOROW, 2008 (12 mentions)
3. The Graveyard BookNEIL GAIMAN, 2008 (11 mentions)
4. AnathemNEAL STEPHENSON, 2008 (1o mentions)
5. The Name of the Wind [review coming soon] – PATRICK ROTHFUSS, 2007 (9 mentions)
6. The House of SunsALASTAIR REYNOLDS, 2008 (7 mentions)
The Shadow of the Wind [review coming soon] - CARLOS RUIZ ZAFON, 2001/2004 (translation) (7 mentions)
The Ten Thousand [Review] – PAUL KEARNEY, 2008 (7 mentions)
Thunderer [review coming soon] – FELIX GILMAN, 2008 (7 mentions)
The Terror [Review] – DAN SIMMONS, 2007 (7 mentions)
Toll the Hounds STEVEN ERIKSON, 2008 (7 mentions)
12. Caine Black KnifeMATTHEW W. STOVER, 2008 (6 mentions)
Pump Six and Other Stories (short story collection) – PAOLO BACIGALUPI, 2008 (6 mentions)
The Drowned Life (short story collection) – JEFFREY FORD, 2008 (6 mentions)
The Painted Man [Review] – PETER V. BRETT, 2008 (6 mentions)
The Steel Remains [review coming soon] – RICHARD MORGAN, 2008 (6 mentions)
A bit of STATISTICS for interlude: there were 518 different sf&f books mentioned in all the lists we used in our survey, but only 142 of those were mentioned more than once and only 74 were mentioned more than twice. Another interesting fact: while a lot of these ‘Best of 2008’ lists were not limited to books that were published in 2008, these books still prevail on overall.

What about the RUNNER-UPS? There are 10 books who missed the top of the chart by only one mention - and they're all just as (some even more in my opinion) interesting as the top tier:
17. Implied Spaces – WALTER JON WILLIAMS, 2008 (5 mentions)
Lavinia – URSULA K. LE GUIN, 2008 (5 mentions)
Matter – IAIN M. BANKS, 2008 (5 mentions)
Old Man's War [Review] – JOHN SCALZI, 2005 (5 mentions)
The Alchemy Of Stone – EKATARINA SEDIA, 2008 (5 mentions)
The Dragons of Babel – MICHAEL SWANWICK, 2008 (5 mentions)
The Engine's Child – HOLLY PHILLIPS, 2008 (5 mentions)
The Gone-Away World – NICK HARKAWAY, 2008 (5 mentions)
The Red Wolf Conspiracy [Review] – ROBERT V.S. REDICK, 2008 (5 mentions)
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse (anthology) – ed. JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS, 2007 (5 mentions)
Congratulations to all the books that made it on this list (and to the ones that were left out by a small margin as well). There is not much to say really, since most of the books you see listed here have been getting a lot of attention (with a few exceptions) on the blogosphere and other relevant genre sites in the past year. Although this list reflects POPULARITY of books before anything else, it is still somewhat an indicator of the QUALITY of these books. We read only a handful of the titles listed above and we have the intention to correct this mistake in the future, but from what we've read we can agree with the pick in most cases. We're not going to write an opinion for each of the books and whether they deserve to be on the list or not, but I'd like to hear what the rest of you there a book that is missing on this list, but should be there? Or maybe one of the most popular books you see here doesn't deserve to be nearly as popular as it appears to be here? All in all, we've put much work into making this list and I hope it will give you at least a small insight into what went on in science fiction and fantasy genre in the past year.
Trin & Thrinidir


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