Tuesday, 31 July 2012

So, there's a Sword and Sorcery Genre Spotlight going on...

Not here, although I am reading a lot more of the stuff, over Here :o) It's all geared around Open Road Media re-releasing the 'Brak the Barbarian' stories as ebooks (which I will probably pick up) so you've got things like a mini-documentary about John Jakes and a chance to read his story 'The Girl in the Gem' for free (I never turn down some free reading, you shouldn't either).

There are a lot of other little bits though that make for interesting reading if you're new to the genre or coming back to it. The only thing I'd query is their use of the phrase 'muscular heroes' in the definition... after mentioning heroes such as Elric and the Gray Mouser (neither of whom are particularly muscular, quite the opposite in Elric's case).

That's a minor quibble though, there's a lot of good stuff here if it's raining outside and you're stuck at your desk during lunchtime. Thank me later :o)

Monday, 30 July 2012

The ‘Didn’t get back until midnight…’ Competition Winner’s Post!

Over eighty thousand people went to the Olympic football games last night and after the final whistle, at half nine, they all tried to get into one tube station to catch a train home. It took me an hour and a quarter to get from my seat, in the stadium, to a seat on the train. Some great football and a bacon roll (a really nice one as well) made up for it but, an hour and a quarter… That is why this post hasn’t appeared until the tail end of the day. That and a daughter who just wanted to watch Peppa Pig (although she did say “I want to see the Daleks…”)

Enough of that though. I really need to get on and announce some competition winners before the end of the day :o) Thanks to everyone who entered by the way, even the person who thought that using my email address as a subject header would make her entry stand out. It did but only because I didn’t know what competition she was entering…
Anyway, winners…

‘The Passage’

Joseph A. Gervasi, Philadelphia, USA
Donna Simmonds, Missouri, USA
Charles Fraker, Virginia, USA

‘Kop Killer’

Scott Robinson, Australia
Jannick Verleysen, Belgium
Tvrtko Ivanisevic, Zagreb, Croatia

Nice work there guys :o) Your books will be on their way to you very soon. Better luck next time everyone else. There is another competition on the go right now, scroll down a little and see if it takes your fancy.

So, what else can you expect to see from me this week? Not a clue is the honest answer. A lot of my time will be taken up with job hunting and playing with Hope which doesn’t leave a lot of time for reading. Me being me though, it’s a pretty safe bet that there will be at least one zombie book reviewed this week and I’ve got some comics that I want to talk about as well. It’s all a little bit vague right now but it’s still going to be great. See you tomorrow :o)

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Back Tomorrow...

As I'll be spending most of today going back and forth, across London, watching some Olympic events. Well, weightlifting and football but if yesterday's tennis was anything to go by (awesome) it should be a lot of fun.
I still don't think the Olympics should have come to London but even I have to admit that it's a lot of fun now it's here :o)

I'll see you tomorrow when things should hopefully be back to normal here...

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Giveaway! 'Midnight Riot', 'Moon over Soho' & 'Whispers Underground' (Ben Aaronovitch)

I know I said there was going to be a review yesterday, sorry about that... My job ended yesterday and things were a bit crazy. Things will probably be bit crazy for a few more days actually, please bear with me :o)

In the meantime, how about a quick competition to keep things ticking over? Yes? Go on then... :o)

Thanks to the good folks at Del Rey, I have one set of Ben Aaronovitch's 'Midnight Riot', 'Moon over Soho' and 'Whispers Underground' to give to one lucky reader (a very good series from what I've read so far). One lucky US or Canadian winner that is; residents of these countries are the only people who can enter I'm afraid.

What do you need to do to enter? Just drop me an email (address at the top right hand of the screen) telling me who you are and what your postal address is. The subject header needs to be 'Midnight Soho Whispers' (see what I did there...?)

This competition will run until the 5th of August and I'll aim to announce the winner as soon as possible after that.

Good luck!

Friday, 27 July 2012

Subliminal Cover Art...? 'The Butcher of Anderson Station' (James S.A. Corey)

I was browsing one of my favourite blogs when I came across this cover art...

Has it been just a bit too long since I quit smoking (eight years since my last cigarette, three since my last cigar...) or is 'The Butcher of Anderson Station' a tale of tobacco companies rampaging through space in cigarette shaped spacecraft...? Did I miss the press release about the Orbit/Marlboro merger...? ;o)

On a slightly more serious note, I'll be downloading this the first chance I get. I thoroughly enjoyed 'Leviathan Wakes' and 'The Butcher of Anderson Station' should keep me ticking along just nicely until the next book.
In case you were wondering, reviews have been thin on the ground recently as my current contract ends today and things have been mad. There will be something up later though... :o)

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Cover Art! 'Exile' (Rowena Cory Daniells)

Because Clint Langley came up with the art here and I've been a fan of his work since before I even realised that it was his :o)

Lovely cover art from Langley (again) but any hope it gives you of a cameo appearance from Elric is probably best ignored ;o) That's two books, in this series, that I have now so I really ought to give it a go. My job (a short term contract) ends tomorrow so maybe that will free up some time...

P.S. For those of you who remember the last Solaris cover art post, I just couldn't get into 'Hush' at all (possibly because I never read 'Greatshadow' first and I really should have done...) Oh well...

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

'Walking Dead' #100, Time for me to bail out...

Well... I say 'bail out' but I'll more than likely keep up with the storyline in one form or another (via the 'Walking Dead Wiki' I think). I just can't see myself making that mad dash for the latest trade collection like I have done in the past. It's a shame as I've been following the series for years now, ever since I moved to London, but everything comes to an end eventually (just a little bit sooner than it was meant to for me).

I'll do my utmost to avoid spoilers (as always) but read on with a little caution if you haven't picked up #100 just yet...

What always attracted me to this series was that it was a story first and foremost, a really in-depth and no holds barred look at how real people would deal with a zombie apocalypse. This approach has seen some really brutal moments but that's what this kind of situation is all about, people trying to survive no matter the cost.

Issue 100 though... That was all about a series milestone being reached. Fair enough but when you take that approach then you've got to do something noteworthy to mark it. [SPOILER ALERT!] This time round, a fairly major character is bludgeoned to death by a guy wielding a baseball bat covered in barbed wire. One of the most vicious and gut wrenching scenes I've seen in this series.[YOU CAN LOOK NOW]

It wasn't done for the story though, it was a moment that marked a hundred issues of an incredibly successful series of comic books and that was what killed it for me. Kirkman has always shown real respect for his cast, putting them through hell but a hell that meant something in terms of plot. That respect wasn't there this time round and a character's death lost significance because of that (they meant something but their death didn't, not to me)

We all know that I can't stay away from zombies, not for long, and I do want to know how it will all end. Like I said though, you won't see me running out for the trades anymore and that's a real shame.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

'Fever Moon' - Karen Marie Moning, Al Rio, Cliff Richards (Del Rey)

I've been stuck with a really grim data input job for the last week and a bit; lots of box ticking and field filling on a computer screen... It pays the bills but I'd be lying if I said that I'd enjoyed it. In an attempt to break the monotony, of staring at the same words on a computer screen, I've been reading a few more comic books than I would do normally; lots of bright pictures to wake me up :o) They don't get a lot brighter than what you find within the pages of Karen Marie Moning's 'Fever Moon' (more on that in a bit), a book that I was always going to read, even though it's another Urban Fantasy.

Truth be told, I've pretty much given up on the larger part of Urban Fantasy as I've realised that I'm into Urban Fantasy that deals with setting rather than angst and slightly dodgy relationships. 'Fever Moon' looked very much like it would fall in the latter camp but... It had been a hard week and it's a graphic novel; it was a read that was always going to happen.
As it turned out, 'Fever Moon' wasn't a bad read at all. There were problems but most of these managed to avoid the 'Urban Fantasy Trap'...

Here's the blurb,

Dublin is a war zone. The walls between humans and Fae are down. A third of the world’s population is dead and chaos reigns. Imprisoned over half a million years ago, the Unseelie are free and each one Mac meets is worse than the last. Human weapons don’t stand a chance against them.

With a blood moon hanging low over the city, something dark and sinister begins to hunt the streets of Temple Bar, choosing its victims by targeting those closest to Mac. Armed only with the Spear of Destiny and Jericho Barrons, she must face her most terrifying enemy yet.

'Fever Moon' is a very good mix of compelling (albeit predictable) storyline married to artwork that does an amazing job of what Moning obviously wants it to convey. At least three quarters of my attention was drawn to Al Rio's art. There were elements of the plot that I wasn't too keen on ('Though Barrons brought me back... The cure was endless sex' Really? Not again...) I found myself wanting to stick around and see how Rio, and to a lesser extent Richards, brought it all to the page. The setting is beautifully drawn as are the characters acting within it.

The story itself offers an intriguing world with an intriguing mystery sitting within it. Who is the mysterious assailant stalking the wartorn streets of Dublin? Annoyingly, a lot of the answer to this question refers back to previous books within the larger series. I wouldn't normally make a big deal of this but it's done in such a way that it seriously interupts the flow of the tale if you don't know what you are looking for. A little bit of sepia toning isn't quite the signpost that it was intended to be. I found myself going over the same two pages over and over again before I figured out what was going on... Not helpful at all. 'Fever Moon' is definitely one for long term fans (who will recognise this scene for what it is) rather than the casual reader.

The way its handled is a bit of a shame really as the plot does have a lot going for it. There's a lot riding on Mac's actions and the tension builds up accordingly with some amazing set pieces interspersed throughout the book. Mac is an interesting character to get to know, in such a short space of time, and her attitude towards the job at hand carries the plot forward in just the right way.

Again though, it's a shame that this had to be cut with all the flirting that people feel is necessary in an Urban Fantasy tale. 'Fever Moon' was doing just fine all on it's own; it didn't need the relationship stuff to move things forward, if anything those themes held things back a little.

A good read then but it was a shame that 'Fever Moon' felt the need to travel down certain well worn paths that it really didn't need to. This is a setting that could be a whole lot more if it struck out on its own...

Eight out of Ten
P.S. It's been bugging me all day, I knew I'd come across this series before...

Write With Wild Abaddon!

From the press release...

For the past six years, Abaddon Books has been publishing genre-busting novels from break-out authors and in brand new formats. So to celebrate its birthday this summer, we are calling for open submissions for our new e-novella series. Starting later this year, Abaddon will publish a series of brand new e-novellas – and authors can either play in one of our ten shared worlds or create their own!

Whether you’ve an agent or are going solo, whether you’re an established writer or trying to get your first project, we’re interested. Our books are pacy and action-filled, but smart and sharp, with characters that pull you in and challenge you. And our stories are dark, whatever the genre.

Since 2006, we have published almost eighty original novels in ten shared-world series, and have given the world the talented and irascible Chuck Wendig his fiction debut, not to mention the wildly imaginative Al Ewing. It has uncovered Kitschie-nominee Scott K. Andrews, and gave the brilliant Gary McMahon, Pat Kelleher and Toby Venables their mainstream fiction debuts.

If you know Abaddon’s work, you’ll also know what we like. Choose a genre, make it fast, make it tense, make it dark. And make us care about your characters. Make it original! Make us want to come back and see what happens next.

Submissions will be open for the month of September 2012, from midnight BST on 31st August to midnight on 30th September.

For full details on the submissions process, go to www.abaddonbooks.com

I've had a quick look at the submissions guidelines and it doesn't look like they're limiting it to particular countries (which is a welcome change from other contests). I love what Abaddon does so am more than a little bit tempted here (especially if I'm off work which is looking likely), how about you?

Monday, 23 July 2012

'Jack's Magic Beans' - Brian Keene (Deadite Press)

If I'm being completely honest, the main reason I downloaded the Kindle App (to my phone) was that I was stupidly impressed at how easy downloading stuff is and couldn't stop myself. Since then though I've been discovering that there are a lot of benefits to having the app, one of which is being able to catch up with Brian Keene's back catalogue. I'm talking about all the little short stories and novellas that were snapped up and gone before I even realised that they were there to start off with... Thanks to Deadite Press that shouldn't be a problem for me any more, they're working hard to publish all the stuff where the rights have reverted to Keene, which can only be good news for a fan like me (especially when I can get it on my phone in under a minute...)

'Jack's Magic Beans' was the first one of Keene's books published by Deadite and one that I'd had my eye on for a long time (always eager to read new stuff by Brian Keene). It was a bit of a surprise then to see what felt like a whole new style employed in a collection of stories that were a lot shorter than any of his books that I'd read previously.

What you're looking at here are tales where time (and space) constraints mean that everything is stripped right back to the bare minimum so that as much energy, and gore, as possible can be fitted in to keep things moving along. Things move at a hellish pace because of this but I found myself missing the characterisation and scene setting that I always enjoy. That's not to say it isn't a fair trade off, these are different kinds of tales here that require a different approach to function effectively. Things just felt a little more shallow that in his longer books, this new side of Keene's work will take some getting used to...

I couldn't help but enjoy the book though with its combination of raw surging energy, over the top gore (which sometimes got in the way of the story but even so...) and clever little ideas that have it all making sense. 'Jack's Magic Beans' is the main event here and Keene operates very well within such tight parameters. It's a very 'in your face' piece, with graphic depictions of violence, but the questions Keene raises (at the same time) build up the tension very nicely. I particularly liked the way things are left very open ended at the finish. Anything could happen and Keene leaves you to draw your own conclusions.

'Without You' was paerhaps a little too short to really work for me; by the time you cotton on to what's going on the story has ended. A little change in focus could have worked wonders here (did we really need all that detail about the main character's life?) but the twist in the tale is worth the price of entry here. A pretty emphatic suicide rendered useless by four little words...

'I am an Exit' and 'This is not an Exit' are two tales, about a serial killer, that had me wanting to hear more about him (the afterword says there might be more as well). For my money these were the best two tales in the collection; really creepy with just enough given away to pique the interest of the reader. The violence and gore are also dialled right back and this makes the moments when something does happen all the more powerful.

Keene signs off with 'The King', In: Yellow', a tale of a play that will drive you insane if you ever see it. Keene really taps into the effect this play will have on you (you can feel the fear and Keene pulls the curtain right back on the insanity that follows) but there was nothing to the play itself that would suggest such a reaction. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not but it felt like the two elements of the plot just weren't gelling for me.

I had a lot of fun with this collection but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to someone reading Keene for the first time. There is a lot to recommend 'Jack's Magic Beans' but Keene does it all a lot better in his longer books. 'Dark Hollow', 'A Gathering of Crows' or 'Urban Gothic'; check them out first.

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

A little weekend book haul...

Friday afternoon saw me on a fast train to Plymouth, Sunday afternoon saw me on a really hot and stuffy slow train back from Plymouth. You haven't seen hell until you've tried to keep a fractious toddler amused on a slow moving train where the air conditioning has broken...

The bit inbetween though? Saturday was lovely. Chinese food, book shopping and Hope showing me round the aquarium (we had to find Nemo...)I didn't have a lot of time for book shopping, someone really wanted to get to the aquarium, but I managed to get to a couple of favourite second hand book shops that I hadn't been to in a while. Here's what I managed to find for myself...

The beauty of going book shopping with a two year old is that you invariably find yourself in the kids section. I don't think she's ready for Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks just yet but I used to have these books (when I was a kid) and I thought it was about time I had them again :o) Out of all the books in the series, 'Deathtrap Dungeon' and 'Forest of Doom' were my favourites; I could spend hours reading through them on a Sunday afternoon... I fancied a bit of nostalgia reading but I also wanted to see how they measured up to the 'Destiny Quest' series that has just started running. You can expect to see a nostalgic fanboy post in the next few weeks... ;o)

Its been years since I read 'The Broken Sword' and, again, I thought it was about due a re-read. I've also found myself starting to scour second hand bookshops to build up my Fantasy Masterworks collection (missed out on the Fantasy Masterworks 'The King of Elfland's Daughter' and I don't want to do that again) so I couldn't pass up on the chance of a copy here. There'll definitely be a review but I'm not sure quite when...

That's me then, what book(s) did you buy over the weekend?

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Giveaway! 'Kop Killer' (Warren Hammond)

I'm reading this at the moment and it's a lot better than that 'deliberately trying to be cool' spelling, in the title, would have you believe. Here's the blurb,

Juno Mozambe once had a life. That was when he was a dirty cop, married to a woman who suffered such profound abuse that she murdered her vile, drug kingpin father. Juno loved his wife and did his best to help her survive her guilt, her drug habit, and her desire to end her life on the dead-end planet of Lagarto. When she died, however, Juno's life went downhill. And then his first partner, the corrupt chief of the Koba Office of Police, was murdered. The man responsible, Emil Mota, is using the KOP for his personal gain. Juno has been lying low, but now he's ready to do whatever it takes to take down the bastard. Rather than working from inside the system, he's decided that the only way to take down the KOP is to create an independent base of power. So he gets involved with a team of dirty cops and starts working as a rent-a-thug for a whorehouse that needs protection. Juno's last partner knows that his risky plan has a purpose, but she's that rarest of creatures on the hothouse planet of Lagarto: an honest cop. She can't help him. When Juno discovers a series of profoundly twisted murders, he faces a bleak possibility: in his desperate quest for vengeance against the man who targeted him for death, Juno may have placed himself beyond any hope of redemption...

 Pure Pulp is the name of the game here I think :o) Anyway...

 I thought you guys might enjoy this one so I asked the very nice lady at Tor about running a competition for three copies. Not only did she say 'yes' but very kindly agreed to open this one up worldwide. Anyone can enter, it doesn't matter where you live!
All you need to do to enter is drop me an email (address at the top right hand side of the screen) telling me who you are and what your postal address is. The subject header needs to be 'Kop Killer'. I'll do everything else.

I'll let this one run until the 29th of July and will aim to announce the winners as soon as possible afterwards.

Good Luck!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Giveaway! 'The Passage' (Justin Cronin)

To mark the US release of 'The Passage' in mass market paperback (and to mark the fact that I might finally be able to read this book now it's in a more practical format...) I have three copies to give away on the blog. Before you get too excited though, this competition is only open to residents of the US and Canada. Sorry about that everyone else (although Canadian readers might be happier at being included for a change...)

You want in...?

All you need to do to enter is drop me an email (address at the top right hand side of the screen) telling me who you are and what your postal address is. The subject header needs to be 'The Passage'. I'll do everything else.

I'll let this one run until the 29th of July and will aim to announce the winners as soon as possible afterwards.

Good Luck!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Guest Review: 'Great North Road' (Peter F. Hamilton) reviewed by Steven Ellis

Steven Ellis is a regular blogger over at SFX, a good friend and the biggest fan of Peter F. Hamilton that I know. The ideal guy then (and I'm really glad he agreed) to do 'Great North Road' justice in review form. Read Steven's review and then go read all those blog he's posted :o)

I should start off by saying I’m a big fan of Peter F. Hamilton’s work; best to be honest up front and everything. I talked Graeme into letting me read the proof copy he was sent so I could read the book before its September release date. The price was this review. As I said; I’m a big Hamilton fan, I can remember picking up The Reality Dysfunction in W.H. Smith’s and being astounded at the giant brick of a book, to be honest I was always a little intimidated by the size. I finally took the plunge and ended up consuming the whole Night’s Dawn trilogy over the space of a month back in 1999 when I was stuck in a cast with a broken knee and nowhere to go. I’ve been a fan ever since. Hopefully this won’t colour my review.

Peter F. Hamilton’s latest novel, Great North Road, is a stand-alone story and is unconnected to any of his earlier books, so can be read in the confidence that you won’t need to be signing on to a multi-book epic and you don’t need to have read his earlier work to jump on. For people who haven’t dipped into the worlds of PFH it’s a great book to start with.

The book is set in 2143 and has two main threads; the first is pretty much a police procedural and concerns the hunt for a killer; high ranking member of the important North family is found murdered in Newcastle. The death links to another North murder committed years early, the jailed perpetrator of which has always professed her innocence and maintained that “Aliens did it.”
The second thread follows an expedition to a very strange, and little explored, colony world called St. Libra; the planet on which the original North murder was committed. The two plots are linked in various ways and by various characters which become more and more apparent as the story progresses and both the investigation and the expedition being to run into problems from within and without. The book also has flashbacks scattered throughout which reveal clues and character history that inform the current events as they unfold.

Hamilton is an old hat at complex world building and he’s on great form here. His depiction of the high tech future police procedures, the organisation and staging of the expedition and the various other aspects of the society he creates are brilliantly thought out. The nature and history of the North family is particularly interesting although I was reminded of Hamilton’s earlier Confederation universe at times. These interstellar societies all start to look the same after a while.

Character- wise the book has many interesting and engaging people; from weary Newcastle police officer Sid Hurst and his investigative team through to Angela Tramelo, who after her many years in prison is probably the most complex and layered of the protagonists in the book. The various members of the expedition and peripheral characters are all engaging and Hamilton manages to inject a decent amount of depth into even the smallest of background player. Hamilton has written more interesting characters in previous books but on the whole it’s a good ensemble cast who carry the story well.

As is pretty much guaranteed with Hamilton, the book is huge, clocking in at nearly 1100 pages. He always give good value for money in a book and if I had one issue to bring up about this and PFH’s writing in general it’s that he tells big engrossing and all encompassing tales but he’s often let down by his endings. Not that
Great North Road
has a bad ending; it’s just that the journey is so good and when it comes to an end it’s very difficult to do that journey justice. Great
North Road
has one of those 100 years later type epilogues and I found myself not wanting to see this but instead wanting to read and find out about the stories which may have occurred in those intervening years. I wanted the book to keep going. To keep telling me tales of these characters and worlds and that isn’t a bad thing, far form it, but alas, all good things must end. I wouldn’t however, not say no to a sequel to this book at some point.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, the book is a great read, full of interesting characters, great action wonderful tech and a very engaging central mystery and it rips along at a fair old pace. I heartily recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of space opera, future tech or anyone who just likes a damn good yarn.

Eight out of Ten

Thursday, 19 July 2012

‘Batman vs The Undead’ – Kevin VanHook and Tom Mandrake (DC Comics)

Every so often I have to stop and ask myself whether the whole zombie thing has just got a little too much now, at least for me anyway. I actually asked myself this question, just the other day, when I saw a book called ‘White Trash Zombie’ on the shelves in Forbidden Planet. The title looked pretty cool, it was the blurb that killed it for me there. Let’s just say that the rapacious need of Urban Fantasy to assimilate everything knows no bounds…
The bottom line is that if you have too much of the good stuff then it just gets boring after a while. It’s not even a question of something not being new anymore, more like it being the same as everything else. That’s not a good thing for me, not when I feel like I’ve already read the really cool stuff.

It’s a good job then that zombie fiction shares some of the same traits that can be found in zombies themselves. I’m talking about that sheer bloody minded ‘never give up and keep on going’ attitude that the walking dead possess in abundance. There may be some dross out there but there are still some gems to be found in the relentless tide of zombie fiction headed your way. Gems like ‘Batman vs The Undead’…
I missed this book when it first came out, not really following the DC line at all, but it eventually reached me via a trip to the library to pick up some books for Hope. I’m glad Sue keeps an eye open for books that I might like, this one was a bit of a treat.

Professor Herbert Coombs has been wrongly released from Arkham Asylum and is free to continue with his great work, reanimating the dead so that they might serve him. His quest takes him to New Orleans and a museum of the dead, talk about a great place to pick up raw materials…
Batman lies in wait for Coombs but will he be enough to overcome the ravening hordes of the dead? He may have allies but, as the dead grow stronger, they might not prove to be enough either.

‘Batman vs The Undead’ looks like a very quick read on the surface (no page numbers but it is definitely a slim volume) but there is a lot to grip you once you get going. Not least of this is Tom Mandrake’s artwork. This can sometimes feel a little rushed (although this happens when there’s action, an intentional move maybe?) but is dripping with atmosphere and tension for the rest of the time. Mandrake draws a mean zombie and that’s all you really need from a book like this, especially when the denizens of the museum come to ‘life’. It’s not just zombies either, Mandrake also has a fine line in vampires and werewolves. This book is full of panels that I could just sit and stare at, they are so well drawn.

With such a fine backdrop to work against, I more or less assumed that VanHook’s tale would be its equal. It was but only in parts. Things kick off a little too simplistically, Batman fights zombies and… that’s it. To be fair, zombies can’t do a lot else but even so, I felt like the story wanted to get going but couldn’t. As it turned out, I didn’t have long to wait but it felt like it.
When things finally get going, there were plenty of twists and turns to hold my attention but the ending (when we got to it) felt a little bit too… easy. The vampire ‘just happens to know’ where a powerful white witch can be found, just when they need her. A ‘super oracle’ (Doctor Fate) turns up, very conveniently, to warn the heroes off a particular path… The vitality of the plot does suffer from being guided a little too obviously.

There is a lot of vitality left though and that is what ultimately makes ‘Batman vs The Undead’ such an absorbing read (that and the artwork). The pace doesn’t let up for a minute and really gears things up for an explosive finale. You also get to see Batman's faith in science pushed to the limit by a foe that is entirely supernatural (and just keeps coming). Maybe zombie fiction is losing its freshness (pun definitely intended) but ‘Batman vs The Undead’ will keep me ticking over for a while yet.

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

Which cover would you go for? 'Some Kind of Fairy Tale' (Graham Joyce)

You know how it goes... A UK publisher will send me a book and then a US publisher will send their edition of the same book. Sometimes it goes the other way round :o) I'm not going to read both of them but always end up wanting to give the 'other book' a chance at some blog time, so... The 'Which cover would you go for?' posts were born.

This time round, the UK and US editions of Graham Joyce's 'Some Kind of Fairy Tale' face off in a battle that will only be decided by your votes (which go in the comments section). First up though, some blurb...

It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected phonecall from his parents, asking him to come round. It pulls him away from his wife and children and into a bewildering mystery.

He arrives at his parents house and discovers that they have a visitor. His sister Tara. Not so unusual you might think, this is Christmas after all, a time when families get together. But twenty years ago Tara took a walk into the woods and never came back and as the years have gone by with no word from her the family have, unspoken, assumed that she was dead. Now she's back, tired, dirty, dishevelled, but happy and full of stories about twenty years spent travelling the world, an epic odyssey taken on a whim.

But her stories don't quite hang together and once she has cleaned herself up and got some sleep it becomes apparent that the intervening years have been very kind to Tara. She really does look no different from the young women who walked out the door twenty years ago. Peter's parents are just delighted to have their little girl back, but Peter and his best friend Richie, Tara's one time boyfriend, are not so sure. Tara seems happy enough but there is something about her. A haunted, otherworldly quality. Some would say it's as if she's off with the fairies. And as the months go by Peter begins to suspect that the woods around their homes are not finished with Tara and his family...

My copy has been waiting, on the pile, for me to be in the mood to pick it up, mood is so important to my reading choices these days... It will be read though.
But what about those covers? Check em' out,

The US Cover.

The UK Cover.

My money is on the UK cover, purely because it doesn't look like a badly staged photograph with a smoke machine just out of sight... I've never been a fan of 'photo covers' actually; if they're not done right then they look awful and I'm yet to come across one that looks 'right' to me.

That's what I think anyway, how about you? Go on, leave a comment :o)

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

So, I was asked a whole load of questions...

And I answered them all over at A Fantastical Librarian. Click Here to see what led me to talk about zombies, the publisher/blogger relationship debate, strawberry Fruitella and Peppa Pig :o)
Don't stop there though! Once you're done reading the interview, stick around to see what else Mieneke has going on at her blog. There's plenty of it and it's all good...

‘Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric’ (1989)

You might see a few of these posts appear, over the next couple of days, due to a combination of my working round the corner from Forbidden Planet (money is made to be spent) and Sue & Hope being elsewhere for a couple of days. I get to watch some Doctor Who instead of ‘Happy Feet’ or ‘Peppa Pig’. It’s. Like. Heaven…


If you talk to people (of a certain age) about Doctor Who the conversation inevitably includes the phrase ‘hiding behind the sofa’. It just does. Having seen a couple of really old episodes I have no idea why people felt the urge to do this back in the day but there you go.
We certainly never hid behind the sofa in the eighties when I did the bulk of my ‘Doctor Who watching’. This was probably because our parents kept telling us it wasn’t real (although thinking about it, I imagine they were trying to convince themselves so they didn’t end up hiding behind the sofa again…)
I never hid behind the sofa, not once, but there was one story that scared me so much that, when I went to bed, I hid under my duvet and didn’t come out until the next day. That story was ‘The Curse of Fenric’ and I watched it again last night. A couple of Southern Comfort & cokes made the whole thing a little less scary but I still found myself locking the back door. There were noises out in the garden…

The Doctor and Ace find themselves at a secret military base, during the Second World War, where elements of the British army are about to lure their Russian allies into a deadly trap. A far deadlier trap is about to be sprung though as an ancient evil stirs beneath the waters of the bay and an old Viking Curse comes to fruition. Only those with faith will survive and, even then, they may not have much left afterwards…

I’m as guilty as the next person of thinking of the old Doctor Who series as slightly shoddy affairs with wobbly sets and guys dressed up as aliens who are always conveniently defeated at the very last second. ‘The Curse of Fenric’ is actually a really sly piece of horror that creeps up on you and delivers chills right when you least expect them. I’m talking clawed hands rising out of the sea to drag down soldiers and a church under siege by mouldy looking vampires that have risen from a watery grave (they do look suspiciously rubbery but no less scary for that). There are really nasty echoes of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ here and watching ‘The Curse of Fenric’ did have me wondering if that was where it all started for me and my love of zombies. Maybe…

It’s not all about the obvious horror though. The horror of war is examined in pretty close detail, for a show that was Saturday teatime viewing, and you get to see how this affects people’s faith in different ways. It all boils down to how much you believe in what you’re fighting for. When the curse of Fenric really takes hold this can mean the difference between life and death (yours)…

The story itself is very tightly plotted (with a couple of exceptions) and shows roots in previous stories. It all ties together very well although I had very little idea what Ace was talking about half the time (attempts at deep and meaningful falling flat here) and I did have to wonder how effective the big villain really was. I mean, would you kill off your troops when the battle was still being fought? No, me neither…

Sylvester McCoy makes up for a lot of this though with a dark, brooding performance that hints at a battle fought outside the confines of the TV show; a battle that I wouldn’t mind reading more about.

All in all then, ‘The Curse of Fenric’ is as unsettling now as it was back in 1989 and it stands up pretty well to the test of time. It’s not often that one of these DVDs has me looking for the book but I’m seriously tempted…

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Adam Christopher at Forbidden Planet (again!)

From the press release,

Following his astounding debut, ADAM CHRISTOPHER will be reading from and signing an exclusive limited edition of his new novel SEVEN WONDERS (Angry Robot) at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore on Thursday 6th September from 6 – 7pm.

Tony Prosdocimi lives in the bustling Metropolis of San Ventura – a city gripped in fear, a city under siege by the hooded supervillain, The Cowl. When Tony develops super-powers and acts to take down The Cowl, however, he finds that the local superhero team Seven Wonders aren’t as grateful as he assumed they’d be…

"This is traditional heroism with a decidedly wicked and iconoclastic twist. Inventive, engaging, bewitching, and delightful, a feast as much for fans of the tropes as for the innocents amongst us." - Greg Rucka, New York Times bestselling author of Alpha, The Punisher and Batman

“A blast of pure pleasure. This is Watchmen meets NYPD Blue, while The Incredibles stroll by; fast-moving action infused with Christopher’s infectious love of pulp fiction and the superhero genre.” - Philip Palmer, author of Version 43, Hell Ship and Artemis

I have a copy of 'Seven Wonders' waiting to be read although I still have a copy of 'Empire State' waiting to be read as well. I guess I just haven't been in the mood for superhero fiction just recently (which is probably why I couldn't get into 'Turbulence' the other day). Will definitely give it a go though, have any other bloggers read 'Seven Wonders' yet?
As far as the signing goes, I really want to go but Thursday evenings aren't good these days. We'll see what happens there...

A Quick Question About M. John Harrison

No, not that question... And not that other question either ;o)

There's a lot of other stuff going on right now and I totally missed the publication of Harrison's 'Empty Space: A Haunting'. If it hadn't come through the door yesterday morning I would have probably missed it completely...

An alien research tool the size of a brown dwarf star hangs in the middle of nowhere, as a result of an attempt to place it equidistant from everything else in every possible universe. Somewhere in the fractal labyrinth beneath its surface, a woman lies on an allotropic carbon deck, a white paste of nanomachines oozing from the corner of her mouth. She is neither conscious nor unconscious, dead nor alive. There is something wrong with her cheekbones. At first you think she is changing from one thing into another -- perhaps it's a cat, perhaps it's something that only looks like one -- then you see that she is actually trying to be both things at once. She is waiting for you, she has been waiting for you for perhaps 10,000 years. She comes from the past, she comes from the future. She is about to speak...

I was about to get stuck in (despite everything else) when I realised that 'Empty Space' is actually the third book in a trilogy, 'Light' and 'Nova Swing' being the previous two. So my question is... Have any of you guys read 'Light' or 'Nova Swing'? I'm trying to get a feel for how well 'Empty Space' might stand on its own as I don't really have the time to go back and get caught up.

All comments welcome :o)

Monday, 16 July 2012

'Avengers: Hawkeye' - Gruenwald, Grant, Lee, Byrne, Heck (Marvel)

I never got round to seeing the 'Avengers' movie (that's another one I'll be waiting for on DVD...) but I couldn't help but see all the posters, I'll bet you couldn't either, and found myself wondering who the grumpy looking guy was. You know, the one with the bow and arrow...

Turns out that the grumpy looking guy is Hawkeye; one of the only Avengers (as far as I know) who doesn't have a superpower, he's just very fit and good with a bow and arrow. Is that enough to be a member of the world's mightiest group of heroes though? That's what got me intrigued and when I saw the 'Hawkeye' collection on offer in 'The Works' (it's always worth checking out 'The Works' if there's one in your area)I couldn't help picking it up.

As with the 'Earth's Mightiest' collection, that I read recently, there wasn't really anything here that made me immediately want to rush out and get caught up with Hawkeye's adventureds. It was a fun and somewhat absorbing read though (with artwork that may be dated but is easy to get into) so I can't really complain :o)

From what I could tell here, Hawkeye has never really featured in his own comic so there was only a few mini-series that were eligible to be collected here. With there only being so much you can pack into a mini-series, what you get then is essentially Hawkeye facing off against the foe du jour and, eventually, coming out on top (unless he's fighting an Avenger then it defaults to a draw). It doesn't look like much of a plot, on the surface, and it isn't really. Luckily for the reader though, the writers do attempt to flesh things out as much as they can with a few insights, here and there, into what actually makes Hawkeye tick.

There may not be much room to show us but what we do see hints at a very interesting character who I think deserves a little more screen time than he actually gets. Hawkeye doesn't have any superpowers and knows that he has a lot to live up if he's going to be an Avenger; he's a guy who pushes himself to his limits and sets himself really high standards to follow. When he fails (through no fault of his own) Hawkeye can sink into a real depression although he never gives up trying to do the right thing. You've got to admire a guy who is never going to quite cut it, in the illustrious company that he keeps, but never lets that beat him. That's what kept me reading anyway.

Another approach that the writers take here is to flesh things out a little further with tales of Mockingbird, the SHIELD spy who falls for Hawkeye. The reader gets a little extra background on another character (and a more covert part of the Marvel universe that I was never really aware of) and this helps Hawkeye's character develop a little further. Everyone wins here I think (although having said that, the Mockingbird/Huntress tales do shift the attention from the guy who is meant to be the whole point of the book...)

Mockingbird's tales are a little deeper in nature because of the subject matter, espionage and loads of double crossing intrigue. As a result then, the book as a whole offers a good balance between 'beat em' up' and spy tales. Things don't have a chance to get stuck in a rut here as we're constantly switching between different types of stories.

'Avengers: Hawkeye' looks fairly straightforward on the the surface then but there is plenty going on once you get more into it. Ultimately it didn't prove enough to be really inspiring but it was plenty enough to make for a fun weekend read (especially given the hangover I was nursing at one point but that's another story)

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A couple of books arrived in the post...

And I just wanted to quickly mention them before I run off and start getting ready for work tomorrow.

Arrested by the Ald, scholar Bon Ugane and merwoman Leki Borle find themselves on a prison ship bound for the island of Skythe - a barren land and the site of long-ago wars.
Warped and ruined by the ancient conflict, survival on the island is tough and its original inhabitants are neither friendly nor entirely still human. But something else waits on the island, a living weapon whose very existence is a heresy. Destroyed many years ago, it silently begins to clutch at life once more.

For my money, Tim Lebbon doesn't get the attention he deserves as a very fine writer of... well, whatever he turns his hand to really. Check out a few of my reviews and you'll see what I mean. Give 'Echo City' a go if nothing else. 'The Heretic Lands' has muscled its way into the top end of the reading pile so you can expect a review soon(ish).

The game is afoot!

London's geniuses are being picked off by a vicious killer, and Emma Bannon, a sorceress in the service of the Empire, must protect the next target, Archibald Clare. Unfortunately he's more interested in solving the mystery of the murders than staying alive . . .

In a world where illogical magic has turned the Industrial Revolution on its head, Bannon and Clare will face dark sorcery, cannon fire, high treason and the vexing problem of reliably finding hansom cabs in the city.

Is Steampunk the new Urban Fantasy? I for one hope so, I really do (but I'm pretty much indifferent to nine tenths of Urban Fantasy so there you go). It would be refreshing to see something else on the shelves I have to say. I will give 'The Iron Wyrm Affair' a go but 'The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities' is a slice of Steampunk that looks far more appealing right now. Look out for a review of that instead.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Cover Art : 'The Goon #40' (Shameless Fan-Boy Edition)

In the absence of anything else to post today (it's been a slow day like that...) have a little cover art action courtesy of Eric Powell and 'The Goon'...

Back in his teenage days when Prohibition was going on, Goon used to hot-rod moonshine past the law for fun and profit. That is, until he ran into a gang of gearhead rockabilly ghouls out for blood!

Issue 40 is up for pre-ordering apparently :o)

It's no secret that I love 'The Goon' and I reckon that if you give it a go then you'll love 'The Goon' too. Cover art like this is one of the reasons why. I haven't read this issue yet (obviously) but I'll tell you now that the art inside will be just as good as what's on the cover. I like being able to pick up a  comic with that in mind :o)

So give 'The Goon' a go then, if you're into gorgeously drawn pulp stylings then you really can't go wrong with this title...

Friday, 13 July 2012

'Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet' - Gerry Davis (BBC Books)

When I was a kid, if you missed an episode of Doctor Who that was pretty much that. If you wanted to find out what happened then you had to rely on a friend at school having seen it and that they were happy to tell you. If that wasn't bad enough, by the time I was old enough to watch Doctor Who I'd already missed something like twenty years of episodes that wouldn't be released on video for at least another ten years. Thank goodness for the Target novelisations then (and the library bus that used to park up by the shopping centre); I was able to catch up on a whole load of stuff, some of which I wasn't even aware of until I saw it on the shelves.

BBC Books have been quietly republishing these books, just recently, and I thought it would be fun to have a read and revisit a few childhood favourites (to see how they've stood up to the passing of time and also because I've needed a little comfort reading just recently). I vaguely remember reading 'The Tenth Planet', years ago, so was pleased to see it on the list of re-issued books...

The Doctor and his companions find themselves at the North Pole where a military base has picked up signs of a tenth planet that has entered the solar system and is approaching Earth. As the planet draws closer, it begins to drain energy from Earth at a startling rate. The Doctor knows of this planet, and what will soon be visiting the Earth from its surface, but as the Cybermen attack, and take over, the base the Doctor is unable to help in the way that he normally would. The Doctor is dying...

The whole point of the Target novelisations was that, on the whole, they were very faithful to what you would have seen in each episode. It was basically like watching a DVD but in book form. I think the problem here though was that sometimes the book could be a little too faithful and this didn't transfer very well to the page. This was certainly the case with 'The Tenth Planet' with a lot of attention being paid to the plight of a spacecraft caught in the pull of the (tenth) planet Mondas. I'm sure this would have been suitably tense on the screen but here all we get are a lot of 'technical speak' that doesn't really tell the reader what is happening. When the fate of the shuttle is finally revealed I was surprised to see that it was in that much trouble in the first place...

The rest of the book is a lot better, in this respect, with a clear picture painted of what is going on. The white backdrop of the North Pole does a good job of highlighting the drama being played out and there is plenty of drama with the Doctor out of action and his companions forced to fall back on their own ingenuity if there is to be any chance of survival. This was quite an interesting spin on what you'd normally see in a Doctor Who book or TV show (at least it was for me) with a lot of the focus on the companions Ben and Polly. Both of these characters really rise to the challenge (Ben in particular) and the reader gets a tale that feels a lot fresher as a result (even though you know how it has to end). The Cybermen come across as very slow and cumbersome but are no less fearsome for that and I couldn't help but wince, on certain occasions, as I just knew that one of the human characters was about to get their comeuppance...

At only a hundred and fifty seven pages long, 'The Tenth Planet' is a quick read and maybe one that isn't up to a deeper examination. It does its job but no more than that and that makes me wonder if the book (or any of the others in the series) would appeal to people who weren't already fans of the show. I enjoyed it though; there's a lot happening with an air of suspense that you don't normally come across in this setting. Looking forward to reading the next one...

Eight out of Ten

Some Solaris Cover Art...

A couple of books, from Solaris, arrived last night and they got me thinking... You're a publisher with two books that you want to sell really well. Cover art sells a book (no doubt about it, if not to serious fans then definitely to the casual browser) so what do you do? This is what Solaris did...

Did the cover art budget only stretch to a 'book and a half' or are people banking on 'Besieged' being the book that shifts the most copies? Hardly seems fair on 'Hush' either way. I would have thought that if you want both books to sell then you give both of them a decent cover...

Out of some weird sense of solidarity (what? I'm tired...) I'll be giving 'Hush' a go as soon as I finish 'Mockingbird', even though I haven't read the prequel 'Greatshadow'. Sometimes you've got to stick up for the little guy ;o)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

'Elric: The Balance Lost Volume 2' - Roberson, Biagini (Boom! Studios)

The Eternal Champion is cursed to forever wander the moonbeam roads of the multiverse (in many incarnations), fighting for both Law and Chaos but always bound to serve the needs of the Cosmic Balance. He will never know a moments peace and will die when an unfeeling multiverse no longer has any use for him. I, on the other hand, get to read all these stories and have a fine time doing so (not having to worry about my own cosmic allegiances and whether I will perish at the hands of my own traitorous sword...) I definitely get the better end of the deal here :o)

The standard of the tales is consistently good, to the extent that I'm now happy to venture outside Moorcock's original books and check out works in the same setting by different authors. Enter one Chris Roberson, an author whose work I have never been able to get into (let alone finish) until he started work on the 'Balance Lost' series. I would have picked these books up anyway, no matter who the writer was, but I thought that Roberson did a very good job with the first volume. Check out my review HERE and you'll see what I mean.

When I saw Volume 2 on the shelves then... Well, I didn't need much of an excuse to pick it up ('Bad day in the office blahblahblah... Oh look, comic book!') and take it to the counter straight away, fighting not to open it and start reading before I'd paid. Volume 2 is a lot of fun again and it looks like some of the issues I had with the previous book aren't issues anymore.

Eric Beck was a computer game designer plagued by dreams that have turned out to be so much more... Beck's dreams are in fact the reality of the multiverse and his many guises as the Eternal Champion. Now Eric Beck faces a fight that he is unprepared for but must succeed in; nothing less than the fate of the multiverse itself is at stake as the Cosmic Balance has been lost leaving Law and Chaos free to drag whole worlds into oblivion. Beck, Elric, Corum and Hawkmoon must travel into realms hitherto unknown, if they are to put things right, and they are up against enemies (of both Law and Chaos) who will take some beating.

The real danger lies out of sight though. Who is pulling the strings that have finally enabled the gods to go to war...?

While Volume One was all about setting the scene (a little bit too much if you ask me...), Roberson lets the story have its head a little here and the result is a pulp caper in all the best traditions of Moorcock. The stakes are high (they can't get much higher in fact) and the action is furious as a result. It doesn't let up for one moment and I found it incredibly easy to keep turning the pages bceause of this. We're talking a lot of fun here, plain and simple.

With the scene having been set, Volume Two has a little more time to get into Eric Beck's head so we can see what he is all about. It's a little disappointing then that we don't get to see an awful lot. It's all about the plot here and that's fair enough up to a point, it would have been nice to get some more characterisation though. I think the assumption here is that readers will know about the Eternal Champion mythos already and probably know the three heroes from several of the books. All well and good if you do by what if you don't? I'd say that these comics aren't a bad place to jump on board but a little more background is always useful. And as far as Eric Beck goes, I wonder if perhaps a little too much time was spent showing us how he displays the traits of the Champion (and not enough time showing us what else there is to his character)...

It's the power of the story that got me through these rocky patches and has me eager to see how it all pans out in the next volume (roll on October!) Biagini's art contributes, in no small way, to the overall affect; you really get to see his imagination run wild in the scenes outside besieged Tanelorn. What I did notice though was that scenes of quick moving action inevitably resulted in artwork that felt more than a little rushed. This was probably the affect that was aimed for but a little bit more polish here would have made all the difference.

Minor quibbles though when you're faced with a comic book that is this much fun. I would have been around for Volume Three anyway but the cliffhanger ending sealed the deal...

Eight and a Half out of Ten

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

'Wake of the Bloody Angel' - Alex Bledsoe (Tor)

In fantasy worlds where the focus is usually on warfare, magic or intrigue it makes for refreshing reading to see a 'down on his luck' private eye touting for business and, more often than not, getting into more trouble than he can handle. I like fantasy fiction and I love reading a little Raymond Chandler, every now and then, so I love to see the two collide and what this throws up. This is the big reason why I love Alex Bledsoe's 'Eddie LaCrosse' books.

Glen Cook may well have got there first, with his 'Garrett P.I.' novels, but Bledsoe seems more willing to 'welcome his readers in' rather than adopt Cook's 'take it or leave it' approach. Bledsoe wants you to enjoy his tale so gives it that extra degree of accessibility, it works for me :o)

Without too much more beating around the bush, I've been sat on an advance copy of 'Wake of the Bloody Angel' (not literally, you know what I mean...) for a while now, having reviewed the ARC of 'Burn Me Deadly' far too early and wanting to balance things out a bit. I've been in need of a good read just recently (long story...) and so it felt like just the right time to pick up 'Wake of the Bloody Angel' and give it a read.

Blurb copied and pasted from elsewhere (every second saved and all that...)

Twenty years ago, a barmaid in a harbor town fell for a young sailor who turned pirate to make his fortune. But what truly became of Black Edward Tew remains a mystery—one that has just fallen into the lap of freelance sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse.

For years, Eddie has kept his office above Angelina’s tavern, so when Angelina herself asks him to find out what happened to the dashing pirate who stole her heart, he can hardly say no—even though the trail is two decades old. Some say Black Edward and his ship, The Bloody Angel, went to bottom of the sea, taking with it a king’s fortune in treasure. Others say he rules a wealthy, secret pirate kingdom. And a few believe he still sails under a ghostly flag with a crew of the damned.

To find the truth, and earn his twenty-five gold pieces a day, Eddie must take to sea in the company of a former pirate queen in search of the infamous Black Edward Tew…and his even more legendary treasure.

Summertime commuting in London is one of my least favourite things about living here. If you're wondering why; cram as many people as you can into a greenhouse and then stand in it while the sun is blazing down on your head. Don't step out for at least twenty minutes. That was my train outside London Bridge this morning. Roll on autumn!

'Wake of the Bloody Angel' came at just the right time for me then. It didn't make the commute go any faster but it made it a hell of a lot more bearable.

'Wake' doesn't really do anything new and I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not (at least not for the long term readers)... On the one hand, there's no hanging around waiting for things to develop. You know what you're getting with an 'Eddie LaCrosse' novel and Bledsoe serves it up to you straight away so you can get reading. Eddie gets working on a case, he finds clues that only make sense after he's made some wrong decisions, a couple of nasty surprises later and Eddie solves the case. That's the previous three books in a nutshell and 'Wake of the Bloody Angel' is no different.

Now that's cool if that's what you're after. It certainly worked for me but only up to a point though... I like a story where things just happen, without having to be laboriously set up first, and that's what you get here with 'Wake'. A lot of room is freed up for the good stuff, all the more exciting as we're talking about a plot set on the high seas here. There are sword fights all over the place, hidden islands, ghosts and sea monsters where you least expect them. Bledsoe strikes a fine balance between moments of all out action (a keen eye for spectacle is on display here) and the moments of inactivity that you can't escape from when you're on a boat in the middle of nowhere. This means that you may not get a fast paced tale but it all feels very smooth in the way that the plot moves forward. It's a lot of fun to read on that score.

There are some surprises throughout the book but these are all found on the way and are incidental to the case itself. No big deal here but it does highlight the fact that the case doesn't spring any big surprises, not the kind that Bledsoe was looking to spring anyway. The resolution here feels mechanical and a little too smooth; everything slots together far too easily, early on, and you can see what's coming...

No big deal though surely? Like I said, 'Wake of the Bloody Angel' is a lot of fun to read and took my mind off some lowpoints of the day. My mind keeps coming back to the whole thing about 'formula' though. I've already said that this isn't necessarily a bad thing here but the point is that when you're writing to a formula things get a bit... well, formulaic. I'm starting to get a feel for what is supposed to happen where with Eddie LaCrosse and it felt like just a little bit of the fun had gone. I was reading for the pulp swashbuckling heroics (loads of these) but I found I wasn't reading to be surprised anymore. And I want to be surprised... Maybe that's the price we pay for books that are more accessible.

While I had a lot of fun with 'Wake of the Bloody Angel' it felt like things were starting to get a little too familiar in lots of little ways. No big deal if you're after a fun read, maybe a bit more of a deal if you're with the series for the long term and want to see things develop. This isn't going to stop me being around for the next book, I just hope that Bledsoe has a few surprises for me...

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

New series by 'Double Dead' and 'Blackbirds' writer to debut in 2013

From the press release...

Don't look up. Don't send your prayers skyward. Because the gods aren't in the sky. They're here. All of them.
After publishing Chuck Wendig’s debut novel Double Dead, in 2011 Abaddon Books is proud to announce that it is set to publish a brand new title from the inimitable author of Blackbirds.
Gods and Monsters: Unclean Spirits, the first title in a brand new shared world series, will debut in summer 2013 with Wendig’s characteristically sharp, take-no-prisoners style sure to win him even more fans.
Exiled to Earth, the gods now walk amongst us, bringing with them their children and their servants and their monsters. Their power is a mere fraction of what it once was, but even a mote of divine magic is awesome - in the truest sense of the word.
Cason Cole knows this firsthand. He's been serving the gods for the better part of a decade, their leash fastened tight around his neck. But when his most recent divine master gets killed - a thing Cason didn't even know could happen - he finds himself once more a free man. All he's got left is a burning need for vengeance against the very gods who forced him to kneel, but he'll soon discover that getting revenge against the gods is no easy feat. He'll have to put his life, love, sanity and soul on the line. Will he pay the cost? How priceless is his wrath?

I am all over this new series when it comes out. Chuck Wendig has done right by me with the books of his that I've read ('Double Dead', 'Blackbirds', started reading 'Mockingbird' last night...) so I'm looking forward to more of the same. Don't let me down Chuck... ;o)

P.S. Because Joey Hi-Fi's covers are consistently awesome, here's the cover art for 'Mockingbird'...

 Told you it was awesome :o)

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

'Pandemonium Stocking Stuffer 2011' - Edited by Anne C. Perry (Jurassic)

So I've finally installed the Kindle app on my phone and can read books off it! It's like the twenty first century has finally allowed me to be a part of things (having a smart phone still feels like I'm in an episode of 'Star Trek' though). I always catch up with technology later than everyone else...

This doesn't mean that I'll be accepting ebooks for review, not at all, as I've got plenty enough to be reading as it is. What it does mean though is that if I see some free reading that catches my eye then it will be on my Kindle app before you know it. Free reading like the 'Pandemonium Stocking Stuffer 2011' for instance.

Christmas 2011 has been and gone but Kindle books sit on Amazon forever and sometimes they get given away for free, presumably to drum up a bit more interest in other books that aren't free. Whatever the reason, I'd missed out on other 'Jurassic' books so decided to take the opportunity to have a little look while I didn't have to pay for it. It's a good little read and I'd recommend you give it a shot if you have a Kindle.

The 'Stocking Stuffer' isn't a huge read at all (the clue is in the name people!) weighing in at something like forty pages on my phone. It's incredibly easy to get into though, so easy in fact that it can feel a little longer than it actually is. All three authors on display here appear very adept at using the little space they have to give you enough background scenery to balance out the actual plot. Archie Black's 'Villainy Fair' doesn't quite hit the spot here but, to be fair, I don't think it's meant to (being entirely based around the content of a particular conversation, the background doesn't matter at all here).

The 'Stocking Filler's' introduction sets out the main theme, tying three very different stories together, as being how speculative fiction can still be about looking back instead of just looking forward all the time. There's new ground waiting to be trodden but 'there's still plenty of fun to be had in our old stomping grounds.' If the 'Stocking Filler' is anything to go by then this is definitely the case as there's a lot of fun to be had here.

Things kick off with Osgood Vance's 'The Season' and I've got to admit that I wasn't too sure about seeing another dig at the tired old 'stable boy with a destiny' trope. Not that it doesn't deserve the odd poke but it's such an easy target that I'd much rather see people take aim at something else. I shouldn't have worried though. Vance gave me enough action to keep things exciting whilst taking a look at just how the mechanics, and administration, of destiny might work (and what this might mean if you're not very good at your job...) I wasn't planning on chuckling but couldn't help myself with this tale of what looked like medieval pest controllers (seriously, check out the 'Dark Lords' here).

After that, we get Den Patrick's 'The Shock of the New'. I liked the play on words here as the reader gets a look at the introduction of new weaponry into an alternate First World War along with at least one other shock along the way. This isn't so much a story as it is a 'moment in a story' and I'd quite happily read the rest if this was ever expanded upon. Patrick builds up the tension and then lets it all go with the help of one Mr Tesla, 'explosive' isn't the word for it and I also enjoyed the understated banter between Harry and Valente.

We end with the aforementioned 'Villainy Fair' and again, I wasn't looking forward to this tale of 'fantasyland seen through the eyes of a minority'. I mean, it's not like we haven't seen this done before... I should have paid a little more attention to that introduction. This kind of thing has been done before but that didn't make 'Villainy Fair' any the less fun to read. Archie Black's Demon Queens come across as so put upon, and hacked off with the whole thing (and wouldn't you be?), that you can't help but feel for them and laugh when they get really bitchy about their male counterparts. It's all so down to earth, in a good way, and that's the bait that Black uses so effectively to hook her readers.

'The Stocking Stuffer 2011' would have made for a great Christmas present (last year) and it still makes for a thoroughly entertaining read in the middle of (what is currently passing for) summer. I didn't even notice the commute while I was reading (and that's pretty high praise given how much I hate commuting). Pick it up now, if I hadn't picked it up already then I would.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

Monday, 9 July 2012

Gaie Sebold to pen sequel to her debut novel, Babylon Steel

From the press release...

Solaris is delighted to announce that author Gaie Sebold is to follow up her fantastically well-received debut, Babylon Steel.

With a bold frankness that eschews fantasy’s usual reluctance to deal with sex and gender politics, Sebold has conceived one of the most stunning and well-realised female characters in the genre – ex-mercenary turned brothel owner Babylon Steel.

And Babylon is set to return in Dangerous Gifts, which will be published in February 2013.

Babylon Steel runs the best brothel in Scalentine, city of portals. She’s escaped her past and it’s all going pretty well. Apart, that is, from the racial conflict and economic misery boiling up in Scalentine.

Her lover, Chief Bitternut of the City Militia, is trying to keep the lid on, while hunting a killer whose real target is a lot closer than he knows. Just as things are getting really tense, Babylon is forced to take another job. Bodyguard to Enthemmerlee Entaire: symbol of hope or object of disgust for most of her country’s population, and a prime target for assassination, along with anyone who happens to be in the way. Such as her bodyguard.

Unintentionally dragging a very annoyed government employee along in her wake, Babylon struggles to turn Enthemmerlee’s squabbling household guard from liability into security, dodge the rigid Moral Statutes of Incandress, and keep both herself and her client alive. She soon realises that the situation is far worse than she thought, her past hasn’t quite let go of her yet, and she will be driven to a choice that will have far-reaching consequences…

I never got round to reading 'Babylon Steel' (although I think it might still be on the shelves somewhere...), has anyone here read it and what did you think? Would you pick up 'Dangerous Gifts'...?

The 'Wow, where did the last couple of months go...?' Competition Winner's Post!

Three more weeks in this contract and then I'm going to be looking for work again. This time round though I'm a bit more cool about it (I think). All the stuff that I was worried about, last time, didn't happen and I must know dozens of recruitment consultants by name after all the emails that I sent out. Most of all though, I'll be taking a little holiday before throwing myself into all of that :o) After the past few weeks, I'm really looking forward to that...

My reading feels like it's on a bit of an upward curve as well; I actually managed to polish two books off (over the weekend) without putting them down to start something else - that's a huge deal for me at the moment and I'm looking forward to getting at least a couple more read this week :o)
What can you expect to see, on the blog, this week? Well, you know that 'Dr Who' book I was telling you about yesterday? Yep, that will be reviewed and so will the novelisation of 'Dawn of the Dead' (I'm still trying to get my thoughts together on that one, it was a good read but...) The other plan is to get 'Wake of the Bloody Angel' finished and reviewed by the end of the week, we'll see how that goes...

Sorry, what did you say? Winners from last week's competitions...? Of course! Thanks to everyone who entered by the way, talk about having hundreds of emails to go through :o) There could only be two winners though and they were...

Milo Milton-Jefferies, North Devon, England

('Holiday Reading' Competition)
Seb Jones, Wiltshire, England

Nice work there guys, your books will be on their way very soon :o)

That's about it for me today, see you tomorrow... ;o)

Sunday, 8 July 2012

What I'm reading right now...

Due to a whole load of other things going on right now (work, ongoing legal stuff and generally feeling like something a dog just threw up...) I'm really bad at finishing books right now. I mean, I get there in the end but it's really 'stop and start' at the moment (which is even more odd as the books I'm picking up have all been very good). Here are a few of the books that I'm 'stopping and starting' on...

The main culprit :o) Every time I pick up 'The King's Blood' I think to myself, 'this is better than 'The Dragon's Path' and that was excellent'. Then I realise that another week has gone by and I've only read a chapter or two...

I totally forgot that this was on the shelves until the other day, curse you 'random shelving of books...!' The 'Eddie LaCrosse' books are a much easier going version of Glen Cook's 'Garrett P.I.' series but with a hidden edge that will cut you by surprise. I'm enjoying 'Wake of the Bloody Angel' as much as I've enjoyed Bledsoe's others.

Because 'readers block' is a great excuse to re-visit some childhood favourites and see how they measure up :o)

 Everyone else has been raving about this title (and I do mean everyone, I don't think I've heard a single bad word about 'Sharps'...) so I figured it was way past time I gave K.J. Parker another go. It's looking good so far.

 Because if there's anything that can cure 'reader's block', for me, then it's David Gemmell... surely?

 Same deal here, loads of short stories that I can dip in and out of as the mood takes me. What's also intriguing here is that one of the stories is written by John Brunner (the guy who wrote 'Stand on Zanzibar'). Definitely want to check that one out...

That's what I'm reading, how about you?