Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Interview Manda Scott

After receiving my first review copy through the courtesy of the nice people from Bantam Books, Miss Manda Scott, the author of "The Crystal Skull", had the amability to answer my questions for my first interview. Manda Scott is a veterinary surgeon and she was trained at the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine. She was nominated for the 1997 Orange Prize with the novel "Hen's Teeth" and for the 2003 Edgar Award with the novel "No Good Deed". Her works include also the "Boudica" series. You can find her full bibliography at Fantastic Fiction.

Dark Wolf: I know that you are a veterinary surgeon and I think this comes from the passion and care for animals, but can you tell us from where comes the passion for writing?
Manda Scott: To be honest, I have no idea, but it's always been there. When I was a child, our family home was a raptor rehab centre and I spent my life writing books that had been "written by" the owls... I started a novel when I was 8 or so... I imagine it came from being a particularly introverted child who lived her life mostly through books and through animals, but that's an easy adult's viewpoint.

Dark Wolf: From the genres of your novels, crime fiction, historical fiction, thriller is there one closer to your heart?
Manda Scott: Anything well-written is close to my heart and there are very few of those... A well-written historical thriller is a joy, but any book where language, plot and character are exceptionally crafted is a fantastic find. I just wish there were more of them.

DW: Do you consider trying another genre in the future?
MS: Definitely. I think as writers, we have an opportunity and an ethical and moral obligation not only to hold a mirror to who we were and who we could be (Boudica), but also to show how we can progress forward. There are a lot of futuristic dystopias - I just read Susan Hall's book, "The Carhullan Army" - which was excellent - but we have a window of opportunity now to fashion our future for when the oil runs out - and we need to have imagined how it could be. So I have plans for a book doing exactly that, although quite what genre it would fit into is debatable.

DW: How do you feel knowing that your novels travel through world, being translated and read in many countries?
MS: Very, very good! (as long as they're good translations, of course)

DW: I noticed in "The Crystal Skull" a load of information and I think the research work for such a novel must have been very hard. How long does it take the research for a novel?
MS: It takes anything up to 6 months at the start, and then ongoing research while I'm writing. I'd been thinking about Skull for a while, so the lead-in reasearch was shorter, but the work during it, particularly on the Tudor thread, was greater.

DW: Does your passion for climbing influenced the passion of "The Crystal Skull" character, Stella, for caving?
MS: Definitely. Though I am hugely scared of caving, so I was, in a way, writing through my own fear of being trapped underground. But the dynamics of caving and climbing are very similar, and the experience of the utter awe at the magnitude and magnificence of the earth are common to both.

DW: Do you belive that the prophecy present in your novel, that the world would end on 21.12.2012 can be true?
MS: I don't think 2012 is an end date, but I do, absolutely think it's the mid-point in an event cycle which will end in the total annihilation of mankind and the extinction of millions of species if we don't act now. I think we're recognisably in that event cycle - but there is still time to act. That's why I wrote the book.

DW: Considering that mayan history appears in your novel, may I ask if you saw Mr. Mel Gibson's movie "Apocalypto"? Did you liked it?
MS: I'm afraid to say I haven't seen it. I don't really watch TV or movies much, though I'll probably go to see "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" when it comes out next month, just for curiosity - and because we have various people interested in making a film of the book and so it would be useful to know what's in the film. The advance stuff I've heard suggest it's not particularly linked.

DW: Considering the controversy around this movie and the fact that you write historical fiction, do you belive that the historical facts and information must be very accurate or you can improvise?
MS: The known facts - when they are facts (such as the fact that stirrups weren't invented in Roman times, and so Gladiator was one big long anachronism) must be accurate. The opinions based on cultural prejudice which are displayed as fact must be challenged.

DW: In the end, can you tell us if you have any ideas or any plans for a new book?
MS: I'm writing a book which has my file title "FIRE!" (short, easy to find on the computer) which I would like to have the final title of "The Spy, The Saint and The Messiah's Daughter" which is set in 64 AD, the year of the Great Fire of Rome. It is a chance to look tangentially at some of the survivors of the Boudica series, being set only 3 years after the end of the Boudican revolt, but primarily it's a Roman spy thriller set in Gaul and Rome in which Seneca is the ageing spymaster who has lost control of Saulos the Herodian, one of his primary agents (we know him as St. Paul) and has to persuade his other remaining agent to stop Saulos before he burns Rome in fulfilment of a prophecy. It's largely looking at very early Christianity and the schizm between Paul and the early Hebrew church from which he was excommunicated. It should be ready for publication some time in 2009.

Miss Scott it has been an honor and a pleasure and thank you once again for your answers and amability.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The 2007 Nebula Awards

The winners of 2007 Nebula Awards are:

Best Novel: "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" by Michael Chabon

Best Novella: "Fountain of Age" by Nancy Kress (published by Asimov's on july 2007, you can read it at Asimov's)

Best Novelette: "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Ted Chiang (published by Fantasy & Science Fiction on september 2007, you can read it at SF Site)

Best Short Story: "Always" by Karen Joy Fowler (published by Asimov's on may 2007, you can read it at Asimov's)

Best Script: "Pan's Labyrinth" by Guillermo del Toro

Andre Norton Award: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling

Monday, April 28, 2008

"The Crystal Skull" by Manda Scott

"The Crystal Skull"
Format: Paperback, 544 pages
Publisher: Bantam Books

Sometimes I feel I have to change a little the registry of my reading and go with other genre than fantasy, science-fiction and horror. Manda Scott's "The Crystal Skull" helped me do this different reading.

The novel follows two main characters and their two storylines, separated by a little over 400 years, but connected through time by a relic, a blue stone skull, and by a prophecy, that the end of the world will come at 21.12.2012. The first character, Cedric Owen, a physician, Master of Arts and doctor of philosophy, inherited the blue stone skull from his grandmother and he has to flee England because of the threat of Inquisition. He finds out that he has to travel to New Spain to learn about the past, the present and the future of the blue stone skull and he has to hide and protect it so that only the proper wielder of the stone to find it in the future. The second character, Stella Cody, an astro-physicist and a passionate caver, finds the blue stone skull after 419 years with the help of her husband and after they cracked the codes left by Cedric Owen. She learns that the future of the world lies in her hands and in the use of the blue stone skull.

Manda Scott manages to successfully blend the two stories and to create a compact tale. I liked mostly the story that takes part in the past, because the author manages to create a credible atmosphere of that time and also to make very good descriptions of the places present in the story, like Paris or New Spain. I found the characters of this storyline more of my taste, beside Cedric Owen, Fernandez de Aguilar being an interesting character. Also Manda Scott manages to sustain the suspense until the end and to have some interesting twists and turns at the end of the novel.

I found the characters from modern day part a little flat and simple. Also I think the pace of the novel in this part is a little too slow and the tension a little weak. But the author recovers this weak points in the final part of the novel, where the pace and suspense are well build and keeps you turning the pages.

Overall I found in "The Crystal Skull" a fun and relaxing read and I will certainly look for Manda Scott's "Boudica" books because I enjoyed the historical fiction made by the author in this novel.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Goblin War

I found this Declaration of War through John's blog Grasping for the Wind and it made my day (you can read Jim Hines' post here).

HA-OOH! HA-OOH! HA-OOH! for the goblins :).

Friday, April 25, 2008

"Promise of the Witch-King" by R.A. Salvatore

"Promise of the Witch-King"
Format: Paperback, 384 pages

I fell in love with fantasy literature since I had started reading. In fantasy one of my favourite character is Drizzt Do'Urden, created by R.A. Salvatore. Through Drizzt Do'Urden I met Jarlaxle, a mercenary drow elf, and Artemis Entreri, an assassin, the arch-enemy of Drizzt, the main characters of "Promise of the Witch-King".

In "Promise of the Witch-King", the second novel of "The Sellswords" trilogy, Jarlaxle and Artemis arrive in Bloodstone Lands following their adventures in Calimport. Here they are hired by two dragon sisters, Ilnezhara and Tazmikella, to find some relics that belonged to the Witch-King Zhengyi. So, the two of them become part of a group of adventurers that goes in the town of Palishchuk to investigate a castle that appeared after such a relic is found and used. Inside the castle, and I will say this without spoiling your read, they will come across some very interesting moments.

The novel is basically a "dungeon crawl", not my favourite type of story, because I think it's predictable and limited. But R.A. Salvatore does an amzing job in "Promise of the Witch-King" and manages to keep me interested all the way to the finish. He creates an intrigue and some twists and turns that extends the limits of this dungeon crawl.

Even from the opening part of the novel, when Jarlaxle and Artemis Entreri explore a tower of a lich, the pace is quick, full of action and details, and it gets better in the next chapters. The fighting scenes are great, very well described, keeping the high standard as well as the others of this kind of the author. I enjoyed this scenes very much, like I enjoyed the humour of some dialogues, amusing and entertaining, like I enjoyed the funny sequences of the Kneebreakers, a band of halflings or the way Athrogate, a dwarf, talks using rhymes. I enjoyed Jarlaxle, a character that begins to develop and is not tipical in fantasy literature.

In this novel R.A. Salvatore introduces new characters, but I think they are a little underdeveloped. Also I wondered how and why Jarlaxle and Artemis Entreri found themselves in Bloodstone Lands, following the events in the first novel of the trilogy, "Servant of the Shard". But this are minor issues considering the bigger picture, they can be easily overcome in the next novel. Adding that the author teases us with a small part of Jarlaxle's past and that the cold and calculated assassin Artemis Entreri has an inner conflict and developes more human feelings I certainly will read with interest the third book of the trilogy, "Road of the Patriarch".

"Promise of the Witch-King" offered me a engaging and entertaining reading, and this novel confirms that R.A. Salvatore is one of the best fantasy writers (also I loved the cover art of Todd Lockwood). I recommend the novel, but if you haven't read the first novel, "Servant of the Shard", it is better to start with that one because it will help you get used to the two main characters and their actions

Thursday, April 24, 2008

In the mailbox

Yesterday in my mailbox I found a package containing "Witness", a novel that Bill Blais was kind enough to send me. I have a tough week at work, but I think I will be able to start reading it next week. Until then you can find a very nice review of the novel at Sandstorm Reviews.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Misplaced treasures

I realized recently that I have some books that I read and that for the moment it is difficult to find them again. I remember them more or less clearly and I remember that all were borrowed from libraries or friends. I was thinking a few days ago that I really miss reading some of those books. Considering that my close friend and neighbor lives now in Ireland (we used to exchange many books) and the fact that the situation of libraries in my country can be defined as poor I have to find new sources for this titles. Let's see some of the titles that I miss the most.

"Skull City" by Lucius Shepard. This short story is one that I really wish to read once again. If I recall exactly is about a guy, addicted to drugs, that is hired to test a new drug and that drug sends him in a parallel world. This short story appeared in my country in a magazine named "Anticipatia" (The Anticipation) and I borrowed it from my friend that now lives in Ireland. I know that Subterranean Press will publish in august "The Best of Lucius Shepard" and I know that if I order the limited edition I receive an exclusive trade paperback volume "Skull City and Other Lost Stories", but I find it a little expansive for me.

"The Overlords of War" by Gerard Klein. This is one of the best science-fiction titles that I read, as I remember. The book was borrowed by my father but after 10 years he can't recall from where he got it. I also can't remember exactly the plot, only that I really liked it.

The Rocambole novels by Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail. This is a series of novels, mainly historical and crime fiction, and describes the adventure of Rocambole, the main character of these series. These books I borrowed from the local library about 15 years ago, but now they don't have the novels anymore.

"Ascenseur pour l'echafaud" (Elevator to the Gallows) by Noel Calef. Although is a crime fiction I will mention it because I really liked it and has an original idea. It's about a man that commits the perfect crime, but remains blocked in the elevator when leaves the crime scene. This title was also borrowed from my friend and I think he has it with him.

But despite all this difficulties I'm certain that one dat I will find them and read them once again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Blade Runner"

"Blade Runner" is the movie adaptation of "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick. It was released in 1982, is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young and Daryl Hannah.

Even though we find many differences between the movie and the novel, it is an excellent movie and one of the best ever. The movie catches the atmosphere of the novel, depicting a grim and dark world, a hopeless and pessimistic world. The action is set in Los Angeles in 2019 and Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) has to find six genetically engineered robots, known as replicants, that escaped from an off-world colony and are in search of their creator and try to expand their life expactancy.

In the general line this is different from the novel (where the action is set in San Francisco in 1992 and Deckard seeks eight androids, replicants is the name used only in the movie, that escaped from Mars, but not in search of their creator), but the basic is the same. The movie manages to capture all the inner conflicts and all the philosophy of the book. The movie has more action than the novel and also, a love story between Rick Deckard and Rachael, more romanced that in the novel. And unlike the novel the movie initiates a dilemma regarding Rick Deckard, that if Deckard is an android or a human.

I love this movie for many reasons, like for Ridley Scott, one of the best film directors ever, for Harrison Ford, the same nice actor from Star Wars and Indiana Jones, for the marvelous interpretation of Rutger Hauer and Sean Young, for the brilliant soundtrack made by Vangelis. This movie is a must see as the novel is a must read.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"
Format: Paperback, 256 pages
Publisher: Del Rey Books

Every time I read Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" the book gets better and I end up discovering new things.

The action is set in the future (actually in 1992, but you have to consider that the novel was written in 1968) when much of the Earth is destroyed by the World War and covered with radioactive dust. People are encouraged to emigrate to the off-worlds and part of that encouragement is an offer for a free android servant. After eight androids escape and flee from Mars on Earth, Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter for the San Francisco Police Department, is sent to track them down.

Philip K. Dick creates an extraordinary novel, set in a grim and dark world. I love this novel and I think is one of the best I read, I love the setting, I love the ideas of Philip K. Dick and I love Rick Deckard. Rick Deckard is one of the best and most human characters in literature. I liked his inner conflicts and fears, I like his vulnerability and his uneasiness and this details make a very real character out of him. Is one of the characters in literature that I felt for and identify with.

I love the future world constructed by Philip K. Dick, as much as you can love a world without hope. All the aspects and details show you a decaying and dying world. A world in which the social status is set based on what type of pet animal the person posses and if that animal is real or mechanical. I really liked the religion aspect too, the Mercerism. It is masterful created, rich in details and with all the theological and philosophical aspects resulted from it. In the novel the people use an Empathy Box, a device in which people can interact with each other and with Wilbur Mercer, a man that lived before the war and his legend is the foundation of Mercerism.

Another aspect that I really enjoyed is the devices that you can find in the novel. The Empathy Box, the device that I mentioned before, Penfield Mood Organ, a device that induces a certain emotion or mood to its users, like one that I find very amusing "desire to watch television, no matter what's on it", and the device used for the Voight-Kampff empathy test, a test used by the bounty hunters that identifies the androids.

Like I said I really love "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and I will put this novel on top of every recommendation list. And I will recommend the ecranization of the novel too, "Blade Runner", that although isn't exactly like the book is a very good movie.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse" edited by John Joseph Adams

Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Publisher: Night Shade Books

Like I said in the presentation of my blog I don't enjoy much e-books. But after I e-mailed to Night Shades Books and received the offer from John Joseph Adams for "Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse" I reconsidered seeing the names gathered in this anthology. And even I didn't changed my mind about e-books this anthology is great. I always loved apocalypse scenarios, in the list of my favourite movies are the three "Mad Max" movies and also I enjoyed playing "Fallout", two games that take place in an apocalyptic world. Adding to this Stephen King's "The Stand" and Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend", two of my favourite books, you can see my interest in this subject, interest that was fully satisfied and now "Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse" has its place in my heart.

John Joseph Adams' anthology has collected 22 stories, some optimistic, some dark, some with hope for a new beginning. Many of this stories follow the humans reactions facing their tragedy and the outcome of the humanity. The range of the worlds is excellent and every one of them makes you curious about the next author's vision of the post-apocalyptic world. Let's see them one by one.

"The End of the Whole Mess" by Stephen King. It is the story of two brothers with an above average intelligence, the older one is telling the story and the little one, a genius, tries to find a cure for human violence. After developing such a cure and spreading it in the world he discovers that the side effect is worst. I liked this story because it is told in the first person, actually the main character writes his story as his last words, and because the author manages to create a connection between me and the character. I also liked a little thing imagined by Stephen King, Mexico being communist and between Mexico and USA exists a wall like the Berlin wall.

"Salvage" by Orson Scott Card. The story is about an orphan young boy, Deaver, that looks for and retrieves old machines. He is looking for a treasure buried in a Mormon Temple, under water. When he finds out that what was buried isn't exactly what he is looking for new emotions overcome him. The story is about religion, about faith or the lack of it and about friendship and human emotions.

"The People of Sand and Slag" by Paolo Bacigalupi. In the future humans become almost invincible and immortal through technology, "weeviltech". They can eat mud, dirt and sand, every wound heals very fast and the body parts which they lose can grow back. Three guards of a mining company found a dog, a real dog not an engineered one, they're facing their humanity, or what it is left of it. It's an interesting story, about the outcome of the human emotions and feelings in a technological future.

"Breads and Bombs" by M. Rickett. A family of refugees comes to a small town and being former enemies doesn't help them to integrate in this society. Adding the paranoid behavior of some of the town's inhabitants they face the threat of lynching also. The story deals mainly with the loss of innocence, about prejudice and the fear of terrorism.

"How We Got in Town and Out Again" by Jonathan Lethem. In a land where the resources are scarce and where the towns became real fortresses guarded by local militia two teenagers that wander the land in search of food, enter in such a town with a troop who stages virtual reality competitions. They take part in a contest that awards the most resistant player in this virtual reality marathon with 1000$ and for their participation they get free food. The characters, in spite of their fight for survival and their dealings with human exploitation, keep a measure of hope and optimism.

"Dark, Dark Were the Tunnels" by George R.R. Martin. Half of a millennium after a global nuclear war, two groups of humans that have survived encounter each other. Geel is a scout of The People, a group of humans that survived and lives in deep underground tunnels, and he explores the upper tunnels. Cliffonetto and Von der Stadt are two explorers of the group of humans that survived in a lunar colony, and they arrived on Earth in a research team. Their surprising encounter is not as those three characters expected and has a terrible end. I liked this story because George R.R. Martin manages to create new species, like the predatory worms or like the rats that cohabitate with the humans and I liked how the author saw the outcome of human kind, forced by an apocalyptic event to separate in two groups, becomes two two different races every one transformed and adapted to its own new environment.

"Waiting for the Zephyr" by Tobias S. Buckell. In a world that has a shortage of oil and relies on wind power, Mara, a inhabitant of a small town seeks a new faith. She believes that in a larger city she will fare better, but she faces the opposition of her family. When Zephyr, a wind driven ship, arrives in her town she grabs the chance to escape. This story is the most optimistic of the entire anthology.

"Never Despair" by Jack McDevitt. Two survivors of an apocalyptic event are in search of Haven, a city that is supposed to have the records of the lost world. When they almost abandoned their search, one of them, Chaka, meets with a hologram, a character that will be very familiar to the readers, and after their conversation Chaka founds new courage and hope to continue their search.

"When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" by Cory Doctorow. In this story we get to live the apocalyptic event as it happens. Some systme administrators are working on their servers after an emergency call and they are trapped in their building when some terrible events, nuclear, biological and human agression, occur. Felix, the main character, loses his wife and child, but tries to build a new and better world. Even though I was lost sometime in the technical language I liked the story because Cory Doctorow puts us in the middle of the apocalyptic events.

"The Last of the O-Forms" by James Van Pelt. The world suffers from a plague that produces great genetic mutations. Trevin collects mutated creatures and expose them in Dr. Trevin's Travelling Zoological Extravaganza. But his business is running low because the mutations are a common thing and the people are losing interest in them. But maybe the answer is found in the original form of animals and humans, the so called 0-form. I found the names of the mutated beings, crocomouse, tigerzelle, funny and interesting, and they let my imagination go wild.

"Still Life with Apocalypse" by Richard Kadrey. This is the shortest story of the anthology but creates a sensation of desperation and futility in the human actions after an apocalyptic event.

"Artie's Angels" by Catherine Wells. The people live under domes that protect them from the radiation. Life under the domes is getting harder with the increasing numbers of people that are let inside them. Artie is a young boy, charismatic and very active. He leads a group of children, giving them hope and a sense of living in a lawless and hopeless environment. The story is told through a young girl, Morgan, her real name Faye, that assists Artie and in the end manages to transform the tragedy of the group in a new hope.

"Judgment Passed" by Jerry Oltion. A space flight crew returns to Earth only to find out an empty planet. According to an old newspaper Jesus has come back and took with him all the Earth inhabitants. The eight astronauts found themselves in front of a dilemma, to try to contact God and find out what will happen to them or to try to live their lives on the empty planet. The Jerry Oltion's story talks about some theological and philosophical themes, like the existence of God, the religion through the eyes of the world and the afterlife. It is an interesting read.

"Mute" by Gene Wolfe. The story is about two children that come home and find it empty and find an empty land. I have to admit that I didn't understand this story.

"Inertia" by Nancy Kress. The people infected with a disfiguring disease live in encampments build by the government. After many years in which the government tried to find a cure for the disease, it stopped the researches and now the inhabitants of the encampments live in isolation. Now, an outsider comes to an encampment and talks with its inhabitants. He is Tom McHab, a doctor that studies the disease and thinks that he has a cure for the physical affections of the disease. The doctor and his colleagues found out that the disease inhibits the urge for violence in the affected people's brains. And considering that the outside world is dominated by rage and violence he wants to spread the disease, treated at the skin level, in the world. It's an interesting story about hope and resignation.

"And the Deep Blue Sea" by Elizabeth Bear. Harrie, a motorcycle courier, has to deliver a case containing fetal cell stem cultures to Sacramento. She has to ride through a desolated land, full of toxic radiations and through towns ruined and destroyed. Beside that she has to rationalize her fuel and a time limit she also has to deal with a man, Nick, which wants to collect a debt. Harrie is confronted with a dilemma, the personal gain or to save some people that she doesn't know. And the end of Elizabeth Bear's story leaves you with an option of your own.

"Speech Sounds" by Octavia E. Butler. In a post-apocalyptic world, after a disease affected the population taking their capacity of speech, Rye travels in a bus from LA to Pasadena. Rye is a former history teacher and her illness has affected her capacity to read and write, but not her speech although she has to hide this fact. In the bus where she travels a violent conflict occurs and at the scene comes a man that seems to be a cop, although such institutions don't exist anymore. After he ends the conflict Rye leaves with him. Despite her envy for his capacity to write and read she longs for the human contact and after the interaction with another human being. At the end of the story Rye finds two children with their capacity of speech intact and the new human contact gives her hope and a new meaning.

"Killers" by Carol Emshwiller. After many years of war the towns miss the presence of males, many of them killed or disappeared in the conflict. In such a town, our heroine misses her brother and thinks he is missing in the war. In the nearby mountains live and hide veterans of war. When their bodies appear in town and our heroine finds a stranger in her house, in spite of the common sense she, longing for her brother and for a male companionship, takes him in her care. She cleans him and hides him in her house and after a while she introduces him to the community. The end of the story is brutal and talks about human desperation and egoism.

"Ginny Sweethips' Flying Circus" by Neal Barrett, Jr. A troop composed by Del, an android barker, by Possum Dark, a marsupial bodyguard and Ginny, the star of a sexual show, travels through land offering to the survivors sex, tacos and dangerous drugs in exchange for gasoline or other goods. After they stop in a town for repairs they found themselves confronting a group of insurance salesman. In spite of the humor of the story and some comic situations, the story is one of the few of this anthology that didn't hit the mark with me.

"The End of the World as We Know It" by Dale Bailey. The main character, Wyndham, finds himself alone in the world after an apocalyptic disaster. But Wyndham is affected more by the loss of his wife than the apocalyptic event. I liked this story a lot, because Dale Bailey includes in his story some references to real historical events that seemed apocalyptic at their time like the bubonic plague that hit Europe, the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, the Holocaust and other events and the fact that a personal loss can be as catastrophic as an apocalyptic event.

"A Song Before Sunset" by David Grigg. Parnell, a former piano player, fights for survival in his apocalyptic world. He hunts rats and seeks different objects in order to trade them for food and clothes. After discovering a sledgehammer he works his way into a concert hall and finds a piano. He retunes it and he plays it, but finds himself confronting one of a Vandalmen, a group that roams the land destroying the cultural edifices. The story is about the need for culture and art and about the human need for appreciation of his talents.

"Episode Seven..." by John Langan. The two protagonists, a pregnant young lady, Jackie and a comic book fan, Wayne, try to escape of a pack of mutant animals that chases them, after escaping of a mortal virus that killed the world. Like the author said in the introduction this story is a response to Dave Bailey's story. If Wyndham is hopeless and has no desire for survival, this story's characters fight for their lives, and that of the unborn child, with all they got. They lay traps, they run and they try to kill the pack that chases them. The original part of the story is the way the author writes it. There are very long sentences, pages that are long phrases and the story is interrupted by the present actions only by sentences written in bold. Even though the style is complicated it is interesting and gives the story pace and thrill.

Overall I really enjoyed John Joseph Adams' anthology. There were very few stories I didn't liked but that is the case with all the anthologies you can't love them all. I also enjoyed the recommendation list on the subject that I found at the end of the volume. It is a very good book, with different stories that gathers different views of the apocalyptic events and I highly recommend it.

Thank you

Over at Realms of Speculative Fiction you can find a great article, "In the Limelight - Websites and Blogs of Interest", about the SF and Fantasy blogs that the great team of that blog reads constantly. I am honored to find myself on that list among the heavy names of fiction blogging. I want to thank Uros and his team for mentioning my blog and for their appreciation, compliments and encouragement. Thank you guys.

Also, I have to thank Theresa from The Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin' Book Review for giving me the chance to win a copy of Karen Chance's "Embrace the Night". I am very happy that I won, thank you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In the mailbox

Thanks to the nice people from Tagman Press today I received my Advance Reading Copy of Margit Sandemo's "Spellbound". Margit Sandemo is a norwegian-swedish author and she writes historical fantasy. "Spellbound" is the first book in the serie "The Legend of the Ice People", a serie that has 47 books, the first one published in 1982, and that became a best-selling serie in Scandinavia. The book will be published in english now and is due to be released on june 2008 in the UK. So I'm really looking forward for this read.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In the mailbox

Finally my computer problems are over. A little complicated, but solved. First was the computer, then the Internet provider took a while until reconnected me to the net. But enough with my complaints.

I'm happy that I can read the blogs I love once again and I'm happy that I can blog again. Also this morning I had another great joy. In my mailbox I found my first review copy, Manda Scott's "The Crystal Skull". Actually is the second, but the first was an e-book. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the effort of John Joseph Adams and I really liked "Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse", but as I said in my presentation I prefer the classic books, because I don't like reading on the computer too much. So, I'm happy for my first classic review copy and I have to thank the nice people from Bantam Press for sending it to me.

And I hope we will meet regulary once again, if my computer wouldn't go crazy once again :).

Friday, April 11, 2008

Little problems

Yesterday morning with an extraordinary and spectacular POC my computer went dead. So now my computer is gone to the resuscitator :). I write this post on a friend's computer, but I will try to keep my posting regular.

Anyway, I hope the problem will be solved soon, but until than I have two new DVDs that I will see this week-end, "Corpse Bride" and "The Simpsons Movie". I think that will be entertaining time considering that lately I really loved the new cartoon movies, like "Ice Age", "Madagascar" and "Shrek". As for the next week I will post my "Wastelands" review and I hope that I will have a new kind of post on my blog, if the things work fine (and there are signs that they will). Until than I hope you will have a very pleasant week-end and I hope to see you soon.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mini review: "Timestealer" by Steve Stanton

This short story reminded me a bit of Philip K. Dick's "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" (the inspiration for the movie "Total Recall"). Steve Stanton's short story is about a man that earns his living selling other people's memories and experiences, after stealing them. You can live any kind of experience you want, you can be anyone you want. But the person who trully lived it won't remember it. The short story talks about ethics and the condition of human race. Reading it I could imagine how the world would look like if this thing would be possible. Because aren't we all wished at least once to be somebody else?

"First tell me who really is going to miss five minutes of mental process? People waste more than that standing at a transit stop or meditating on the toilet. Some people are so drugged they forego higher cerebral functions for most of the day. A culture with no respect for time can well afford to lose an inconsequential fraction to timestealers like me. If God had meant our thoughts and feelings to be private he would not have allowed the monitoring technology to develop..."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"Sabriel" by Garth Nix

Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager

"Sabriel" is the first novel of "The Old Kingdom" serie by Garth Nix.

Sabriel, a necromancer's daughter, is sent by her father to study in Ancelstierre. Her father is the Abhorsen, a necromancer that puts the dead to rest or prevents them to come back to life. After many years in school she finds out that her father is missing and so she begins a journey in search of him. She travels to the Old Kingdom, the northern neighbour of Ancelstierre and her birth land. Here she finds that she has inherited the title of Abhorsen and that she has to fight an evil that threats the land and tries to kill her father.

I liked the novel. Garth Nix creates an entertaining world, an interesting magic system and enjoyable characters. The world consists in two major lands, Ancelstierre, a land that resembles our world, with technology, electricity and where the magic doesn't work and the Old Kingdom, north of Ancelstierre, which is a fantastic land, where magic works. This two lands are separeted by the Wall. I liked the world created by Garth Nix and I liked that even though he doesn't spent too much time in building it he describes it well. For example, when the characters reach Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom, the author makes a description that is almost visual.

The magic system is another part I enjoyed. We have two kinds of magic, Free Magic, that is an unbound magic, raw and chaotic and the Charter, the magic that is used by Abhorsen and usually the inhabitants of the Old Kingdom bear a Charter mark on their foreheads. The Charter can be made using symbols, memorized by the spellcaster or by whistling a specific tune. The Abhorsen has also a set of seven bells that helps him cast spells or improving the ones made with the Charter. I loved that the author fully explained what the bells do and what are they for.

The characters are enjoyable, very well constructed. Sabriel is a young girl that starts a journey that will change her. I love how Garth Nix developes this character. He manages to catch the changes in the character, her coming of age and her transformation from the girl that saves a school colleague's bunny to the necromancer that tries to save the kingdom. The character that I loved the most is Mogget. Mogget is an unknown creature that takes the shape of a white cat. The author does a great job with Mogget, he behaves like a cat, a talking cat actually, and I loved when he was precious or bored. I also loved his sarcasm, his cynism and how he ridicules the other characters.

Overall Garth Nix's "Sabriel" was a very fun read for me and one that I will hold dear.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mini review: "Hell is the Absence of God" by Ted Chiang

"Hell is the Absence of God" by Ted Chiang won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award. It's a story about the relationship between man and God, and the events that influence this relationship. In an alternate world where miracles and the appearances of angels can be seen constantly, Neil Fisk must reconsider his relationship with God after losing his wife after the appearance of an angel. Like the other short story I read, "Hell is the Absence of God" dwells on another classical theme, the love of God, and like in that one Ted Chiang manages to make you reconsider and rethink your opinions about this themes. A very interesting read.

" God is not just, God is not kind, God is not merciful, and understanding that is essential to true devotion."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mini review: "What's Expected of Us" by Ted Chiang

"What's Expected of Us" is a very short story that I read quickly but made me think hard. Essentially the philosophical theme isn't new, the existence of free will, but Ted Chiang does a great job regarding this theme in this short story. Basically it is about a new toy, the Predictor, that has a button and a green light. The people that play with it have to push the button, but everything they do the green light will always light up one second ahead of their pushing. The outcome is interesting and Ted Chiang finishes this short story in a disturbing manner. "What's Expected of Us" leaves me with questions and Ted Chiang leaves me wanted to read more of his works.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The novel or the movie?

For ordering information: Amazon UK & Amazon US

I saw "I Am Legend" last night but I have to say that I was disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I like post-apocalyptic scenarios and novels because of their psychological aspects, but this movie failed to captivate me. And being the ecranization of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" made the things worst (you can find an excellent review of the book at Fantasy Book Critic). The movie has some logical errors, some events are not fully explained and I didn't felt a thing for Robert Neville, the character played by Will Smith, I didn't care if he got hurt, if he lives or if he dies. I saw "28 Days Later...", a movie that has the same general idea, and I like it. It has more drama, more tension and I connected more with the characters.

But if I think about the ecranizations of other novels I shouldn't be so disappointed. It isn't the first or the last ecranization that I'm not enjoying it. Let's see if I can recall some other movies that didn't live up my expectations: "The Stand" a TV mini serie after the novel of Stephen King, "Mr. Murder" after the novel of Dean Koontz, "Dune" the ecranization of Frank Herbert's novel and "Earthsea" after the novels of Ursula K. Le Guin. And this are only the first that I can think of. To be correct I have to tell you about those that I consider good: "The Green Mile" by Stephen King, "The Lord of the Rings" the trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien, the Harry Potter serie after J.K. Rowling's novels and "Blade Runner" the ecranization of Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?".

I'm sure that the ecranizations are a tricky thing and I like seeing how directors or screenplay writers visualize the novels I love, but I definitely prefer the books to the movies.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

"Elantris" by Brandon Sanderson

Format: Paperback, 656 pages
Publisher: TOR Books

"Elantris" is the debut novel of Brandon Sanderson and it is a good debut. And if the next novels will be as good as this one then Brandon Sanderson is up for a great career.

In the city of Elantris lived a race of demigods with great skills in magic and they protected the kingdom of Arelon and especially its capital, Kae. They were transformed by Shaod, a process that magically transformed humans in elantrians despite their social condition, and enjoyed a good life and respect. Until ten years ago, when an event changes the blessings of Elantris in a curse and Shaod changes people into some wretches affected by hunger and constant pain. After this event the merchants took control of the country and initiate a monarchy controled by the wealthier of them. After this ten years, Arelon and the kingdom of Teod are threaten by Fjordell, a powerful theocratic nation with an expansionist desire, and they seek an alliance through the marriage of the prince of Arelon and the princess of Teod. But Prince Raoden is taken by Shaod and thrown in Elantris as is the tradition and Sarene, his fiancee, arrives in Kae finding herself a widow. Sarene tries anyway to save the two kingdoms from the threat of Fjordell and when in Kae arrives Hrathen, a great priest from Fjordell with the mission to convert the kingdom of Arelon to his religion, her mission becomes more difficult.

The story is presented through the point of view of the three main characters and this makes it interesting for the reader, because always he knows more than the three characters as an individual. The characters are entertaining and I found myself interested of their future and tied to their destiny. Prince Raoden tries to find out what has destroyed Elantris and why the old magic doesn't work anymore. Princess Sarene tries to save Arelon of the threat of Fjordell, but also tries to save the kingdom of his own monarchy and political system. Hrathen, and this character is the one I enjoyed the most, found himself with doubts and questions over his religion when he tries to complete his mission. I love this character because has more depth than the other two, has a history and a childhood behind and has interesting inner conflicts.

I think that the magic system and the worldbuilding are the strong points of this novel. The magic is created with the help of Aons, letters of light and power, known only by the elantrians. Brandon Sanderson describes the magic of Elantris with care and the hole system is logic. The religion is also created with care and logic, and this part has the conflict of the two major doctrines, Shu-Dereth and Shu-Korath. The religion resembles a little medieval christianism, with a schism, resulting two doctrines that have similarities and conflicts. The author also creates very well the city of Elantris, with great details and accuracy.

On the other hand the prose is the weak point of the novel. Although is paced well and is simple, helping the reader, I found some dissapointing things. Sometimes the scenes seem to come from nowhere with no proper background and also some things happen too easy. Like it is all too easy to come to a conspirational meating or for a new acquaintance to convince other people that his actions are the correct ones. The end is better with tension and suspanse, but a bit hollywoodian. Considering that this is stand-alone novel and that the characters and the worldbuilding are good I think that this inconveniences can be easily overcome by the reader.

Overall Brandon Sanderson makes a good debut with "Elantris", an entertaining read and an original novel. And I certainly read his next novels because I think he is capable of improving his works.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pile o' Shame

I saw this article last week on A Dribble of Ink but being so short of the time I will post my list only today.

Because of all the great reviews and all the fans around the world I bought the most books of the serie "Malazan Book of the Fallen". But to my shame I didn't start to read it and when I look in my library I tend to pass it by. That is because I'm thinking of the other series I started, George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" and Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time", and I didn't finished them yet. I think that I want to start this one when I will have all the books in the serie and to read all of them. But maybe I will started anyway.

First fantasy book I read was "Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien and being so enthusiast when I finished it I looked for other fantasy books. So I have bought "The Silmarillion" and since then didn't touch it again. I wanted to read it but I prefered to read other fantasy works and when I remembered about Mr. Tolkien's works I read "The Hobbit", "Roverandom", "The Book of Lost Tales" or to read again "Lord of the Rings". Unfortunately "The Silmarillion" is still waiting.

I am a huge fan of Stephen King. I have almost all of his books, but every time I look at "The Dark Tower" serie I leave it where it is. I don't know why, it's hard to explain, because when I see Mr. King's books not only I buy them, but immediately start to read them. "The Dark Tower" is another story and it may be because of "The Talisman" and the fact that I enjoyed this duology so much. I really do not know.

But the hope still exists, and in time I'm certain that this list will change, this books will be read and other great titles will wait their turn.