Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Dog Blood" by David Moody

Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (US) & Gollancz (UK)
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Dunne Books

The Earth has been torn into two parts by an irreversible division. Whether due to nature, or the unknown depths of the mind itself, everyone is now either Human or Hater. Victim or killer. Governments have fallen, command structures have collapsed, and relationships have crumbled. Major cities have become refugee camps where human survivors cower together in fear. Amidst this indiscriminate carnage, Danny McCoyne is on a mission to find his daughter Ellis, convinced that her shared Hater condition means her allegiance is to people like him. Free of inhibitions, unrestricted by memories of peace, and driven by instinct, children are pure Haters, and may well define the future of the Hater race. But, as McCoyne makes his way into the heart of human territory, an incident on the battlefield sets in place an unexpected chain of events, forcing him to question everything he believes he knows about the new order that has arisen, and the dynamic of the Hate itself.

Besides the interesting story behind the publication of David Moody’s “Hater”, a novel initially published online by the author and which caught the attention of Guillermo del Toro and of the publishers, the novel brings a fresh approach to the apocalyptic scenario usually seen in the zombie fiction. But “Hater” is also the first novel in a trilogy and David Moody follows the natural course with the second novel in his series, “Dog Blood”.

In “Hater” our society is brought on the brink of collapse following a series of unknown events, shattering human relationships and families in a violent manner and splitting humans in two. Danny McCoyne is one such man, turned into a Hater, he is separated from his family, but especially from his daughter who is a Hater too. In “Dog Blood”, Danny McCoyne begins a quest of finding and reuniting him with his daughter. As such Danny McCoyne is pretty much the sole character of the novel, or at least the major appearance within “Dog Blood”. Everything that happens within the story is seen and judged through Danny McCoyne’s perspective, “Dog Blood” being told from the first person perspective, and therefore everything is related to Danny’s feelings.

Although the first person perspective can be tricky David Moody manages to create a powerful character, the way Danny experiences and rationalizes the events around him giving his presence consistency. The way he shows his feelings turn him into a character whose motivations I can fully understand, sympathetic being a bit too much to say in the given situation. We can also easily see the emotional changes that Danny suffers, because those emotions are reflected by the way the story is told. It is easy to spot his calmness from the flowing and steady phrases or his agitation from the short and almost barked sentences.

Danny also helps the reader to see the way the world was affected by this change. “Dog Blood”, as well as its prequel “Hater”, works with an apocalyptic scenario usually seen in the zombie fiction, only that David Moody comes with a fresh approach. In the end that proves to be even more powerful, because after all humans are capable of more terrifying actions than any dead returned to life. David Moody masterfully depicts a world that is collapsing on its own. All over the novel’s pages a bleak and overwhelming atmosphere can be felt. The society tries to cope with the change it suffered, but finds itself unable to do so. Every missing service, that otherwise can be named indistinctive at best, helps the situation turn into a nightmarish one.

“Dog Blood” is far from being a perfect novel, there are aspects that didn’t sit entirely well with me, but that also can chase away some of the readers. It is very true that “Dog Blood” can be classified as a horror novel, but I have to say that the amount of gore is a bit excessive. More than its prequel, “Hater”, the present novel is action packed, but also an ultra-violent and blood-soaked one. And if it wasn’t for the good story and the way David Moody delivered it the amount of head bashing of every single solid surface would have driven me away for this book. There is also a stereotypical presence within the Danny McCoyne’s thoughts and on a couple of minor characters. They think at their existence before the change suffered by the known society a few times too many and every time not in the complimentary way. Another thing in “Dog Blood” is that David Moody introduces a group with varied particularities within the Haters, the Brutes, and although I might have a guess for their presence and the future role they’ll play, they appear only occasionally and without an obvious significance for the story.

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.

Monday, June 28, 2010

2010 Locus Awards

The winners of the 2010 Locus Awards were announced this week-end at the Science Fiction Awards Weekend in Seattle, WA. There is no surprise any more to see “The City & The City” and “The Windup Girl” gathering new recognitions.

Best SF Novel: "Boneshaker" by Cherie Priest (Tor)

Best Fantasy Novel: "The City & The City" by China Miéville (Del Rey, Macmillan)

Best First Novel: "The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)

Best Young Adult Book: "Leviathan" by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse; Simon & Schuster)

Best Novella: "The Women of Nell Gwynne’s" by Kage Baker (Subterranean)

Best Novelette: "By Moonlight" by Peter S. Beagle ("We Never Talk About My Brother")

Best Short Story: "An Invocation of Incuriosity" by Neil Gaiman ("Songs of the Dying Earth")

Best Anthology: "The New Space Opera 2" edited by Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan (Eos; HarperCollins Australia)

Best Collection: "The Best of Gene Wolfe" by Gene Wolfe (Tor); as "The Very Best of Gene Wolfe" (PS)

Best Non-Fiction Book/Art Book: "Cheek by Jowl" by Ursula K. Le Guin (Aqueduct)

Best Artist: Michael Whelan

Best Editor: Ellen Datlow

Best Magazine: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

Best Book Publisher: Tor

Congratulations to all the winners!

Friday, June 25, 2010

2010 John W. Campbell Memorial Award finalists

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel is a science fiction award founded in 1973, its ceremony held since 1979 at the University of Kansas in a week-end long conference. Unlike other science fiction awards the winners of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award are selected by a jury. This year’s conference, during which the winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award will be announced, will take place between July 16th and 18th. It is interesting to see that among this year’s nominees are two of the 2009 most discussed, nominated and awarded novels, China Miéville’s “The City & The City” and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl”. Here are the 2010 finalists:

- Margaret Atwood“The Year of the Flood” (Nan A. Talese)
- Paolo Bacigalupi“The Windup Girl” (Night Shade Books)
- Iain M. Banks“Transition” (Orbit)
- Cory Doctorow“Makers” (Tor)
- Nancy Kress“Steal Across the Sky” (Tor/Pyr)
- Paul McAuley“Gardens of the Sun” (Gollancz)
- China Miéville“The City & The City” (Pan Macmillan/Del Rey)
- Adam Roberts“Yellow Blue Tibia” (Gollancz)
- Kim Stanley Robinson“Galileo’s Dream” (Spectra)
- Robert J. Sawyer“WWW: Wake” (Ace/Gollancz)
- Bruce Sterling“The Caryatids” (Del Rey)
- Robert Charles Wilson“Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America” (Tor)

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pile o' Shame, 2nd edition

Back when I started my blog I made a post about my Pile o’ Shame and that post came back to mind (if that isn’t happening every time I look over my bookshelves) when the lovely Amanda, who runs the excellent Floor to Ceiling Books, posted about the books she failed to read. I believe that I always will have a Pile o’ Shame since there are so many books I want to read and not always I can find the time to read all of them. But let’s look a bit at how this list looks at the present.

Since the first edition of Pile o’ Shame I am happy to see that although I did not finish all the books listed there I did start (finally) Steven Erikson’s “Malazan Book of the Fallen” series and I read the first third of “The Silmarillion”. With the perspective of keeping the pace with the planned Tor.com re-read of the Malazan books and with a chapter read once in a while from J.R.R. Tolkien’s title I think that these titles can be taken off the list.

Sadly, Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” is still on top of my Pile o’ Shame. It is still odd and it amazes me every time I look over it, because as I said Stephen King is one of my favorites, but for some strange reason when I chose a new book to read his novels from “The Dark Tower” series are always skipped. Further on, there are a couple of his novels that although I bought them they ended up unread. Maybe I just need a break from Stephen King or maybe it is just a simple case of neglect.

Raving reviews, highly expected sequels and close to hysteria reactions when those sequels were delayed. These things have to say something about Scott Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastard” series, but apparently not to me. I have copies of the novels bought as soon as they were released, but as it happens with some of the titles they are neatly placed on my library. Once again it is very difficult for me to find a reason for not reading these novels, because every time I read about them I wanted to find out why they are gathering so much praise. The reality is that Scott Lynch’s “The Lies of Locke Lamora” and “Red Seas Under Red Skies” are still waiting patiently on my Pile o’ Shame.

Joe Abercrombie’s novels, the “First Law” trilogy and “Best Served Cold”, sound as the kind of fantasy novels I happily read every time I get a chance. A lot of hype surrounds these titles too, their synopses drew me to the online bookshops for copies of the books and I bought them without hesitation. I assure you that Joe Abercrombie’s books do not gather dust, not because I picked them for a reading but due to the fact that I take care of my library. I am not sure if I can find a reason for not reading Joe Abercrombie’s series either, as I am not sure I can find a reason for every book I own and failed to read. My uncle says that a library is not meant to be read in full, but still. So, the “First Law” books have a place on the top of my Pile o’ Shame next to Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” and Scott Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastard” series.

I am looking over my Pile o’ Shame and wonder when I’ll pick these novels and read them. I am thinking of making a goal from reading them, but I set such an objective some time ago and failed, to my further shame, to achieve it. Therefore, with a two years distance between the two editions of Pile o’ Shame post, I’ll give this list a two years margin to see what will become of it. No promise that titles will be eliminated from this list though :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cover art - "Dreadnought" by Cherie Priest

Jon Foster made a great cover for Cherie Priest’s novel, “Boneshaker”, and now he comes with another wonderful artwork for the second novel in the “Boneshaker” series, “Dreadnought”. On Irene Gallo’s blog, where I could find this new cover from Tor Books, we can also find an alternative artwork for the cover of “Dreadnought”. I will admit that the first cover, the one that was turned down by the marketing department in the end, is more appealing to me. It has a better atmosphere and warmer colors, but I will not complain too much with Tor’s choice, because the cover we see is looking good too and indeed hits closer to the steampunk mark, also keeping the line set by the cover of the first novel of the series, “Boneshaker”. “Dreadnought” will be released by Tor Books in September.

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 David Gemmell Awards

In a ceremony held at the Magic Circle Headquarters in London the winners of the second edition of the David Gemmell Awards, 2010, were announced:

THE DAVID GEMMELL AWARD FOR FANTASY: “Empire” by Graham McNeill (The Black Library)

THE MORNINGSTAR AWARD FOR BEST NEWCOMER: “The Cardinal’s Blades” by Pierre Pevel (Gollancz)

THE RAVENHEART AWARD FOR BEST FANTASY COVER ART: Didier Graffet and Dave Senior (illustration), Laura Brett (Art Direction) for the cover of “Best Served Cold” by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz)

Congratulations to all the winners!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In the mailbox

Here are the books that arrived in my mailbox this month. Two of them, "The King's Bastard" and "The Folding Knife", I am especially looking forward to read:

- "The King's Bastard" by Rowena Cory Daniells (through the courtesy of Solaris Books);

Cloaked in silent winter snow the Kingdom of Rolencia sleeps as rumours spread of new Affinity Seeps, places where untamed power wells up. Meanwhile, King Rolen plans his jubilee unaware of the growing threat to those he loves.
By royal decree, all those afflicted with Affinity must serve the Abbey or face death. Sent to the Abbey because of his innate Affinity, the King’s youngest son, Fyn, trains to become a warrior monk. Unfortunately, he’s a gentle dreamer and the other acolytes bully him. The only way he can escape them is to serve the Abbey Mystic, but his Affinity is weak.
Fiercely loyal, thirteen year-old Piro is horrified to discover she is also cursed with unwanted Affinity. It broke their mother’s heart to send Fyn away, so she hides her affliction. But, when Fyn confesses his troubles, Piro risks exposure to help him.
Even though Byren Kingson is only seven minutes younger than his twin, Lence, who is the king's heir, Byren has never hungered for the Rolencian throne. When a Seer predicts that he will kill Lence, he laughs. But Lence Kingsheir sees Byren’s growing popularity and resents it. Enduring loyalty could be Byren’s greatest failing.

- "Death's Head: Day of the Damned" by David Gunn (through the courtesy of Transworld Books);

Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg is in disgrace. His victory on Hekati, and the emperor’s favour, have turned his patron against him: General Indigo Jaxx wants Sven dead. Exiled to Wildeside, Sven waits for Jaxx’s assassin. He hunts, he fieldstrips his weapons, he tries not to mind. At the age of 28, he’s lived longer than he expected anyway.
But then Sven finds himself offering to save the life of Jaxx's son. This means returning to Farlight, where he finds that the emperor is missing, his empire is collapsing, there are murderous riots in the capital and General Jaxx stands on the edge of ruin. All Sven has to do is nothing. But when has he ever done anything that sensible...
The devil-may-care, not quite 100% human, mercenary soldier/killing machine known as Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg and his like-minded team, the Aux, are back in a third explosive, non-stop action-filled adventure.

- "The Folding Knife" by K.J. Parker (through the courtesy of Orbit Books);

Basso the Magnificent. Basso the Great. Basso the Wise. Basso the Murderer. The First Citizen of the Vesani Republic is an extraordinary man.
He is ruthless, cunning and, above all, lucky. He brings wealth, power and prestige to his people. But with power comes unwanted attention, and Basso must defend his nation and himself from threats foreign and domestic. In a lifetime of crucial decisions, he’s only ever made one mistake.
One mistake, though, can be enough.

- "Twice the Terror: The Horror Zine, Volume 2" edited by Jeani Rector (through the courtesy of The Horror Zine);

The Horror Zine has burst onto computers all over the world as an ezine. “Twice the Terror” brings you the very best from The Horror Zine as a book. The Horror Zine presents its second in-print anthology, a wicked brew of stories with relentless suspense that ride side-by-side with haunting poetry and eye-popping artwork. Volume 2 from The Horror Zine unveils a fresh approach to basic fears and has twisted, unexpected endings.
“Twice the Terror: THE HORROR ZINE” contains contributions from such famous writers such as Graham Masterton, Bentley Little, Joe R. Lansdale, Deborah LeBlanc, Ed Gorman, Stephen Gallagher, Terence Faherty, and Hugh Fox. But it also contains deliciously dark delights from morbidly creative people who have not yet made the big time…but they will soon.

- "Starcraft II: Heaven's Devils" by William C. Dietz (through the courtesy of Sneak Attack Media).

For the poor, hardworking citizens of the Confederacy's fringe worlds, the Guild Wars have exacted a huge toll. Swayed by the promise of financial rewards, a new batch of recruits joins the fight alongside a slew of mysteriously docile criminals -- and a few dubious military leaders. Eighteen-year-old Jim Raynor, full of testosterone and eager to make things right at home, ships off to boot camp and finds his footing on the battlefield, but he soon discovers that the official mission is not what he's really fighting for.
For the first time ever, StarCraft enthusiasts will learn the origins of the enduring friendship between the young upstart Jim Raynor and the streetwise soldier Tychus Findlay. Watch as they battle on the front lines of a fierce interplanetary war and bear witness to the Confederacy's rank corruption -- corruption so reprehensible that it rains immeasurable death and destruction upon the government's own people.

Thank you all very much!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cover art - "Winter's Heart" by Robert Jordan

Tor Books re-release of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series reached the ninth novel, “Winter’s Heart”, and the list of artists who designed the cover artwork of these re-releases is growing. As each cover is and will be made by a different artist, Scott M. Fischer, who illustrated “Winter’s Heart”, is the ninth illustrator joining this impressive line-up of artists. As all the covers of these ebook releases are character driven the artwork for “Winter’s Heart” is too, with Scott M. Fischer not at his first character focused cover, he designed many others that are centered on characters before. He did a solid job here as well and I especially like the balance he achieved between the red and blue colors. As always we can find more information and an in-depth look behind the process of creation of the cover on a Tor.com article. This ebook edition of “Winter’s Heart” will be released on June 22nd.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Title spotlight - "Disciple of the Dog" by R. Scott Bakker

I enjoyed a lot R. Scott Bakker’s “Prince of Nothing” trilogy and I consider it to be among my favorite fantasy series. R. Scott Bakker also published a psychological thriller, “Neuropath”, a novel that I didn’t have the chance to read. It is always interesting to see how an author approaches different genres of literature and if the respective writer can mix successfully elements of these genres. Although I am unable to say how R. Scott Bakker shifted from fantasy to thriller with “Neuropath” we will have another chance in September, when Orion Books will release the new dark thriller of R. Scott Bakker, “Disciple of the Dog”. And besides my interest to see how R. Scott Bakker approaches a thriller I have to say that the synopsis sounds intriguing too, with a more than interesting premise (“imagine being able to remember everything you've ever experienced”), a private investigation and a religious cult.

Imagine being able to remember everything you've ever experienced.
This is the lonely world inhabited by Disciple Manning. He is able to recall every conversation, meeting and feeling he has ever had, making him an extremely dangerous private investigator.
When a young woman disappears, not from her home, but from a religious cult, her parents turn to Manning for help. Manning accepts, but with a chilling sense of foreboding.
Heading into the heart of the cult, he encounters its beguiling leader, obsessed with the idea that the world is a fantastical theatre, in which we merely act out our roles, ignorant of our true existence beyond; a belief he is intent on protecting, at any cost.
Manning's investigation soon leads to clashes with the cult's unsettling belief systems and leaves him fighting for survival and elusive answers, before they are swallowed into a shadowy pool of secrets.
Meanwhile, it's only a matter of time before the missing girl risks being abandoned for ever to the depths of everyone's forgotten memories...

Monday, June 14, 2010

2010 British Fantasy Awards nominees

The British Fantasy Socitey has announced the nominees for the 2010 British Fantasy Awards. The awards will be presented at FantasyCon 2010 that will be held between 17th and 19th of September at the Britannia Hotel in Nottingham.

- "Best Served Cold" by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz)
- "Futile Flame" by Sam Stone (House of Murky Depths)
- "One" by Conrad Williams (Virgin)
- "The Naming of the Beasts" by Mike Carey (Orbit)
- "Under the Dome" by Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton)

- "Old Man Scratch" by Rio Youers (PS)
- "Roadkill" by Rob Shearman, from "Roadkill/Siren Beat" (Twelfth Planet) and "Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical" (Big Finish)
- "The Language of Dying" by Sarah Pinborough (PS)
- "The Witnesses are Gone" by Joel Lane (PS)
- "Vardoger" by Stephen Volk (Gray Friar)

- "Careful What You Wish For" by Justin Carroll, in "Dragontales: Short Stories of Flame, Tooth and Scale" edited by Holly Stacey (Wyvern)
- "George Clooney's Moustache" by Rob Shearman, in "The BFS Yearbook 2009" edited by Guy Adams (BFS)
- "My Brother's Keeper" by Nina Allan, "Black Static #12"
- "The Confessor's Tale" by Sarah Pinborough, in "Hellbound Hearts" edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane (Pocket)
- "What Happens When You Wake Up in the Night" by Michael Marshall Smith (Nightjar)

- "Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9" edited by D.F. Lewis (Megazanthus)
- "Dragontales: Short Stories of Flame, Tooth and Scale" edited by Holly Stacey (Wyvern)
- "Hellbound Hearts" edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane (Pocket)
- "Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honour of Jack Vance" edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (HarperVoyager)
- "The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 20" edited by Stephen Jones (Constable and Robinson)

- "Cyberabad Days" by Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
- "Just Behind You" by Ramsey Campbell (PS)
- "Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical" by Robert Shearman (Big Finish)
- "Once & Future Cities" by Allen Ashley (Eibonvale)
- "The Terrible Changes" by Joel Lane (Ex Occidente)

- Newcon Press (Ian Whates)
- Screaming Dreams (Steve Upham)
- Subterranean Press (William Schafer)
- Telos Publishing (David Howe)
- TTA Press (Andy Cox)

- "Fables" by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
- "Freakangels" by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield (Avatar & warrenellis.com)
- "Locke and Key" by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
- "The Girly Comic" edited by Selina Lock (Factor Fiction)
- "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert (DC)

- Charles Vess, for work including Neil Gaiman’s "Blueberry Girl"
- Les Edwards, for work including the cover of "Cemetery Dance #62"
- Shaun Tan
- Steve Upham, for work including the Estronomicon Sketchbook Special
- Vincent Chong, for work including covers for "The Witnesses are Gone" (PS) and "The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 20" (Constable and Robinson)

- "Ansible Link" by David Langford (http://news.ansible.co.uk)
- "Case Notes" by Peter Tennant, Black Static
- "It Lives Again! Horror Movies in the New Millennium" by Axelle Carolyn (Telos)
- John Scalzi, Whatever (http://scalzi.com/whatever)
- "Knowing Darkness: Artists Inspired by Stephen King" by George Beahm and various artists (Centipede Press)

- "Black Static" edited by Andy Cox (TTA)
- "Cemetery Dance" edited by Richard Chizmar (Cemetery Dance)
- "Interzone" edited by Andy Cox (TTA)
- "Midnight Street" edited by Trevor Denyer (Immediate Direction)
- "Murky Depths" edited by Terry Martin (The House of Murky Depths)
- "Theaker's Quarterly Fiction" edited by Stephen Theaker and John Greenwood (Silver Age)

- "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi/Sky 1)
- "Being Human" (BBC3)
- "Doctor Who" (BBC1)
- "Lost" (ABC/Sky 1)
- "Torchwood: Children of Earth" (BBC1)

- "Avatar" directed by James Cameron (Twentieth Century Fox)
- "Coraline" directed by Henry Selick (Focus)
- "District 9" directed by Neill Blomkamp (Tristar)
- "Let the Right One In" directed by Tomas Alfredson (EFTI)
- "Watchmen" directed by Zack Snyder (Warner)

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Book trailer - "Ancestor" by Scott Sigler

I am familiar with Scott Sigler because of his novels “Infected” and “Contagious”, but I didn’t read either of these two novels. On 22nd of June Crown Publishing Group will release another edition of one of Scott Sigler’s novels, “Ancestor”. “Ancestor”, as other published novels of Scott Sigler, was first released via podcast, followed by an ebook format and in the end in a printed version in 2007. This edition of “Ancestor” comes with an interesting trailer and an intriguing synopsis.

Every five minutes, a transplant candidate dies while waiting for a compatible heart, a liver, a kidney. Imagine a technology that could provide those life-saving transplant organs for a nominal fee ... and imagine what a company would do to monopolize that technology.
On a remote island in the Canadian Arctic, PJ Colding leads a group of geneticists who have discovered this holy grail of medicine. By reverse-engineering thousands of animal genomes, Colding's team has dialed back the evolutionary clock and re-created the progenitor of all mammals. The method? Illegal. The result? A computer-engineered living creature, an animal whose organs can be implanted in any person, with no chance of transplant rejection.
There's just one problem: these ancestors are not the docile herd animals that Colding's team envisioned. Instead, Colding’s work has given birth to something big, something evil…something very, very hungry.
As creators become prey in the ultimate battle for survival, Colding and the woman he loves must fight to survive — even as government agents close in to shut the project down, and the deep-pocketed company backing this research reveals its own cold-blooded agenda.

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup

World Cup starts today and I am looking forward to a month of pure football. I am a big football fan and I watch it with great interest. And every four years the event goes global, with quite a very interesting competition. Romania didn’t qualify for this year’s World Cup – I don’t think that we deserved to be there – this fact doesn’t take away anything from my interest. And although my attention is captured heavily by the World Cup, I’ll not neglect my readings and I’ll have a few books reviewed this month. I am currently working on my review of Jennifer Brozek and Amanda Pillar’s anthology, “Grants Pass”. So, the only thing left to say is: let the games begin :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 Chesley Awards nominees

The Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists has announced the 2010 Chesley Awards nominees. This year the Chesley Awards celebrate their 25th anniversary and the winners of the 2010 Chesley Awards, recognizing the works from 2009, will be presented at ReConStruction, the 10th Occasional North American Science Fiction Convention, which will be held between August 5th and 8th in Raleigh, NC.

Best Cover Illustrations – Hardback Books:
- Bob Eggleton – “Dragon’s Ring” by David Freer (Baen Books)
- Todd Lockwood – “A Magic of Nightfall” by S.L. Farrell (DAW)
- John Picacio – “Drood” by Dan Simmons (Subterranean Press)
- Omar Rayyan – “Magic Mirrors” by John Bellairs (NESFA Press)
- Rohb Ruppel – “Visions of Never” edited by Patrick & Jeannie Wilshire (Vanguard Productions)
- Dan Dos Santos – “Green” by Jay Lake (Tor Books)
- Matt Stewart – “The Valley of Shadows” by Brian Cullen (Tor Books)
- Sam Weber – “Prospero Lost” by L. Jagi Lamplighter (Tor Books)

Best Cover Illustrations – Paperback Books:
- Scott Altmann – “Flight (The Mysterious Mr. Spines)” by Jason Lethcoe (Grosset & Dunlap)
- Volkan Baga – “Blutnacht Die Orc” by Stan Nicholls (Heyne)
- Jon Foster – “Boneshacker” by Cherie Priest (Tor Books)
- David Palumbo – “Stalking the Dragon” by Mike Resnick (Pyr)
- John Picacio – “World’s End” by Mark Chadbourn (Pyr)
- Dan Dos Santos – “Hunting Ground” by Patricia Briggs (Ace)
- Dave Seeley – “Young Flandry” by Poul Anderson (Baen Books)

Best Cover Illustration – Magazine:
- Les Edwards – “Cemetery Dance” (October 2009)
- Bob Eggleton – “Analog Science Fiction and Fact” (October 2009)
- David A. Hardy – “The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction” (October/November 2009)
- Kazuhiko Nakamura – “Clarkesworld” (#38)
- David Palumbo – “Heavy Metal” (November 2009)
- John Picacio – “Asimov's Science Fiction” (September 2009)
- Adam Tredowski – “Interzone” (February 2009)

Best Interior Illustration:
- Brom – “The Child Thief” (“The Child Thief” by Brom, Eos)
- Gary Lippincott – “Come to the Fairies' Ball” (“Come to the Fairies' Ball” by Jane Yolen, Wordsong)
- Gregory Manchess – “Conan of Cimmera” (“Conan of Cimmera, Volume 3”)
- John Picacio – “Salem's Lot” (“Knowing Darkness” edited by George Beahm, Centipede Press)
- Michael Whelan – “The Little Sisters of Eluria” (“The Little Sisters of Eluria” by Stephen King, Donald M. Grant)
- Mark Zug – “Bugs in the Arroyo” by Steven Gould (Tor.com)

Best Color Work – Unpublished:
- Eric Fortune – “Allure”
- Rebecca Guay – “Gwenevere”
- Patrick Jones – “Death of Diana”
- Raoul Vitale – “Unrequited”
- Michael Whelan – “Lumen 5”
- Mark Zug – “Helium”

Best Monochrome Work – Unpublished:
- Jim Burns – “Pod Shift”
- Eric Fortune – “Hollowed”
- Justin Gerard – “Steampunk Wizard of Oz”
- Sheila Rayyan – “Faces of You”
- L.A. Williams – “Lost Love”

Best Three-Dimensional Art:
- Tom Kuebler – “Grandma Hoodoo & Zombie John”
- Kris Kuksi – “Anglo-Parisian Barnstormer”
- David Meng – “Satyr's Head”
- Charles Vess – “Titania”
- Vincent Villafranca – “The Switching Hour”

Best Game-Related Illustration:
- Daren Bader – “Boarguts the Impaler” (“Drums of War”, World of Warcraft Trading Cards)
- Volkan Baga – “Joraga Bard” (“Zendikar”, World of Warcraft Trading Cards)
- Lucas Graciano – “Silverwing”
- Kekai Kotaki – “Lorthos the Tidemaker” (“Zendikar”, World of Warcraft Trading Cards)
- Todd Lockwood – “Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet” (“Zendikar”, World of Warcraft Trading Cards)
- Matthew Stewart – “Serendib Efreet” (“Magic the Gathering”)

Best Product Illustration:
- Scott Gustafson – “A Confabulation of Dragons”
- Kekai Kotaki – “Guild Wars 2” concept art
- Gregory Manchess – “Above the Timberline” greeting card
- Ian Miller – “Cthulhu Temple”
- Jordu Schell – “Avatar Na'vi character design”
- Matthew Stewart – “Battle Under the Mountain”

On the ASFA’s website, at the page dedicated to the 25th Anniversary of the Chesley Awards, you can find links to the galleries of all the wonderful illustrations nominated for the 2010 Chesley Awards.

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"Purple and Black" by K.J. Parker

"Purple and Black"
Format: Hardcover, 120 pages
The review is based on a bought copy of the book

When his father, brothers and uncles wiped each other out in a murderous civil war, Nicephorus was forced to leave the University and become emperor.
Seventy-seven emperors had met violent deaths over the past hundred years, most of them murdered by their own soldiers. Hardly surprising, then, that Nico should want to fill the major offices of state with the only people he knew he could trust, his oldest and closest friends.
But there’s danger on the norther frontier, and Nico daren’t send a regular general up there with an army, for fear of a military coup. He turns to his best friend Phormio, who reluctantly takes the job.
Military despatches, written in the purple ink reserved exclusively for official business, are a miserable way for friends to keep in touch, at a time when they need each other most. But there’s space in the document-tube for another sheet of paper.

K.J. Parker is surrounded by mystery and in such a degree that I am not certain if the author is a she or a he, although lately I’ve seen that many sources refer to K.J. Parker as a female writer. What I am certain of is that I really enjoyed K.J. Parker’s works and her novels are among my favorites. “Purple and Black” is her first attempt for a shorter form after ten novels published so far, a novella a little over 100 pages.

“Purple and Black” is written in the form of a series of letters between Nicephorus, the new emperor of the Vesani, and Phormio, the newly appointed governor of the Upper Tremissis. I didn’t find this method among my readings very often, but I do find it to be a very interesting technique of building a story. K.J. Parker brings the best of this technique in “Purple and Black”, creating with success the plot, the characters and the relationship of the characters with each other. Nicephorus and Phormio are old friends and former colleagues of study, together with four others, but who play a smaller part in the story. The friendship and the relationship of the two main characters can be easily spotted from the correspondence they have. The humor and the confessions that Nicephorus and Phormio share, create the familiarity and the friendship that the two of them have, but also give a strong shape to the two characters. This connection between the characters, be they with a major or minor role within the story, is found at the base of the plot and in the end will amplify the motivations behind the actions and the finality of those actions.

K.J. Parker not only that successfully manages to create the characters and their relationship, but also the plot and a bit of world building. The presence of a true setting is constantly felt, with politics, economic transactions, history and customs that give life to this fantastic world. The small details are powerful offering the reader many little pleasures. I would point towards the one involving the color of the ink used in the correspondence among others, purple for the official letters, black for the usual ones, a small element that I enjoyed even more because of the a few hilarious situations that result from it. The plot starts to built after the first couple of letters and involves many political and military aspects, K.J. Parker inflicting questions of morality, friendship and betrayal in it, elements that will make the story a bit cruel, but real nonetheless. The little pieces of history lay a reliable foundation for this world and shows its roots in the development of the novella. It is very true that the plot becomes obvious from an early stage, but despite this it didn’t drive me away from the story, especially since it has an unexpected twist and turn towards the end.

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.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"White is for Witching" by Helen Oyeyemi

by Helen Oyeyemi
Format: Paperback, 256 pages
Publisher: Picador
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Picador

High on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the loss of Lily, mother of twins Eliot and Miranda, and beloved wife of Luc. Miranda misses her with particular intensity. Their mazy, capricious house belonged to her mother’s ancestors, and to Miranda, newly attuned to spirits, newly hungry for chalk, it seems they have never left. Forcing apples to grow in winter, revealing and concealing secret floors, the house is fiercely possessive of young Miranda. Joining voices with her brother and her best friend Ore, it tells her story: haunting in every sense, and a spine-tingling tribute to the power of magic, myth and memory. Miri I conjure you . . .

I have heard only good things about Helen Oyeyemi and her works, but I didn’t get the chance to read any of her novels until now. Therefore when I got a copy of “White is for Witching” I was interested to see what attracted those praises.

When I opened “White is for Witching” and read the first page I was intrigued and captivated. I was intrigued by a beginning that is very much confusing and captivated by a language that is very much poetic. I cannot honestly say that I understood the prologue of the Helen Oyeyemi’s novel, it is cryptic and bizarre, but it did a wonderful job, making me jump to the next chapters in search of its decipher. Still, I have to admit that I’ve got a little help in passing that first paragraph and it was thanks to Helen Oyeyemi’s language. Throughout the novel I was attracted by the images crafted by Helen Oyeyemi with the help of words and more than once I wondered if she is not a witch herself, giving life to her phrases. This way I began to believe that the prologue is truly intended this way, because the rest of the novel will lift the confusion veil, with the epilogue making the best from the prologue.

Helen Oyeyemi explores issues of sexuality and racism in her story and manages to build interesting characters, with powerful personalities. But I have to admit that “White is for Witching” is a love and hate affair for me. I did love the language and the images that are born from words, but the story is a different matter. Most of the time the plot doesn’t seem to move and for more than half of its length it looks like it doesn’t have a goal to reach. I also have to admit that for this reason I almost stop reading the novel when I reached its half. But, from the second half Helen Oyeyemi introduces a new voice in the story and I hoped that from that point forward the plot would start to advance. The new voice throws a new light on the story, but it proved to move the plot only slightly in the end. It truly helped me finish the novel, but I am not exactly sure that I am fully satisfied with this fact.

I am not always looking for action driven stories, but at this moment I need more than just beautifully written novels. It is true that Helen Oyeyemi is a very talented writer and she deserves her praises, but for me “White is for Witching” worked only on one level and in the end left me feeling unsatisfied.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cover art - "Povestiri de Duminică" (Sunday Stories) by Mircea Opriță

I am very happy to feature another Romanian title for a cover art post. Not only that, but I am very happy to see another Romanian writer promoted through a collection of stories. Same as the previous post, the cover artwork comes from Millennium Press, the independent publisher that does a wonderful job in promoting local authors and that gives lately a close attention to the book covers. Mircea Opriță is not a new author and this fact can be seen in his new collection of stories, “Povestiri de Duminică” (Sunday Stories), which features stories old and new in two sections, “Five recent fictions” and “Five from another century”. The collection benefits from a beautiful cover, as we have seen lately at Millennium Press, made this time by the digital artist, Fiona Hooley. And since these titles picked my interest as soon as I saw them I’ll order the new books from Millennium Press and review them on my blog this summer.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wish list - "The House of the Discarded Dreams" by Ekaterina Sedia

Ekaterina Sedia is one the new and strong voices of fantasy literature and one of my favorite writers. Ekaterina Sedia published many short stories and three novels so far, two of them, “The Secret History of Moscow” and “The Alchemy of Stone”, reviewed here on my blog. I enjoyed these two novels a lot and both of them left traces in my mind long after I finished reading them. I also had the pleasure to interview Ekaterina Sedia and that is a wonderful and interesting experience for me. This year we will have the chance to read a new novel by Ekaterina Sedia, “The House of the Discarded Dreams”, which sounds to be very interesting and to follow the innovative and imaginative path opened by the author’s previous novels. For now we have the synopsis and a blurb posted on Ekaterina Sedia’s blog to keep us company until Prime Books will release the novel in November and we will be able to read “The House of the Discarded Dreams”:

Vimbai moves into a dilapidated house in the dunes, trying to escape her embarrassing immigrant mother... and discovers that one of her new roommates has a pocket universe instead of hair, there is a psychic energy baby living in the telephone wires, and her dead Zimbabwean grandmother is doing dishes in the kitchen.
When the house gets lost at sea and creatures of African urban legends all but take it over, Vimbai has to turn to horseshoe crabs in the ocean, to ask for their help in getting home to New Jersey.

"The House of Discarded Dreams is a moody feast of the fantastic, dreamy, surreal, all rendered in visually poetic prose that reminded me of Hayao Miyazaki films. Oh, and that guy with the crazy hair was awesome! Terrific stuff. Just the right fusion of thematic depth and unbridled creativity that I’m always looking for, but rarely find."
- David Anthony Durham, author of the Acacia Series

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cover art - Black Static 17

What attracts me the most at the Ben Baldwin’s illustrations is the dark and eerie atmosphere that breathes from his images. Ben Baldwin created another such evocative image for the cover of the 17th issue of the Black Static magazine, with an unsettling and quite heavy atmosphere. Usually Ben Baldwin also illustrates some of the short stories published by Black Static and the issue 17 is no exception, with two stories illustrated by the artist. This is not the only reason for me to eagerly await the new issue of Black Static, after all this is one of my favorite magazines and the June-July issue features an interview with John Connolly whose Charlie Parker series of novels I bought recently and four new short stories:

- “Faces in Walls” by John Shirley
- “Zombie Cabana Boy” by Suzanne Palmer
- “Three-Legged Bird” by Vylar Kaftan
- “The Lady in the Tigris” by Daniel Kaysen.

But until I’ll have a copy of this issue I will finish reading and reviewing Black Static 16.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" by N.K. Jemisin

"The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms"
Format: Paperback, 432 pages
Publisher: Orbit Books
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Orbit Books

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky – a palace above the clouds where gods’ and mortals’ lives are intertwined.
There, to her shock, Yeine is named one of the potential heirs to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with a pair of cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.
But it’s not just mortals who have secrets worth hiding and Yeine will learn how perilous the world can be when love and hate – and gods and mortals – are bound inseparably.

It was this synopsis that made me interested and helped me discover N.K. Jemisin’s “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms”, the debut novel published earlier this year, February, by Orbit Books.

It is the same synopsis that left me intrigued in the end, not because it is misleading, but because it didn’t reveal everything about the novel. I am certain that I couldn’t create a better one, mainly for the sole reason of “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” being a novel that reaches different levels and layers. The novel is told from the perspective of Yeine and every aspect of the story is revealed from her perspective and it is in direct report with her feelings. N.K. Jemisin manages to create this way a strong character that keeps the reader interested in the outcome of its story. It is true that the first person perspective can be tricky and I didn’t engage with Yeine in the fullest, but I wasn’t indifferent to the character’s destiny.

The beginning of “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” proved to be a bit inconsistent, because for a brief period the style Yeine told her story seemed disconcerting. However, with the help of an interesting plot the story oversteps the disrupted beginning and picks up momentum for building an interesting novel. But N.K. Jemisin compensates the beginning with scenes of stunning beauty, finding a substitute for the obvious in words and imaginative replacements. The world that unfolds within the story will help the reader pass with ease through the beginning as well, because N.K. Jemisin creates a rich and detailed world. Everything is built steadily throughout the pages of the novel, every chapter catching sight of the world around, political and cultural traditions, social structures as well as geographical, historical and mythological aspects. The dominant one is the mythology, its aspects beginning with a distant genesis until the contemporary days, with the gods a physical presence of the present.

Although “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” has three storylines, it is the one involving the mythological aspects that gets the preponderant attention. The conflict between gods and Yeine’s relationship with the falling deities and their children are on the central stage and from this storyline I could go deeper within the layers of the novel and the themes explored by N.K. Jemisin. The novel works very much on the antithesis, because every theme dealt within its pages is dealt from two opposing angles. Social and society organization, maternal feelings or love emotions are seen from the opposing angles, mainly with the help of Yeine, but also with a little help from the supportive characters. However, N.K. Jemisin also offers a balance between the aspects and as seen throughout the major storyline light and darkness can’t exist one without each other, but also need to be balanced.

I think that if someone would have told me a bit more about the core of the story I would not have picked “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” for reading, but better that none did it. Although there are aspects within a love story that made raise my brow in doubt and there are three characters, Dekarta, Scimina and Relad, that are flat and I wished for them to be developed with more care, those are clearly on minority and there is no doubt that N.K. Jemisin makes a strong debut. And since the novel is the first one in “The Inheritance Trilogy” I can only wonder where N.K. Jemisin will lead us further on.