Saturday, October 30, 2010

"The Crown of the Blood" by Gav Thorpe

"The Crown of the Blood"
Format: Paperback, 464 pages
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Angry Robot Books

He had brought his master’s Empire to the furthest reaches of the world. All had fallen before him. Now he longs for home.
But home isn’t what it was. Could it be that everything he’s fought for all those years has been a lie?

Gav Thorpe is one of the authors that enrich the vast Warhammer universe with his novels, contributing with more than 15 novels to this setting. “The Crown of the Blood” is his first step outside the Warhammer universe and the first novel in the fantasy series with the same title.

“The Crown of the Blood” is set in a world that resembles with a mix between the Roman and Middle Eastern empires, but with Gav Thorpe’s personal additions to the mixture that make his world captivating and interesting. Greater Askhor is an empire that reached its highest peak after years of war and conquest and it seems that it cannot be challenged by anything. But times are changing and so is the destiny of the empire. But not only the laical parts have a role to play in the story, the spiritual level has a strong word to say too. Myths and supernatural elements embrace each other in this dance for power. Unfortunately, although I did find the theological part one of the most interesting aspects of the novel, it is also one of the most undermined elements of “The Crown of the Blood”. Its presence is felt only occasionally, hasted most of the time, and it left me rather unsatisfied by its sparse appearances.

With scheming, politics and religious interests coming all into play Gav Thorpe sets the premises for the plot of the novel, a story that picks energy and speed with each turned page. For the first half of “The Crown of the Blood” the story will advance slowly, but once all the wheels are set into motion the pace increases to higher speeds. From that half point forward the novel inclines its balance toward the strong military elements, featuring plenty of action scenes, battles, strategies, tactics and logistics making their presence felt. Gav Thorpe shows real strength in his battle scenes, describing them with efficiency and making them very appealing and almost cinematic to me. The end of the novel is a bit rushed in my opinion, but it has an interesting twist that comes as a pleasant surprise.

The main protagonist of the novel is Ullsaard, a seasoned and successful general, who finds the latest imperial politics stagnating and who develops a new personal agenda. Ullsaard is an interesting character, but like every other character of “The Crown of the Blood” I cannot say that I was very fond or attracted by him. Gav Thorpe balances his characters perfectly in terms of individual interests and alignment, every single one having a personal goal to reach, but without making the character clearly good or bad. The fact that Gav Thrope doesn’t name a faction or character as the good or the bad one is the strong point of characterization, but the weakest point is a certain lack of depth, missing elements outside their immediate interest. This and the fact that all are men.

“The Crown of the Blood” makes the song title “It’s a Man’s World” literally accurate. The novel is overwhelmed by male characters and the female characters are just too few, underdeveloped and present only as an accessory for the men of the story. This aspect is disconcerting and I believe that rips an immense hunk from the male characters construction. The women’s presence is for the plot wise purposes solely and nothing more. It is true that patriarchy was the principle at the base of many social organizations, but for the benefit of this story, although the society is clearly a patriarchate, a stronger presence and characterization of female characters would have made “The Crown of the Blood” a more interesting and powerful story.

“The Crown of the Blood” is about intrigue and politics, but it is mostly about military discipline, physical endurance and the strength of the muscles. Gav Thorpe weaved an action driven story for the fans of military fantasy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Book trailer - "Servant of the Underworld" by Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard’s debut novel, “Servant of the Underworld”, released earlier this year in the UK by Angry Robot is available from 26th of October in the US too. “Servant of the Underworld” is on my reading desk, close to the top of my reading pile, and soon I will have a review of Aliette de Bodard’s novel. Recently, I found on Aliette de Bodard’s blog a book trailer made by the author herself, an appetizer that gives us a small taste of the novel. Also on the auhtor’s website we can find links for those interested in reading the first three chapters of the novel.

Furthermore, the excellent The World SF Blog opens a series of posts in which they will be publishing one short story every Tuesday and the first one is Aliette de Bodard’s “Mélanie”, originally published in Realms of Fantasy magazine and which is available now on The World SF Blog too.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In the news

After publishing “Apartment 16” this year Pan Macmillan will release another novel by Adam Nevill on May 2011, “The Ritual”:

When four old university friends set off into the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle, they aim to briefly escape the problems of their lives and reconnect with one another. But Luke – still single and living a precarious existence – cannot identify with his companions any more. Lost, hungry, and surrounded by forest untouched for millennia, Luke figures things couldn’t possibly get any worse.
But then they stumble across an old habitation. Ancient artefacts decorate the walls; bones are scattered upon the dry floors. The residue of old rites and pagan sacrifice for something that still exists in the forest. Something responsible for the bestial presence that follows their every step. Death doesn’t come easy among these ancient trees . . .

Until then, we can enjoy a short story by Adam Nevill published exclusively on Pan Macmillan’s website.

This month Solaris Books published Jonathan Oliver’s anthology, “The End of the Line”, which I featured here on my blog and I hope to read soon. In October 2011 Solaris Books will release another anthology edited by Jonathan Oliver, “House of Fear”, this time centered around a haunted house. The list of authors featured on this anthology includes Joe R. Lansdale, Tim Lebbon, Sarah Pinborough, Christopher Priest, Christopher Fowler, Adam L.G. Nevill (mentioned above), Paul Meloy, Lisa Tuttle, Eric Brown, Jonathan Green, Nicholas Royle, Nina Allan, Chaz Benchley, Stephen Volk, Garry Kilworth, Weston Ochse and Rebecca Levene.

In September 2011 Solaris Books will also release Nicholas Royle’s novel, “The Regicide”, and it sounds that this will be an interesting reading:

In September next year, I'm delighted to be able to tell you that we will be publishing the brilliant Regicide, by Nicholas Royle. I've been a fan of Nicholas for many years now, devouring books like Director's Cut and Counterparts. Royle is a fiercely intelligent writer and Regicide is a terrifying journey through a landscape of grief and loss. Those not aware of Royle's work are in for a treat. If you like China Mieville and Neil Gaiman then you're going to love this.

Tor UK announces that Col Buchanan’s sequel of his debut fantasy novel, “Farlander”, was delivered:

We just had the delivery of the second book in Col Buchanan’s Heart of the World series, carrying on the tale of the solitary Rōshun warrior, Ash. The book is full of action, pace, new characters and some wonderfully exciting plot twists. We’ll be publishing this second novel in August next year with the paperback of Farlander publishing in March 2011.

For this debut fantasy, Gaie Sebold’s “Babylon Steel” will have to wait a bit longer since Solaris Books plans to release it on January 2012. But “Babylon Steel” does sound intriguing:

Babylon Steel, ex-sword-for-hire, ex…other things, runs the best brothel in Scalentine; city of many portals, two moons, and a wide variety of races, were-creatures, and religions, not to mention the occasional insane warlock.
She’s not having a good week. The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, women in the trade are being attacked, it’s tax time, and there’s not enough money to pay the bill. So when the mysterious Darask Fain offers her a job finding a missing girl, Babylon decides to take it. But the missing girl is not what she seems, and neither is Darask Fain. In the meantime twomoon is approaching, and more than just a few night’s takings are at risk when Babylon’s hidden past reaches out to grab her by the throat.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dark Fiction Magazine launches on Halloween

This Halloween a new magazine will be launched, Dark Fiction Magazine, with a monthly issue of audio short stories. But here is the team that founded Dark Fiction Magazine introducing themselves:

Dark Fiction Magazine ( is pleased to announce the launch of a new service for fans of genre fiction. Beginning Oct 31st (Halloween), Dark Fiction Magazine will be launching a monthly magazine of audio short stories. This is a free service designed to promote genre short fiction to an audience of podcast and radio listeners. A cross between an audio book, an anthology and a podcast, Dark Fiction Magazine is designed to take the enjoyment of short genre fiction in a new and exciting direction.

Dark Fiction Magazine publishes at least four short stories a month: a mix of award-winning shorts and brand new stories from both established genre authors and emerging writers. Each episode will have a monthly theme and feature complementary tales from the three main genres – science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Co-founder Del Lakin-Smith said: "I love reading short stories, and with the increased uptake of mobile and portable devices this really is a growth area. But like many I find I don't have as much time as I would like to read, so I tend to listen to many podcasts on the go. The idea of replacing my podcasts with high quality, well performed audio short stories is something I find highly appealing, so Sharon and I set about making that a reality."

Sharon Ring, co-founder of Dark Fiction Magazine, said: “From technophobe to technophile in less than two years; I spend a great deal of time working online. To while away those hours, I like to listen to podcasts and drink copious amounts of strong coffee. Now, while I don’t recommend you drink as much coffee as I, I do recommend you check out what Del and I have created. We love podcasts; we love genre fiction; we built a site to bring the two together.”

The theme of Dark Fiction Magazine’s first episode is The Darkness Descends and will feature four fantastical stories:

‘Maybe Then I’ll Fade Away’ by Joseph D’Lacey (exclusive to Dark Fiction Magazine)
‘Pumpkin Night’ by Gary McMahon
‘Do You See?’ by Sarah Pinborough (awarded the 2009 British Fantasy Society Short Story Award)
‘Perhaps The Last’ by Conrad Williams

Lined up for future episodes are Pat Cadigan, Cory Doctorow, Jon Courtenay, Grimwood, Ramsey Campbell, Rob Shearman, Kim Lakin-Smith, Ian Whates, Lauren Beukes, Mark Morris, Adam Nevill, Gareth L Powell, Jeremy C Shipp, Adam Christopher, and Jennifer Williams, among others.

With a team of dedicated and passionate narrators, a central recording facility and a love of genre, Dark Fiction Magazine delivers a truly outstanding aural experience.

Dark Fiction Magazine will also be producing special editions with seasonal stories and topical issues, competitions, flash fiction episodes and novel excerpts. Each episode aims to shock and delight, to horrify and confound as Dark Fiction Magazine takes its listeners on an aural tour through the world of genre fiction.

Dark Fiction Magazine is a collaborative project, created and developed by Del Lakin-Smith and Sharon Ring. For further information, contact Del or Sharon at

The first episode looks truly great, Joseph D’Lacey with an original story, the excellent story of Gary McMahon, “Pumpkin Night”, which I enjoyed in the fullest in his collection “How to Make Monsters”, Sarah Pinborough who tends to become one of my favorite writers and Conrad Williams who recently won the British Fantasy Award for the best novel, with the haunting “One”. I am looking forward to listen this first episode and the ones to follow it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Title spotlight - "The Shadow of the Soul" by Sarah Pinborough

I loved Sarah Pinborough’s “A Matter of Blood”, the first novel in her “Dog-Faced Gods” trilogy, and DI Cass Jones is one of the best characters, if not the best, I encountered in this year readings. Therefore one of my most anticipated releases of 2011 is the second novel in the “Dog-Faced Gods” series, “The Shadow of the Soul”, due to be released by Gollancz on April. Sarah Pinborough’s novel is even more appealing now, with another simple, but very efficient cover artwork, and with a synopsis that tickles my fingers in anticipation of this release.

DI Cass Jones is still dealing with the fallout of uncovering a major conspiracy within his own police station when a terrorist attack rocks London and he finds himself called on to help with the investigation. At the same time he has his own investigation to worry about: young people are dying, apparently committing suicide - and they're all linked by the phrase Chaos in the Darkness, scrawled or sent as their last message to the world.
Then he's given a note from his dead brother Christian, written before his murder: the three words - 'They took Luke' - opens up a whole new can of worms, because Cass knows immediately who They are: Mr Bright and the shadowy Network. His dead brother has set him a task from beyond the grave - to find the baby, his nephew, stolen at birth.
And as Cass tries to divide his time between all three investigations, it's not long before he discovers links, where there should not be. The mysterious Mr Bright is once again pulling his strings, and there's nothing DI Cass Jones hate more . . .

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cover art - "The Crippled God" by Steven Erikson

“Malazan Book of the Fallen” series comes to an end next year and thanks to Adam (The Wertzone) and Aidan (A Dribble of Ink) we can have a look at the cover artwork of the Bantam Press edition of Steven Erikson’s “The Crippled God”. The artist is Steve Stone and the artwork is truly fitting for the finale of this appreciated series.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"The Reapers are the Angels" by Alden Bell

"The Reapers are the Angels"
by Alden Bell
Format: Hardback, 304 pages
Publisher: Tor UK
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Tor UK

God is a slick god. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe...
Older than her years and completely alone, Temple is just trying to live one day at a time in a post-apocalyptic world, where the undead roam endlessly, and the remnant of mankind who have survived, at times, seem to retain little humanity themselves.
This is the world she was born into. Temple has known nothing else. Her journey takes her to far-flung places, to people struggling to maintain some semblance of civilization – and to those who have created a new world order for themselves.
When she comes across the helpless Maury, she attempts to set one thing right, if she can just get him back to his family in Texas then maybe it will bring redemption for some of the terrible things she's done in her past. Because Temple has had to fight to survive, has done things that she's not proud of and, along the road, she’s made enemies.
Now one vengeful man is determined that, in a world gone mad, killing her is the one thing that makes sense…

There are themes in literature that tend to become a trend, but after an initial impact they start to be used in excess and follow a rather stereotypical path. Zombies are such a trend and lately I feel that I had quite enough of this theme, but when Alden Bell’s debut novel, “The Reapers are the Angels”, came into my attention I was intrigued by the synopsis of the book.

Before I knew it I went from the synopsis to the first pages of the novel and from there I set myself comfortably because I was sucked into the story almost instantly. “The Reapers are the Angels” is set sometimes into the future, a couple of decades after an apocalyptic event that turned the world into a barren place roamed by zombies. The respective event remains a mystery, but as the Alden Bell’s novel will show it has no relevance whatsoever, especially since the young Temple, the main character, is born in this world and has any notion of the world that existed before the catastrophe that ended it.

The fact that Alden Bell doesn’t focus his story on the zombie populated world and that Temple knows only this world in which she was born works perfectly for “The Reapers are the Angels”. And because Temple is a child of this new world she is perfectly adapted for surviving in it, the zombies only a constant but not much of an inconvenience for the young woman. This aspect of the novel is accentuated by the encounters that Temple has with people that survived the change suffered by the world, they remember and regret the past society and the things they enjoyed the most in it while Temple finds beauty in this bleak and deserted world.

More so, although Temple is fifteen years old nothing in her demeanor will betray that she is a teenager. The setting hardly permitted her to enjoy the innocence of childhood and the interests of teenagers are limited by the perspectives she faces. Her personal history contributes fully on Temple’s early maturation, events from her past turning her into a haunted but very complex character. The reader will encounter recollections of two very important events in Temple’s development almost constantly, but both of them are revealed late within the story by Alden Bell, giving them power from their mystery and delivering the small pieces of information needed to keep the reader interested in them.

The presence of the supporting cast is scarce, the majority of them throwing a new light on the main character and giving her new dimensions in which to develop. Emerging from the minor characters are Maury, a man who Temple helps and through whom she sees a way to find personal peace and redemption, and Moses Todd, the antagonist who will prove to have many similitudes with Temple. These characters make a journey through the devastated world, but more than that a journey through the humanity. Because “The Reapers are the Angels” is a story about humanity, the way that humans do not necessarily change because of an apocalyptic event, they continue to represent the greatest danger and predator, but as Temple does they will continue to find beauty and a reason for surviving in any circumstances.

The synopsis worked caught me, but it can be deceiving too. “The Reapers are the Angels” doesn’t have much of a plot or action, not that I was in particular search for them. It is a journey, a story of a remarkable character battling personal demons and seeking restitution. It is the story of changes in the world, with every human aspect taken into account. The novel is a study of character on a powerful setting, matched by a wonderful and flowing prose that takes the reader into a pleasant reading.

Lately, I run away from zombie fiction, but “The Reapers are the Angels” didn’t prove to be a reason to keep running away. The zombie element is hardly the central part, just another cause for the world turning into a bleak setting. Instead, Alden Bell’s “The Reapers are the Angels” is a story of life, tragic in places, but engaging and beautifully written. It is a confirmation of the beauty of literature.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cover art - "La Mejor Venganza" (Best Served Cold) by Joe Abercrombie

“La Mejor Venganza” can be translated as “The Best Revenge”, but we are more familiar with the original title of Joe Abercrombie’s novel, “Best Served Cold”. The Spanish edition which was released by the publishing house Alianza on Monday in their collection of science fiction and fantasy novels, Runas, has a different title, but also a slightly different cover. As you can see the Spanish publishers used a similar design, changing only a few details of the original cover. Alianza made an excellent choice in my opinion, because although they went for a new cover art, they kept enough elements that made the English cover a success and brought the Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy Cover Art to the team behind it, Didier Graffet and Dave Senior for illustration and Laura Brett for art direction.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cover art - "The Book of Transformations" by Mark Charan Newton

A while back, Mark Charan Newton showed us a cover draft for his novel, “The Book of Transformations”. I admitted at the time that I didn’t like that cover, mainly because of the central character featured on that draft, and I wasn’t the only one who had that problem. Following the debate surrounding the initial cover draft and based on the online feedback the publisher, Tor UK, and Mark Charan Newton made an interesting and unexpected decision eliminating the figure from the cover, at least for the hardback edition. The cover looks much better and seeing it in the fullest now I am even more pleased to see the character gone, because she was taking a lot from this perspective.

Mark Charan Newton posted the blurb of his third novel in the “Legends of the Red Sun” series on his blog too, a very catchy one, that makes me very curious and eager to find where the story goes after the first two novels of the series, “Nights of Villjamur” and “City of Ruins”.

A new and corrupt Emperor seeks to rebuild the ancient structures of Villjamur to give the people of the city hope in the face of great upheaval and an oppressing ice age. But when a stranger called Shalev arrives, empowering a militant underground movement, crime and terror becomes rampant.
The Inquisition is always one step behind, and military resources are spread thinly across the Empire. So Emperor Urtica calls upon cultists to help construct a group to eliminate those involved with the uprising, and calm the populace – the Villjamur Knights. But there’s more to Knights than just phenomenal skills and abilities – each have a secret that, if exposed, could destroy everything they represent.
Investigator Fulcrom of the Villjamur Inquisition is given the unenviable task of managing the Knights, but his own skills are tested when a mysterious priest, who has travelled from beyond the fringes of the Empire, seeks his help. The priest’s existence threatens the church, and his quest promises to unravel the fabric of the world. And in a distant corner of the Empire, the enigmatic cultist Dartun Súr steps back into this world, having witnessed horrors beyond his imagination. Broken, altered, he and the remnants of his order are heading back to Villjamur.
And all eyes turn to the Sanctuary City, for Villjamur’s ancient legends are about to be shattered…

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cover art - "Elfsorrow" by James Barclay

Pyr will release in November a new edition of James Barclay’s first novel in the “Legends of the Raven” series, “Elfsorrow”. Pyr put a lot of effort in the artwork too, commissioning for the covers of their edition of James Barclay’s series one of my top favorites artists, Raymond Swanland. I rarely am a fan of covers centered on a character, but this time I am making an exception. Raymond Swanland made once again a wonderful artwork, stirring my desire to find who this character is (I am not familiar with James Barclay’s works) and inflicting the same excellent sense of motion into his work as he used us with in some of the other covers he made before. Raymond Swanland used more dark colors here, but they are working for me without a problem. I will definitely grab a copy of this edition.

Another action-packed adventure from the new master of fantasy. The Raven travel to a new continent in search of mages to help the ruined college of Julatsa rebuild and find themselves in the midst of an ancient curse—a curse that has unleashed a plague that threatens to wipe out the elven race. Barclay excels with another tale that pitches The Raven against the clock and unseen foes. Full of desperate fights and secret betrayals, the story also fills in more of Balaia's history and delves deeper into the ancient emnities between the colleges. Barclay has created a wonderfully appealing group of heroes, and with every book their history grows and the land they live in becomes wider and richer. This is landmark fantasy in the making.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Man Booker Prize 2010

Yesterday, the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was awarded to Howard Jacobson for “The Finkler Question”, published by Bloomsbury.

Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular former BBC radio producer, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship and very different lives, they’ve never quite lost touch with each other – or with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik, a Czech always more concerned with the wider world than with exam results.
Now, both Libor and Finkler are recently widowed, and with Treslove, his chequered and unsuccessful record with women rendering him an honorary third widower, they dine at Libor’s grand, central London apartment.
It’s a sweetly painful evening of reminiscence in which all three remove themselves to a time before they had loved and lost; a time before they had fathered children, before the devastation of separations, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. Better, perhaps, to go through life without knowing happiness at all because that way you have less to mourn? Treslove finds he has tears enough for the unbearable sadness of both his friends’ losses.
And it’s that very evening, at exactly 11:30 pm, as Treslove, walking home, hesitates a moment outside the window of the oldest violin dealer in the country, that he is attacked. And after this, his whole sense of who and what he is will slowly and ineluctably change.
The Finkler Question is a scorching story of friendship and loss, exclusion and belonging, and of the wisdom and humanity of maturity. Funny, furious, unflinching, this extraordinary novel shows one of our finest writers at his brilliant best.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back home, to excellent news

The last trip was quite long and tiresome, but it went very well. It didn’t left me much time for rest or reading, but it proves to be rewarding already. At my return home I was very happy to find, however, that finally the Swedish Academy decided to award the Nobel Prize for Literature to the great Mario Vargas Llosa. I read 6 of Mario Vargas Llosa’s novels and each one of them was a delight. I remember especially “La Ciudad y Los Perros” (The Time of the Hero) an excellent and complex novel, with multiple perspectives and sending the reader well on thought, “Pantaleon y Las Visitadoras” (Captain Pantoja and the Special Service), a novel entertaining and hilarious, and “Conversacion en la Catedral” (Conversation in the Cathedral), a novel that portrays Peru of 1950s and that together with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “El Otono del Patriarca” (The Autumn of the Patriarch), Augusto Roa Bastos’ “Yo, El Supremo” (I, The Supreme) and Alejo Carpentier’s “El Recurso del Metodo” (Reasons of State) form a quartet of novels related to dictatorship that always will stick with me. Congratulations to Mr. Mario Vargas Llosa! It is well deserved!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A new business trip

As I said last week, one of the results of my previous business trip was an upcoming new trip. Well, that time has come and today I will be leaving on that second business trip. So, once again for the next few days my blog goes silent a bit, remaining to resume its schedule next week on Monday or Tuesday, depending on my return. Anyway, one of the next week posts will be my review of Alden Bell’s “The Reapers are the Angels” since it is almost finished. Until then, take care of yourselves and have a great week :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book trailer - "Gauntlgrym" by R.A. Salvatore

One of my all time favorite characters is the legendary Drizzt Do’Urden. I have fond memories of Drizzt Do’Urden, but I have to be completely honest and say that I have a drawback too. I enjoyed the early novels featuring the dark elf, but after a while it seemed that his story overstretched, pulling on things that were better left aside. Therefore at a point I didn’t feel as eager to start reading a new adventure of Drizzt Do’Urden as I was before. That point was the “Transitions” trilogy, because although I bought all the three novels of the series, “The Orc King”, “The Pirate King” and “The Ghost King”, I didn’t read any of them. Today, Wizards of the Coast releases a new R.A. Salvatore’s novel featuring his famous character, Drizzt Do’Urden. I still have the character in my heart, I will always have him, and the book trailer looks very good, but I am not exactly sure when I’ll be reading “Gauntlgrym”. I will definitely buy R.A. Salvatore’s “Gauntlgrym” because I am sure that one day it will come the turn of all these unread Drizzt Do’Urden novels to find their way on my reading table. Still, I am saddened to see that Drizzt becomes a bit too commercial for my liking.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cover art - "The End of the World" (Sfîrşitul Lumii) edited by Martin H. Greenberg

I am happy to see that the small Romanian publishing house, Millennium Press, continues to support the speculative fiction market, releasing a mix of interesting titles by local and foreign writers. Another praiseworthy work done by Millennium Press can be seen on the covers of their releases, kept on a constant high level lately. One of the Millennium Press future releases is the anthology edited by Martin H. Greenberg, “The End of the World”, which was published in the US on July this year by Skyhorse Publishing. The cover artwork chosen by the Millennium Press for the Romanian edition of “The End of the World” (Sfîrşitul Lumii) looks great, very appropriate for the subject in question and with an atmosphere that is equally disturbing and uncomfortable. The artist of the artwork is Ehsan Dabbaghi and I have to say that until now I was unaware of his works. But I am happy that this wonderful cover also made me discover Ehsan Dabbashi, because the works I saw on his CG Society portfolio are truly impressive.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Titles spotlight - "The Apex Book of World SF" volume 2 & "Down These Strange Streets"

I am always behind with my readings, not in a deadline term but in a desire to explore many titles that truly appeal to me. Two such titles came back into focus these days, two anthologies on which I set my eyes for some time, but for different reasons ended up unread so far. “The Apex Book of World SF” edited by Lavie Tidhar is waiting patiently for its turn although I have a review copy for quite a while now, while for “Warriors” edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois I am still pondering if I should wait for the release of the paperback edition or buy the hardcover now. The reason for these two anthologies coming into focus in full force is that the editors of these collections announced the Table of Contents for two similar projects.

Lavie Tidhar, the editor of “The Apex Book of World SF”, announced the table of contents for the second volume of the anthology, due to be released by Apex Book Company in mid-2011:
"Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life" by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Philippines)
"Mr. Goop" by Ivor W. Hartmann (Zimbabwe)
"Trees of Bone" by Daliso Chaponda (Malawi)
"The First Peruvian in Space" by Daniel Salvo (Peru)
"Eyes in the Vastness of Forever" by Gustavo Bondoni (Argentina)
"The Tomb" by Chen Qiufan (China)
"The Sound of Breaking Glass" by Joyce Chng (Singapore)
"A Single Year" by Csilla Kleinheincz (Hungary)
"The Secret Origin of Spin-man" by Andrew Drilon (Philippines)
"Borrowed Time" (trans. Daniel W. Koon) by Anabel Enriquez Piñeiro (Cuba)
"Branded" by Lauren Beukes (South Africa)
"December 8" by Raúl Flores Iriarte (Cuba)
"Hungry Man" by Will Elliott (Australia)
"Nira and I" by Shweta Narayan (India)
"Nothing Happened in 1999" by Fábio Fernandes (Brazil)
"Shadow" by Tade Thompson (Nigeria)
"Shibuya no Love" by Hannu Rajaniemi (Finland)
"Maquech" by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexico)
"The Glory of the World" by Sergey Gerasimov (Ukraine)
"The New Neighbours" by Tim Jones (New Zealand)
"From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7" by Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/US)
"The Slows" by Gail Har’even (Israel)
"Zombie Lenin" by Ekaterina Sedia (Russia/US)
"Electric Sonalika" by Samit Basu (India)
"The Malady" (trans. Wiesiek Powaga) by Andrzej Sapkowski (Poland)
"A Life Made Possible Behind The Barricades" by Jacques Barcia (Brazil)
The second volume looks very interesting indeed, with a few familiar names and other writers who are waiting to be discovered. But until the publication of the second novel I moved the first one at the top of my reading list.

George R.R. Martin announces on his blog that together with Gardner Dozois he completed the work on another anthology, “Down These Strange Streets”, due to be released by Penguin Putnam, at an unknown date for now . As George R.R. Martin says on his post: “Down These Strange Streets” is another of our crossgenre projects, this one a mix of fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, hardboiled mystery, historicals, and private eye stories.
"The Bastard Stepchild" (introduction) by George R.R. Martin
"Death by Dahlia" by Charlaine Harris (a True Blood story)
"The Bleeding Shadow" by Joe R. Lansdale
"Hungry Heart" by Simon R. Green
"Styx and Stones" by Steven Saylor (a Gordianus story)
"Pain and Suffering" by S.M. Stirling
"It’s Still the Same Old Story" by Carrie Vaughn
"The Lady is a Screamer" by Conn Iggulden
"Hellbender" by Laurie R. King
"Shadow Thieves" by Glen Cook (a Garrett story)
"No Mystery, No Miracle" by Melinda Snodgrass (an Edge story)
"The Difference Between a Puzzle and a Mysery" by M.L.N. Hanover
"The Curious Affair of the Deodand" by Lisa Tuttle
"Lord John and the Plague of Zombies" by Diana Gabaldon (a Lord John novella)
"Beware the Snake" by John Maddox Roberts (a SPQR story)
"In Red, With Pearls" by Patricia Briggs
"The Adakian Eagle" by Bradley Denton (novella)

Friday, October 1, 2010

"The Folding Knife" by K.J. Parker

"The Folding Knife"
Format: Paperback, 528 pages
Publisher: Orbit Books
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, 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.

Bits and pieces of information are leaking from time to time about K.J. Parker, but most of the presence of this author remains under a veil of mystery. I admit that I am a bit curious about who K.J. Parker is, but rarely am I bothered by my curiosity because it is a while now since I fell in love with her (most of the sources I found refer to K.J. Parker as a female) works. Without having a problem with the mystery surrounding K.J. Parker I gladly opened the front cover of her latest novel, “The Folding Knife”.

Once again K.J. Parker proved, if that was still necessary, to be an intelligent, careful and talented writer. She crafts a world and a story that without the secondary world elements will seem to be a historical recollection or a biography. K.J. Parker lays strong foundations to her creations, world, character and story, building from there without the fear of the novel crumbling on itself at the first logical question. “The Folding Knife” is not a fast moving novel, on the contrary it will seem to crawl, but that doesn’t reap anything from the enjoyment of the reader, because the novel keeps a steady and natural course, moving constantly forward without uneventful parts or falls into stereotypy.

The story gravitates around the main character, Bassianus Severus shortly known as Basso, the only major presence of the novel. Since it is the story of his life, or more exactly a part of his existence, it cannot be otherwise. The reader learns of the fate of Basso even from the introductory part, but the journey that leads the character to that point is as interesting as it is unpredictable. However, once the story reaches the same point it doesn’t simply end, but it extends into every reader’s imagination, Basso’s fate being far from sealed with the end of the novel. Basso is an ambitious, cunning and selfish character, but his flaws as much as his qualities are making his presence so much stronger. Basso is not a positive character, but not a negative one either, he just acts according to his principles and interests. K.J. Parker helps her character develop with the relationships that Basso has with a few other characters, the influence that he has on them and they on him. Although Basso’s relationship with his sister goes as an undercurrent it is the most important one, stretching in many directions and affecting Basso’s development and actions in many occasions.

The side characters do not rise at the level of Basso, but help the reader look at the events in which the main character isn’t involved directly. Because every little event, involving or not the main character, has effects on his actions and further development of the story in one way or the other. Piece of information or events that seem to have no importance will prove to be a sequence of a mesmerizing butterfly effect that takes place in “The Folding Knife”. Through the characters of the novel we can see a few interesting threads on politics, economics, society and war, touched on philosophical level and tickling the mind of the reader. I especially liked the correspondence between Basso and Bassano, his nephew, a series of letters towards the end of the novel that present some interesting concepts on war and humanity.

The setting of “The Folding Knife” is a world resembling the ancient Roman civilization in its republic phase. The work on the setting is truly impressive, K.J. Parker treating every detail with great attention, regardless of the importance of its role. Historical, political, military, economical, demographical or religious each of these aspects makes their presence felt and bring the Vesani Republic and the world around it fully into existence. The economy is the most important wheel of this assembly, the author throwing a light on the public, private and social sectors and the important part played by services and finances on these sectors. There are a few times when the economical part might be confusing, but once I went over the respective part again things became clear again and in the wide perspective revealed by the further reading they became clearer.

“The Folding Knife” has no action that emphasizes on physical qualities, but that should not drive readers away from this novel. As life offers smaller or bigger events each day so is “The Folding Knife”, with something happening with each page and chapter. As for the author of the present novel, I read enough of her works to say that every list of top genre writers would not be complete without K.J. Parker’s name on it.