Once again my end of the year list of books that enchanted me the most throughout the last 365 days (still three days left, but that would not change my list) will be made without taking into account the year of publication, genre or length of the book. Because although I would certainly like to read more and a bit more varied (not that fantasy would not have the lion’s share of my readings) it is not always possible. 2010 was quite a busy year and the time for reading a bit cut down compared to other years. It still was an interesting year when it comes to books though and here are my favorites, linked to my full impression of the reading experience:
1. “The City & The City” by China Miéville - “The City & The City” is an intricate, strange and beautiful novel, one that left me wondering if China Miéville doesn’t see things that the other humans fail to see or chose to “unsee”.
2. “The Folding Knife” by K.J. Parker - “The Folding Knife” has no action that emphasizes on physical qualities, but that should not drive readers away from this novel. As life offers smaller or bigger events each day so is “The Folding Knife”, with something happening with each page and chapter. As for the author of the present novel, I read enough of her works to say that every list of top genre writers would not be complete without K.J. Parker’s name on it.
3. “Purple and Black” by K.J. Parker - It is said that the strongest essences come in small vials, but I still regret that “Purple and Black” is a short piece of fiction, a wonderful story in the span of a few pages. I am happy though that my regret is counter-balanced by the fact that I can always find a couple of hours to read and enjoy K.J. Parker’s novella again.
4. “The Harm” by Gary McMahon - Previously of “The Harm” my only pleasant experience with a reading made on a computer screen was with Joe Hill’s “Gunpowder”, but this novella changed that, because Gary McMahon’s story is such a high-quality story that “The Harm” is worthy of a reading despite the form in which the novella is found.
5. “Gardens of the Moon” by Steven Erikson - I am still wondering how did I start to read Steven Erikson’s series after so much time, but I am very happy that I finally did. And by the looks of it “Gardens of the Moon” is just an appetizer introducing the main courses to follow.
6. “Kalpa Imperial” by Angélica Gorodischer - In the book’s presentation we can read that “Kalpa Imperial is the first of Argentinean writer Angélica Gorodischer’s nineteen award-winning books to be translated into English”. Sadly, seven years after its publication it is the only one available in English. The situation is so much unfortunate because “Kalpa Imperial” proves that the English market, and not only, has nothing but to gain from the translation of Angélica Gorodischer’s works.
7. “A Matter of Blood” by Sarah Pinborough - “A Matter of Blood” can be taken as a self contained story, but there are a few threads that are left hanging, leaving the door opened for the events to follow in “Dog-Faced Gods” series. If the events to follow will take the “Dog-Faced Gods” series to a new height is something to be seen in the novels to follow, but until then we have in the flesh of Cass Jones, a character who might be the person staying next to the reader as we speak, a realistic guide through the bleak atmosphere and the captivating story of Sarah Pinborough’s “A Matter of Blood”.
8. “Nopți Albe, Zile Negre” (White Nights, Black Days) by Marian Coman - Well, I am very happy that I met “White Nights, Black Days”, it showed me again that Marian Coman is a very talented writer. It also made me think that if I had the power I would force Marian Coman to write more. Better still, I would pay him to do it.
9. “The Reapers Are the Angels” by Alden Bell - Lately, I run away from zombie fiction, but “The Reapers are the Angels” didn’t prove to be a reason to keep running away. The zombie element is hardly the central part, just another cause for the world turning into a bleak setting. Instead, Alden Bell’s “The Reapers are the Angels” is a story of life, tragic in places, but engaging and beautifully written. It is a confirmation of the beauty of literature.
10. “Kraken” by China Miéville - “Kraken” is an excellent example of how urban fantasy should be made and although the engagement with the story requires a bit of patience from the reader that doesn’t ruin the pleasure of reading this novel. I feel that the novel didn’t reveal all its mysteries to me in this first reading and that a second one will show me new dimensions of the story. In the end, “Kraken” is a literary induced dream and China Miéville is the dealer providing it.
11. “Dog Blood” by David Moody - David Moody set for himself high standards with “Hater” and he successfully rises to those standards with “Dog Blood”. And since nothing from “Dog Blood” hints of the conclusion of David Moody’s trilogy we can only wait and see if the final volume will be as pleasantly surprising as the first two novels of the series were.
12. “City of Ruin” by Mark Charan Newton - Although “City of Ruin” is obviously connected to the first novel in the “Legends of the Red Sun” series, “Nights of Villjamur”, it can be read as a stand-alone novel without a problem. However, “City of Ruin” proves that Mark Charan Newton is growing fast as a writer, his prose, story and philosophical approach making his work more robust. I am certain that in this cadence Mark Charan Newton’s series can turn to be one of the landmarks of modern fantasy.
13. “Secrets of the Sands” by Leona Wisoker - Leona Wisoker introduces the reader to an exotic setting in “Secrets of the Sands”, a setting with a unique flavor and that together with the story incites to a further exploration in the novels to follow.
14. “Rain” by Conrad Williams - My first instinct after finishing Conrad Williams’ novella was to look for more of his works, because “Rain” is a short but strong story, as a summer storm, and it left a powerful mark on my mind.
15. “Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide” by William Hussey - Despite the fact that “Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide” didn’t work as strongly as “Through a Glass, Darkly” and “The Absence” for me, the novel still offers a beautiful reading and proves that William Hussey is a talented author and one of the strongest voices of modern horror.
Best female character: Sarah Mary Williams, Temple (“The Reapers Are the Angels” by Alden Bell) – More mature than her age, Temple tries to find a path to redeem herself with events of her past. Although she travels on a haunting landscape Temple finds beauty in it nonetheless. I was attached to Temple with ease and her strong character is a memorable one.
Best male character: Cass Jones (“A Matter of Blood” by Sarah Pinborough) – Haunted by the past, disturbed by the present and deeply flawed Cass Jones is one of the most human characters I encountered in my readings. His behavior is not an example to follow some times, but after all that is what makes us human and therefore Cass Jones is a character that enters in my personal favorites hall of fame.
Most fun character: Thanquol (“Grey Seer” by C.L. Werner) – His devious machinations and plotting turn out to be very entertaining things to follow and although, after all, Thanquol is a pestilence I would love to see him in other adventures too.
As we’ve seen at the beginning of this year the cover artwork for the new editions of Michael Moorcock’s first three novels in the “Hawkmoon” series, released by Tor Books, were at the top level. And it cannot be otherwise since the cover artist was the great Vance Kovacs. Earlier this month, Tor Books released the new edition of the last novel in the series, “The Runestaff”, and once again Vance Kovacs produced an excellent cover. Actually, looking over the entire series of covers Vance Kovacs made for the Michael Moorcock’s series I am tempted to buy the novels again just for the artwork, although I do own the entire series.
Dark Scribe Magazine has announced the nominations for the 4th Black Quill Awards. As Dark Scribe Magazine used us in the previous three years of the awards each of the 7 categories will have two winners, one voted by the editors and contributors of Dark Scribe Magazine, Editor’s Choice, and one voted by the readers, Reader’s Choice. Therefore we can cast our vote too, using the form made available by Dark Scribe Magazine on their website. The eligible works were published between November 1st, 2009 and October 31st, 2010. The voting ends on January 21st, 2011 and the winners of the Black Quill Awards will be announced on February 1st, 2011.
DARK GENRE NOVEL OF THE YEAR:
- “A Dark Matter” by Peter Straub (Doubleday/Orion) - “Kraken” by China Miéville (Pan Macmillan/Del Rey) - “Sparrow Rock” by Nate Kenyon (Leisure/Bad Moon Books) - “The Caretaker of Lorne Field” by David Zeltserman (Overlook Hardcover) - “The Passage” by Justin Cronin (Orion/Ballantine) - “Under the Dome” by Stephen King (Hodder/Scribner)
BEST SMALL PRESS CHILL:
- “A Book of Tongues” by Gemma Files (ChiZine Publications) - “Dreams in Black and White” by John R. Little (Morning Star) - “Invisible Fences” by Norman Prentiss (Cemetery Dance) - “The Castle of Los Angeles” by Lisa Morton (Gray Friar Press) - “The Wolf at the Door” by Jameson Currier (Chelsea Street Editions)
BEST DARK GENRE FICTION COLLECTION:
- “Blood and Gristle” by Michael Louis Calvillo (Bad Moon Books) - “In the Mean Time” by Paul Tremblay (ChiZine Publications) - “Little Things” by John R. Little (Bad Moon Books) - “Occultation” by Laird Barron (Night Shade Books) - “Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse” by Otsuichi (VIZ Media LLC)
BEST DARK GENRE ANTHOLOGY:
- “Dark Faith” edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon (Apex Publications) - “Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology” edited by Michelle McCrary and Joe McKinney (23 House) - “Haunted Legends” edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas (Tor) - “Horror Library IV” edited by RJ Cavender and Boyd E. Harris (Cutting Block Press) - “When The Night Comes Down” edited by Bill Breedlove (Dark Arts Books)
BEST DARK GENRE BOOK OF NON-FICTION:
- “Horrors: Great Stories of Fear and Their Creators” by Rocky Wood (McFarland) - “I Am Providence: The Life and Times of HP Lovecraft” by S.T. Joshi (Hippocampus Press) - “Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever” by Joe Kane (Citadel) - “The Conspiracy Against the Human Race” by Thomas Ligotti (Hippocampus Press) - “Thrillers: 100 Must Reads” edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner (Oceanview Publishing)
BEST DARK SCRIBBLE:
- “Bully” by Jack Ketchum (Postscripts 22/23) - “Goblin Boy” by Rick Hautula (Cemetery Dance #63) - “Secretario” by Catherynne M. Valente (Weird Tales, Summer 2010) - “The Things” by Peter Watts (Clarkesworld, January 2010) - “We” by Bentley Little (Cemetery Dance #64)
BEST DARK GENRE BOOK TRAILER: (you can view all the book trailers on the nominations’ page on the Dark Scribe Magazine website)
- “Neverland” by Douglas Clegg / Produced by Circle of Seven Productions - “Radiant Shadows” by Melissa Marr / Produced by Circle of Seven Productions - “Specters in Coal Dust” edited by Michael Knost / Produced by Michael Knost & Black Water Films - “Under the Dome” by Stephen King / Produced by Scribner Marketing - “Unhappy Endings” by Brian Keene / Produced by Delirium Books
Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!
THIS MAY 2011 EXPERIENCE ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST ALL ORIGINAL FREE COMIC BOOK DAY PREQUEL LEADING DIRECTLY INTO THE FIRST ISSUE THIS JULY
WRITTEN BY SUPERMAN & STAN LEE’S STARBORN NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER CHRIS ROBERSON
MICHAEL MOORCOCK'S MULTIVERSE COLLIDES WITH ELRIC, CORUM, AND HAWKMOON
For 40 years, Elric has thrilled comic book fandom beginning with Marvel Comics' CONAN THE BARBARIAN #15 in 1972. Neil Gaiman called Elric’s creator Michael Moorcock “my model for what a writer was” while Warren Ellis said he is one of the “eight core sites in my creative genome” — now, the godfather of the Multiverse concept brings one of the most critically acclaimed and most recognizable figures in the history of fantasy fiction back to sequential art with BOOM! Studios’ ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST!
Written by SUPERMAN, iZOMBIE, and STAN LEE’S STARBORN New York Times bestselling scribe Chris Roberson, the adventure begins this May in an all-new, all-original FREE COMIC BOOK DAY edition that’s not simply a preview of the July series, but a prequel that will excite longtime Elric fans and serves an accessible entry point for the curious who have never experienced Moorcock’s saga.
Showcasing not just Elric, but Corum and Hawkmoon in a mammoth epic that uses Moorcock’s fascinating and intricate Multiverse as its tapestry, ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST #1 follows the May prequel and premieres as a full-blown series this July with its first issue.
“Elric is in inspired hands. I'm enthusiastically looking forward to his appearance from BOOM! Studios,” said legendary Elric creator Michael Moorcock. “One of the best writers of his generation, Chris Roberson, will be writing a brilliantly conceived, entirely new Elric story in the grand manner! I can't wait!”
"Publishing Michael Moorcock's Elric feels like a dream come true," said Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon. "Even more so when Michael is as enthused as we are about the revival of one of his most classic creations. This year will be 50 years since the creation of Elric and BOOM! Studios aims to live up to the standard and tradition that Michael Moorcock has set."
ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST features the return of Michael Moorcock’s legendary Multiverse, featuring some of the greatest fantasy characters of all time: Elric of Melniboné, Corum of the Scarlet Robe, and Dorian Hawkmoon in a brand-new story that will test the courage of the Eternal Champion! In this new series, the workings of Fate are being tampered with across the Multiverse, upsetting the Cosmic Balance. Elric of Melniboné must preserve the Balance and save the entire Multiverse from ruin. But no sooner has his journey begun than he is waylaid by dark forces and lost on the Moonbeam Roads. Elric finds himself stranded on a world where Chaos holds sway and where change is the only constant. Heroes are forced into action far and wide, but will they fight on the side of Law or Chaos?
ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST FCBD EDITION ships this May for FREE COMIC BOOK DAY, featuring an original prequel story by New York Times bestseller and SUPERMAN writer Chris Roberson and cover art by Erik Jones that leads directly into the first issue of the new ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST this July.
About BOOM! Studios
BOOM! Studios (http://www.boom-studios.com/) 2009’s "Best Publisher” generates a wide-ranging catalog of multiple Eisner and Harvey Award-nominated comic books and graphic novels featuring some of the industry’s top talent, including Philip K. Dick's DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?, 20th Century Fox's 28 DAYS LATER and DIE HARD, The Henson Company's FARSCAPE, and the original Mark Waid series IRREDEEMABLE. This fall sees BOOM! teaming up with the legendary Stan Lee, creator of Marvel Comics’ characters Spider-Man, The Hulk, and The X-Men for a line of original superhero series, the legend’s first new original superheroes to go to print in nearly 20 years. BOOM!'s youth imprint, BOOM Kids!, is an undisputed industry leader, publishing Disney/Pixar's THE INCREDIBLES, CARS, and TOY STORY, as well as Disney's THE MUPPETS, DONALD DUCK, UNCLE SCROOGE and WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES. This year, BOOM! Studios celebrates its fifth anniversary.
This is not a proper return, since the working projects I talked about are prolonged for the entire December and also these days we await the imminent arrival of the new member of the family. However, not all of the past week was spent in hectic activity, I did find time for other things too. I finished a couple of novels and the writing of their reviews is a work in progress, I have four interviews close to be finalized and I am preparing the posts for the end of the 2010 reading year. My time remains a bit limited, therefore the posting will be a bit scarce for the rest of December, but we will see each other a little this month and in full schedule from January.
Things seem to be piling up sometimes and since the end of the year is close a few working projects are gathering here. Three such projects to be exact and all require a few trips outside the office, paperwork that needs to be finished and revised and they take a lot more time than usual. Therefore for a few days my free time will be heavily shorted and my online presence scarce. I will be back on posting sometimes next week though.
As I mentioned a while back, Liz Williams’ Detective Inspector Chen series of novels found a new home at Morrigan Books. Therefore the small independent publishing house, Morrigan Books, scheduled for release the next two novels in Liz Williams’ series, “The Iron Khan” this December and “Morningstar” next year. But for the readers interested in Liz Williams’ “The Iron Khan” and who have an e-reader the novel is already available, because Morrigan Books released the e-book edition this week on Amazon and Smashwords. The e-book edition has an interesting cover, made by the art director of the Morrigan Books, Reece Notley, if I am not mistaken. However, since the publisher plans to release a paperback edition and a hardcover special edition we can expect a new cover for those editions too, Morrigan Books commissioned Stephanie Pui-Mun Law for the artwork which will be featured on the cover of the physical editions of “The Iron Khan”. I am looking forward to see that cover artwork too.
Also, here is a description of Liz Williams’ “The Iron Khan”:
Being considered a friend to the Emperor of Heaven has its drawbacks — especially when one is Detective Inspector Chen and the Emperor needs assistance in finding the Book, a escaped, self-aware magical artifact with the power to alter the world. Tasked with retrieving the Book before it can alter reality, Chen crosses paths with his former partner, Zhu Irzh who is in hot pursuit of the Iron Khan, an evil, homicidal immortal intent on conquering Asia by any means. While Chen and Zhu are otherwise occupied, Inari — Chen’s demon wife — is whisked away by forces intent on revenge against Chen and ultimately, the Emperor of Heaven. The fantastical deserts of Western China and a mythical city of wonders serve as a backdrop for Chen, Zhu Irzh and Zhu’s lover, Jhai Tserai as they wage an intense, personal war to prevent their worlds from a cataclysmic destruction.
Liz Williams delivers an exotic tapestry of unique urban fantasy — rich with Asian mythology and interesting, fully-formed characters. From the quirky inclusion of a taciturn badger teapot to the luxurious descriptions of Singapore Three, Williams crafts a solid and fantastical world like no other writer in the fantasy genre. Strong storytelling and unexpected plot twists is guaranteed to keep the reader intrigued…and longing for more.
John Joseph Adams worked as an assistant editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction from 2001 until December 2009 and he is the editor of Fantasy Magazine and of the online science fiction magazine, Lightspeed Magazine. His prolific editing career can also be seen in the eight anthologies he published from 2008 until now, the first, “Wastelands”, on January 2008 and the last, “The Way of the Wizard”, on November this year. Night Shade Books will release on January 2011 another very interesting anthology edited by John Joseph Adams, “Brave New Worlds”. The concept of “Brave New Worlds” is truly catching and appealed instantly to me and as John Joseph Adams used the readers, the line-up of authors for this collection of stories is impressing.
YOU ARE BEING WATCHED.
Your every movement is being tracked, your every word recorded. Your spouse may be an informer, your children may be listening at your door, your best friend may be a member of the secret police. You are alone among thousands, among great crowds of the brainwashed, the well-behaved, the loyal. Productivity has never been higher, the media blares, and the army is ever triumphant. One wrong move, one slip-up, and you may find yourself disappeared -- swallowed up by a monstrous bureaucracy, vanished into a shadowy labyrinth of interrogation chambers, show trials, and secret prisons from which no one ever escapes. Welcome to the world of the dystopia, a world of government and society gone horribly, nightmarishly wrong.
In his smash-hit anthologies Wastelands and The Living Dead, acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams showed you what happens when society is utterly wiped away. Now he brings you a glimpse into an equally terrifying future -- what happens when civilization invades and dictates every aspect of your life? From 1984 to The Handmaid's Tale, from Children of Men to Bioshock, the dystopian imagination has been a vital and gripping cautionary force. Brave New Worlds collects 33 of the best tales of totalitarian menace by some of today's most visionary writers, including Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Ursula K. Le Guin.
When the government wields its power against its own people, every citizen becomes an enemy of the state. Will you fight the system, or be ground to dust beneath the boot of tyranny?
- “Introduction” by John Joseph Adams - “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson - “Red Card” by S. L. Gilbow - “Ten With a Flag” by Joseph Paul Haines - “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin - “Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment” by M. Rickert - “The Funeral” by Kate Wilhelm - “O Happy Day!” by Geoff Ryman - “Pervert” by Charles Coleman Finlay - “From Homogenous to Honey” by Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot - “Billennium” by J. G. Ballard - “Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn - “Pop Squad” by Paolo Bacigalupi - “Auspicious Eggs” by James Morrow - “Peter Skilling” by Alex Irvine - “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury - “The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away” by Cory Doctorow - “The Pearl Diver” by Caitlín R. Kiernan - “Dead Space for the Unexpected” by Geoff Ryman - ““Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison® - “Is This Your Day to Join the Revolution?” by Genevieve Valentine - “Independence Day” by Sarah Langan - “The Lunatics” by Kim Stanley Robinson - “Sacrament” by Matt Williamson - “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick - “Just Do It” by Heather Lindsley - “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - “Caught in the Organ Draft” by Robert Silverberg - “Geriatric Ward” by Orson Scott Card - “Arties Aren’t Stupid” by Jeremiah Tolbert - “Jordan’s Waterhammer” by Joe Mastroianni - “Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs” by Adam-Troy Castro - “Resistance” by Tobias S. Buckell - “Civilization” by Vylar Kaftan
When it comes to the Romania writers the one name that impressed me lately and that comes immediately into my mind because of this fact is Marian Coman. His book “Testamentul de Ciocolată” (The Chocolate Testament) was a delightful discovery for me and it made me go in search of more of Marian Coman’s works. Therefore I found the other book of fiction published by Marian Coman, his debut volume, “White Nights, Black Days”.
“White Nights, Black Days” is structured in a series of short stories, related one with each other through a character, a location or an event. Not only that, but the short stories have a binder in form of the small pieces written from the perspective of the author that introduce them and make the book feel like a novel, although not in its typical form. “White Nights, Black Days” is the story of friendship and of the memories left by friendship and childhood. It is a volume of pure humanity, but that also transgresses the reality.
Marian Coman’s talent is felt on every page of the novel, he uses language with so much ease that the reader is lost in the reading, forgetting about the time and place of the process.
“I am thinking sometimes that I am a chopping machine. A monstrous chopping machine from which, like endless worms, the words are crawling outside. I am a chopping machine, a silent mill that grinds memories, that crashes readings, music and people, I am a chipped mixer that mingles fragments of dusty myths and caught on the fly ideas, I am a neuronal grater that lays on the paper a compact paste in which the smiles of friends, the grins of strangers, the moans of lovers, the morning coffee or the breakfast eaten at noon can still be read.”
He manages to create images that make an imprint of the reader’s mind, scenes that linger in thoughts long after the reading is over, similar to the black dots left on the eye by the staring in the sun. Sometimes it can be said that the scenes can be catalogued as grotesque or more fitted for a horror novel, but those are not meant to terrify or repel, but natural ways for the story to develop or as the reader will discover in the light of the end of the novel a consequence of the final twist. Marian Coman creates a little gem, using words, simple sentences or intricate phrases that turn “White Nights, Black Days” into an experience hard to forget.
“Last night I caught a man. I found him in a dark corner and I broke his legs so he can’t escape. He soaked with blood and I gripped him easily, with my nails, so that I will not get dirty. How many dreams he had in his hair and how much remorse was caught on his clothes! And how scared he felt while I was watching him, hanged in the noose of my claws.”
“White Nights, Black Days” is the story of a friendship, but also of childhood memories, with the good and the bad. The Romanians who spent their childhood in the final years of the Communist regime will identify and relate with some of the Marian Coman’s stories effortlessly. Makeshift toys, games, habits and legends all play a part in the life of the book’s characters and will create a stronger emotional connection between these readers and the novel. Marian Coman has room in his novel for one of the most known Romanian myths as well, only giving it a new perspective, thoughtful and original. “White Nights, Black Days” is also a story of life and death. The finality of death is a constant presence in the volume, playing an important role, but also inflicting more force into life. The story of “White Nights, Black Days” has a constant bitter-sweet tone, all the pieces using and ending preponderantly in a melancholically note.
“White Nights, Black Days” is deeply rooted into reality, but the boundary with the imaginative is ambiguous. Without a clear obstacle and unchallenged the real world becomes fantasy and imaginative blends with reality and nothing will state clearly which is which. The end of the novel throws a light on this boundary and makes things come into focus, but I have to admit that it is not something I am fond of. I believe that I understand the message and the intention of Marian Coman, but I would have liked that the diffuse line between the realities to remain as blurred in the end as it is on the bulk of the volume. There are one or two stories within the book that seem misplaced, beautiful, but somehow not part of the general line. However, looking at the central stage of “White Nights, Black Days” these are minor issues and do not turn into an impediment for a wonderful reading.
“I believe that in everyone’s life there are providential meetings. Meetings which you are not allowed to miss or, on the contrary, at which it is better not to get to.”
Well, I am very happy that I met “White Nights, Black Days”, it showed me again that Marian Coman is a very talented writer. It also made me think that if I had the power I would force Marian Coman to write more. Better still, I would pay him to do it.
Although I am very familiar with the Greg Bear’s name I cannot say the same about his works since I didn’t read any of his books. Yesterday, on the Orbit Books’ website I found the catchy trailer of the latest Greg Bear’s novel, “Hull Zero Three”. More than the trailer, the book synopsis sounds really interesting, and both of them got me thinking if not “Hull Zero Three” is an excellent reason for me to start exploring Greg Bear’s works. The US edition of Greg Bear’s “Hull Zero Three” was released by Orbit Books on November, 22nd, and the UK edition will be released by Gollancz on March 2011.
A starship hurtles through the emptiness of space. Its destination - unknown. Its purpose? A mystery. Its history? Lost.
Now, one man wakes up. Ripped from a dream of a new home, a new planet and the woman he was meant to love in his arms, he finds himself wet, naked, and freezing to death. The dark halls are full of monsters but trusting other survivors he meets might be the greater danger.
All he has are questions: Who is he? Where are they going? What happened to the dream of a new life? What happened to the woman he loved? What happened to Hull 03?
All will be answered, if he can survive. Uncover the mystery. Fix the ship. Find a way home.
HULL ZERO THREE is an edge of your seat thrill ride through the darkest reaches of space.
Last Friday, at the Gaudeamus Book Fair held in Bucharest, the Romanian Society of Science Fiction and Fantasy (SRSFF) has presented the 2010 SRSFF Awards (Premiile SRSFF). The SRSFF Awards reward the efforts of those who, on course of a year, have promoted the speculative fiction genres in Romania. The first edition of the SRSFF Awards was held last year and the 2010 winners are:
The award for the author: Cristian M. Teodorescu
The award for translator: Mihai Dan Pavelescu
The award for publishing: Ştefan Ghidoveanu
The award for artist: Alex Popescu (one of the artists with whom I had the pleasure to make an interview)
The Russian fairy tales enriched my childhood and infused my dreams with wonderful stories. There were a couple of characters from those fairy tales who rather haunted my dreams than make them more pleasant, but strong characters nonetheless. Among them, Koschei the Deathless. Catherynne M. Valente will release in 2011 a new novel, “Deathless”, which from the information I found on the author's website it is a retelling of Koschei the Deathless and Marya Morevna fairy tales. Since I loved the Russian fairy tales and later on I found Koschei the Deathless to be a very interesting character, I am looking forward to the Catherynne M. Valente’s retelling of these stories. Until Tor Books releases “Deathless” on March 2011 we can take a look at the cover artwork, revealed on Tor.com by the excellent art director of Tor Books, Irene Gallo. The cover made by Beth White proves, not that such a demonstration is needed, that a black and white artwork works perfectly on a book cover as well. Looking over the artwork of “Deathless” I believe that it even beats many, more colorful, covers. Beth White’s cover makes me also even more curious about the Catherynne M. Valente’s novel and I would certainly pick a copy for reading when “Deathless” will be available.
Among the fantasy series that I loved a lot Brian Ruckley’s “Godless World” can be found. “Winterbirth”, “Bloodheir” and “Fall of Thanes” took me into an interesting and catchy setting and captured my attention with a gritty story, some excellent battle scenes and a few very strong characters. Since then I wished to read more of Brian Ruckley’s stories, those that he will write, because after all “Godless World” is his debut series. Such an occasion will arise next year when Orbit Books will release Brian Ruckley’s new novel, “The Edinburgh Dead”. It is a shift from the “Godless World” novels, but that is not a problem, Brian Ruckley’s style appeals to me and his new novel looks to be interesting.
Mixing real history and historical figures with magics and conspiracies, this novel imagines the Edinburgh of 1827, populated by mad alchemists who treat Frankenstein as textbook rather than novel, and by a criminal underclass prepared to treat with the darkest of powers.
The plot follows the progress of an officer of the recently formed Edinburgh City Police as he follows a trail of undead hounds, emptied graves, brutal murders and mob violence into the deepest and darkest corners of Edinburgh’s underworld – both literal and magical – and back again to the highest reaches of elegant, intellectual Edinburgh society.
Kalpa Imperial is the first of Argentinean writer Angélica Gorodischer’s nineteen award-winning books to be translated into English. In eleven chapters, Kalpa Imperial’s multiple storytellers relate the story of a fabled nameless empire which has risen and fallen innumerable times. Fairy tales, oral histories and political commentaries are all woven tapestry-style into Kalpa Imperial: beggars become emperors, democracies become dictatorships, and history becomes legends and stories.
But Kalpa Imperial is much more than a simple political allegory or fable. It is also a celebration of the power of storytelling. Gorodischer and acclaimed writer Ursula K. Le Guin, who has translated Kalpa Imperial, are a well-matched, sly and delightful team of magician-storytellers. Rarely have author and translator been such an effortless pairing. Kalpa Imperial is a powerful introduction to the writing of Angélica Gorodischer, a novel which will enthrall readers already familiar with the worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin.
Angélica Gorodischer is considered to be one of the three most important woman writers of the Spanish language science fiction, has published more than 19 novels and collections of short stories and has a multiple awarded career behind her. “Kalpa Imperial” was originally published in 1983, its first part, and in 1984, both volumes together. It is the only work of Angélica Gorodischer translated into English, by the well-known Ursula K. Le Guin, and published in 2003 by Small Beer Press.
“Kalpa Imperial” cannot be define as a novel exactly, the volume containing eleven stories independent of each other, but which together take into perspective the history of a nameless empire. The volume spans on a long period of time and this fact is shown even from the title of Angélica Gorodischer’s novel, kalpa being a Sanskrit word that defines a long period of time in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology and spanning for about 4,3 billion of years. But as we can see from the first and last stories of the novel it is not the only period of time when the empire existed, it has a prior existence felt in the first story and it enters into a step of its existence with the end of the last story.
Angélica Gorodischer’s “Kalpa Imperial” cannot be defined as the pure fantasy either, there is no magic present and the world is created with the help of the story, without going deeper into unnecessary or burdening details. The stories of “Kalpa Imperial” take the reader into a journey not only through the history of the empire, but mainly through the human factor. The rulers are succeeding to the throne, due to different events and personal actions, but neither of them acts badly for the sake of negative actions. They act according to their beliefs, to their own set of moral codes and to their greater or smaller benefits. The novels features also events that change the rulers of the empire, circumstances that lead to a new way for the empire and a smaller history that imitates on a smaller scale the rise and fall of the entire empire. “Kalpa Imperial” feels like a non-fiction, not in the way of collecting historical facts in a cold and distant manner, but in the pleasant and comfortable display of “One Thousand and One Nights”, with the moral conclusions resulting from here.
Actually, I believe that I am wrong, there is magic in Angélica Gorodischer’s “Kalpa Imperial”, the magic of the language. All the stories are narrated by a storyteller and the technique is such wonderfully used that the readers almost feel the presence of the storyteller and an intimate connection to the stories. Because the presence of the storyteller is almost alive the reader constantly feels the tone of the stories and the changes it suffers. The beauty of descriptions, the simplicity of the prose on some places, the cynicism, sarcasm and humor are all making the stories more colorful and vibrant. The humor of Angélica Gorodischer is even more present in the last story of the volume, where a story is told within the story and where we can discover well known names of movies and actors hidden in the houses and names of that tale’s characters and some events similar to ones of Roman and Greek mythology. It is a discovery as delightful as the story which is a part of.
“Kalpa Imperial” suffers a bit from the names the readers encounter within the novel. Characters and dynasties often have names long and confusing. Although many of the stories work as an allegory or a political comment and the names might not be very important, I still stumbled a bit over them in Angélica Gorodischer’s novel. Also, as I said the novel describes events from an empire history through eleven different stories, but taken all into account in one bite might prove difficult to digest. Instead, reading patiently one story at a time and rummaging them carefully will make the volume more satisfying.
In the book’s presentation we can read that “Kalpa Imperial is the first of Argentinean writer Angélica Gorodischer’s nineteen award-winning books to be translated into English”. Sadly, seven years after its publication it is the only one available in English. The situation is so much unfortunate because “Kalpa Imperial” proves that the English market, and not only, has nothing but to gain from the translation of Angélica Gorodischer’s works.
After Aliette de Bodard made a book trailer for her debut novel, “Servant of the Underworld”, she now made another one for her second novel, “Harbinger of the Storm”, due to be released by Angry Robot Books on January 2011. I’ve started “Servant of the Underworld” last night and the early premises of the novel caught me. It seems that Aliette de Bodard's “Harbinger of the Storm” sounds equally intriguing.
The year is Two House and the Mexica Empire teeters on the brink of destruction, lying vulnerable to the flesh-eating star-demons – and to the return of their creator, a malevolent goddess only held in check by the Protector God’s power.
The council is convening to choose a new emperor, but when a councilman is found dead, only Acatl, High Priest of the Dead, can solve the mystery.
When he hears rumours of a sinister cabal of sorcerors he must face up to demons, not all of them his own.
Lately, I return very often to the French cover artwork and how can I not since the work of the art departments of the French publishers is truly amazing. This time we have a cover from the publisher Eclipse, made for the French edition of Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett’s debut novel, “Havemercy”. The cover artist is none other than Kekai Kotaki, one of the best fantasy artists of today, and who put his talent to excellent work once again. I didn’t read Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett’s novel, but since I know that we do have some mechanical, magic-fueled dragons within “Havemercy”, I believe that Kekai Kotaki’s cover is truly appropriate for the book. “Miséricorde” (Havemercy) will be released by Eclipse in France this week, on November 19th.
This month Stephen King released a new collection of four novellas, “Full Dark, No Stars”, and Hodder & Stoughton, the publisher of the UK edition of the book, together with the film company Future Shorts made four trailers for each of the four novellas in “Full Dark, No Stars”. All four of them give a wonderful sense of the Stephen King’s novellas, creepy and casting a strange aura, making me very eager to read these stories. Here is the first trailer in the series, but on Hodder’s website you can find links to all the four trailers made for the Stephen King’s book. It has been a while since I didn’t read any Stephen King, but now I believe that “Full Dark, No Stars” gives me enough reason to return to one of my favorite writers.
'I believe there is another man inside every man, a stranger...' writes Wilfred Leland James in the early pages of the riveting confession that makes up '1922', the first in this pitch-black quartet of mesmerising tales from Stephen King, linked by the theme of retribution. For James, that stranger is awakened when his wife Arlette proposes selling off the family homestead and moving to Omaha, setting in motion a gruesome train of murder and madness.
In 'Big Driver', a cozy-mystery writer named Tess encounters the stranger is along a back road in Massachusetts when she takes a shortcut home after a book-club engagement. Violated and left for dead, Tess plots a revenge that will bring her face to face with another stranger: the one inside herself.
'Fair Extension', the shortest of these tales, is perhaps the nastiest and certainly the funniest. Making a deal with the devil not only saves Harry Streeter from a fatal cancer but provides rich recompense for a lifetime of resentment.
When her husband of more than twenty years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It’s a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends 'A Good Marriage'.
Like DIFFERENT SEASONS and FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT, which generated such enduring hit films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, FULL DARK, NO STARS proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.
Portugal's largest fantasy and science fiction convention, The Fórum Fantástico 2010, is getting ready to open its doors to thousands of fans in Lisbon this weekend 12th-14th November.
The two Guests of Honour being flown in this year are the British fantasy author Stephen Hunt, and American fantasy author Peter V. Brett.
The three-day event also includes many Portuguese fantasy and science fiction authors & comic-book creators and artists, including Ricardo Pinto, David Soares, Afonso Cruz and João Pedro Duarte.
The event is being held in Portugal's capital in the stunning Biblioteca Municipal de Telheiras (state library).
Stephen Hunt was first published in 2007 after a fiercely fought auction for his debut fantasy novel, 'The Court of the Air'. The success of ‘The Court of the Air’ (it’s still the only debut fantasy novel to be given mass-market distribution by Tesco) helped kick-start a now rapidly growing sub-culture known as steampunk, with a slew of novels in the genre following in Hunt’s foot-steps on both sides of the Atlantic.
Books in Stephen's series include ‘The Court of the Air, ‘The Kingdom Beyond the Waves’, ‘The Rise of the Iron Moon, ‘Secrets of the Fire Sea’, ‘Jack Cloudie’ (pub: 2011), and a 6th as yet untitled work in the series due for publication in 2012.
The Jackelian series is published in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand by HarperCollins; the USA by Tor; and as foreign language editions by various publishers in Japan, China, Russia, France, Germany, Portugal and Spain.
Peter V. Brett is an American writer of fantasy novels. He is the author of the ongoing 'Demon Series', whose first volume 'The Painted Man', was first published in the United Kingdom by HarperCollins's Voyager imprint in 2008. The book is known as 'The Warded Man' in the United States where Del Rey Books published it.
The first novel in Peter's Demon Series introduces a world formerly the home of an advanced human civilisation, now reduced to a 'dark age' by the attacks of demons, known as 'corelings'. The corelings are powerful beings, with magical abilities and differing elemental natures, and each night emerge from the planet's core to feed on humans. The story is told from the perspective of three main characters, Arlen, Leesha and Rojer, showing their passage from childhood to maturity and the beginning of their individual quests to bring an end to the terror that has befallen humankind. Each character possess differing talents, which develop across the tale, and will become key in the ongoing struggle.
November, 12th: 14,30 – The opening 15,00 – Panel “Classics of Portuguese Science Fiction” with Luís Filipe Silva, António de Macedo, João Barreiros and João Seixasm, moderated by Rogério Ribeiro 16,00 – Panel “New Portuguese Fantasy for New Readers” with Fábio Ventura, Bruno Martins Soares and Bruno Matos, moderated by Rogério Ribeiro 17,00 – Panel “Fantastic Art” with Victor Lages, Bruno Krippahl and Tiago Lobo Pimentel, moderated by Ana Maria Baptista 18,00 – Pause 18,30 – Release of “The Symbolic Space in The Lord of the Rings”, with the author Maria do Rosário Monteiro 19,00 – Panel “Portuguese Fantasy by Women”, with Madalena Santos, Inês Botelho and Susana Almeida, moderated by Safaa Dib
19,30 – Joint session of autographs
November, 13th 10,30 – The mechanics of writing fantasy (I) – “Worldbuilding”, by Ricardo Pinto 11,15 – The mechanics of writing fantasy (II) – “Invented Technology and Atmosphere” by Stephen Hunt 12,00 – The mechanics of writing fantasy (III) – “Characters and Characterization”, by Peter V. Brett 14,30 – “Fórum Fantástico: 5 years, and now?”, conversation with Rogério Ribeiro and Safaa Dib 15,00 – Panel “Fantastic Lisbon”, moderated by Rui Tavares, with João Barreiros, David Soares and Octávio dos Santos 16,00 – Portuguese Fantastic Cinema – Short movies (“The Hearing” by Francisco Campos and Henrique Bagulho, “Nocturne” by Francisco Carvalho, “The Bet” by Vasco Sequeira 17,00 – Pause 17,30 – Release of “The Homeless Light”, with the author David Soares 18,00 – Conversation with Ricardo Pinto, lead by Rogério Ribeiro 18,30 – Conversation with Stephen Hunt, lead by Luís Corte-Real 19,00 – Conversation with Peter V. Brett, lead by Pedro Reisinho
19,30 - Joint session of autographs
November, 14th 11,30 – The mechanics of writing fantasy (IV) – “When reality is mixed with the fantastic”, by David Soares 12,15 – The mechanics of writing fantasy (V) – “Notions of movie script for story writers and novelists”, by Luís Pereira (Monomito Argumentistas) 15,00 – Reading suggestions, with Ana Cristina Alves and João Barreiros 15,30 – Panel “The Comics”, with Filipe Melo, Nuno Duarte, Osvaldo Medina, Rui Ramos, Fil, André Oliveira and Diogo Carvalho 17,00 – Panel “The fantastic as a literary form”, moderated by João Morales, with Afonso Cruz and João Pedro Duarte 18,00 – Pause 18,30 - Portuguese Fantastic Cinema – Short movies (“The Bride” by Ana Almeida, “Epilogue” by Ricardo Quaresma and Maria Freire, “The Plastic Bag” by Bruno Canas) presented by Filipe Homem Fonseca and Nuno Duarte. Panel about the Portuguese fantastic cinema with Paulo Prazeres, Filipe Melo, Paulo Leite (Bad Behaviour), moderated by Filipe Homem Fonseca and Nuno Duarte
20,00 – The closing
During the event a Fair of Fantasy Book will be available, managed by the Dr.Kartoon bookshop, and with stands of Saída de Emergência publishing house and Runadrake game publisher.
Since last week we made a journey around the world of speculative fiction with the help of The Portal, this week let’s make a similar journey with the help of InterNova. Although both sites feature articles and insights of the worldwide speculative fiction there is a small difference between them, because The Portal is dedicated to the reviews of the short form of speculative fiction from around the world and InterNova is dedicated to the publication of the short speculative fiction from across the world. Here is a small presentation of InterNova in its own words:
InterNova is an offspring of the German science fiction magazine Nova. Founded in 2002, Nova was intented to be a long-term forum for current German language science fiction. Part of our concept was to include in each isseue an interesting classic reprint or a translated story by a foreign guest writer. Famous writers such as Greg Egan or Brian Aldiss were so kind to contribute short works. When researching for stories outside of the Anglo-American world we found that there are much more interesting science fiction all over the world than we could publish in Nova. Thus the idea of an international edition was born.
In spring 2005 the fist issue of InterNova was published. Since Frederik Pohl’s short-living International SF in the late sixties, which lasted only for two issues, a truly international science fiction magazine has never been attempted again. InterNova was not lucky either: despite good critics the sales were so low that the magazine had to be discontinued before the second issue was in print. Not willing to give up the idea of an international sf magazine completely, however, editor Michael K. Iwoleit decided to relaunch InterNova as an e-zine.
InterNova already features non-fiction articles by Richard Kunzmann, Lavie Tidhar, Roberto de Sousa Causo and Daniel Salvo, a classic section where we can find the stories of two Italian writers, Lino Aldani (Red Rhombuses) and Renato Pestriniero (The People in the Painting), and the fiction section which features the short stories of Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro (Brazil, Peak Time), Eduardo J. Carletti (Argentina, God’s Gut), Arthur Goldstuck (South Africa, The Fabulous Yesterdays), Aleksandar Ziljak (Croatia, What Colour Is the Wind?), Eric Brown (England, Thursday’s Child), Sven Klöpping (Germany, Let’s Talk About Death, Baby), Roberto de Sousa Causo (Brazil, The Most Beautiful Woman in the World), Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (Finland, Those Were the Days), Anil Menon (India, Vermillion), Yan Wu (China, Mouse Pad), Milena Benini (Croatia, As Time Goes By), Guido Eekhaut (Belgium, A Conspiracy) and Vandana Singh (India, The Tetrahedron).
It is settled for me now, when it comes to the Romanian cover artwork Millennium Books is the publishing house to look for. The reason for this is that Millennium Books puts as much effort in the artwork of the covers of their volumes as in the titles they publish and promote. A new such title is another book from the Romanian speculative fiction author Liviu Radu, “Modificatorii” (The Modifiers), due to be released this month. The illustration for the cover of Liviu Radu’s book is made by the Romanian surrealist photograph, George Grădinaru, and it shows that photo manipulation can work wonders on a book cover too, since this artwork is catchy and atmospheric. The premises of the book sound interesting as well:
What if Alexander Nevsky had never defeated the teutons? What if Hannibal had conquered Rome? What if Peter III had ruled Russia and not Catherine the Great? And, at last, what if France had been a part of the British Empire ruled by George V and all the French had bathed in pubs?
Only the modifiers know the answers to these four questions. The history modifiers, those who can influence the events… Is it so?
Liviu Radu tries to discern, in this volume, the tangled threads of the history we think that we know.
Recently I discovered a very interesting and meritorious initiative of the Romanian Science Fiction and Fantasy Society (Societatea Română de Science Fiction și Fantasy). It is an initiative in the benefit of both Romanian Science Fiction and Fantasy writers and readers, but not for the sole benefit of them. SRSFF together with the Eagle Publishing House have as their goal the publication of a single collection for the Romanian speculative fiction, from its beginnings until the modern days. The collection already started with the first five titles you see above and which I ordered immediately I found about them. Another interesting aspect of this wonderful initiative is that the titles released by the SRSFF and Eagle Publishing House are available on the Amazon site as well, in the original language, but maybe this will be a first step in bringing them, or at least the best of them, in an English translation someday. I really hope that will come to happen. Here are the first titles available and which I ordered for my personal library:
“Phreeria” by Mihail Grămescu - The world became a strange place. A place where the human civilization tries to survive in closed, industrial cities where the recovered technology is used on large scale in order to maintain life and in Phreeria, the melted South Pole, where the savagedom immigrants fight for their lives, eat quicho and search for a job. The Great War has ended. The Eternal War begun. The metamorphosis, too. Using the Great Game rules, the survivors try to enforce the Peace before the Condor's Conquista extends to the galaxy.
“Întâlnire cu meduza” (Meeting with medusa) by Mircea Opriță – The volume of short fiction “Meeting with medusa” was published in the old collection, “Isosceles Triangle”, of Tineretului Publishing from Bucharest; the book registers, consubstantial, on the “poetic” coordinate which, later, Mircea Opriță will define and highlight as a more ample movement in the science-fiction literature of a time.
“Efectul P” (The P Effect) by Gheorghe Schwartz - Our conscience, our education, our way of life prepare us for death. We are conceived for a limited existence. What if, one day, the entire population became aware of the immortality perspective and nobody will must die on Earth? And what if, ourselves, must take a decision to maintain or to cease these perspective?
“Așteptând în Ghermana” (Waiting in Ghermana) by Dănuț Ungureanu - Waiting for redemption in a future world obsessed by sex and violence, rock music and deafening noises, the escape of Yablonski is more and more dificult. The masses are abrutized and manipulated and Ghermana is the endless purgatory...
“Lumea lui Als Ob” (The World of Als Ob) by Voicu Bugariu – The mental living of countless lives, at choice, through the conservation of the body on the unlimited time (“Noapte bună, Sophie” – Good night, Sophie), cosmic journeys through worlds unseen yet, but imagined, of the universe (“Lumea lui Als Ob” – The World of Als Ob), parallel SF or fantasy worlds described by Voicu Bugariu in moral stories and aesthetical parables, published in this wonderful volume in which, says the author, “I’ve started to aim for the clarity, even the condensation, I tried to save words, and above all, to express myself clearly. Also, I searched, as much as I could, to reach a certain elegance of the style.”
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Editura Vremea
Invited to a stranger’s wedding in a castle haunted by the devil, the fallen noble Arthur de Seragens finds himself caught in a terrible web of madness, betrayal and crime. While the guests die around him one by one in a mysterious way, cut down by an inhuman enemy, Arthur witnesses with horror at the noose getting tighter around the only person he cared about, the gorgeous Adrianna de Valois, the young daughter of the dark and feared chief of Police. Panicked and confused, Arthur is forced to make a fragile and controversial alliance with the strongest of the survivors, who already began together an investigation in the dark, but suspecting each other: the Viscount of Vincennes, Arthur’s childhood friend, versed in the saloon intrigues, logician and skillful hunter; the German Baron Von Walter the Traveler, who’s wanders through places forgotten by the world brought him face to face with unbearable truths; the beautiful and immoral Giulianna Sellini, who is said to have seduced the God and the Devil at the same time; the ex-priest Huguet de Castelnove, now a dangerous swordsman, with a road strewn with bodies behind him that leads to a mysterious mistress; the Duke of Chalais, the strong and cruel master of the land, refined, handsome and unable to abstain from his violent bursts; and, especially, the man who leads the investigation and who is feared by all, because one word from him can bring the stake – Albert de Guy, the Inquisitor…
It is difficult to talk about the Romanian horror fiction, mainly because it barely exists. It is difficult to make references to past Romanian horror titles and even more difficult to find modern ones. Trying to bring a change in this bitter state of things is Oliviu Crâznic, who makes his debut with a gothic novel, “… şi la sfârşit a mai rămas coşmarul” (… and at the end remained the nightmare).
Considering the tremendous efforts and the courage of Oliviu Crâznic to write and Vremea Publishing to publish such a novel on a market that seems a bit too conservative my mission becomes ingrate, because my experience with the book is not among the fortunate ones. Oliviu Crâznic chooses to make his debut with a gothic fiction, a sub-genre that it is rather dead on the outside markets, but I do not have a problem with. It is true that we are a little late to this party, but it is a party which was attended by heavy names, such as Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard or Shirley Jackson to name a few.
The story is told in the first person perspective and the character who tells the story is Arthur de Seragens. Arthur is invited to a wedding, but he finds the invitation strange and the company even stranger. The events that occur will turn out to be not only strange, but horrifying. Besides Arthur de Seragens the reader meets from the early stage a large cast of characters and that proved to be a challenge for me from the start. The story takes each into account but nothing in the beginning helped me to identify every character properly. Contributing to the confusion are the titles of each character, cavalier, count, viscount, baron or duke, deepens the state of confusion I was in. Especially since not always the title goes with the name and therefore at the start I had to go back and forth in order to make a hold on the characters. Because of the large cast, the characters fail to properly develop too. I couldn’t find any strong presence with the cast, the positive or negative ones looking flat and making me totally indifferent to their eventual destiny. There were a couple of things about the characters that didn’t hit me in the proper way either. For example, there is a reference to something in Arthur’s past for which I couldn’t find any relevance within the story. Also at some points some of the characters court each other although I believe that the events around them will rip away any desire for romance.
The wedding party is held in a castle, The Castle of Last Towers, near the village of Nuit-aux-Bois (which can be approximately translated as Night in the Woods) and Oliviu Crâznic manages to create a dark setting for his novel. The descriptions of the castle together with the pieces of information from its past create a chilling atmosphere, a proper setting for this gothic story. Unfortunately, there are descriptions that will warm the atmosphere back up and will take away the tension from the story. The author gives too much attention to the attire and jewelry of the characters. I am not saying that there is no need for these details, but if I go through every piece of clothing the characters wear there is the risk of feeling myself at a fashion show rather than in the presence of supernatural events that induce tension and discomfort.
The author makes constant promises of the events and horror to come with almost every chapter, but he doesn’t manage to deliver the tension and the terror as often as it is promised. There are a few tensioned and grotesque scenes, with a bit of action and surprising turn, but not enough for a supposed edgy novel. There is one chapter though, the best by far, the one involving a burning on a stake, dramatic, tensed and involving quite a lot of human error. If I come to think of it, I believe that the novel would have benefited from more of such moments. I mean there is human error at almost every step, but totally misplaced since the characters fail to find the responsible for the events around them until the respective is the last one left from the suspects. This proved to not be much fun for me. There is another thing that bothered me constantly. The characters make references to Slovakia throughout the story, but I am not sure that Slovakia existed under this name in the medieval times. I am no historian, but looking for information I could find that the territories of modern Slovakia were part of other empires at the time of the story. So it feels a bit strange to refer to it as Slovakia. Or so I believe.
Finishing Oliviu Crâznic’s novel I discovered a very interesting and quite uncommon element of it. The volume ends with an afterword written by the author that lengths almost as much as half of the novel. Although a bit strange for me I have to say that this is the part I enjoyed from this book. The afterword shows a lot of commitment from Oliviu Crâznic for his novel, a documentation thoroughly and carefully made, with very interesting facts and stories. Unfortunately, those proved to be more interesting for me than the actual story written by the author.
I am sorry that my review turned out as it is, because Oliviu Crâznic and Vremea Publishing made a praiseworthy effort, “… şi la sfârşit a mai rămas coşmarul” (… and at the end remained the nightmare) being the first step for the modern Romanian horror fiction. But sadly, I cannot shake the feeling that this novel is not exactly the proper way to encourage the Romanian horror fiction.