Monday, December 12, 2011

That is about it for 2011. See you all on 2012

With my son’s first birthday party, the closing of a very busy working year and a planned family Christmas I am afraid that this is the last post of 2012. 2011 was a rewarding year and I am looking with pleasure in retrospective. It is true that 2011 came with a tight and hectic schedule, but that proved to be only a small and easily surmountable inconvenience. The blog suffered a bit. Well, suffered more, but I do hope that 2012 would see a return to at least half of the usual posting regularity. Therefore, a bit early, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book trailer - "The Christmas Spirits" by Whitley Strieber

One of the first horror novels I read was Whitley Strieber’s “The Forbidden Zone” and although some of the details are a blur now this particular novel is part of the group that made me love horror fiction so much. It is also true that since then I didn’t read any of Whitley Strieber’s novels for reasons that are not quite clear. Well, I do have such a chance now, thanks to Hodder & Stoughton that provided me with a copy of Whitley Strieber’s ebook, “The Christmas Spirits”. And since Christmas is almost at the door it seems like an interesting seasonal reading. Not only that, but it also has a more than interesting trailer too.

George Moore is a modern day Scrooge, a futures trader who drives his staff hard, and won't let his assistant go home to look after her autistic son on Christmas Eve.
Like Scrooge he is mean with money, but he is also mean with his sympathies and his time. He has to swerve to avoid putting money in a charity box and also crosses the road to avoid a family he thinks are probably gypsies on his way to dinner at a cheap cafeteria. An old man sitting nearby looks as if he might be looking for the warmth of some human contact. George refuses to meet his eye and hurries home.
Various slightly odd, even disconcerting things happen. He encounters a nun who looks like an elderly child. He sees a Santa in the window of a department store, who seems to emerge from his Grotto, look confused, and is then surrounded by small elf-like figures who drag him back behind the curtains. Finally, when he arrives back in his apartment the old man from the cafeteria suddenly appears and reveals himself as George's old mentor in trading and in greed. Bill Hill reveals that he is dead and that he has come to give George a warning. He warns George he will have three visitors that night, and then in a flash he disappears.
So it comes about that, as Bill Hill said, George receives three visitors that Christmas Eve, just as Scrooge was visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. But these are not the ghosties and sprites that frightened Dickens's readers. George's visitors are more ambiguous, more frightening to a modern sensibility. They are visitors that will give even today's reader goose bumps.
They take George on an emotional journey that like Scrooge's journey - and the journey in another Christmas story, It's a Wonderful Life - teaches him the true value of Christmas, the true meaning of life and finally ... how to love. This new classic is both very scary and very Christmassy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book trailer - "Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories" by Marian Coman

As I learned from personal experience movie trailers are not something to take for granted, most of the times the impression left by the movie is quite different from its trailer. I cannot say that I stopped watching movie trailers because of this, but I do not take them as guidance as I used to do at the beginning. However, I have mixed feelings when it comes to book trailers. I didn’t buy any book based on book trailers. Well, actually I did buy one, Ransom Riggs“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, and that proved to be a more than an excellent choice. Like the movie trailers, I do watch any book trailer that falls into my attention, but I watch book trailers also after I read that particular book which is not the case with the movie trailers. Recently I’ve seen a trailer for one of my favorite books of 2011, Marian Coman’s “Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories”, and this is one of the cases of watch/compare/imagine with my personal opinions about the book. I admit that I am not very fond of the book trailer for Marian Coman’s excellent collection of stories. Somehow, I see his book differently and I would have gone with a different approach for this trailer. Considering that in Romania we do not get many book trailers and Marian Coman’s talent deserves any form of publicity (except the negative one, of course) he can get I will salute the apparition of the book trailer. And hopefully, the next trailer for one of Marian Coman’s books will be even better.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"El Prisionero del Cielo" by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - cover art & synopsis

My Spanish is nowhere near as good as I would like it to be, but I would absolutely love to get my hands on a copy of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s latest novel, “El Prisionero del Cielo” (The Prisoner of Heaven), in its original language. Especially since it will be released on 17th of November in Spain and I do have to wait a bit longer for a translated edition to read. After the initial release announcement of “El Prisionero del Cielo”, pretty much surrounded by mystery, now we do have a cover art for the new Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novel and an all too appetizing synopsis. And how can it not be, when the third novel in a scheduled series of four featuring the exciting Cemetery of the Forgotten Books has as main characters the two remarkable heroes of “The Shadow of the Wind”, Daniel Sempere and Fermín (who is one of the most delightful characters of my reading experiences). Here is the synopsis of the novel found on Planeta website in my translation attempt.

Barcelona, 1957. Daniel Sempere and his friend Fermín, the heroes of “The Shadow of the Wind” are back on a new adventure to face the greatest challenge of their lives. Just when everything begins to smile on them, a disturbing character visits the Sempere’s bookshop and threatens to reveal a terrible secret which lay buried for two decades in the dark memory of the city.

To know the truth, Daniel understands that his destiny leads inexorably to a confrontation with the greatest shadows: those that grow inside him. Brimming with intrigue and excitement, “El Prisionero del Cielo” is a masterly novel where the threads of “La Sombra del Viento” (The Shadow of the Wind) and “El Juego del Ángel” (The Angel’s Game) converge through the magic of literature and leads us to the mystery that hides in the heart of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The first Arcane Anthology table of contents

As I mentioned in a previous post after the initial issue Arcane Magazine changed its format in an annual anthology series. Since then the first issue became Arcane Sampler a precursor for the first Arcane anthology, due to be released at the end of this year and not in January 2012 as was originally scheduled. The first Arcane anthology will contain thirty stories and although not many names from its line-up ring a bell that was the case with the first Arcane Magazine issue too and the respective experience was more than satisfactory. Even more, I can’t think of a better way to discover new and talented voices that such anthologies (or magazines) as Arcane. Here is the complete line-up with which Nathan Shumate will start the Arcane anthology series.

“We Belong to Her” by Joe Mirabello
“A Capella” by Jonathan S. Pembroke
“The Truth About Mother” by Van Aaron Hughes
“The Web of Legends” by Damien Walters Grintalis
“Reyes Rides the Deville” by Dan Cavallari
“The Heart of the Matter” by Paul L. Bates
“El Diablo de Paseo Grande” by Milo James Fowler
“The Delivery” by A.A. Garrison
“Corporautolysis” by Christopher Slatsky
“Mallecho” by Stephen Willcott
“God of the Kiln” by Eric Francis
“Tied” by D.T. Kastn
“Lady of the Crossroads” by Christine Lucas
“Beneath the Arch of Knives” by James Lecky
“A Pinky Between Friends” by Bartholomew Klick
“Possessed of Talent” by Ayden Parish
“Sweet Heaven in My View” by Frank Stascik
“It’s Not the Boys in This Family That Have to Worry” by Brady Golden
“Kiss of Death” by Jeremy Zimmerman
“Legacy” by SM Williams
“An Unquiet Slumber” by Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein
“A Friend, the Spider” by Caitlin Hoffman
“Destination Unknown” by Anthony J. Rapino
“In One There is Many” by Max Vile
“Incident at the Geometric Church” by David McGillveray
“Black Bush” by Gemma Files
“The Best and Bitt’rest Kiss” by S.K. Gilman
“Visiting Hours” by Josh Strnad
“Sweet Dreams” by Fran Walker
“The Business of Herman Laczko” by Mark Beech

Monday, November 7, 2011

A return, with a small change of schedule

With most of the working projects cleared it is time for me to return to the blogging schedule. Sort of, since this schedule will suffer a bit of changes too. It has been a hectic working year and still is. Apart from this, the best thing of my life happened close to 11 months ago and he is such a delight that I often forget about everything else. My son took priority over everything else and that is reflected on my passions as well. I still read and I am still enjoying reviewing the books I read, after all blogging about them brought to my passion a new perspective. And although I know that I still have room for improvement without any regrets for the past year I left reviewing on a second plan. I have plenty of reviews to finish and a couple of interviews that remained stuck somewhere in the middle. So I believe that a small change in the blogging schedule is necessary at this point. I will still post and review, hopefully interview some of the authors and artists I love too, but I am not certain how the rhythm of the posting would be. I do hope though that you will still enjoy those posts whatever their time of appearance will be.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A bit more silence

I have to apologize for the prolonged silence, but the business trip went longer with almost a week than expected. As a result of this long trip the amount of work needed to be done grew too and I am afraid that for a week or two I have to extend my silence.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Book trailer - "The Faceless" by Simon Bestwick & on the road again

The list of titles due to be released in 2012 and I wish to read is already growing to an extensive length. One of such titles is Simon Bestwick’s “The Faceless”, his second novel which will be published by Solaris Books on February 2012. I am not very familiar with Simon Bestwick’s works, I read only two of his short stories, but both of them were very much on my liking and therefore I was interested in learning more about “The Faceless” as soon as I heard of its release. All the information found from that point forward fueled my desire to read Simon Bestwick’s novel, which comes with a very interesting premise, a speaking for itself cover artwork and not in the least a recently made teaser for “The Faceless”, discovered through the courtesy of Mark West. I am not much of a fan for book trailers, they tend to leave me cold most of the times, but there are plenty of them which are very good and work their charm, although always in the companionship of more information about the respective title. Such is the case with Simon Bestwick’s “The Faceless” teaser, a trailer that manages to set the mood for the novel in little over 30 seconds.

In the Lanchashire town of Kempforth, people are vanishing. Mist hangs heavy in the streets, and in those mists moved the masked figures the local kids called the Spindly Men. When two-year-old Roseanne Trevor disappears, Detective Chief Inspector Renwick vows to stop at nothing until she finds her. In Manchester, terrifying visions summon TV pyschic Allen Cowell and his sister Vera back to the town they swore they'd left forever. And local historian Anna Mason pieces together a history of cruelty and exploitation almost beyond belief, born out of the horrors of war - while in the decaying corridors and lightless rooms of a long-abandoned hospital above town, something terrible is waiting for them all.

P.S. My work requires my presence on yet another abroad business trip, once again in the hospitable Poland. So, again my blog will be silent for a short while, but I do hope to see you all next week.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A new novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

In the recent years the one writer who had the fastest and most tremendous impact on my reading experience is Carlos Ruiz Zafón. “The Shadow of the Wind” was the best novel I read in a long period at the time I finished it and it still remains unbeaten on that position so far. “The Angel’s Game” didn’t rise at the same level as “The Shadow of the Wind” for me, but it still is a wonderful book. This year I caught up with all of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novels, “Marina” a beautiful and touching novel that lies the foundation for the later “The Shadow of the Wind”, and the catching “The Prince of Mist”, “The Midnight Palace” and “The Watcher in the Shadows”, part of “The Mist Trilogy”. Just in time for the new Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novel, “El Prisionero del Cielo” (The Prisoner of Heaven, I believe this is the proper translation, but it remains to be seen), due to be released on 17th of November by Planeta. Not much information can be found about “El Prisionero del Cielo” yet, except that the novel is set in Barcelona of the 40s and 50s, features the amazing Cemetery of the Forgotten Books and is the third novel in the series of “The Cemetery of the Forgotten Books”, together with “The Shadow of the Wind”, “The Angel’s Game” and a fourth novel that will complete a scheduled tetralogy. I will be back with more information and the cover of “El Prisionero del Cielo”, the novel that became one of my top reading priorities, when they will be available.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cover art - "Dead Harvest" & "The Wrong Goodbye" by Chris F. Holm

Some of my fondest memories of the school years are about crime and mystery novels (fantasy and horror novels were a very rare species in those particular times in Romania), small paperbacks that were conspiratorially hidden beneath the school books and read while I was supposed to do my homework. Those hard-boiled detectives in search of truth and justice surpassed any mathematical problem that needed its solution or any obligatory reading that had to be made. The reasons for my attraction for those wonderful novels were very simple in the beginning, the covers of those little treasures and the magical Humphrey Bogart in “The Maltese Falcon”. It is an excellent time for nostalgia now, because Angry Robot Books pulled out of its sleeves two amazing covers for the next year releases of Chris F. Holm’s “Dead Harvest” (March 2012) and “The Wrong Goodbye” (November 2012). Two book covers in the classic style that made my school years even better than they were. Actually, as I look more at the Chris F. Holm’s book covers, made by the graphic design studio, Amazing15, more I think that it would be an excellent thing to see more such covers on the market. Not in an excess, but a few more. Thank you, Angry Robot Books, for bringing back some wonderful memories!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Michael Haulică's "Povestiri Fantastice" available in electonic format

Another of the my favorites Romanian speculative fiction writers is Michael Haulică, whose recently released collection of stories, “Povestiri Fantastice” (Fantastic Stories), I finished this summer, but which still waits to be reviewed. Like Marian Coman, whose first appearance on the English market I featured recently, Michael Haulică had a couple of presence on the English marker in the form of a few translated stories, but also had stories translated in French, Danish, Hungarian, Croatian, Bulgarian and Czech. One such appearance is “LAPINS”, a story that can be found online, at the World SF blog. “Povestiri Fantastice” (Fantastic Stories) is available now in electronic format on the UK, US and German Amazon, in the original language for the moment, but it still is one step forward. However, I do hope that there would be other steps to be made and one in particular, the translation of “Povestiri Fantastice” in English. It will be a wonderful thing to happen to Michael Haulică and the Romanian speculative fiction. Until then, for a tiny taste of Michael Haulică’s works, here is the table of contents of “Povestiri Fantastice”, the volume available in electronic format and structured in three sections, reflecting the works of Michael Haulică from his debut until present:

Introduction: Radu Pavel Gheo – “O lume bolnavă” (A sick world)

MADIA MANGALENA (1999) – volume also available on Amazon (UK, US, DE & FR), in Romanian too, but in physical format
“Lipstick” (Lipstick)
“SIHADA” (LAPINS – the story available on the World SF blog)
“Noi, cei cu ochii arşi” (We, those with burned eyes)
“O portocala pe masa” (An orange on the table)
“Jocurile Olimpice ale Războiului” (The Olympic Games of War)
“Mireasma tîrzie a morţii” (The late fragrance of death)
“Sinuciderea din strada Mierlei” (The suicide from Blackbird Street)
“Mufişti, gofreni şi noduri” (Jacks, crimpers and nodes)
“Jucător pe viaţă, indexat la Paladini” (Player for life, indexed by Paladins)
“Cornelia cu sînii goi” (Cornelia with the bare breasts)
“Colecționarul” (The collector)
“Paznic de gînd” (Thought guardian)
“Viermele Perfecţiunii” (The worm of perfection)
“Neverly Hills” (Neverly Hills)
“Motocentaurii dorm singuri” (The motocentaurs sleep alone)
“Madia Mangalena” (Madia Mangalena)
“Hanni, femeia lui Mano” (Hanni, Mano’s woman)
“Full Contact” (Full Contact)
“Singurătatea ploii violete” (The loneliness of the purple rain)
“Ucideţi binefăcătorul!” (Kill the benefactor!)
“Căinţa” (The repentance)
“Ultimul mandate” (The last mandate)

DESPRE SINGURĂTATE ŞI ÎNGERI (2001): (About loneliness and angels)
“În hol” (In the hallway)
“Anotimpul de praf” (The season of dust)
“Lebăda” (The swan)
“Gramatica deasupra oraşului” (The grammar above the city)
“Acela care” (That who)
“Copiii liliacului” (The bat’s children)
“Neguţătorul de vise” (The dreams’ merchant)

AŞTEPTÎND-O PE SARA (2005): (Waiting for Sara)
“Full Contact 2. Nabokov” (Full Contact 2. Nabokov)
“Mordelia” (Mordelia)
“Te iubesc pe 32 de biţi sau O noapte cu Brad Pitt” (I love you on 32 bits or A night with Brad Pitt)
“Pasaj de trecere” (Crossing passage)

TRANSFER: (Transfer)
“Vremea zăpuşelii” (The time of stuffiness)
“Microtexte” (Microtexts)

Monday, October 3, 2011

2011 British Fantasy Awards winners

Yesterday, in a ceremony held during Fantasycon, at Royal Albion Hotel in Brighton the winners of the 2011 British Fantasy Awards have been announced:

BEST NOVEL (AUGUST DERLETH FANTASY AWARD): “Demon Dance” by Sam Stone (The House of Murky Depths)

BEST NOVELLA: “Humpty’s Bones” by Simon Clark (Telos)

BEST SHORT STORY: “Fool’s Gold” by Sam Stone (“The Bitten Word” edited by Ian Whates/ NewCon Press)

BEST COLLECTION: “Full Dark, No Stars” by Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton)

BEST ANTHOLOGY: “Back from the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories” edited by Johnny Mains (Noose & Gibbet)

BEST NON-FICTION: “Altered Visions: The Art of Vincent Chong” (Telos)

BEST ARTIST: Vincent Chong

BEST SMALL PRESS: Telos Publishing

BEST MAGAZINE/PERIODICAL: “Black Static” (Andy Cox (ed.)/TTA Press)

BEST COMIC/GRAPHIC NOVEL: “At the Mountains of Madness” by Ian Culbard (Self Made Hero)

BEST FILM: Inception (Christopher Nolan/Syncopy Films)

BEST TELEVISION: Sherlock (Steven Moffat/BBC)


SYDNEY J. BOUNDS AWARD FOR BEST NEWCOMER: Robert Jackson Bennett, for “Mr. Shivers” (Orbit Books)

Well, Sam Stone won both best novel and short story categories, but I am not sure that I have any desire to read her works. Looking over the information of her novels doesn’t stir any desire in me to pick them up soon. Especially since vampires are a very good reason to drive me away from a novel at the moment. Stephen King won the best collection and although I enjoyed a lot Tim Lebbon’s “Last Exit for the Lost” I am happy for the King of Horror too. For old times’ sake! The best non-fiction and best artist have in common the wonderful work of Vincent Chong, the worthy winner for the 5th time in the row of the Best Artist British Fantasy Award. Telos Publishing is the least known small press to me, but this is a good reason for me to check on their activity a bit more thorough. It is a delight to see “Black Static” as the best magazine, since each of their issues is excellent and brings me great joy. I am also 5 issues closer to complete the entire collection of “Black Static”. As for the best newcomer, I really should read my copy of Robert Jackson Bennett’s “Mr Shivers”. It is still on my bookshelves although in the mean time Robert Jackson Bennett released another novel, “The Company Man”, and prepares for the imminent “The Troupe”.

These are only a few personal thoughts on this year’s British Fantasy Awards, but hopefully next year I will be able to be more prepared and go through a more detailed review of the winners’ list.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Friday, September 30, 2011

"The Edinburgh Dead" by Brian Ruckley

"The Edinburgh Dead"
Publisher: Orbit Books
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Orbit Books

Edinburgh 1828: In the starkly-lit operating theatres of the city, grisly experiments are being carried out on corpses in the name of medical science. But elsewhere, there are those experimenting with more sinister forces.
Amongst the crowded, sprawling tenements of the labyrinthine Old Town, a body is found, its neck torn to pieces. Charged with investigating the murder is Adam Quire, Officer of the Edinburgh Police. The trail will lead him into the deepest reaches of the city’s criminal underclass, and to the highest echelons of the filthy rich.
Soon Quire will discover that a darkness is crawling through this city of enlightenment – and no one is safe from its corruption.

There are occasional times when I am not very willing to look upon the bookshelves of my library. Those are the times when the time seems so short and the number of titles I wish to read so overwhelming. Authors who I love and I wish to catch up with all their works, series started which need to be finished, new writers awaiting patiently to be discovered are all reasons for a mild personal depression on those passing moments. Brian Ruckley’s “Godless World” is not a part of any of these particular points of pressure on my reading habit. He was one of the new writers who got a chance for a reading early after his first debut, his series is long since finished and he is one of the authors I love and know almost all his works. More so, Brian Ruckley’s newest novel, “The Edinburgh Dead”, stepped over the queue of waiting books and reached my reading table after a little over a month since its publication.

“The Edinburgh Dead” was born, as we can find out from the interview at the end of the novel, from Brian Ruckley’s attraction for the Edinburgh’s history and in particular from the events of the Burke and Hare murders. Brian Ruckley takes some of the events of 1828, keeps some of the historical facts alive, shifts others into fantasy to suit the needs of his plot and crafts a story that is part historiography part pseudohistory, part fact part fiction, but captivating in its entire form. Almost everything there is to know about Edinburgh of 1828 can be found in the pages of “The Edinburgh Dead”. Brian Ruckley treats, more or less, each aspect of the changing period in the life of Edinburgh within his story. The geographical, military, cultural, diplomatic, economic and environmental components are used to breathe life into Edinburgh of 1828, every detail, small or big, put in its proper place to make the setting as vivid as possible. I believe that the amount of documentation made by Brian Ruckley must be extensive, but to say that will sound overly technical. And it would not be fair, since the author softens the cold, harsh facts of history with his words and descriptions.

The core of the story is a murder investigation, but which in time turns into surprising paths and transforms itself step by step. The road taken by the investigation moves naturally and logically, there are no moments when the plot missteps or overreaches its course. And although those responsible are revealed early on the march towards the final conflict offers plenty of twists, a couple of action scenes and nothing to be taken for granted. Leading the investigation is Adam Quire, a determined sergeant in the Edinburgh Police with a tumultuous past. Brian Ruckley puts an equal effort in building the main character as in bringing the Edinburgh of 19th century to life and these efforts make Adam Quire a very strong character. Approaching Adam Quire from both his physical and mental angles Brian Ruckley makes him an entirely human character, with as much faults as qualities and a personal way of tackling life. What sets Adam Quire apart from other character will be the natural emotion of fear, felt by Adam but not as often as it should by other characters in fiction.

“The Edinburgh Dead” is not entirely without fault. We move within the confines of a time and of a profession, but we stumble upon an overly used cliché. As a matter of fact, Hollywood used the stereotype of the suspended police officer trying to solve a crime so much that it stings my eye at its faintest appearance. In Brian Ruckley’s novel, at a certain point, it would have been understandable, but it is not sustained sufficiently by the story and crumbles on itself. Also, Adam Quire is a powerful character and Brian Ruckley takes a look into his past, an interesting and excellent executed look. But it is the only one and in my opinion it would have worked if it had been included within the story instead of taking an actual journey into the past too. I did enjoy this journey into Adam’s past though, solitary as it is, and I will set this issue aside. However, Adam Quire also overshadows every other character of the cast and this is a bit unfortunate. There are a few minor characters that show promise, but their development is unfulfilled. As for the negative characters, I am certain that they would have benefited more from a grander growth of their personality. But overall, these issues have a small impact on the entire structure of “The Edinburgh Dead” and they do not make it shake or break at any moment.

It is always nice to see authors stepping over the boundaries of genres, changing theme and gear. Brian Ruckley steps on a different path with “The Edinburgh Dead”, but he does it with remarkable and magnetic style and before it I’ll take my hat off and bow to.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories" by Marian Coman

"Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories"
Volume released in electronic format, which can be found on Amazon (US & UK) & Smashwords
Previous works reviewed on my blog: "White Nights, Black Days" & "The Chocolate Testament"
The review is based on a bought copy of the book

Marian Coman is part of a young generation of Romanian writers, but he is one of the few who touches with the strokes of his talented pencil the realms of the speculative fiction. Marian Coman was born on May 1977, in Mangalia, Romania and is currently the editor-in –chief of the newspaper “Obiectiv – Vocea Brăilei”. He graduated the courses of the Petre Andrei University with a specialization in psychology and social assistance. Marian Coman made his debut at the age of 17, when he published his first short story. That debut was followed by other short stories published in a number of Romanian anthologies and by the editorial debut with the personal volume, “Nopți Albe, Zile Negre” (White Nights, Black Days), in 2005. Since the release of his first personal volume Marian Coman also published another fiction collection in 2007, “Testamentul de ciocolată” (The Chocolate Testament), and a publishing volume, “Teoria flegmei. Apel la mitocănie” (The Phlegm Theory. Appeal at Grossness). His work was recognized with an EUROCON Award in 2006, a Kult Award for personal volume also in 2006 and with another Kult Award, for exceptional literary quality, in 2007. “Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories” is his first volume to be translated into another language, collecting four short stories previously released in “Nopți Albe, Zile Negre” (White Nights, Black Days) and giving a small measure of the talent Marian Coman posses.

“Fingers” is the story of a man in a strange relationship with the warp on his right forefinger and recollecting some of his childhood memories. It is one of the most evocative pieces of Marian Coman, although this particular aspect will appeal differently to the Romanian readers than those outside. That doesn’t mean that only Marian Coman’s compatriots will find this story captivating, I only believe that the points of interest for “Fingers” will come from different angles. Set during the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu the story connects, to a point, with the collective memory of the Romanian readers putting on the wall scenes and events which can prove to be painful and sweet in the same measure. For other readers, these scenes might create an eerie and strange atmosphere, bitter here and there, but true to the reality of those historical times. That harsh period of time is dressed however in the clothes of fiction which bring all the readers to the same ground, allowing them to share some weird and unsettling moments together.

“The Bathroom Door” is the story of a boy who moves together with his parents in a new apartment only to find that the bathroom connects to a different realm. This story touches again the period of the Communist regime in Romania, but less than the previous one. Instead is more concentrated on the fictional elements, bringing forth terrifying images in a bigger or smaller scale. “The Bathroom Door” has a humorous side, that might seem unwelcomed in the context of the story, but which relieves a little the heavy atmosphere set by the general line of this drama.

In “Unwired” (which can be read on Grasping for the Wind too) a few survivors of a mysterious event find themselves on an island sometime after their escape, with a young boy different from the rest of the island’s population as main character, finding himself in search of acceptance. Marian Coman creates a fictional setting and situation, easily identifiable throughout the story. However, the human condition is taken into account in its full dimension. Particularly when the innocence embraces the violence and cruelty. “Unwired” is a very short, but sad story, which leaves the reader in a state of melancholy.

The monks from “Between Walls” find that the walls of their monastery are unsettled by strange noises. In the search for the source of those noises they will also attempt to cleanse their monastery of its disquietude. “Between Walls” has at its base one of the most known Romanian legends, that of the master builder Manole. His legend, described in the folk ballad “The Monastery on the Argeș River”, tells the myth of the onymous monastery. Basically, the master builder Manole and nine of his men are hired by Negru Vodă to build the most beautiful monastery only to see the walls they raised by day crumbling by night. Manole has a dream in which learns that in order to finish the building he and his men have to sacrifice some very dear to them and the next day that person proves to be Ana, the pregnant wife of Manole. After the master builder Manole bricks his wife inside the monastery’s walls Negru Vodă leaves him and his men on the building roof to prevent them to raise other, more beautiful, monastery. Manole and his men make wings from the roof’s tiles, but fell to the ground and die one by one. It is said that in the place where Manole fell it is now a spring of clear water. Marian Coman changes the approach of the legend, giving it a new perspective, a background for the marriage between Manole and Ana and a glimpse into the monastery’s future. The author also offers a natural environment for the human character and condition within “Between Walls”.

“Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories” is a short collection of stories, but it gives enough opportunity for Marian Coman’s talent to surface. A flowing language, kept with an appropriate translation as far as I can see, a mind that spawns images and scenes with a discomforting ease and an ability to give grace to tragedy are qualities that make Marian Coman a unique and powerful writer. I only hope that he receives the deserved occasions to enchant the readers as often as possible, equally in his native language as in others around the world.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Welcome, Black Room Books!

Apex Book Company is one of the small publishing houses that are on the front line of quality speculative fiction. Their Apex Magazine is always a source of very good short fiction and for finding new and talented writers, while Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon’s anthology “Dark Faith”, Mari Adkins’ anthology “Harlan County Horrors”, Lavie Tidhar’s collection of world SF “The Apex Book of World SF”, Nate Kenyon’s “Prime” and Gary A. Braunbeck’s “To Each Their Darkness” are the main reasons for me to consider Apex Publications among my favorites. These days Apex Book Company came with a new, very pleasant, surprise for its readers, the birth of a new Apex imprint, Black Room Books. And by the presentation of Black Room Books I do hope that the new born will have a very long and successful life in the publishing world, because it certainly holds plenty of promise:

Black Room is an imprint of parent company Apex Publications. A spin-off, if you will, created to cater to the types of awesome books that don't fit the mold of "commercial", but that still deserve proper attention and publication. Our titles will be the type that leave a mark in your mind long after the last page is finished. We want these books to step up to the boundaries of genre fiction, evoke the names of the great ones, and jump as far as they can.

Already Black Room Books has a few titles prepared for future release, Tim Waggoner’s “Like Death”, Jennifer Pelland’s “Machine”, J.M. McDermott’s “Disintegrations Visions” and the new volume in Lavie Tidhar’s collection of world SF, “The Apex Book of World SF 2”. However, the honor for opening the ceremony goes to Tim Waggoner’s “Like Death”, novel scheduled for release on 25th October and which already has an excellent cover, although it is a very chilling one. Tim Waggoner’s “Like Death” is at its second publication with Black Room Books, after the initial release in 2005 from Leisure Books, but since it was under my radar then and the cover creeps me out I am happy that it sees the light of publishing again.

For more information about all that is prepared on the table of Black Room Books we can visit their website, And let’s wish Black Room Books a warm welcome and a long stay in the world of publishing.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Title spotlight - "Terror Tales of the Lake District" edited by Paul Finch

Legends and fairy tales are the most important structures in the foundation of my reading experience. Among the stories that made their way onto my reading table at the beginning of my adventure in the fiction world one in particular springs immediately from my memories, a heavy volume of collected world legends and fairy tales. I believe that I still have that volume and although it is battered by time and numerous readings I think I’ll dig it out for a pleasant journey down the memory lane. In time my taste for legends suffered changes, but my love for these particular stories only grew. This is one the reasons for Paul Finch’s anthology, “Terror Tales of the Lake District”, due to be released by Gray Friar Press this month (I believe) made the bells of my interest rang loud. And it is not the only one. The demented clown of Muncaster, the winged horror of Langdale, the drowned bride of Windermere or the nightmares on Burnmoor are offering plenty of reasons for my mind to go wild because of the curiosity inflicted by them. I will add to this a few names that are on the line up of “Terror Tales of the Lake District”, as well as on my favorites list, such as Gary McMahon, Ramsey Campbell, Simon Bestwick, Reggie Oliver and Carole Johnstone (whose stories I recently re-discovered and were more impressive than the first time) and there is no wonder that I already ordered Paul Finch’s anthology.

The Lake District — land of mountains and megaliths, night-black lakes and fathomless woods filled with spectral mist ...
The eerie entity on Striding Edge
The living corpse of
The demented clown of Muncaster
The winged horror of
The drowned bride of Windermere
The hairy brute of
The nightmares on
Chilling tales by Ramsey Campbell, Adam Nevill, Simon Clark, Peter Crowther, Reggie Oliver, Gary McMahon and other award-winning masters and mistresses of the macabre.

This wild, mountainous region in northwest England is famous for its towering crags, deep woods and majestic lakes. It is still one of the most popular holiday destinations in the whole of the UK, particularly for climbers, hikers, campers and yachtsmen. But some corners of it are extremely remote and even now in the 21st century remain wreathed in rural mystery and spooky superstition.
This brand new anthology, edited by master of chills, Paul Finch, contains ten works of original horror fiction all set in England's haunting Lake District, and three classic reprints. It also features numerous anecdotal tales concerning true incidents of Lakeland terror which will ensure you'll never regard that scenic part of the world in the same innocent light again.

“Little Mag’s Barrow” by Adam L.G. Nevill
The Mad Clown of Muncaster
“The Coniston Star Mystery” by Simon Clark
The Croglin Vampire
“Devils of Lakeland” by Paul Finch
The Mumps Hall Murders
“The Moraine” by Simon Bestwick
The Tawny Boy
“The Claife Crier” by Carole Johnstone
The Monster of Renwick
“Jewels in the Dust” by Peter Crowther
The Devil’s Hole
“Above the World” by Ramsey Campbell
Nightmares of Burnmoor
“The Jilted Bride of Windermere” by Gary Fry
The Horror at Carlisle Castle
“Walk the Last Mile” by Steven Savile
The Poltergeist of Walla Crag
“Framed” by Peter Bell
Fiend’s Fell
“Night of the Crone” by Anna Taborska
The Tortured Souls of Lord’s Rake
“Along Life’s Trail” by Gary McMahon
The Black Hound of Shap
“Striding Edge” by Reggie Oliver

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Arcane Magazine is dead, long live Arcane Anthology

Before going on the summer holiday I reviewed the first issue of “Arcane Magazine” saying at the time that it would be a shame for this new and interesting magazine to die after its first appearance. Well, unfortunately it did, but fortunately only to be resurrected immediately in a new form. Nathan Shumate, the editor of “Arcane Magazine”, announced the transformation of Arcane, Penny Dreadfuls for the 21st Century from the magazine to an annual anthology series. I would have liked to see more issues of the magazine, but I know that keeping such a publication can be a struggle. Therefore, I am happy that it is not a disappearance into oblivion, but a transformation. And since the first issue, that is now a prelude to the “Arcane” anthology series, was interesting I am looking forward to the first collection of new “Arcane” stories scheduled for release on January 2012.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cover art - "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin (Portuguese edition)

I’ve seen this cover artwork for George R.R. Martin’s “A Dance with Dragons” on the author’s Not A Blog and I really liked it. Well, to tell the truth I liked it the first time I saw it, a while back, on Andreas Rocha’s website in its original title, “Silent Shadows”. Andreas Rocha is one of my favorite modern artists, one with whom I had the pleasure to make an interview for my blog and whose career I followed ever since I discovered his works. I am happy to see that Saída de Emergência, the Portuguese publisher of “A Dance with Dragons”, chose Andreas Rocha’s artwork for the cover of George R.R. Martin’s novel, because I am always happy to see the works of my favorites, a series, an author and an artist in this case, and more so when they are mixed and balanced together. Since the Portuguese publisher splits each book of “A Song of Ice and Fire” in two volumes I am curious to see what Saída de Emergência has in store for the cover artwork of the second volume of “A Dance with Dragons”. No matter who the artist of that cover would be until the release of that volume we can admire the cover artwork of Andreas Rocha for “A Dança dos Dragões”, more of his art on his website and if you have the pleasure, the interview I made with Andreas Rocha in 2009.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Constant failing connection

I am on a business trip this week and although I took my laptop with me planning to post on the blog since the schedule permited it, but my plans got mixed up. Mainly due to my mobile connection which comes and goes as it pleases. Mostly, it is not here when I need it. Well, nothing much to do about it, therefore I will leave the posts I have for next week. See you soon :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

"What They Hear in the Dark" by Gary McMahon

"What They Hear in the Dark"
Publisher: Spectral Press
The review is based on a bought copy of the book

An absence is more terrifying than a presence…
Rob and Becky bought the old place after the death of their son, to repair and renovate – to patch things up and make the building habitable.
They both knew that they were trying to fix more than the house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over.
Then they found the Quiet Room.

I have the chance constantly to read and review the debut works of various writers, but not very often it happens to read and review the debut title of a new publishing house. I actually think that it happened only once before. Now I had a second such chance, when Spectral Press released its first chapbook from a series of limited signed editions, I am not a very big fan of the limited editions, but that is another matter for another time, of such stories, released on quarterly basis. And what better way to start such a publishing project than releasing the work, “What They Hear in the Dark”, of one of the strongest modern horror voices, Gary McMahon, if not the strongest.

Rob and Becky find themselves in need of a dramatic change in their lives after the violent death of their son. They buy a new house, in need of heavy repair, in an attempt to give a new meaning to their lives, to have a purpose that occupies their mind and time while their emotional wounds are soothed and healed. Throughout the entire chapbook it is obvious that the house bought by Rob and Becky is a metaphor of their marriage, an extrapolation of their relationship in the new acquired house, both in a crumbling state due to an absence. The same thing is with the Quite Room, the central point of Gary McMahon’s story, again brought at the metaphorical level as well, an image of how the married couple deals with their tragic loss at individual level.

If this juxtaposition is one of the main keys of “What They Hear in the Dark”, the emotional impact brings an uncomfortable similitude between what experience the characters and the reader. Gary McMahon manages to reach beyond the pages of his story, the tragedy of the couple, more underlined by the brutal and ruthless characteristics of that tragedy, the emotional torment of the characters and the heavy atmosphere of the marriage are brought into existence with such vividness that it is impossible for the reader not to be marked. It is true that the story focuses more on Rob’s emotions, Becky’s feelings being only sketched, but that I believe that would have been a greater problem if “What They Hear in the Dark” was longer and not only a twenty pages story. Besides this minor point however, there is nothing to complain about Gary McMahon’s chapbook. The beautiful prose, the way Gary McMahon slowly reveals all the levels of his story and emotional impact make from “What They Hear in the Dark” a story that is not easy to forget.

Gary McMahon’s “What They Hear in the Dark” is Spectral Press’ first released publication, but if all its planned chapbooks are as these twenty pages of sheer emotion I am willing to be its faithful follower despite my dislike for limited editions.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Title spotlight - "Scenes from the Second Storey" edited by Mark S. Deniz & Sharon Ring

One of the books I’ve read on holiday, and I am still reading since I am only half through, is Amanda Pillar and Pete Kempshall’s anthology, “Scenes from the Second Storey”. The first interesting thing that caught my attention when I first heard about this anthology is that “Scenes from the Second Storey” is a tribute brought by Mark S. Deniz, the founder of Morrigan Books, the publishing house which released the anthology, to The God Machine’s homonym music album. Each story is dedicated to one of the songs on The God Machine’s “Scenes from the Second Storey” track, but since Mark S. Deniz wished for many talented writers to envision those songs in fiction he ended up with more than thirteen authors for his anthology. Therefore the homage brought to the album came in two forms, a first one edited by Amanda Pillar and Pete Kempshall and featuring an all Australian line-up of writers (which I am currently reading) and a second, international edition, edited by Mark S. Deniz and Sharon Ring. This week, the line-up for the international edition of “Scenes from the Second Storey” was posted on Morrigan Books’ website. It gives me plenty of reasons to look forward to the release of “Scenes from the Second Storey” on 11th November in electronic format and later on in a printed version, but it also makes me wonder, as the anthology’s presentation says, how will the two interpretations in fiction of the same song fare with each other. I am waiting with great anticipation to see how the inevitable comparison will turn out, especially since the bar is set very high due to the impressive and exceptional quality of the stories I’ve read so far in Amanda Pillar and Pete Kempshall’s Australian edition of “Scenes from the Second Storey”.

Thirteen tales of murder, revenge, betrayal, obsession and desire - your usual fare? Well not when adding the fact that all these stories were inspired by The God Machine’s album of the same name, a concept queried by some before reading the first of these two themed anthologies.

Now comes the second instalment, following on from the Australian authors penning their wonderful versions of The God Machine’s classic tracks to a mix of international authors, commissioned by Morrigan Books to give their take on the songs. How similar are the two written versions to the album’s tracks? Do they capture the essence? You, the reader, can decide for yourselves this November when the international version of Scenes from the Second Storey is released.

“Dream Machine” by Miles Deacon
“She Said” by KV Taylor
“The Blind Man” by Carole Johnstone
“I’ve Seen the Man” by Gary McMahon
“The Desert Song” by Adrienne Jones
“Home” by Shannon Page
“It’s All Over” by Paul Kane
“Temptation” by Pete Kempshall
“Out” by Mike Stone
“Ego” by Gerard Brennan
“Seven” by Joseph D’Lacey
“Purity” by T. A. Moore
“The Piano Song” by Ian Whates

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The holiday is in the past now

It is the first time since my high-school years that I feel that the summer holiday was not enough. It is true that back then there were three months of vacation, but three not enough months. This year there were only two weeks of holiday, but I could use at least three more. Anyway, nothing to do about it, therefore thinking too much about it doesn’t have any use.

It was a great holiday though. Lago di Garda is a very beautiful place and Sirmione, where we stayed, is a quiet and relaxing location. I could have stayed all day long near the lake and read, but I had plenty of different activities. Visits to some historical places, cycling, splashing in the pool, but no sun bathing since I am a bit like a vampire in this case. Mihnea, our 8 month old son, had plenty of magical moments too. He enjoyed a lot the pool, the walks near the lake and meeting the ducks that swim there and the dogs that walked near it and above all the Mary-go-round in Gardaland. Speaking of Gardaland, we took a ride in Raptor, an insane attraction and an experience that I am not willing to repeat any time soon. A wonderful holiday.

So, this week things get back on track slowly. The most pleasant of them is blogging, which will get its regular schedule soon. I have a few more reviews to write, besides a couple of older ones, and I believe that I can start working on them next week. These two weeks of holiday were very busy with diverse activities, but I did have the chance to finish Drew Magary’s “The Postmortal” (which was rewarding), Chris Wraight’s “Dragonmage” and half of the Black Gate 15th issue and of the Amanda Pillar and Pete Kempshall’s anthology “Scenes from the Second Storey” (exceptional so far). Also I will finish the review of Marian Coman’s “Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories”, the excellent collection I’ve talked about before going on vacation. Plenty of things to do for putting my blog back on track.

How were the last couple of weeks for you?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer holiday

Finally, that time of the year has come. The first one. For a long time I didn’t expect the summer holiday with such impatience. It was a busy year so far, although I am not complaining, and it cut a bit in my free time. Anyway, I will be leaving on Monday and this time I will not pack any books for the holiday. Instead I will bring my Kindle with me, fully charged. I have the e-reader for month now and I became accustomed with it. I certainly didn’t expect such an experience. The holiday will give me plenty of chances to experience more with it and write my full feedback at my return. Also, I will certainly have plenty of reviews, because I do hope to catch up with the ones that remained behind and transform the notes I made for them in reviews. I hope that you will have a great time the next couple of weeks too and to see you back after the 5th of September :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Arcane, Penny Dreadfuls for the 21st Century - Issue 1

Issue 1
The review is based on a bought copy of the magazine

For a period of time I drifted away from the short form of fiction, although I did enjoy it a lot before. As a matter of fact, plenty of the authors I favor today have been discovered through their short stories. After this period of time however I rediscovered the pleasure of reading short fiction and came back to it with renewed force. In one of my wanderings through the Internet in search of short fiction I stumbled upon a link that led me to the Arcane Magazine’s website. At that time I didn’t find much time to spend on the respective website though, but luckily the inspiration made me bookmarked it. And later on I thanked my inspiration, because I did come back and picked a copy of the first issue for a reading session.

“Hazards” by Justin Pollock – The narrator relates the strange events surrounding one of his attempts to help the passengers of a car pulled on the side of the road, with its hazards on. Told in the first person the story reveals a rather uncertain character, too eager to prove himself a good citizen, unsteady in his recounting and struggling for words on some descriptions. It gives him personality, but not a very sympathetic one. The main feature of “Hazards” doesn’t bring anything new or original, I’ve encountered the same idea in a form or another in a few occasions before. It is true that brings into attention some of the present social realities, but doesn’t save the story too much. Justin Pollock’s story being quite short it is suitable for a relaxed coffee break.

“Darnell Behind Glass” by Jeff Crook – Darnell Charles, who runs his small gas station and convenience store, finds in the hard way that the bums who frequent his business are more than what meets the eye. It is a character driven story, centered on Darnell Charles, a character successfully build by Jeff Crook. The atmosphere grows around the main character, as the plot gains momentum. Some of these elements reminded me, in the good way, of “The Sixth Sense” movie. The final touches of the plot are hinted in the beginning of “Darnell Behind Glass” and the finale comes with a philosophical conclusion. Overall, a well executed story.

“The Mine” by Jason V. Shayer – Two young men go to the local mine in hope of seeing some dead bodies, after one of them hears of a supposed gunfight between the local Sheriff and some outlaws hiding in the old mine. A western story backed by language, with a particular touch sustained by tension and atmosphere. Once Owen and Matt, the two young men in search of a thrill, step inside the mine I didn’t know what to expect next, Jason V. Shayer succeeding in keeping the tension at a high level. There are few surprises along the way and the story doesn’t end without a final, quite interesting twist.

“Ricky and the Elder Gods” by S.M. Williams – Ricky helps two elderly gods pickup people in their quest towards a special place and for a mysterious ritual only to find an unexpected obstacle at the last one. S.M. Williams offers a rhythmically balanced story, featuring mysterious books, secret societies and two elder gods with plenty of action scenes to keep it interesting. The end was a bit disappointing for me, because although it implies to future terrifying moments the reasons behind the story rivalry and the implied course of actions are ambiguous. Otherwise “Ricky and the Elder Gods” is a fast paced, entertaining story.

“Gingerbread and Ashes” by Jaelithe Ingold – When his sister disappears, Hansel goes back to the house of his notorious childhood tale, now found in a state of decaying, in search for her. It is one of the strongest stories of the debut issue of Arcane Magazine, if not the strongest. Jaelithe Ingold doesn’t reinterpret the Grim Brothers’ story, but follows its main characters long after it, at their elder age. I love it because it implies to some of the consequences that can result from the known fairy tale, because of its deep psychological aspects and because it centers on some human behavior and desires that are certainly more terrifying than any monster that can be spawned by the mind. Subtle and disturbing it also leaves a small sad feeling behind it.

“Dear Management” by Tom Wortman – A company’s new employee finds himself bothered by a strange smell in his new office and decides to investigate its provenience, only to discover a source as surprising as it is horrifying. The story is related through a series of letters that the new employed writes to the management of the company that offered him his job. It is an interesting choice for recounting the events of the story, although it might seem a bit misplaced in case of a couple of letters. There are also a few letters that seem repetitive and doesn’t help the story to advance. But it is a story that captures the attention of the reader, gathers momentum along its course for its climax and also comes with a humorous and light tone in some places.

“In the Place Where the Tree Falleth” by Michael Lutz – Henry Cudder is a bible salesman and he tries to make a last sale to the owners of a house surrounded by a strange looking gatherings of trees. Michael Lutz’s story is another personal favorite of mine from the current issue of Arcane Magazine. It has very good atmosphere, kept all the way to the final sentences. Every step, from the first word to the last, the atmosphere is filled with a strange and eerie sensation, leading to some uncomfortable moments as much for the story’s main character as for the reader. “In the Place Where the Tree Falleth” doesn’t reveal all of its mystery, insinuates aplenty, but in equal measure leaves the mind of each reader to take charge.

“Laundry Night” by Stephen Hill – Rita discovers that some of the clothes washed in the dryer room tend to disappear. One night Rita will discover the source behind these disappearances. I failed to engage with Stephen Hill’s story on any level. Actually, there was one aspect that did engage me, but in the end it was heavily underlined by the rest of the outcome. No terror or discomfort can result from such an ordinary source of meal, more so when it touches the disgusting. Not the disgusting or grotesque elements of horror, but of the unpleasantness for the reader. The end is predictable and drawn too much on the moral side to do the story any good. It is a shame though, because the tensed beginning and the condition of Rita’s marriage offer “Laundry Night” a good start, abruptly slipping on the downside for me though.

“Hello Operator” by Donny Waagen – The story’s protagonist finds himself in an unfamiliar neighborhood at night, but when he reaches a phone booth for a much desired call he’ll find himself in a totally different situation. Donny Waagen offers a few tensed moments for his story, a claustrophobic feeling and a fitting end. The fact that this is his first sold story might reflect on a few comparisons that felt awkward for me, but there are plenty of good things to compensate those and to keep the reader hooked to “Hello Operator”.

“Courting the Queen of Sheba” by Amanda C. Davis – When their circus acquires a new showing exhibit some of its performers will have a problem on their hands. The story induces the reader in a past period of time, it is truly evocative of that time and doesn’t falter in keeping it present through its entire course. Still, the apparent danger that threats the characters of the story doesn’t seem to be very serious at any point. The tone is a little too relaxed for the danger to be felt. As a matter of fact, the story has a different tone than the rest of the entries in the first issue of Arcane Magazine, it feels more like a pulp adventure. But this is more in the favor of “Courting the Queen of Sheba” than not.

“A Requiem for Tarsenesia” by William Knight – Tarsenesia must protect itself from the lurking monsters outside its gates through music. But when the master luthier Marcus finds trouble inside the city walls his daughter, Ishtra, discovers that Tarsenesia isn’t exactly the safe heaven it appears to be. William Knight creates a fantastic setting for his story and Tarsenesia is one of the main points of attraction for “A Requiem for Tarsenesia”. The setting is fantastical, but the conflict is not. It can be found throughout the history of the world or in the everyday life, but the fantastic setting takes it out of the ordinary and gives it strength. And as dangerous as it is the outside menace for Tarsenesia, it isn’t matched by the one born from the shake of hands between the sacred and profane when one part’s interest demands it. “A Requiem for Tarsenesia” is a tale of revenge, with a tint of poetical justice, and in the end the act of vengeance is as rewarding as it is cruel.

“The Hole” by Rob Errera – A hole deep in the ocean floor rises on land once the earth changes while it exercises its influence on everything that surrounds it. I am not exactly sure what to make of this story, but the truth is that it kept me reading until the end. It is also true that the humans in the story don’t behave in the most encouraging way, but that makes the story interesting. All in all “The Hole” is a nice way to draw the debut issue of Arcane Magazine to a close.

The short form of fiction struggles most of the times and I’ve seen at my time a good number of magazines dedicated to this form dying due to various reasons. “Arcane Magazine” is a new born and from the information I gathered it has a few difficulties standing on its feet. I believe that this piece of information is a sad thing to be learned, because although the first issue cannot be named a perfect start, “Arcane, Penny Dreadfuls for the 21st Century” offers plenty of quality fiction that would be a shame to see this magazine die after its first published appearance.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Guest post - Jasper Kent

Today, Bantam Press releases the UK edition of Jasper Kent’s third novel in “The Danilov Quintet” series, “The Third Section”. “The Third Section” is one of the titles I am looking forward to read this year, since I enjoyed a lot “Twelve” and “Thirteen Years Later”, but until I have that chance I am happy to have Jasper Kent as my guest on the blog with the occasion of “The Third Section” UK release day.

The Same – But Different
by Jasper Kent

Sound familiar?

It’s an answer that many an author must have heard. And the question? It comes after a novel has done reasonably well; a question that every author asks his (or her) editor: What next? The answer – the same, but different – is not plucked from the air. It’s a reflection of the views of the readership. If they wanted exactly the same, they could just read the book again. On the other hand, given that they liked the first book, what interest would they have in something totally different?

The author turns away, his lips intoning the counter-question: How different? He rarely bothers to ask the editor; the answer is obvious: Just different enough.

I think I err more towards the different than the same. As the name suggests, there will be five books in The Danilov Quintet, the last separated from the first by 105 years. If at the end things weren’t different from the beginning, then history would be failing in its duty. But if nothing remained the same, history would be unfathomable.

Just now we’re at the half-way point. From today you can (and should) buy the middle book of the series – The Third Section – and when you hit page 237 (out of 474) you will, in some sense, be exactly at the middle. Temporally, you’ll be a little earlier; 43 years from the beginning, 62 from the end. By the end of the book a conception and a death will have marked the true midpoint for the Danilov family. The first two books had one hero – the last two will have another.

The Third Section has a heroine.

Tamara Valentinovna Komarova, the central character of The Third Section, is the same, and is different. She has the same love of her country as Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov; the same faith towards her friends – often misplaced; the same cunning; the same hatred of the voordalak. But, unlike Aleksei Ivanovich, she is a woman – a woman in imperial Russia. She cannot rely on her physical strength, or even upon the respect of her fellow Russians. To defeat, or even survive, the enemy that Aleksei once faced; she can only fall back on her wits, her beauty and her guile. The problems she faces are the same – or at least similar; her solutions to them are quite, quite new.

Vive, as they must surely say in Russia, la différence.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Guest post - Daniel Polansky

Slums of the Shire
by Daniel Polansky

Occasionally you'll be with a group of people and they'll get to talking about their favorite historical epochs, nostalgic for lives they never led. One person will talk up their childhood love of the Wild West, another reveal a penchant for Victorian England. This last one just has a thing for corsets, but it's better not to call them on it.

When my turn rolls round I take a sip of whatever we're drinking and look at my shoes. “The mid 90's were pretty good,” I say lamely. “Slower internet and everything, but at least we had penicillin.”

Perhaps it's my being a history buff, but the past sucked. For about a millennium and a half after the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe just seems like a real shit place to reside. Lots of rooting in filth until you die at thirty a half mile from where you born. Nominally the nobles had it better, but still, your fever would have been treated with the application of leaches and your pretty young bride had like a one in two chance of surviving child birth.

This probably is why I don't understand fantasy—that is to say that collection of high medieval tropes collected by Tolkien and gleefully reproduced by two generations of descendants.

Take elves for instance—though perfectly capable of imagining a world where higher intelligence evolved in a species separate from humanity, my powers of make believe fail when positing that the relation between said species would be anything beyond unceasing warfare. Even a cursory glance at human history reveals our collective willingness to commit genocide on fellow homo sapiens—how much quicker would we have been to eradicate a separate species competing for identical resources? If elves existed, our ancestors would have hunted them down to extinction and erected a monument to the accomplishment.

But I digress.

Even when nestled comfortably in a quest to kill a dragon or overthrow a dark lord or what have you, strange thoughts plague me. What does the shady side of Gondor look like? How many platinum coins would a dime bag set me back? What is the point of hobbits? They're just short, fat people. People are plenty fat as it is.

Low Town is sort of my attempt to answer some of those questions (not the last one). It's the story of the Warden, a former intelligence agent and current drug dealer, whose gradual slide into self-destruction is briefly checked by the discovery of a dead body in the neighborhood he runs. An ill-timed bout of conscience rattles the easy cage of venality he's built for himself, and leads him on a collision course with the life he'd left behind. The Warden is a guy trying to survive the next few days, and not particularly squeamish as to what that requires—the sort of person more likely to populate a classic crime novel than to be found stocking the fantasy section of your local Borders (RIP).

More broadly, Low Town is an attempt to meld the best aspects of noir with a low fantasy setting—a meeting of tastes which I think complement each other nicely. The spare language and fast pace of good noir offers a pleasant counterpoint to the sprawling—one might even say bloated—length of much modern fantasy. On a somewhat broader level, the tendency of fantasy to focus on world shaking events often renders it irrelevant to the average reader, whose life relatively rarely devolves into single combat against vaguely satanic analogs. By contrast, noir is concerned with the individual, with greed and lust, sins all of us can comprehend to some degree. Low Town centers on the conceit that a world with magic wouldn't be altogether different from a world without it. People are still (on the whole) selfish, stupid creatures, focused almost exclusively on the immediate satisfaction of their basic desires, only now some of them can shoot fire out of their hands.

That's the idea at least. It comes out today (August 16th) in the US and Canada, and on Thursday (August 18th) in the UK and Commonwealth. I hope you check it out and see if I've succeeded, or if I'm just a pretentious clown. Or both.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cover art - "Final Chronicle of the Dread Empire" series by Glen Cook

Recently I’ve posted the cover artwork for the new edition of the first volume of Glen Cook’s “The Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire”, “Reap the East Wind”, due to be released by Night Shade Books on October. Last week, Night Shade Books revealed the covers of the next two volumes of the “The Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire” series, the new edition of “An Ill Fate Marshalling” and the original and final “A Path to the Coldness of Heart” (scheduled to be released 20 years ago, but delayed so long because the manuscript was stolen). Once again the artist responsible for these beauties is Raymond Swanland and once again I found myself speechless before his artworks. Especially in front of the cover of “An Ill Fate Marshalling”, that looks absolutely gorgeous. I am eagerly looking forward to buy a copy of these volumes when they will be released, “Reap the East Wind” on October, “An Ill Fate Marshalling” on December and “A Path to the Coldness of Heart” on January 2012, to complete a series of excellent covers for Glen Cook’s “Dread Empire” novels.

It has ended. It begins again. In Kavelin: Lady Nepanthe's new life with the wizard Varthlokkur is disturbed by visions of her lost son, while King Bragi Ragnarson and Michael Trebilcock scheme to help the exiled Princess Mist re-usurp her throne - under their thumb. In Shinsan: a pig-farmer's son takes command of Eastern Army, while Lord Kuo faces plots in his council and a suicide attack of two million Matayangans on his border.
But in the desert beyond the Dread Empire: a young victim of the Great War becomes the Deliverer of an eons-forgotten god, chosen to lead the legions of the dead. And the power of his vengeance will make a world's schemes as petty as dust, blown wild in the horror that rides the east wind.

King Bragi Ragnarson decides to join Chatelain Mist's coup against the Dread Empire. Varthlokkur -- the King's wizard -- tries to dissuade Ragnarson from this chosen path, but only the drum-beat of war is heard. The King's Spymaster Michael Trebilcock joins with the wizard to stave off The Ill Fate Marshaling, to no effect.
Many of the characters from past volumes take center stage, and the climatic events of this book shake the world of the Dread Empire to its very core, creating A Path to Coldness of Heart.

At long last, the conclusion to Glen Cook's Dread Empire saga has arrived! King Bragi Ragnarson is a prisoner, shamed, nameless, and held captive by Lord Shih-kaa and the Empress Mist at the heart of the Dread Empire.
Far away in Kavelin, Bragia's queen and what remains of his army seek to find and free their king, hampered by the loss or desertion of their best and brightest warriors. Kavelina's spymaster, Michael Trebilcock, is missing in action, as is loyal soldier Aral Dantice. Meanwhile, Dane, Duke of Greyfells, seeks to seize the rule of Kavelin and place the kingdom in his pocket, beginning a new line of succession through Bragia's queen, Dane's cousin Inger. And in the highest peaks of the Dragona's Teeth, in the ancient castle Fangdred, the sorcerer called Varthlokkur uses his arts to spy on the world at large, observing the puppet strings that control kings and empires alike, waiting... For the time of the wrath of kings is almost at hand, and vengeance lies along a path to coldness of heart.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories", Marian Coman's fiction available in English

“I am thinking sometimes that I am a chopping machine. A monstrous chopping machine from which, like endless worms, the words are crawling outside. I am a chopping machine, a silent mill that grinds memories, that crashes readings, music and people, I am a chipped mixer that mingles fragments of dusty myths and caught on the fly ideas, I am a neuronal grater that lays on the paper a compact paste in which the smiles of friends, the grins of strangers, the moans of lovers, the morning coffee or the breakfast eaten at noon can still be read.” (Marian Coman“White Nights, Black Days”)

The quote from Marian Coman’s “White Nights, Black Days” firmly touches autobiography, although it is from a work of fiction. One work of fiction that has a place high on my list of preferences together with the other Marian Coman’s published fiction book, “The Chocolate Testament”. Indeed the compact paste that Marian Coman lays on paper bares strong emotions and touches intimately the reader. It was the same case with his latest short story, “White Butterfly”, a new piece of fiction after two years of pause.

Still, it was the exclusive privilege of the Romanians to enjoy Marian Coman’s wonderful prose and overflowing imagination. Not anymore. Because for the first time Marian Coman’s fiction is available in English. In electronic format for the moment and I do hope that it will have the chance to be released on paper too. “Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories” features four short pieces of fiction, one better than the other. “Fingers”, “The Bathroom Door”, “Unwired” and “Between Walls” are beautiful choices, poised to make a mark on the reader. They left a mark on me. “Fingers” a fantastic story that shows you an image of a childhood spent under the Communist regime led by Nicolae Ceaușescu. The Romanians have different connections with this story and although others readers do not have the same purchase on its background I believe that they would still find its beauty. “The Bathroom Door” has accents of horror, but it is more than that, “Unwired” has elements of science fiction, while “Between Walls” journeys deep within one of the most essential Romanian myths, giving the respective legend a new dimension.

Marian Coman is part of the group of Romanian modern writers who fully deserve to make appearances on the English market and not only there. I am happy to see that Marian Coman made this first step and his fiction is available to a wider audience. And since I said in my review of “White Nights, Black Days” that: “It also made me think that if I had the power I would force Marian Coman to write more. Better still, I would pay him to do it.”, I opted for the later and bought an electronic copy of “Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories” because I know that those are money well spent.

“A flock of collared doves. Of albatrosses and finches that swarm croaking in an inextricable maze. That’s how the whole lot of children seemed to me, see from the balcony of the apartment I’m living in. I looked at them and I felt as if, as small as I saw them from above, I could catch and crush them between my nails like fleas. To hear their shell crack, with that noise of strawberry seeds stuck between the teeth”. (Marian Coman “Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories) – available on