Monday, November 30, 2009

Cover art - Raymond Swanland

This year the artist who caught my eye with every single piece he drew and left me in awe with every cover artwork he made is Raymond Swanland. I hope you don’t mind me featuring him once again. This time is the series of cover artwork Raymond Swanland made for the Richard Baker’s trilogy, “Blades of the Moonsea”, set in the Forgotten Realms world and published by Wizards of the Coast. I really like Raymond’s style, the way he inflicts a sense of motion into his artwork and how his works seem so powerful and lively. I wonder how such a work would look in a bigger size. From the three novels, “Corsair” was released this month in the paperback edition and “Avenger” will be released next year in a hardcover edition.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Road trip

Actually is more of a business trip, but I’ll be visiting a few cities in the next couple of days. Therefore my access to an Internet connection will be rather scarce and I will not be able to post anything this week. I’ll come back home this week-end and until we see each other once again next Monday I hope you’ll have a great week and an even greater week-end.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another interesting Romanian anthology - "6 Years of Fiction"

Yet again Millennium Press comes with another very interesting Romanian anthology of speculative fiction, “Millennium Fantasy & Science Fiction: 6 Years of Fiction”, edited by the owner of the publishing house, Horia Nicola Ursu. This is another praiseworthy project of the Millennium Press with an anthology that promotes the Romanian authors of fantasy and science fiction and which benefits from another wonderful cover artwork (it is even impressive the work behind the cover artwork done at the Millennium Press considering the other covers seen on the Romanian market). I am waiting to read this title too.
Also since today is the editor’s birthday I would like to wish Horia Nicola Ursu a very Happy Birthday!

Michael Haulică – "Anotimpul de praf" (The season of dust)
Don Simon – "Priveşte înainte cu mînie" (Look forward with anger)
Liviu Radu – "Complexul lui Oedip" (The Oedip's complex)
Ladislau Daradici – "Şobolanul" (The Rat)
Ana-Veronica Mircea – "Rayadatis" (Rayadatis)
Andrei Valachi – "Călătorie prin natură moartă alternată cu peisaj românesc" (Journey through still life alternate with Romanian landscape)
Cotizo Draia – "Aşteptînd la Sargos" (Waiting at Sargos)
Ana-Maria Negrilă – "Împăratul de îngheţată" (The Emperor of icecream)
Val Antim – "Fenomen inexplicabil de violare" (Unexplained phenomenon of violation)
Radu Pavel Gheo – "Cîinii nu pot iubi" (Dogs can't love)
Mihail Gălăţanu – "Răzbunarea" (The revenge)
Voicu Bugariu – "Ucigaşul melcilor" (The snails' killer)
Ovidiu Bufnilă – "Apocalipsa după Buf" (The apocalypse after Buf)
Costi Gurgu – "În umbra legii" (In the shadow of the law)
Mirel Palada – "Pîndarul" (The watchman)
Florin Pîtea – "Veniţi afară!" (Come outside!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cover art - "L’Ange de la Nuit" (Night Angel) by Brent Weeks

Once again I go to the French market, because this month Bragelonne released the third novel in the Brent Weeks“Night Angel Trilogy”, “Beyond the Shadows” (Au-delà des ombres). Like the first two novels “Beyond the Shadows” benefits from a fantastic cover artwork, one of the best cover artworks I’ve seen this year and one that would certainly whisper sweet words of buying in my ear if I was seeing it in a book shop. The three covers of the series are made by the French artist Frédéric Perrin and are looking exceptionally well. I only wish to see more such amazing covers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book trailer - "The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart" by Jesse Bullington

I don’t know exactly how this title skipped my radar, but it is better that I found it later than not at all. “The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart” is the debut novel of Jesse Bullington, was released by Orbit Books a few days ago, and comes with an intriguing and interesting synopsis, one that picked my interest as soon as I read it. The novel has a very catchy trailer too, which I enjoyed quite a lot, and if you are interested in an excerpt of the novel to get another image of the novel you can find one at Orbit’s website. I already put this novel on my next shopping list.

In the plague-wracked and devil-haunted darkness of Medieval Europe, an elite few enjoy opulent lives while the majority eke out a miserable existence in abject poverty. Hungry creatures stalk the deep woods and desolate mountains, and both sea and sky teem with unspeakable horrors. For those ill-fated masses not born into wealth, life is but a vicious trial to be endured before the end of days.
Hegel and Manfried Grossbart could give a toss. Being of low birth means little, after all, when the riches of the mighty wait just inside the next crypt. The grave-robbing twins know enough about crusading to realise that if one is to make a living from the dead, what better destination than the fabled tomb-cities of Egypt?
But the Brothers Grossbart are about to discover that all legends have their truths, and worse fates than death await those who would take the red road of villainy . . .

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview with Sebastian A. Corn

Sebastian A. Corn is the literary pseudonym of Florin Chirculescu, who was born in 1960 in Bucureşti, Romania. He studied medicine and in the everyday life is a thoracic surgeon. He made his debut with the short story “Snorky” in 1994 in Jurnalul SF (The SF Journal) and since then he published stories in different Romanian magazines and publications. He published 6 novels under the pseudonym Sebastian A. Corn and one as Patrick Herbert:
“2484 Quirinal Ave” (1995), “Aquarius” (1996), “Dune 7 – Cartea Brundurilor” (Dune 7 – The Brundurs Book, 1997) as Patrick Herbert, “Să mă tai cu tăişul bisturiului tău, scrise Josephine” (To cut myself with the edge of your scalpel, wrote Josephine, 1998), “Cel mai înalt turn din Baabylon” (The highest tower in Baabylon, 2002), “Imperiul Marelui Graal” (The Empire of the Great Grail, 2004) and “Vindecătorul” (The Healer, 2008).
Sebastian A. Corn was rewarded with almost 40 local awards for his works, such as Quo Vadis!, RomCon, Dan Merişca, Supernova, Helion, Nemira and Vladimir Colin, but also with The Award for the European Debut at the Eurocon in 1995 at Glasgow.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
Some authors write for money, some for fame and some for pleasure. Why are you writing? What made you start putting your thoughts on paper?
Sebastian A. Corn: I don’t know for sure… During my first years of writing, I just had an urge to write, that was all. The main idea was that I enjoyed spending some good hours, each day, in a world of my own. I enjoyed building this world and that was the most forceful drive.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): You’ve studied medicine and you work as a surgeon. How does medicine get along with the writing career? How does your medical experience influence your writing?
Sebastian A. Corn: Medicine is extremely time consuming. Writing is also time consuming. At first sight, medicine and writing don’t seem to get along that well. On the other hand, medical studies offer you a scientific background (I talk about fundamental sciences connected with medicine) that always makes you ask: what if…? Besides, practicing as a doctor enables you to meet all sort of people who are willing to communicate more thoroughly about their problems. In a way, a doctor is connected to a various array of characters and this helps a lot in writing. Bottom line, medicine is a humanist profession and it certainly loads you with lots of unsolved problems. I try to solve those problems in writing.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Why the choice for the science fiction literature? What attracted you towards the speculative fiction?
Sebastian A. Corn: I just liked it. I just love to build specific worlds of my own into which the usual, daily problems have a more straightforward manner to express. I regard science fiction as a shortcut to express such problems. Mainstream literature contaminates the fundamental problems of mankind by embedding them in colloquial situations.

M(DW): Which are your favorite authors and who influenced your style of writing the most?
SAC: Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert and Gerard Klein. Hugo Pratt, as a cartoonist also influenced me a lot.

M(DW): You work under pseudonym. Why did you choose to use a pseudonym? From where does the pseudonym Sebastian A. Corn originate?
SAC: A cousin of mine made me an anagram while we were kids. It came out as FC Corn. Sebastian is a name I like very much and A. stands for Aaron.

M(DW): How difficult was for you to make the debut in the publishing market? How did you feel when your first work was published?
SAC: It took me a year to penetrate on the Romanian market by publishing in magazines. Then, I began to get local literary prizes. When I had my first book issued, “2484, Quirinal Ave”, I was really exhausted and I could not even celebrate the event.

M(DW): You published works in both short and long form of fiction. With which one do you feel more comfortable?
SAC: The novels, of course.

M(DW): From all of your works so far which one is closer to your heart? Which one do you consider to be the best so far?
SAC: “Vindecatorul” (The Healer), my last novel is the closest to my heart. I also consider it the best so far.

M(DW): I read that you are rewriting one of your novels, “Imperiul Marelui Graal” (The Empire of the Great Grail) and that you plan to write a series starting with this novel. What made you rewrite your novel? Does it happen for you to be unsatisfied with the result of your writing and to change the work you did until that moment?
SAC: I am dissatisfied with many of my works. Concerning “Imperiul Marelui Graal” (The Empire of the Great Grail), I am in love with its world and characters and I think they deserve some good couple of more drafts in order to make this novel really readable.

M(DW): You wrote under the Patrick Herbert pseudonym a novel set in the Dune universe. What made you want to write in the Dune universe? How difficult is to approach an established series in the personal style?
SAC: It was an offer from Nemira Publishing House. Back then, I had already written a novel, “Cartea Brundurilor”, when they made me this offer. Unfortunately, a certain haste, let’s say, from their part made us lose the terrific momentum which the Dune Universe carried in itself. The project is one of the most dissatisfying in my career because in my opinion, immersing in Frank Herbert’s universe deserved more work, more collaboration with those who translated the series in Romanian and so forth, in order to accommodate a specific text to the needs of Herbert’s universe. Sometimes, the publisher’s rush to issue a title is not the best thing in the economy of writing a book. Unfortunately, I learned this only too late.

M(DW): I know that you are working also on a mainstream novel. Do you like to experiment in other genres as well? Do you think that an experience in other genres can help improve the writing of an author?
SAC: Let’s say that the ideas that drive me nowadays are best expressed by a mainstream text. However, I consider that transgressing the genres is most helpful for a writer.

M(DW): In 1995 you were rewarded with the Eurocon Award for the European Debut. Do you think that that award changed your career? Does the fact that you won numerous awards (almost 40 if I am not mistaken) set a higher standard for you and your works?
SAC: That award surely eased my relationship with the publishers. However, the standards of anyone’s works are not related to the awards a specific writer got in his career. A writer always writes with the purpose of offering his best, each and every time he writes.

M(DW): Which is the award that took you by surprise and which does it please you the most?
SAC: The Vladimir Colin Award.

M(DW): You have experience also as editor, critic and translator so may I ask you, as an inside opinion, how do you think that literature is seen in Romania? How about the speculative fiction?
SAC: Literature is having some bad time lately in Romania, just as in other cultural areas. To be sincere, I am not so sure that books as we know them will still be a desired, hm, “object” in, let’s say, 25 years from now. Speculative fiction finds an easier way to the public through the PC games, unfortunately.

M(DW): What do you think that the future has in store the speculative fiction in our country, especially for the Romanian writers? Do you think that it is possible in the future for a Romanian author to be a professional writer?
SAC: A professional writer needs a market in order to live on his books and nowadays, these markets are the English language, the Spanish language, maybe the Chinese etc. Considering this, it seems very hard for a Romanian writer to earn a living by publishing.
Speculative fiction ( I see that you prefer this term :) ) in Romania has some specific traits and the writer who will be able to transgress the language barrier besides the ability to use a good old story telling expertise will maybe make a breakthrough in the literary market. Unfortunately, this seems a remote perspective. I know of some Romanian writers who got awards in Canada – I think that they have the chance to rebuild the confidence in the Romanian SF literature.

M(DW): What do you think that are the differences between the Romanian speculative fiction and the English one?
SAC: The main difference is the way the plot is built. Romanians are more prone to develop and express “smart ideas” on behalf of the story telling. I don’t find this as a good solution when writing literature because I still believe that a reader wants to read THE story. I also had these drawbacks and not only once…

M(DW): Do you think that in the future some of the Romanian speculative fiction will be published on the English market? Do you hope that your works will be translated in English?
SAC: I hope so. There are some titles which could be translated and receive a good critic, I think, but this depends on more things than simply writing a novel.

M(DW): At what are you working in the moment and what future projects do you have?
SAC: We talked about SF literature up to now, but my future project is a mainstream novel. I can’t yet decide on the title… Will it be “Parsifal”, or “Nolli’s Plan”? However, at this moment, I do only the research. I will start writing it next spring, I think.

Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been a pleasure.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Adrenergic!" by Sebastian A. Corn

Format: Paperback, 112 pages
Publisher: Millennium Press
The review is based on a bought copy of the book

Sebastian A. Corn is one of the most important Romanian science fiction authors, with 7 novels awarded by the Romanian speculative fiction community and with important appearances on the speculative fiction magazines. “Adrenergic!” is a novella first published in 1994 in “Jurnalul SF” (SF Journal) and printed this year in its own volume.

In the future, in South Sabrata, Tamerlan Banks, the honorific director of the United T-Skell Spaces company, is dissatisfied with his new position, being an honorific director means a more respected and a better financial rewarded position, but no power of decision. Jealous on Hugh Secada, the new executive director of the company, for his new position and for marrying Priscilla Ydriss, Tamerlan plans to show his invaluable knowledge of the virtual reality and to discredit his rival.

“Adrenergic!” is a cyberpunk novella and one in which Sebastian A. Corn proves to be a very talented and imaginative author. The world created by Corn is very interesting and its concepts appealed to me the instance I discovered them. Everything in South Sabrata, the setting of the novella, is improved with biotechnological implants, which are modified live tissues through genetically engineering. And these implants work as a spying system as well, since almost every street, building and piece of furniture can sense and identify a human presence through different senses, be it visual, auditory, olfactory or tactile. Humans may benefit from these biotechnological implants too, the main character Tamerlan Banks has one, but they are rather seen as rebellious acts.

On the other hand we have the virtual reality, where every structure present in the real world is sustained by microorganisms, turboskells, in order to work. The new and improved turboskells are the work of Tamerlan Banks, but these ones tend to break the agreements they reach with the humans and build new virtual spaces that slow the system. The interaction between the realities is made through the spacefors, humans that go into tanks full with normal saline solution connected to cables and communicating with the virtual reality. But the humans who spent too much time as spacefors reached a vegetative condition.

The novella follows the conflict between Tamerlan Banks and Hugh Secada, a conflict that goes from the real world into the virtual reality and has at its core the desire to control the turboskells. “Adrenergic!” has a steady rhythm, Sebastian A. Corn managing to keep a steady pace from the beginning until the end. However, I find the second part of the novella to be a bit too flat and a bit repetitive. The conflict reaches an end that is quite predictable and that didn’t offer me any surprises. Also, Sebastian A. Corn uses a language throughout his story that I can define as hard. I slowly engaged into his novella because Corn doesn’t explain any notion to the reader and therefore every concept has to be learned from the bits of information scattered along the story. In my opinion this aspect might drive a few readers away from the novella.

I admit that I enjoy more fantasy literature than the science fiction one, but I like exploring the second from time to time. I have to admit also that from the sub-genres of science fiction cyberpunk appeals the least to me, with only a few pieces that stick to my memory. Still, Sebastian A. Corn’s “Adrenergic!” is a novella that reminded me of the works of the heavy names of science fiction, especially Philip K. Dick, and of the Matrix movies, but you have to consider that Corn’s novella is written with 5 years before the first Matrix movie. And although on the personal level “Adrenergic!” didn’t offer me the best of readings I believe that the fans of science fiction in general and cyberpunk in particular will find it to be a valuable piece of fiction.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Locke & Key: Head Games" by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

"Locke & Key: Head Games"
Written by Joe Hill
Illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
Format: Hardcover, 160 pages
Publisher: IDW Publishing
The review is based on a bought copy of the book.

New York Times bestselling writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez, the creators behind the acclaimed Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, return with the next chapter in the ongoing tale, Head Games. Following a shocking death that dredges up memories of their father's murder, Kinsey and Tyler Locke are thrown into choppy emotional waters, and turn to their new friend, Zack Wells, for support, little suspecting Zack's dark secret. Meanwhile, six-year-old Bode Locke tries to puzzle out the secret of the head key, and Uncle Duncan is jarred into the past by a disturbingly familiar face. Open your mind - the head games are just getting started!

One of the readings that satisfied me in fullest this year was the graphic novel written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, “Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft”, so I grabbed a copy of the second volume in Hill and Rodriguez’s series, “Locke & Key: Head Games” as soon as I’ve got the chance.

I was very pleased to meet again the Locke family on their estate of Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts and to find once more the characters I liked in “Welcome to Lovecraft”, along with a couple of new ones. I was also pleased to see the characters gain more depth, because Joe Hill builds them further on with explorations in some of the characters past, explorations that contribute in their development in full and make their presence even stronger. Taking shape through the same explorations is the setting of the novel, Lovecraft, adding new and interesting elements to the story, also bringing in a mystery, very well kept along novel’s pages, that made my fingers itchy for turning the pages.

I was eagerly waiting for the second novel in the Locke & Key series because the story caught me in its spell from the first volume and after opening the “Head Games” I wasn’t disappointed. Joe Hill brings new elements within the story that will make it a bit darker and keeps the tension building, but also plays once again with the fantastic in a delightful way. And I refer here especially at the head key, concept which found an admirer in me as soon as I discovered it and which left me wondering about the existence of such a key way after finishing the reading. The process of removing and adding to one’s head ideas and emotions found in “Head Games” is very interesting and left my imagination go wild. And this process brought one of the scenes that I loved the most in the novel, both disturbing and funny, the scene involving Kinsey Locke and the relationship between fear and crying.

Once again “Locke & Key” benefits not only from the story and the fiction built by Joe Hill, but from the wonderful art of Gabriel Rodriguez too. Gabriel Rodriguez brings once again his contribution in making “Head Games”, and the entire “Locke & Key” series, a wonderful graphic novel and a great reading experience. It is difficult to miss the excellent collaboration between Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, because the art backs the story all the way from the start to the end. The characters gain from their graphic depiction and their appearance is in concordance with their emotions and the events surrounding them, the scenes gain more power from the visual impact. It is true that some of the images are a bit hard and violent, but it is nothing that goes beyond the story or that exaggerates it. And I have to say that again the scenes involving the head key are my favorites and, again, with a plus for me for the same one involving Kinsey Locke and the relationship between fear and crying.

I have to admit that “Locke & Key: Head Games” is a bit slower than “Welcome to Lovecraft” and that it concentrates more in the development of the characters and story, but I enjoyed it a lot nonetheless. It clarifies a thing or two from the first volume (I would recommend starting with that one), leaves much for the next ones and me with a great reading and a desire to see how the Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s story continues, and ends eventually.

Friday, November 13, 2009

In the mailbox

Here is a new post about the latest arrivals in my mailbox, with my thanks for their senders:

- "The Other Lands" by David Anthony Durham (through the courtesy of Transworld Books);

The Other Lands begins a few years after Acacia, and Queen Corinn Akaran is firmly in control of the Known World. Her primary goal is to topple the Lothan Aklun and so she sends her brother Daniel, disguised as a slave, on an exploratory expedition to the Other Lands.
Daniel soon discovers a mainland that is a more lush, exotic, and expansive than the Known World; and the ruling tribe, the Auldek, are more numerous and powerful than the Numrek. But unbeknownst to the Corinn and her siblings, the Numrek and Auldek are ancient ancestors and their inevitable alliance could mean the downfall of Acacia.
In this bold and imaginative sequel to Acacia, Queen Corinn must unite the battered and abused peoples of the Acacia Empire against the powerful tribes of the Other Lands.

- "Year's Best Fantasy 9" edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (through the courtesy of;

- "The Immortals: Evermore" by Alyson Noël (through the courtesy of Pan Macmillan);

Seventeen-year-old Ever is the sole survivor of a car crash that killed her entire family. Living with her aunt in Southern California, she's plagued by the ability to hear the thoughts of those around her, and haunted by the ghost of her little sister. She tries to tune everyone out, shunning her old lifestyle as the pretty, popular cheerleader, but somehow she can't hide from Damen, the new guy at school. Stunningly handsome, clever and not a little bit intimidating, there's something about him that doesn't quite add up. Ever realises he's hiding something, but nothing could prepare her for the truth - especially when the truth involves past lives, murderous enemies, everlasting love and the secret of eternal youth . . .

- "The Temporal Void" by Peter F. Hamilton (through the courtesy of Pan Macmillan).

The Intersolar Commonwealth is in turmoil as the Living Dream’s deadline for launching its Pilgrimage into the Void draws closer. Not only is the Ocisen Empire fleet fast approaching on a mission of genocide, but also an internecine war has broken out between the post-human factions over the destiny of humanity.
Countering the various and increasingly desperate agents and factions is Paula Myo, a ruthlessly single-minded investigator, beset by foes from her distant past and colleagues of dubious allegiance...but she is fast losing a race against time.
At the heart of all this is Edeard the Waterwalker, who once lived a long time ago deep inside the Void. He is the messiah of Living Dream, and visions of his life are shared by, and inspire billions of humans. It is his glorious, captivating story that is the driving force behind Living Dream’s Pilgrimage, a force that is too strong to be thwarted. As Edeard nears his final victory the true nature of the Void is finally revealed.

Thank you all very much!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book trailer - "Under the Dome" by Stephen King

Lately I enjoy more and more seeing book trailers. I know that this is a type of publicity and not always my experience with the movie trailers (because these are the ones I see more) is not the best, but because of them I have a better idea about the movie. With the book trailers it doesn’t go the same, because I have more information about the novels in question before seeing the trailer, but from the all kinds of publicity I think that the trailers are the one I get along with best. The latest book trailer I saw is for the Stephen King’s novel, “Under the Dome”, released two days ago, on 10th of November and I have to admit that it is one of the best I’ve seen. I really like it and it is close with what I have in mind about this novel. And it added yet another reason (I believe that Stephen King was a reason enough for me anyway) for me to pick the novel, leaving me wondering only if I should wait for the paperback edition or order the hardcover one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cover art - "The Great Hunt" by Robert Jordan

Beginning with 27th of October Tor has started to release e-book editions of the Robert Jordan’s novels in “The Wheel of Time” series. Nothing surprising here, since Robert Jordan’s series is a wonderful and a very popular one. But these releases will have new covers each one made by a different artist and it is here where things get very interesting. The first one was already released, with a catchy cover artwork made by David Grove, and the second one will be released on 17th November. Irene Gallo posted on her blog the cover artwork for the second novel, “The Great Hunt”, made by Kekai Kotaki (who I had the pleasure to interview here) and which looks awesome. Once again Kekai Kotaki created an amazing art piece and one that captures the atmosphere of the book. On you can find a behind-the-scenes post about the Kekai Kotaki’s process of creation the cover artwork.
I can’t wait to see the artwork for the cover of the third novel, “The Dragon Reborn”, and which will be made by another favorite of mine, Donato Giancola.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"The Strain" by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan
Format: Hardcover, 401 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, HarperCollins UK

A plane lands at JFK and mysteriously ‘goes dark’, stopping in the middle of the runway for no apparent reason, all lights off, all doors sealed. The pilots cannot be raised. When the hatch above the wing finally clicks open, it soon becomes clear that everyone on board is dead – although there is no sign of any trauma or struggle. Ephraim Goodweather and his team from the Center for Disease Control must work quickly to establish the cause of this strange occurrence before panic spreads. The first thing they discover is that four of the victims are actually still alive. But that’s the only good news. And when all two hundred corpses disappear from various morgues around the city on the same night, things very rapidly get worse. Soon Eph and a small band of helpers will find themselves battling to protect not only their own loved ones, but the whole city, against an ancient threat to humanity.

I make no secret that two of the movies I enjoyed the most lately, “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Orphanage”, are linked to Guillermo del Toro, both produced by him and with the first one also directed by del Toro. So when I saw that Guillermo del Toro will collaborate with Chuck Hogan for the novel “The Strain” I was very curious to see his exploration of written fiction.

I can’t say that I read much vampire fiction and if I am honest I have to say that if it comes to a choice in reading the vampires are not winning very often. But they win from time to time, with “The Strain” is such a winner although not necessarily because of this reason, and I’ll start by saying that I enjoyed Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s novel. What I find most appealing to me is that this novel doesn’t use the stereotypes of vampire fiction and I really liked how the authors worked on this myth. They blend old elements with the new ones creating a fresh and powerful image of the vampires. I liked how the authors mix the old and the new anchoring some of the vampires’ facts into our everyday reality and I refer here to our world’s fear of biological war and to the viruses that are spreading around it.

“The Strain” is an entertaining reading, with a lot of action and with a steady pace. The events of the novel are taking place throughout three days and because of this the novel will move in a fast rhythm. Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan create tension and suspence and manage to keep them throughout the novel, also keeping the reader on edge. The novel doesn’t fault at this chapter and it successfully succeeds to create a thrilling reading. The characters of “The Strain” are interesting and I ended up liking some of them. Unfortunately that is not the case with the main one. Although Ephraim Goodweather plays the most important role in the story, I could not connect with him at all. Instead I ended up liking Abraham Setrakian and Vasily Fet, although Fet is only introduced at the half of the novel. There are elements in the personal history of these two characters that made them interesting to me, but unfortunately I found these elements not explored to their fullest.

However, there are a few things that didn’t work for me in the fullest. First of all there are a few clichés that will seem reaped from the Hollywood action movies. For instance, I would have dropped from the novel the fact that Ephraim Goodweather ends up compromised in face of his superior and is suspended from his position. I believe that this fact could have been pulled in a different way without using a cliché that I personally do not want to see in the movies, so much more in the fiction I read. Another thing is that in some places the things and actions present in “The Strain” are explained in the smallest detail. Although these explanations are not breaking the pace of the novel too much, they sound too much as lecture and less than a part of the story.

“The Strain” is the first novel in a trilogy and therefore some of the novel’s aspects are left unresolved. I can’t say that “The Strain” changed my perception of vampire’s fiction, but it offered me a fun, entertaining and relaxing reading and the Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s novel picked my interest for the next follow-ups as well, so I would be curious to see how the story develops further on.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cover art - "La Conspiration du Loup Rouge" (The Red Wolf Conspiracy) by Robert V.S. Redick

I always find interesting the comparisons made on the US and UK cover artwork for the same novel and I have to say that most of the times I prefer the UK covers to the detriment of the US ones. One of such cases, but still not exactly relevant, is the cover artwork for the Robert V.S. Redick’s debut novel, “The Red Wolf Conspiracy”. I say not exactly relevant because although I do prefer more the UK cover artwork made for the Gollancz edition I do not find the US cover made for the Del Rey edition bad or far behind the UK one, I find both of them interesting but with a plus for the UK cover artwork. But recently I’ve seen another very interesting cover which benefits from a very good artwork. It is the cover artwork made for the French edition of the Robert V.S. Redick’s “The Red Wolf Conspiracy”, “La Conspiration du Loup Rouge”, published by Fleuve Noir and made by the talented French artist, Jean-Sébastien Rossbach.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Anthology line-up

As I said in a previous post one of the titles that hold great interest for me is the upcoming Romanian anthology, “Dansînd pe Marte şi alte povestiri fantastice” (Dancing on Mars and other fantastic stories), edited by Michael Haulică. It holds great interest because it is a praiseworthy effort in promoting Romanian speculative fiction authors and because I’ve seen a few names on the line-up that I like and a few I am not familiar with and this is a nice reason for discovering their works. As I also said I will review the collection as soon as I get a copy of it, but until then here is the complete line-up for the Michael Haulică’s anthology:

Mircea Coman – Cybervals (Cybervals)
Cătălin Sandu – Duel cu ceaţă şi lotuşi (Duel with fog and water lilies)
Liviu Braicu – Heptozaur (Heptozaur)
Roxana Brînceanu – Saltul pisicii (The cat's leap)
Robert Coller – Între ceşti de capuccino (Between capuccino cups)
Ioana Vişan – Sufletele arborilor (The trees' souls)
Aron Biro – Valori familiale (Family values)
Liviu Radu – Vînătoare de vulpi (Fox hunt)
Mircea Pricăjan – Radio Live (Radio live)
Marian Coman – Testamentul de ciocolată (The chocolate testament) - this, most probably, is a piece from the Marian Coman's volume that I reviewed here on my blog
Cătălin Maxim – Dansînd pe Marte (Dancing on Mars)
Bogdan-Tudor Bucheru – Zalm per Oxis (Zalm per Oxis)
Ana-Veronica Mircea – Fără doar şi poate (Indisputably)
Andrei Gaceff – Evidenţa unor promenade (The evidence of some promenades)
Ben Ami – Probabilitatea fiBANară (The fiBANar probability)
Dumitru Cl. Stătescu – Pulbere în vînt (Dust in the wind)
Ştefana Czeller – Băieţelul cel fierbinte şi Hîrca Pămîntului (The torrid little boy and the Earth Witch)
Florin Pîtea – Plimbarea de seară (The evening walk)
Mioara Musteaţă – Legenda menestrelului (The minstrel's legend)

Friday, November 6, 2009

A follow-up

Here is a follow-up of yesterday’s post with the cover artwork for the PS Publishing edition of Joe Hill’s upcoming novel, “Horns”. Actually this is the first of seven illustrations made by the very talented artist, Vincent Chong, for the edition of Joe Hill’s “Horns” published by PS Publishing also on February 2010. Actually the novel will be released in two editions, one edition of 500 slipcased hardcover signed copies and one edition of 200 traycased hardcover copies signed by both Joe Hill and Vincent Chong. I understand that both editions are exhausting fast and anyone interested in such a copy should hurry. I personally, although I would certainly love to have a copy signed either by Joe Hill or Vincent Chong or by both, I find these to be a bit too expensive for me, so I’ll stick with the Gollancz edition. However, I still can admire the wonderful artwork made once again by Vincent Chong.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cover art - "Horns" by Joe Hill

One of my favorite authors and one who will always have a special place in my heart is Stephen King. There are many other authors who join him in my preferences, although Stephen King remains my weakest spot. One of the authors who might take a place closer to Stephen King is none other than his son, Joe Hill. I read almost everything he wrote, with the exception of “20th Century Ghosts”, and with each reading I liked him more and more. On the horizon there is a new reason for Joe Hill to set himself strongly among my favorite authors, because on February 2010 Gollancz will release his new novel, “Horns”.

The blurb sounds really interesting, intriguing and based on an original idea, at least for me. Also the cover artwork of his novel looks interesting and appeals to me. The horns on the front of the cover are related to the title and the idea of the novel, but there the four corners of the cover that intrigue me the most. And together with the four elements set in the corners there is also the presence of the butterflies that make me wonder about the story within the covers. So these are quite a few motives for me to look forward for the release of Joe Hill’s “Horns”.

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with one hell of a hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.
Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned American musician, and the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more - he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.
Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone - raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances - with Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, Ig was and always would be guilty.
Now Ig is possessed with a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look, and he means to use it to find the man who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It's time for a little revenge; it's time the devil had his due.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two new categories for the David Gemmell Legend Award

Last year the David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy was founded and its first edition was welcomed with over 10,000 votes around the world. The first ceremony was held this year in June in London and the first winner was Andrzej Sapkowski for his second work translated in English, “Blood of Elves” (and the one I voted for). The nominations for this year David Gemmell Legend Award haven’t been announced yet, but exciting news came from the organizers. This year, besides the David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy, two more categories will be rewarded, “The Morningstar Award for Best Newcomer” and “The Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy Cover Art”.

The Morningstar Award will give recognition to emerging talent in the field of fantasy fiction. As David Gemmell always took a keen interest in new writers, and helped many onto the path to publication, we regard this as an appropriate category to add, and one we feel sure David would have approved.

The Ravenheart Award will honour the best fantasy book cover art. The importance of fantasy cover art deserves admiration, as do the artists who produce it, yet there is no major UK award acknowledging this. The Ravenheart Award will fulfil that role.

I am excited about these two new categories, especially for The Ravenheart Award, since I love fantasy art and the artwork for book covers and I tried to promote it us much as possible here on my blog. The addition of these two categories is praiseworthy and it remains now only to see the nominations for this year awards.

Monday, November 2, 2009

2009 World Fantasy Awards

The 2009 World Fantasy Awards winners have been announced this week-end at the World Fantasy Convention:

Life Achievement: Ellen Asher & Jane Yolen

Best Novel: "The Shadow Year" by Jeffrey Ford (Morrow) & "Tender Morsels" by Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin; Knopf)

Best Novella: "If Angels Fight" by Richard Bowes (F&SF 2/08)

Best Short Story: "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" by Kij Johnson (Asimov's 7/08)

Best Anthology: "Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy" edited by Ekaterina Sedia (Senses Five Press)

Best Collection: "The Drowned Life" by Jeffrey Ford (HarperPerennial)

Best Artist: Shaun Tan

Special Award - Professional: Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant (for Small Beer Press and Big Mouth House)

Special Award - Non-Professional: Michael J. Walsh (for Howard Waldrop collections from Old Earth Books)

Congratulations to all the winners!