Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"The Reach" by Nate Kenyon

"The Reach"
Format: Paperback, 276 pages
Publisher: Leisure Books

Young Sarah is no ordinary girl. She’s been diagnosed as schizophrenic and locked away in a children’s psychiatric ward. But that’s not what makes her special. She also has a very strange—and powerful—gift. Scientists have been studying Sarah’s remarkable psychic power for years, enhancing it, manipulating it…twisting it into something evil. But their plans have gone horribly wrong. How much longer can they control Sarah? And what will happen if her powers are unleashed?

Nate Kenyon started his writing career with a nomination for the Bram Stoker Award for his debut novel, “Bloodstone”, and continued it with a second novel, “The Reach”, which also received a nomination for the Bram Stoker Award.

I liked how Nate Kenyon started his novel, even from the introduction part the author creates an eerie atmosphere and starts building the tension. And with each page and chapter that tension is gathering momentum, making me feel like I was watching the gathering clouds of an upcoming storm. At the time of the breaking point the author will not let loose only the gathered tension, but in the fullest his talent too, with a final scene that reminded me in the complimentary way of one particular scene from Stephen King’s “Carrie”.

Nate Kenyon doesn’t stay tight-laced in the elements of a horror novel and uses elements of other genres for building a captivating and plausible story. I liked that the author manages masterfully to create a mystery around the key figures of his novel, but also manages to keep that mystery until the last possible moment. Helping himself with many thriller elements and mixing them with supernatural ones Nate Kenyon will make a plot that makes the reader feel pinpricked and on a constant unease. And all these make in my opinion a very good horror story.

The characters, especially the main ones, are a natural presence in the story and are strongly built. Almost all of them come with a perfectly reasonable motivation, with an unsettling background and with own experiences, all more or less disturbing in their own way. Their background is logically linked with the characters present situation and will help make their actions feel natural and logical. And although some of these actions are only hinted by the author that will not make them less terrifying.

There are a couple of characters for whom I failed to find the proper place in the story. I have to admit that on one or two occasions I was left rather puzzled by the action or the motivation of a character, for example I would have liked for the author to go a bit more in depth with the motives behind Evan Wasserman’s actions. Also, on many occasions Nate Kenyon uses many technical and medical terms, but on some dialogues that will seem just a bit overused and might lose the reader.

All in all I find “The Reach” to be a very interesting and well written horror novel. And with a style that reminds me of the horror authors I fall in love with when I started reading this genre Nate Kenyon is an author who I want to read more in the future.

Monday, September 28, 2009

40th anniversary of "The Left Hand of Darkness"

Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness” is one of my all time favorite books. Since I first read it I returned a couple of times with great pleasure to the planet Winter in re-readings of the novel. This year seems like a very proper time for a re-visit to Winter, because “The Left Hand of Darkness” celebrates its 40th anniversary. I own the Romanian edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel, but I am very much tempted to buy the anniversary copy which will be released by Orbit Books UK this November (especially since I find the cover to be very appropriate for the content within).

Genly Ai is a diplomat of sorts, sent to observe the inhabitants of the snowbound planet of Winter. But the isolated, androgynous people are suspicious of this strange, single-gendered visitor. Tucked away in a remote corner of the universe, they have no knowledge of space travel or of life beyond their own world. So, bringing news of a vast coalition of planets they are invited to join, he is met with fear, mistrust and disbelief.
But also something more. For Genly Ai, who sees himself as a bringer of the truth, it is a bittersweet irony that he will discover truths about himself and, in the snow-shrouded strangeness of Winter, find both love and tragedy . . .

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Dead Souls" edited by Mark S. Deniz

"Dead Souls"
edited by Mark S. Deniz
Format: Paperback, 286 pages
Publisher: Morrigan Books

Before God created light, there was darkness. Even after He illuminated the world, there were shadows — shadows that allowed the darkness to fester and infect the unwary. The tales found within Dead Souls explore the recesses of the soul; those people and creatures that could not escape the shadows. From the inherent cruelness of humanity to malevolent forces, Dead Souls explores the depths of humanity as a lesson to the ignorant, the naive and the unsuspecting. God created light, but it is a temporary grace that will ultimately fail us, for the darkness is stronger and our souls…are truly dead.

“The Collector” by Bernie Mojzes – Zoran, a warrior, tired of the war and the horrors of war asks Baba Yaga for an end to this war and for his enemies to be driven out of his land. The story is a mix of mythology and history, with the location and the belligerent forces only hinted, but without a great importance since its development can apply to any known conflict. There is a twist within the main character wish and the story ends with the conclusion of that twist.

“Licwiglunga” by T.A. Moore – Gudrid, a nun from the early Christianity, is asked by Lawspeaker Orm to journey into Hel’s realm and to bring his fiancé back from the dead. T.A. Moore shows great talent in her story and I really liked how she played with the Norse mythology and how she crafted powerful and unsettling scenes, with a plus for me in the sequences of scenes involving Loki. The end of the story leaves the reader, besides the horror guessed behind its outcome, with a sense of justice.

“The Blind Man” by Carole Johnstone – A fisherman comes home only to face a terror settled deep within himself and in the middle of his family. Carole Johnstone doesn’t set anything clear in her story, leaving everything rather ambiguous and guessed. The reader is left to put the pieces together at the end of the reading and to discover the origin of the fisherman’s terror.

“Dry Places” by Tom English – Few monks from the Brotherhood of the Holy Veil travel through the Syrian Desert only to find themselves followed by a mysterious stalker. The story begins with a familiar scene from the Bible, but with a personal twist from Tom English. This is a quite violent and action packed story.

“Begin with Water” by Sharon Irwin – Alluna is bought from a slave trader and brought into the harem of her new owner only to fulfill her disturbing destiny. This is another story playing with a religious theme. I liked here how Sharon Irwin depicts a decaying world, with a few issues of our world disguised into her story. But the story will leave a ray of hope in the end.

“In the Name” by Robert Holt – Addu is brought to the Marduk’s temple to be sacrificed in the name of her god. This is a really short story, but enjoyable nonetheless. Especially since, leaving the terrifying elements aside, the story offers a funny and subtle irony as its outcome.

“When They Come to Murder Me” by Bill Ward – A half-god recollects his life while he awaits his execution. Well, I have to admit that, with all the respect for the author efforts, the meaning of this story slipped past me. With all the honesty I say that this story is not what I am looking for in a reading, being it longer or shorter fiction.

“The Unbedreamed” by Christopher Johnstone – While hunting, Dughall discovers a wee man in a cave working on a mysterious mixture over a pot. And that will explain quite a few things for him. A very nice story speaking of the power of dreams and what can be achieved with that power.

“Goldenthread” by Elizabeth Barette – Haimikiran tells the story of her life and that of her sister’s life. It is a sad story with a development and events very similar with a fairytale, but without a happy ending. But this story failed to engage me in the fullest and I found the main character to be a bit too whining and a bit too close to be an annoyance.

“When the Cloak Falls” by Catherine J. Gardner – Sunniva and Tristan face the farmers of Bedburg over an ancient curse. I read this story twice, because the first time I wasn’t able to put all the things together. I still can’t put my finger firmly on it, but I believe it’s a story of lycanthropy and preconceptions.

“The Price of Peace” by Anna M. Lowther – An ice storm separates Ernst and the crew of his tank from the rest of his division. Isolated, Ernst is captured by a few Russian locals. In this story an old legend comes to life through the narration of the Russian locals and Ernst will face not only a hostile enemy, but also a hostile environment. An interesting story, especially through the legend embedded within, but with an end that tends too much toward a moral conclusion.

“Your Duty to Your Lord” by James R. Stratton – Saito Otsu is an orphan, left only with two valuable swords after the death of her father. One day Lord Ieyshu, under whom her father served, hires her in his service only for Otsu to save Ieyshu’s family honor after a period of time. The author manages to catch the atmosphere and the culture of a Far East nation, Japan. Although not a horror story in its core, this tale will depict customs and values that will seem strange at some point.

“Mercy Hathaway is a Witch” by Ken Goldman – Jonathan Browne is engaged with Amelia Worthington, but he is lead by Mercy Hathaway in the nearby forest only to find out strange things about the members of his society and his fiancé. A story of witchcraft that like the one before, it captures the atmosphere and the customs of a certain period, this time set in United States near Boston.

“Immortal Beloved” by Lisa Kessler – The story teller, listening to an interpretation of the “Moonlight Sonata”, recollects his love story with Ludwig van Beethoven. Immortal beloved is the name given by Ludwig van Beethoven to an unknown person in his love letters and Lisa Kessler gives in her story an identity to the unknown lover. I find her personal interpretation to be intriguing, but interesting nonetheless.

“Subito Piano” by Lisa Kessler – Marcus, the friend of the story teller from the previous story, measures the consequences of his friend’s actions. It is unusual for an anthology such as “Dead Souls” to contain two stories from the same author, but here the second story is heavily related with the first. This second story has a different approach from the first one, with a rhythm that grows as the story advances. Lisa Kessler breaks the paragraphs of her story with the volume of the music that plays within it and the story feels like the rhythm imposed by the volume of that story. However, there is a contradiction of the first story here. Marcus in this story laments that he or his protégé will never know love, although his friend from the first story and who is in a similar situation knows an immortal love.

“The Migrant” by Michael Stone – Adolf Hitler disembarks from a train in Munich to find in the city a comrade from war and an unfortunate destiny. I am not a big fan of works that have known historical figures as main characters, because there is hard for them to change my image of that particular historical figure. But leaving this aspect aside, Michael Stone writes an imaginative story, playing with a controversy behind Hitler’s past and giving to the largest world conflict a root that goes deeper into the world history and has a biblical touch with it.

“Sandcrawlers” by Robert Hood – Mike, a private investigator, while working on a case finds himself facing painful memories from his youth. I loved this story and with ease I can say that is one of the top stories of this anthology. Robert Hood manages to inflict in his character an almost palpable terror and creates two terrifying events, a shocking horror of human nature and the psychological one, which proves on some places to be even more powerful. What I liked also at this story is that the author offers the reader some twists and turns that make the story even more interesting.

“Tatsu” by Reece Notley – Don desires an unforgettable tattoo and asks the tattoo artist Tsukoi for it. And Don will find out that the tattoo from his skin is one of the artist’s masterpieces. Again a story that successfully combines the physical pain with the psychic one, centered on a dark and disturbing character. I particularly liked the end of the story which comes with a twist that took me totally by surprise.

“Wayang Kulit” by L.J. Hayward – Scott is a tourist in Indonesia and together with his girlfriend, Kerri, and their local friend, Ramelan, he attends a puppet play which will resemble a bit too much with the story of his lifetime. As I constantly say I prefer to read psychological horror and this story fits this pattern. A traditional puppet play triggers remorse in the main character and I liked how L.J. Hayward doesn’t trace clearly the boundaries between reality and imagination and which gives more power to the story.

“Contaminator” by Rebecca Lloyd – While he makes his way into the underground station a man witnesses a random act of violence. This is a short, but powerful story, where Rebecca Lloyd manages to inflict panic, terror and a claustrophobic feeling in its few pages.

“The Dead Must Die” by Ramsey Campbell – George Saint comes to visit his brother who is hospitalized after an intervention not approved by him. This is another excellent story, in which Ramsey Campbell creates a disturbing and dark, but captivating setting and in which the interior struggle of the main character lies in the spotlight.

“The Ringing Sound of Death on the Water Tank” by Stephanie Campisi – The story teller comes to live together with his mother at the Platts’ farm only to find a fearsome figure in one of the Platt family boys. The story offers a few shocking and grotesque images and a terrorizing final scene.

“June” by Paul Finch – An undercover detective from the unconventional (strange and bizarre) crimes investigates the reasons behind the increasing violence in the month of June in the sub-division of Birmingham, Underwood. The story creates a few terrifying moments with some repellant acts of violence and with a Lovecraftian touch made by its author.

“A Shade of Yellow” by Gary McMahon – Brett Jones comes home from the Golf war with no recollection of his last actions, but with a strange memory of that last action. Almost everything is left unclear by Gary McMahon in his story, but this fact lays a strong foundation to it. This story goes deep into psychological aspects, with a same thin boundary between reality and imagination and with a rather sad than repulsive character.

“The Blue Stream” by Kaaron Warren – In the future, teenagers are sent in a facility for a few years, in order to pass their adolescence years there and this way the society to avoid their acts of disobedience. This is a story that tends more toward the Science Fiction, but a very good one nonetheless. With a very interesting concept it strongly reminded me of Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange”.

“Dead Souls” makes a journey within the human soul through time and space, taking the reader from the times of legend to a distant future, from the Northern European shores to the Far East. Mark S. Deniz gathers 25 stories that will not try to shock the reader through violent acts, but through a series of events that can change the human soul forever. Although a few of the stories are not as powerful as the others I enjoyed “Dead Souls” in the fullest and I believe that it shows within its pages the true potential of psychological terror.

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Wheel of Time" news

One of the year’s most expected titles is the 12th book in the “Wheel of Time” series, “The Gathering Storm” by Brandon Sanderson, which will be released on October 27th by Tor Books. I am certain are many fans of the series who are eagerly awaiting this book, me included, and they can’t wait to get a copy of the novel. To sweeten a bit our wait Tor Books is putting together a wonderful contest. Entitled “Fantasy Firsts Book Giveaway” the contest has as prize copies of two books written by the authors of the “Wheel of Time” series novels, “Mistborn” by Brandon Sanderson and “The Eye of the World” by Robert Jordan and an interesting concept: Remember the first time you discovered an amazing new fantasy series? Now give that gift to a friend! So if you head at the Tor Books page linked here you can find out more and sign up for this competition.

Regarding again the “Wheel of Time” series, recently Brandon Sanderson who follows the steps of the great and regretted Robert Jordan in this wonderful series of books made an announcement on his blog about the titles of the 13th and 14th books in the series, “Towers of Midnight” and “A Memory of Light”. You can find the reasons for these choices on Brandon Sanderson’s website.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Blood of Elves" by Andrzej Sapkowski

"Blood of Elves"
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Gollancz

For more than a hundred years humans, dwarves, gnomes and elves lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over and now the races once again fight each other - and themselves: dwarves are killing their kinsmen, and elves are murdering humans and elves, at least those elves who are friendly to humans . . .
Into this tumultuous time is born a child for whom the witchers of the world have been waiting. Ciri, the granddaughter of Queen Calanthe, the Lioness of Cintra, has strange powers and a stranger destiny, for prophecy names her the Flame, one with the power to change the world - for good, or for evil . . .
Geralt, the witcher of Rivia, has taken Ciri to the relative safety of the Witchers' Settlement, but it soon becomes clear that Ciri isn't like the other witchers. As the political situation grows ever dimmer and the threat of war hangs almost palpably over the land, Geralt searches for someone to train Ciri's unique powers. But someone else has an eye on the young girl, someone who understand exactly what the prophecy means - and exactly what Ciri's power can do.
This time Geralt may have met his match.

Geralt was born in 1986 when Andrzej Sapkowski published his first short story, “The Witcher”, in the Polish fantasy magazine, Fantastyka. Since then Andrzej Sapkowski published more than ten short stories and five novels “The Saga”, the series featuring the character born in 1986, Geralt, with great impact on the readers and critics. In 2007 Sapkowski’s work was translated in English for the first time with his short stories collection, “The Last Wish”, and in 2009 his second translated work, “Blood of Elves”, recognize success once again receiving the David Gemmell Award.

“Blood of Elves” comes with a familiar character for those who already read “The Last Wish”, but after finishing the novel I can say that this aspect will not raise a major problem for those unfamiliar with the hero. Still, I find the fact that I have read the short story collection to be helpful, because I had an already built baggage of information when I started “Blood of Elves”, information regarding Geralt, his occupation and his relationships with other characters that appear in this novel. I say that this is not a major problem because I was aware of some of the facts developing in “Blood of Elves” some others were new to me. And this is because “Sword of Destiny”, another short stories collection featuring Geralt and which together with “The Last Wish” was published in Polish before the release of “Blood of Elves”, isn’t translated in English yet. Although that didn’t obstruct my reading I had to guess certain events that are mentioned in this novel.

Andrzej Sapkowski plays with the well known elements of fantasy in his novel. The pages of “Blood of Elves” are inhabited by dwarves, elves, halflings, wizards and magical creatures. But to the merit of the author all these elements feel fresh throughout the pages of the novel and avoid being stereotypical. The fantastic world of “Blood of Elves” is a very interesting one and I loved how Sapkowski built it. All along my reading I could journey to its past and see it take shape, through the present events and through the recollection of its history. Like the world which inhabits Geralt, the witcher, takes shape too. He is not a perfectly built character, but I am certain that his development doesn’t stop here. After I was introduced to Geralt in “The Last Wish” I could see that the author gave shape to his main character with each story and I believe with each novel. In “Blood of Elves” Geralt becomes stronger as a character and I could find out new things from his personal history and the training which a witcher takes and indirectly which Geralt took.

My absolute delight while reading “Blood of Elves” was by far the dialogues. All of the dialogues unveiled in the novel made me feel like watching a play. Sapkowski shows a great talent in crafting the dialogues, all of them flow and each replica comes in a natural and logical way. The dialogues are vivid making me feel the change in mood of the characters involved in the replicas and also help the characters become stronger. Also like in a play the chapters can be taken as acts since the characters move from chapter to chapter to a new setting and a new situation almost independent from the one before. Other delightful aspects (and ones I enjoyed in the fullest in “The Last Wish” as well) are the humor of some situations and dialogues and the way Andrzej Sapkowski brings issues of our real world in his fantastic one. And here I have to admit that although the dwarf Yarpen Zigrin (who has a relationship with Geralt from the “Sword of Destiny” but of which I am not aware) is a fun character and I liked him a lot.

I am happy that Andrzej Sapkowski’s works are translated in English and I hope in other languages too, because he is a talented author. I am also happy that his works are available to a wider audience because they certainly enrich the fantasy literature world.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cover art

As I said before I find the cover artwork made by Jackie Morris for the Robin Hobb’s novels to be simple, but powerful and efficient, with the unique image on the cover speaking for the content of the novel. And as I said also before, although I prefer a bit more detailed cover I find equal pleasure in these ones. Here is the cover artwork for the second book in the Robin Hobb’ duology, “Rain Wild Chronicles”, “Dragon Haven”. "Dragon Haven" will be published by Harper Voyager on March 2010.

The motley band of deformed dragons and Rain Wilders continue their journey upriver towards the ancient city of Kelsingra – if it even exists – but whilst the humans are becoming used to, and more adept at controlling their dragon charges, they are completely unprepared for the discovery that the dragons are irrevocably changing them the closer they become…

I’ve seen this cover for a while now on Aidan’s blog A Dribble of Ink, but I got the chance to post it only now. I couldn't find the name of the artist who made the cover artwork, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a very good one. “Leviathan Wept and Other Stories” is a collection of short stories written by Daniel Abraham and which will be published next year by Subterranean Press. The collection will include the stories:

"The Cambist and Lord Iron"
"Flat Diane"
"The Best Monkey"
"The Support Technician Tango"
"A Hunter in Arin-Qin"
"Leviathan Wept"
"As Sweet"
"The Curandero and the Swede"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In the mailbox

Here are the latest arrivals in my mailbox:

- "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman (through the courtesy of Viking Books);

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.
He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

- "Nova War" by Gary Gibson (through the courtesy of Tor UK);

In Stealing Light, Dakota discovered the Shoal’s dark and dangerous secret, now she works towards stopping not only the spread of this knowledge, but also the onset of the Nova war.
Found adrift near a Bandati colony world far away from Consortium space, Dakota and Corso find themselves prisoners of the Bandati.
It becomes rapidly clear to them, that the humanity’s limited knowledge of the rest of the galaxy – filtered through the Shoal – is direly inaccurate. The Shoal have been fighting a frontier war with a rival species, the Emissaries, with their own FTL technology for over fifteen thousand years.
Realising that the Shoal may be the Galaxy’s one chance at sustained peace, Dakota is forced to work with Trader to prevent the spread of deadly knowledge carried on board the Magi ships. But it seems that the Nova War is inevitable…

- "Orbus" by Neal Asher (through the courtesy of Tor UK);

In charge of an old cargo spaceship, the Old Captain Orbus flees a violent and sadistic past, but he doesn’t know that the lethal war drone, Sniper, is a stowaway, and that the past is rapidly catching up with him.
His old enemy the Prador Vrell, mutated by the Spatterjay virus into something powerful and dangerous, has seized control of a Prador dreadnought, murdering its crew, and is now seeking to exact vengeance on those who tried to have him killed.
Their courses inexorably converge in the Graveyard, the border realm lying between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom, a place filled with the ruins left by past genocides and interplanetary war. But this is the home of the Golgoloth, monster to a race of monsters, the place where a centuries-long cold war is being fought.
Meanwhile, the terrifying Prador King is coming, prepared to do anything to ensure Vrell’s death and keep certain deadly secrets buried . . . and somewhere out there something that has annihilated civilizations is stirring from a slumber of five million years.
The cold war is heating up, fast.

- "Dead Men's Boots" by Mike Carey (through the courtesy of Grand Central Publishing);

You might think that helping a friend's widow to stop a lawyer from stealing her husband's corpse would be the strangest thing on your To Do list. But life is rarely that simple for Felix Castor.
A brutal murder in King's Cross bears all the hallmarks of a long-dead American serial killer, and it takes more good sense than Castor possesses not to get involved. He's also fighting a legal battle over the body - if not the soul - of his possessed friend, Rafi, and can't shake the feeling that his three problems might be related.
With the help of the succubus Juliet and paranoid zombie data-fence Nicky Heath, Castor just might have a chance of fitting the pieces together before someone drops him down a lift shaft or rips his throat out.
Or not. . .

- "The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 20" edited by Stephen Jones (through the courtesy of Constable & Robinson);

The year’s best, and darkest, tales of terror, showcasing the most outstanding new short stories and novellas by contemporary masters of the macabre, including the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Brian Keene, Tanith Lee, Elizabeth Massie, Kim Newman, Michael Marshall Smith, and Gene Wolfe.
The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror also includes a comprehensive annual overview of horror around the world in all its incarnations; an impressively researched necrology; and a list of indispensable contact addresses for the dedicated horror fan and aspiring writer alike. It is required reading for every fan of macabre fiction.

- "Way of the Barefoot Zombie" by Jasper Bark (through the courtesy of Abaddon Books).

On a private island in the Caribbean, business guru Doc Papa has reinvented the zombie as a role-model for the superrich.
The world's business elite come to St. Ignatius to study the Way of the Barefoot Zombie and interact with a captive colony of the undead. They live with them, dress like them and act like them in order to free their own inner zombies.
Once they've learned to harness the zombie's single minded lust for food nothing will stop them from making a killing on the global markets. However, Doc Papa's plans for dominating the world's business arena go awry when the island is infiltrated by undercover operatives from the Zombie Liberation Front and a rogue priestess from Doc Papa's past.
Real Voodoo and social satire collide in this gore-drenched tale of greed and global profit.

Thank you all very much!

Monday, September 21, 2009

2009 British Fantasy Awards

This week-end at the FantasyCon the winners of the British Fantasy Awards 2009 have been announced:

Best Novel: "Memoirs of a Master Forger" by William Heaney, aka Graham Joyce (Gollancz)

Best Novella: "The Reach of Children" by Tim Lebbon (Humdrumming)

Best Short Fiction: "Do You See?" by Sarah Pinborough (published in "Myth-Understandings" edited by Ian Whates, Newcon Press)

Best Collection: "Bull Running for Girls" by Allyson Bird (Screaming Dreams)

Best Anthology: "The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 19" edited Stephen Jones (Constable & Robinson)

The PS Publishing Best Small Press Award: Elastic Press, run by Andrew Hook

Best Non-Fiction: "Basil Copper: A Life in Books" edited by Stephen Jones (PS Publishing)

Best Magazine/Periodical: "Postscripts" edited by Peter Crowther and Nick Gevers (PS Publishing)

Best Artist: Vincent Chong

Best Comic/Graphic Novel: "Locke & Key" by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing)

Best Television: "Doctor Who" head writer Russell T. Davies (BBC Wales)

Best Film: "The Dark Knight" directed by Christopher Nolan (Warner Brothers)

The Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer: Joseph D'Lacey for "Meat" (Bloody Books)

The Karl Edward Wagner Award: Hayao Miyazaki

The results of the BFS Short Story Competition 2009 were also announced at the ceremony:

Winner: "Dead Astronauts" by Patrick Whittaker

Runner-up: "In the Moment" by Elana Gomel

Congratulations to all the winners!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A new title on the horizon

It seems that my list of desired titles for the 2010 is taking shape. And one of the titles that entered in my list is the anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. The anthology is a crossgenre one and it will be published by Tor. Yesterday I read on the George R.R. Martin’s blog the line up for the “Warriors” anthology and I saw there plenty of reasons for leaving my mouth watering and my hands itching for this upcoming title. The line up includes stories by George R.R. Martin, Joe Haldeman, Robin Hobb, Tad Williams, Joe Lansdale, Naomi Novik, S.M. Stirling and Robert Silverberg just to name a few. You can find the complete table of contents at George R.R. Martin's Not a Blog.

Friday, September 18, 2009

"One" by Conrad Williams

Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Publisher: Virgin Books

This is the United Kingdom, but it's no country you know. No place you ever want to see, even in the howling, shuttered madness of your worst dreams. You survived. One man.
You walk because you have to. You have no choice. At the end of this molten road, running along the spine of a burned, battered country, your little boy is either alive or dead. You have to know. You have to find an end to it all. One hope.
The sky crawls with venomous cloud and burning red rain. The land is a scorched sprawl of rubble and corpses. Rats have risen from the depths to gorge on the carrion. A glittering dust coats everything and it hides a terrible secret. New horrors are taking root. You walk on. One chance.

I’ll admit, I have a great weakness for post-apocalyptic stories. And although I do not wish to see the premises from the Conrad Williams’ novel synopsis becoming reality I certainly liked to see them unfold from the pages of “One”.

Conrad Williams makes no secret that the main theme of “One” is a post-apocalyptic one and this seen even from the early pages of the novel. The Earth is shook by a catastrophic event, an event that catches the main character, Richard Jane, in the middle of his work diving in the waters of the North Sea. Williams’ makes a different approach in his novel than other post-apocalyptic scenarios I read, but I enjoyed it in the fullest nonetheless. He doesn’t state a reason for the novel’s cataclysm but in the end he doesn’t have to. This fact makes his scenario more plausible, especially since almost half of the novel, and as the title suggests, is spent by Richard Jane in solitude. So without a proper knowledge it will be hard for him to find a reason for the situation. Although Williams keeps this mystery until he makes the final dot on his novel I find this aspect to give his novel even more power and bringing it even more closer to a disturbing undesirable reality.

However, Conrad Williams compensates the catastrophe’s enigma in his descriptions and the atmosphere built all along his novel. The novel is full of disturbing images born from the pen of the author, each and every single one of them creating an eerie atmosphere. What is impressive at the work of Conrad Williams is that although he uses elements meant to horrify, they are not forced into the pages of “One” for the sake of keeping a line of the horror genre, but in a logical and natural way for the context of the story. Also impressive is that Conrad Williams gave me the impression of stillness and silence throughout the most of the first part of his novel. In that part Richard Jane moves through the country alone and since nothing moves around him the sense of desolation is brought forth through the talent of the author.

The second part of the novel comes with few surprises. Conrad Williams brings into the story a few elements, of horror and science fiction, which will make the novel even more pleasant, if that was possible. With an already eerie atmosphere these elements unsettled me further on, adding new layers of terror into an already undesirable scenario. Because of these elements the reader will breathe a bit faster, along with the characters involved in the story. The second part will move also faster, the story picking up speed and heading for an ending that will come with a shimmer of hope though.

Richard Jane is the main character of the novel, caught underwater by the catastrophic event he manages to land on the coast of Scotland on a life boat. From here he begins a journey to London in search of his son. Richard Jane is a powerfully built character, one I enjoyed in the fullest. With each page and event in the novel, he gathers depth, going through a wide range of emotions that will make him almost palpable. His memories of the past will add contour to his shape giving more reason and realism to his actions. Being the central figure of the novel Richard Jane catches most of the spotlight, but there are other characters on the scene as well. Not as deep as Jane, but with a strong building too are Becky and Aidan, two characters who will make a great contribution to the story and to the construction of the main character, Richard Jane.

“One” is more than just a post-apocalyptic scenario or a horror novel. It is unfair to imprison it in the boundaries of these genres, because many readers will miss it because of this. Conrad Williams created a memorable novel, a powerful story that steps out and which will haunt the reader long after the reading is finished.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Trailer - "Isis" by Douglas Clegg

This month the novella of Douglas Clegg, “Isis”, first published by Cemetery Dance in 2006 will be released in a new edition by Vanguard Press. I admit that the synopsis of the novella sounds intriguing and caught my interest.

If you lost someone you loved, what would you pay to bring them back from the dead?
Old Marsh, the gardener at Belerion Hall, warned the Villiers girl about the old ruins along the seacliffs. “Never go in, miss. Never say a prayer at its door. If you are angry, do not seek revenge by the Laughing Maiden stone, or at the threshold of the Tombs. There be those who listen for oaths and vows…. What may be said in innocence and ire becomes flesh and blood in such places.”
She was born Iris Catherine Villiers. She became Isis.
From childhood until her sixteenth year, Iris Villiers wandered the stone-hedged gardens and the steep cliffs along the coast of Cornwall near her ancestral home. Surrounded by the stern judgments of her grandfather—the Gray Minister—and the taunts of her cruel governess, Iris finds solace in her beloved older brother who has always protected her. But when a tragic accident occurs from the ledge of an open window, Iris discovers that she possesses the ability to speak to the dead...
Be careful what you wish for.

What stirred my interest further on is the book trailer you see above and which I found to be a very good one. And the site dedicated to the book where you can find information about the book and Douglas Clegg, an excerpt and some treats in form of a game, avatars and wallpapers. You can find the book’s site at

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"KOP" by Warren Hammond

Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Publisher: Tor Books

Juno is a dirty cop with a difficult past and an uncertain future. When his family and thousands of others emigrated to the colony world of Lagarto, they were promised a bright future on a planet with a booming economy. But before the colonists arrived, everything changed. An opportunistic Earth-based company developed a way to produce a cheaper version of Lagarto’s main export, thus effectively paupering the planet and all its inhabitants.
Growing up on post-boom Lagarto, Juno is but one of the many who live in despair. Once he was a young cop in the police department of the capital city of Koba. That was before he started taking bribes from Koba’s powerful organized crime syndicate. Yet despite his past sins, some small part of him has not given up hope. So he risks his life, his marriage and his job to expose a cabal that would enslave the planet for its own profit.
But he's got more pressing problems, when he's confronted with a dead man, a short-list of leads, and the obligatory question: who done it? Set up for a fall, partnered with a beautiful young woman whose main job is to betray him, and caught in a squeeze between the police chief and the crooked mayor, Juno is a compelling, sympathetic hero on a world that has no heroes.

“KOP” is the debut novel of Warren Hammond and one which comes with an appetizing teaser for both mystery and science fiction lovers, a detective story set in a distant future on a colony planet far away from Earth.

Like I said in another review I grew up mainly with detective stories, stories I am still fond to, and the teaser of “KOP” appealed to me immediately as I read it. The novel is a techno noir science fiction detective one, if I can define it in this way. The story kicks off with the investigation of a murder case and which will lead the main character, Juno Mozambe, to a deeper machination. What I liked at the story built by Warren Hammond is that he manages to keep its mystery all the way to the end and offers a few surprises along the way. What I also liked is that the story comes not only with the main conflict that lies at the foundation of the plot, but also with an interior conflict of its main character, Juno Mozambe.

If Humphrey Bogart would have played in a Science Fiction movie I think that the role of Juno Mozambe would have suited him the best. Juno Mozambe is a dirty cop in the Koba Office of Police (KOP) who in favor for his friend and the chief of police, Paul Chang, investigates what appears to be a simple murder case. Warren Hammond inflicts life in his main character through the pages of his novel. Juno comes in play with the characteristics of an anti-hero, but along the development of the plot I could see more in the depth of the character. In the help of his development come the inner conflict of Juno and an aside story which brings the reader in the past, at the beginnings of his career, and which also clarifies some things regarding the Koba Office of Police. Juno Mozambe is an interesting and pretty strong character, but when it comes to the other ones I felt a downfall. It is true that there isn’t enough room for them to develop as much as Juno, but I felt that at least the negative characters should have benefit more from a bit more powerful construction.

The story takes place on the colony planet Lagarto, especially on its capital, Koba. And here is where I felt fully satisfied with the Warren Hammond’s novel. A planet which lived a prosperous period and after an economic crash it suffers greatly and barely survives. The planet benefits from only five hours of sun daily and has a tropical climate with which it fights every day. Literally fights since the jungle invades the streets of cities each night and the vegetation needs to be burned each day with flame throwers. The world and atmosphere are dark and grim and leaves much room for the development of businesses of dubious reputation. On such a world corruption, violence and criminality boom and from these aspects the main conflict will hit in the fullest.

With a captivating character, a plot filled with mystery and action and a savory setting Warren Hammond makes from his debut novel, “KOP”, an entertaining and fun reading.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The cowardly me

I never thought that reviewing books can be a question of cowardice. But apparently it is, since I came home on Sunday and I find out that I am a coward.

HM: Reading your reviews I come across a very peculiar ranking system of 100 points that always aroused questions. What’s the deal behind it and what components build these 100 points?
PS: I think writing a review, and not giving it some sort of numerical score is a cop out; it’s cowardice—pure and simple—since many online reviewers don’t want to upset publishers or authors. So they write reviews that are open to interpretation, using nebulous terms like good, overemphasizing the positive aspects of the book, trying very hard not to have an opinion. It’s okay, you’re entitled to have an opinion, you’re entitled to take a stand and let people know what you think.
See, words lie; numbers don’t. And I don’t want to lie to my audience. So I score every book on a scale of 100. Like any review, the number is completely subjective; there are no underlying components. I score books by ranking them against other novels I’ve read in the genre. It’s rather simple. But effective.

Paul Stotts tells in his interview with Harry at the Temple Library Reviews that not using a score system for the review is an act of cowardice. I beg to heavily differ. Before starting my blog I used to read many review blogs in search for new books, I still am, but there are more of them now. The majority of them didn’t use a rating system. I noticed then that while looking for new books to read I was reading the reviews that didn’t have a score at the end of them while I was passing over the actual review and look only at the score given by the reviewer to the book at those that had a rating system. Why? Because I related that grade to what I thought of a rating system. But that didn’t necessarily mean that one reviewer’s 8, 85 or 3 stars are the same with mine. It also means that I was passing over the reasons of that grade, why the one that wrote the review liked or disliked the book. But I don’t have a problem with anyone using a rating system and I overcome that time and look over the review now, not only at its grade. Still I can’t think of those reviews or reviewers as being brave because of a rating system.

When I started to write my reviews I thought of a rating system, but I decided to not use one. I think that I am capable to use a rating system, but what it will mean I can’t say. For example, I find Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s “The Shadow of the Wind” to be the best book I read in many years. I also believe that Bill Hussey’s “Through a Glass, Darkly” is the best debut horror novel I read in the past three years. So I would give both a 10, but what does this tell to someone who isn’t familiar with the novels? Comparing the books to each other it will be difficult and bringing them into a battle of grades Zafón’s novel will be the obvious winner. But each 10 will have a different point of view, because the novels made me enjoy them for different reasons.

The relationship with the publishers is raised here, but I don’t see the reason for it. Paul says that the reason for not using a rating system is because I do not want to lose the free books sent to me. But if I do use a rating system what happens if I give a book a 3 or a 4? It is not the same thing? I wrote negative reviews and they were received in different ways. I didn’t receive another book from one publishing house, but another one keeps sending them despite my not so glowing review. I don’t mind either way. Although I cut a few expanses with the help of some of the review copies I received I still buy more books than those review copies I get or that I am capable of reading in one year. On my blog I reviewed books I bought too, so if I don’t get another review copy I don’t mind, I just rethink my shopping list.

PS: And respect is something Pat should get more of. Too many bloggers have copped an elitist attitude toward Pat lately, ripping his reviews, the direction of his blog, and even his word choices. If the Hotlist wasn’t so successful, do you think these bloggers would single him out? Their motives are utterly transparent. It’s simple jealous. And it’s sad, really. It reminds me of when bands get too big, how their hardcore fans will turn on them, labeling them a sell-out. C’mon people, get over yourself; it’s blogging about books.

I find this to be a contradiction. There is nothing wrong with his opinion, but later in the response seen first there isn't just blogging about books anymore but a matter of courage. Paul doesn’t like the critiques raised towards Pat’s blog, but makes a critique on its own towards other blogs and an utterly transparent one nonetheless. To call all those not using a rating system cowards, it’s shallow. It’s the only word that comes to mind seeing the blogs in question. I find blogs such as A Dribble of Ink, Fantasy Book Critic, Fantasy Debut, OF Blog of the Fallen or Speculative Horizons, just to name a few, to be not only great reviewing blogs, but a source of inspiration for a review and a work well done. And to say that all these bloggers don’t use a rating system only for the benefit of free books is something far from praiseworthy and to name them cowards is light years away from the truth.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cover art galore by Tor UK

I am sorry that I wasn’t able to make any post last week, but my home plans didn’t match those from the road. But here I am again and I resume the usual program with a cover art galore.

Last week we saw the cover artwork for one of the future titles published by Tor UK, Mark Charan Newton’s “City of Ruin”. Now we see a number of other Tor UK titles with some amazing cover artworks. First, some of the Neal Asher’s titles will be re-released in October and they benefit from some great covers made by Jon Sullivan. They look really good in my opinion and they are really attractive and have a strong impact on the viewer.

Next is the cover for the fourth novel in the Adrian Tchiakovsky’s series “The Shadow of the Apt”, “Salute the Dark”. I’ll admit that from the four covers of his novels I find this one to be the best so far. It keeps the line of the series, but I believe that it has something extra, with an improvement on the character drawn on the cover.

Last, but not least there is the debut novel of Col Buchanan, “Farlander”, which is due to be published in March 2010. Although I am not a big fan of characters on covers I am not reluctant either. If they are good and I feel an attraction toward the cover artwork I won’t deny their value. So is the case here a powerful image that with certainty makes me curious about the new author and his debut novel. The artwork for “Farlander” is made by Steve Stone.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Announcement & Cover art

I look over to a new hectic week. Tomorrow I’ll be leaving for a few days on a business trip, but I believe that I’ll be coming back home on Thursday. But only for a day and a post or two, because on Friday I hit the road again and go to my wife’s best friend wedding. So, until next Monday I’ll be mostly away from home.

But don’t go too far, because as I said I think I’ll be able to make a post or two this week. And to keep you company here is a very hot covert art, just taken from Mark Charan Newton’s blog, the artwork for his second novel in the “Legends of the Red Sun” series, “City of Ruin”. The artist of the cover artwork is Benjamin Carre, the same one who made the cover for “Nights of Villjamur”. Also if you head at Mark's blog you’ll find an attempt for the book blurb.

Enjoy and see you soon :)

In the mailbox

I received a few new titles in the mailbox in the last week, with one of them making me wonder once again when I'll start working on my pile o' shame:

- "Dust of Dreams" by Steven Erikson (through the courtesy of Transworld Books);

On the Letherii continent the exiled Malazan army commanded by Adjunct Tavore begins its march into the eastern Wastelands, to fight for an unknown cause against an enemy it has never seen.
The fate awaiting the Bonehunters is one no soldier can prepare for, and one no mortal soul can withstand – the foe is uncertainty and the only weapon worth wielding is stubborn courage.In war everyone loses, and this brutal truth can be found in the eyes of every soldier in every world.
Destinies are never simple.Truths are neither clear nor sharp.The Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen are drawing to a close in a distant place, beneath indifferent skies, as the last great army of the Malazan Empire seeks a final battle in the name of redemption. Final questions remain to be answered: can one's deeds be heroic when no one is there to see it? Can that which is unwitnessed forever change the world? The answers await the Bonehunters, beyond the Wastelands…

- "Dead Souls" edited by Mark S. Deniz (through the courtesy of Morrigan Books);

Before God created light, there was darkness. Even after He illuminated the world, there were shadows — shadows that allowed the darkness to fester and infect the unwary. The tales found within Dead Souls explore the recesses of the soul; those people and creatures that could not escape the shadows. From the inherent cruelness of humanity to malevolent forces, Dead Souls explores the depths of humanity as a lesson to the ignorant, the naive and the unsuspecting. God created light, but it is a temporary grace that will ultimately fail us, for the darkness is stronger and our souls…are truly dead.

- "Grants Pass" edited by Jennifer Brozek & Amanda Pillar (through the courtesy of Morrigan Books);

The apocalypse has arrived.
Humanity was decimated by bio-terrorism; three engineered plagues were let loose on the world. Barely anyone has survived.
Just a year before the collapse, Grants Pass, Oregon, USA, was publicly labelled as a place of sanctuary in a whimsical online, “what if” post. Now, it has become one of the last known refuges, and the hope, of mankind.
Would you go to Grants Pass based on the words of someone you’ve never met?

- "Raven Wakes the World" by John Adcox (through the courtesy of Mercury Retrograde Press);

Christmas means a hundred different things in a hundred lands. But no matter where you travel, winter is a time for storytelling. Raven Wakes the World presents four very different holiday stories sure to touch the heart and wake the wonder of the season for all readers, young and old.

- "There Was a Crooked Man" by Edward Morris (through the courtesy of Mercury Retrograde Press).

Welcome to the world of master fabulist Edward Morris, where History has been pulled down a Hieronymus Bosch rabbit-hole and everything makes far too much sense. In this first volume of Morris’s alternate history tour de force, on an East Coast two centuries after Armageddon, a rogue soldier throws himself back in Time to wreak havoc upon History and feed on the blood in the streets. He lands in the New World with the first white settlers. The Irrakwa try to stop him. And from two centuries ahead, the Law tries to follow him back…
Dare to step inside.History is only one of the things you will never see in quite the same way again.

Thank you all very much!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My life according to the books I've read this year

I've seen this meme on John's blog, Grasping for the Wind, and I found it to be interesting and challenging. So I picked it up to see how it will turned out for me.

Using only books you have read this year (2009), cleverly answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title.

Describe yourself: One

How do you feel: Putting the Pieces in Place

Describe where you currently live: Madder Mysteries

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Avempartha

Your favorite form of transport: The Alchemy of Stone

Your best friend is: The Magic Thief

You and your friends are: The Company

What’s the weather like: Gunpowder

Favorite time of day: Nights of Villjamur

If your life was a: Yellow Blue Tibia

What is life to you: The Angel’s Game

Your fear: The Absence

What is the best advice you have to give: How to Make Monsters

Thought for the Day: The Reach of Children

How I would like to die: Heaven’s Bones

My soul’s present condition: The Devil You Know

Friday, September 4, 2009

"The Angel's Game" by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Format: Hardcover, 448 pages

In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man - David Martin - makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books, and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city's underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house are letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner. Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Then David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realises that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home. Set in the turbulent 1920s, The Angel's Game takes us back to the gothic universe of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books, the Sempere and Son bookshop, and the winding streets of Barcelona's old quarter, in a masterful tale about the magic of books and the darkest corners of the human soul.

When it comes to books and reading the best thing that happened to me last year was by far “The Shadow of the Wind” and the discovery of its author Carlos Ruiz Zafón. So, in a predictable course my most anticipated book for this year was another novel of the Spanish author, “The Angel’s Game”.

“The Angel’s Game” is a prequel of “The Shadow of the Wind”, but pretty much can stand on its own too. For those familiar with “The Shadow of the Wind” this novel will present them familiar places, Barcelona as the main setting and the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books, characters such as Sempere, Isabella and Barceló and themes, love and friendship as main courses. But easily the novel sets itself apart too, bringing forth a new themes, confronting the personal demons, that of a personal price and that of the most known pact of all, characters as lovely and powerful as ever and places, like the mysterious and creepy mansion where the main character, David Martin, lives.

For me once again the relationship with the Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novel became a very personal and selfish one. With the help of the words inscribed in its pages I became indifferent to the outside world, isolating myself from the distractions offered by it and loosing myself completely in the story. Rarely does it happen to me not to be able to put a book down, even for a short while, or going to sleep only thinking of the next morning when I can pick up the reading where I left it. Carlos Ruiz Zafón doesn’t bring anything new in terms of themes, but the way he plays with the known ones may easily make the reader addictive to his works.

The main character of the novel, David Martin, is helping his creator in building a strong story, but not only him. All the characters, major or minor ones, are very lively, making me truly feel their presence in the unfolding events of the story. Although some of them are only penned and have a passing performance still they contribute fully to the atmosphere and are not just cardboard decoration. In the center of all is, naturally, David Martin. A strong character, one of the strongest I’ve read, and with whom I am certain that every reader can find a thing to relate to. His relationships with other characters are wonderful things as well, especially the one with his assistant, Isabella, making me delighted by the resulted dialogues.

Like in the Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s previous novel I read, “The Shadow of the Wind”, the main setting of the novel is the city of Barcelona and once again the author uncovers a city with which it shows a deeper connection. Throughout all the reading moments I felt that if I close my eyes I can see myself walking the streets of Barcelona in the 1920s, almost like a travel through time and space. There is also a connection between the city and the main character and in many occasions it will seem that the setting shifts accordingly to David Martin’s emotions. And all these disposition changes, of the character or city, will help create the atmosphere of the novel. An atmosphere which is darker and grittier than the one in the previous novel I read by Zafón, but which makes its contribution to the mystery of the story.

I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed more “The Angel’s Game” than “The Shadow of the Wind”, but the fact that reading it with high expectations set by “The Shadow of the Wind” and all of them being fulfilled didn’t came as a surprise must have a role in my opinion. For certain though “The Angel’s Game” is the best book I read this year and the way Carlos Ruiz Zafón plays with emotions and the way he crafts his stories made me fall in love with his works. I just wonder what Carlos Ruiz Zafón has in store for me next?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cover art

Clarkesworld Magazine, the wonderful monthly e-zine, published the September issue, the 36th of the magazine. And this month once again Clarkesworld Magazine has an amazing cover art made by the Portuguese artist, Andreas Rocha (who I had the pleasure to interview on my Fantasy Art posts). Andreas produced an amazing artwork, as usual, entitled “Repairshop” and which follows proudly the steps taken by the cover art of the issues published by Clarkesworld Magazine.

Joe Abercrombie posted on his blog the cover artwork for his novel, “The Blade Itself” the first one in “The First Law” trilogy, for the mass market edition published this year by Gollancz on 1st of October if I am not mistaken. The artwork is made by Chris McGrath, an artist who illustrated many novels especially Urban Fantasy ones. Now, I’ll admit that this cover it is interesting, but I feel more attracted by the original one and I like it more. I find the cover designed by Laura Brett to be simpler, but more powerful and more mysterious, making me pick the book up if I see it in a library.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A new blog

Today I want to point you to a new interesting blog. Well, the blog is at the beginning, but the reviewer is not. Rob or Valashain as he is known on the forum of BSC Review reviewed books on the BSC Review and through those reviews I discovered quite a few interesting readings. I say a few because he tends to read more Science Fiction, but still I found his reviews to be interesting and thoughtful. He started on his own now and he is blogging at the Val’s Random Comments, where he already made an impressive start with 15 reviews in two months. I recommend visiting his blog and I hope you’ll find interesting things there. I also want to wish Rob the very best with his new review blog!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Death's Head" by David Gunn

"Death's Head"
by David Gunn
Format: Paperback, 544 pages
Publisher: Bantam Press

Few survive the cage. Fewer still live to face the whipping post. Of those who do, few are in a state to know what is happening to them. One of those who does is ex-Legion Etrangere sergeant Sven Tveskoeg. As this stubborn, insubordinate son-of-a-bitch feels the first lash fall, he hears the desert tribes attack, and watches as they slaughter his comrades before they can execute him.
Rescued from certain death, Sven joins the tribes. Until his ruthless skills come to the attention of the Death's Head, the infamous elite special ops force. They want Sven to sort out a little 'local difficulty'. But it seems all is not as it should be. Sven feels he's a pawn in a deadly game, and pawns have an unfortunate habit of being sacrificed. But Death's Head Second Lieutenant Tveskoeg, Obsidian Cross 3rd Class, is nobody’s sacrifice. And even a pawn can checkmate a king…

“Death’s Head” is the debut novel of David Gunn and also the first novel in the eponymous series.

In my high-school years I spent a summer of reading in the company of Sven Hassel’s novels; 14 pseudo-autobiographical novels of adventures in the World War II. I fell in love with those novels and although they describe many horrors of war one of the words that can easily describe them is fun. Now, it looks like that summer is back once more, because “Death’s Head” very much reminded me of the Sven Hassel’s novels I read in high-school. David Gunn writes a science fiction novel, set in a distant future of our universe, with planet Earth gone and transformed into a myth, and with its main setting the theatre of war. My mind went back to those memories also because “Death’s Head” main character is named Sven and is not matching any criteria of role-model as we know it, maybe with a few minor exceptions.

Like I said, Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg is not a role-model, but he is a very entertaining character. I become accustomed with him almost immediately and although he is not the best constructed character I’ve seen I still enjoyed following his adventures. He doesn’t show many qualities still his loyalty is to be appreciated and this is shown especially in the second part of the novel, when Sven starts forming a military group, called The Aux, and in which we will meet some of the other characters of the novel. Although I am certain that these characters will appear in the next novels of the series I found them even less developed than Sven Tveskoeg. There is another unusual character, though it is more properly a thing, Sven’s smart gun, the SIG-37. The remarks of the intelligent gun are a delight and offered me very entertaining and hilarious moments.

David Gunn presented me with an intriguing setting in his novel. I liked how he imagined the future of our universe and how he populated it. The political situation is very interesting, the inhabited planets visited in this reading offer captivating images and the alien races met in “Death’s Head” satisfied my imagination. But despite my interest in these elements, I have to say that all of them are only scratched at the surface and all of them lacking the proper depth. But despite of these elements being only hinted the novel overcomes this aspect in terms of adventure, action scenes and adrenaline pumped sequences, because these come in the fullest.

I’ll be totally honest with you, I don’t know how many details of David Gunn’s novel will stick with me for the time being, but as I like to relax occasionally watching movies like “Rambo”, so I need from time to time to relax with books such as “Death’s Head”. It certainly offered me a very fun and entertaining reading.