Monday, January 31, 2011

Title spotlight - "The Best Horror of the Year", volume 3, edited by Ellen Datlow

Ellen Datlow, the prolific editor, delighted us through the years with many wonderful anthologies. Among them, a series of yearly collections of the best horror stories published in “Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror” volumes, which reached 21 annual collections, and recently with her two volumes of “The Best Horror of the Year” released by Night Shade Books in 2009 and 2010 respectively. In June this year Night Shade Books will release the third volume of Ellen Datlow’s “The Best Horror of the Year” and as we can see in the line-up of stories posted by the editor on her blog the anthology looks as appetizing as ever. After all there is no wonder, since Ellen Datlow used us with collections of stories of the highest quality.

What frightens us, what unnerves us? What causes that delicious shiver of fear to travel the lengths of our spines? It seems the answer changes every year. Every year the bar is raised; the screw is tightened. Ellen Datlow knows what scares us; the seventeen stories included in this anthology were chosen from magazines, webzines, anthologies, literary journals, and single author collections to represent the best horror of the year.

"Summation 2010" by Ellen Datlow
"At the Riding School" by Cody Goodfellow
"Mr. Pigsny" by Reggie Oliver
"City of the Dog" by John Langan
"Just Outside Our Windows, Deep Inside Our Walls" by Brian Hodge
"Lesser Demons" by Norman Partridge
"When the Zombies Win" by Karina Sumner-Smith
"--30--" by Laird Barron
"Fallen Boys" by Mark Morris
"Was She Wicked? Was She Good?" by M. Rickert
"The Fear" by Richard Harland
"Till the Morning Comes" by Stephen Graham Jones
"Shomer" by Glen Hirshberg
"Oh I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside" by Christopher Fowler
"The Obscure Bird" by Nicholas Royle
"Transfiguration" by Richard Christian Matheson
"The Days of Flaming Motorcycles" by Catherynne M. Valente
"The Folding Man" by Joe R. Lansdale
"Just Another Desert Night With Blood" by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
"Black and White Sky" by Tanith Lee
"At Night When the Demons Come" by Ray Cluley
"The Revel" by John Langan

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cover art - "Ravensoul" by James Barclay

As I said many times before I am not a big fan of the characters on cover, especially when the artwork clearly outlines the character of the book. However, when the artwork of the respective character is truly beautiful I have nothing against it. One such case is the series of covers made by Raymond Swanland for the Pyr editions of James Barclay’s “Legends of the Raven” novels. We have seen the amazing covers for the first three novels of the series, but the cover artwork for the “Ravensoul”, the novel that concludes James Barclay’s series, is the best of all in my opinion. Raymond Swanland saved the best for last and the result is this truly stunning book cover.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cover art - “The Blade Itself” (Tăișul Sabiei) by Joe Abercrombie

There are several book covers that are simple, but that are truly effective and work better than the wide majority of the more complex ones. The UK editions of Joe Abercrombie’s novels have such covers. His debut novel, “The Blade Itself”, comes to Romania too, but I am sad to say that the cover doesn’t match any of my expectations. I was hoping for the Romanian publisher to keep the simplicity of the UK covers, but the same beauty and effectiveness of them. Well, they did not, although I have to admit also that it is not the worse of the Romanian covers I’ve seen. I am disappointed that the cover of Joe Abercrombie’s “The Blade Itself” (Tăișul Sabiei) is part of a series of stereotypical covers with which the Romanian publisher, Nemira, used me. It is true that I can recognize a novel published in Nemira’s speculative fiction collection, Nautilus, in any bookshop without looking at the publisher’s name, but none of their book covers remains in my memory once I stepped outside the bookshop’s doors. I really wish they will begin to show more imagination for the book covers, because after all the Romanian speculative fiction market showed that it has such potential. Only on a couple of occasions, but it really surfaced.

Oh, and one more thing. The Romanian edition of Joe Abercrombie’s novel will be released in two volumes, with the image you see above split in two. But the cover you see on the left half is for the second volume, while the right half is for the first volume. It seems odd to me, but maybe it’s just me, since I am used to look upon my personal library’s shelves from left to right. Actually, most of the times I start from the left.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A taste of Romanian SF, “LAPINS” by Michael Haulică available on The World SF Blog

I have my fingers buried deep within Michael Haulică’s “Fantastic Stories” (Povestiri Fantastice) and I am enjoying it a lot. It will take a little while until I’ll have a review of his collection of short stories, but until then I am happy to see that the English speaking readers have the opportunity now to have a taste of Michael Haulică’s works with the help of the wonderful The World SF Blog, which posted today his story, “LAPINS”. Also on The World SF Blog, at the end of the Michael Haulică’s short story, you can find a presentation of the author, one of the important names of modern Romanian speculative fiction. I hope that you’ll enjoy Michael Haulică’s “LAPINS”, translated by Adriana Moșoiu.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book trailer - "The Fallen Blade" by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Venice is a fascinating city and my travels in this marvelous location were wonderful experiences. In the last couple of years I’ve seen two fantasy settings that resembled this amazing city, reflecting it in an imaginary world. Tim Stretton’s “The Dog of the North” featured a city, Mettingloom, which resembled Venice adding to the mix a very interesting political system and Amanda Downum’s “The Drowning City” taking place in Symir, a location with many wonderful elements that remind of the Italian city. This month Orbit Books will release a new historical fantasy, Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s “The Fallen Blade”, a novel that takes place in Venice. I am not very thrilled about the vampire mentioned there, because this creature hit a new low for me, but the political intrigue and the location of the novel are giving me a couple of reasons for trying this new historical fantasy and see what it has in store.

Venice, 1407. The city is at the height of its powers. In theory, Duke Marco commands, but Marco is asimpleton so his aunt and uncle rule in his stead. They seem all powerful, yet live in fear of assassins better than their own.
On the night their world changes, Marco’s young cousin prays in the family chapel for deliverance from a forced marriage. It is her misfortune to be alone when Mamluk pirates break in to abduct her – an act that will ultimately trigger war.
Elsewhere Atilo, the Duke’s chief assassin, cuts a man’s throat. Hearing a noise, he turns back to find a boy drinking from the victim’s wound. The speed with which the angel-faced boy dodges his dagger and scales a wall stuns Atilo. He knows then he must hunt him. Not to kill him, but because he’s finally found what he thought was impossible – someone fit to be his apprentice.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Title spotlight - "The Monster's Corner" edited by Christopher Golden

I’ve learned this week that Christopher Golden, the popular speculative fiction author, has a new anthology coming up this year, “The Monster’s Corner”, due to be released by St. Martin’s Press in October. The anthology features all new short fiction and the stories are told from the monster’s perspective. The concept sounds really interesting and resonated with me the instant I learned of it. The line-up looks very interesting as well, with some of the important writers of today’s speculative fiction and some of the authors whose works I enjoyed quite a lot lately.

- “The Awkward Age” by David Liss
- “Saint John” by Jonathan Maberry
- “Rue” by Lauren Groff
- “Succumb” by John McIlveen
- “Torn Stitches, Shattered Glass” by Kevin J. Anderson
- “Rattler and the Mothman” by Sharyn McCrumb
- “Big Man” by David Moody
- “Rakshasi” by Kelley Armstrong
- “Breeding the Demons” by Nate Kenyon
- “Siren Song” by Dana Stabenow
- “Less of a Girl” by Chelsea Cain
- “The Cruel Thief of Rosy Infants” by Tom Piccirilli
- “The Screaming Room” by Sarah Pinborough
- “Wicked Be” by Heather Graham
- “Specimen 313” by Jeff Strand
- “The Lake” by Tananarive Due
- “The Other One” by Michael Marshall Smith
- “And You Still Wonder Why Our First Impulse is to Kill You: An Alphabetized Faux-Manifesto transcribed, edited, and annotated (under duress and protest)” by Gary A. Braunbeck
- “Jesus and Satan Go Jogging in the Desert” by Simon R. Green

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2010 BSFA Awards & 2010 Philip K. Dick Award nominees

The British Science Fiction Association has announced on Monday the nominees for the 2010 BSFA Awards:

Best Novel:
Paolo Bacigalupi – “The Windup Girl” (Orbit)
Lauren Beukes – “Zoo City” (Angry Robot)
Ken Macleod – “The Restoration Game” (Orbit)
Ian McDonald – “The Dervish House” (Gollancz)
Tricia Sullivan – “Lightborn” (Orbit)

Best Short Fiction:
Nina Allan – “Flying in the Face of God” (Interzone 227, TTA Press)
Aliette de Bodard – “The Shipmaker” (Interzone 231, TTA Press)
Peter Watts – “The Things’’ (Clarkesworld 40)
Neil Williamson – “Arrhythmia” (Music for Another World, Mutation Press)

Best Non-Fiction:
Paul Kincaid – Blogging the Hugos: Decline, Big Other
Abigail Nussbaum – Review, With Both Feet in the Clouds, Asking the Wrong Questions Blogspot
Adam Roberts – Review, Wheel of Time, Punkadiddle
Francis Spufford – “Red Plenty” (Faber and Faber)
Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe - The Notes from Coode Street Podcast

Best Art:
Andy Bigwood – cover for “Conflicts” (Newcon Press)
Charlie Harbour – cover for “Fun With Rainbows” by Gareth Owens (Immersion Press)
Dominic Harman – cover for “The Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut (Gollancz)
Joey Hi-Fi – cover for “Zoo City” by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
Ben Greene – “A Deafened Plea for Peace” cover for “Crossed Genres 21”
Adam Tredowski – cover for “Finch” by Jeff Vandermeer (Corvus)

The winners will be announced at Illustrious, the Eastercon Convention on Saturday, April 23rd.

The nominees for the 2010 Philip K. Dick Award were announced yesterday:

“Yarn” by Jon Armstrong (Night Shade Books)
“Chill” by Elizabeth Bear (Ballantine Books/Spectra)
“The Reapers Are The Angels” by Alden Bell (Tor UK/Henry Holt & Co.)
“Song Of Scarabaeus” by Sara Creasy (Eos)
“The Strange Affair Of Spring Heeled Jack” by Mark Hodder (Pyr)
“Harmony” by Project Itoh, translated by Alexander O. Smith (Haikasoru)
“State Of Decay” by James Knapp (Roc)

The winner will be announced at Norwescon 34 on Friday, April 22nd.

Good luck to all the nominees!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nominated again for the Preditors & Editors™ Readers' Poll

For the third year in a row my blog is nominated for the Preditors & Editors™ Readers’ Poll at the Review Site category. For the third time this nomination comes as an unexpected and very pleasant surprise. Although I am in no search of awards for Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews, I will not hide that such a nomination brings me the pleasant feeling of being recognized. It is always nice to know that. Also as in the previous years you can find many other categories in Preditors & Editors™ Readers’ Poll and you can vote for your favorites until 26th of January. The results will be announced in February.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cover art - "Towers of Midnight" by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Raymond Swanland is one of the artists whose works leave me in amazement every time I see them. I was given another chance last week when Irene Gallo presented the cover artwork for the e-book edition of the 13th novel in “The Wheel of Time” series, “Towers of Midnight”. I am very happy to see that Raymond Swanland is one of the fourteen artists who were commissioned to design the cover books for the electronic editions Tor Books is releasing. Raymond Swanland is a great artist and this can be easily seen in the artwork he made for Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson’s “Towers of Midnight” too. For me this is the best of the cover artworks made for the e-book editions of “The Wheel of Time” series and we saw some great artwork for these novels, because Raymond Swanland gives once again a truly motion sensation to his artwork, he is a true master of this technique, because I love the colors he used, the balance between them and the details of the scene. A top notch artwork, at the highest level of Raymond Swanland’s talent. As usual we can find a very interesting article on about the process behind the creation of this artwork. Also here on my blog you can find an interview I made with Raymond Swanland, with whom I had the pleasure to talk a while back.

Friday, January 14, 2011

2011 Michael L. Printz Award

Two of the most awarded novels of 2010 are China Miéville’s “The City & The City” and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl”. Each award thrilled me in the case of China Miéville’s “The City & The City”, because this novel is one of my favorites, but I cannot say the same for Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl”. I cannot say the same because, to my shame, although I do have a copy of the novel for some time now I didn’t get near to read it until today. However, Paolo Bacigalupi was rewarded again this year, but this time for his second novel, “Ship Breaker”. Paolo Bacigalupi’s “Ship Breaker” received the 2011 Michael L. Printz Award this week, the award with which the American Library Association recognizes the excellence in the literature for young adults. This news made me think that although I set only a couple of reading goals for 2011 I should add another, to read Paolo Bacigalupi’s works this year. I still have to get a copy of “Ship Breaker”, but I do have his collection of stories, “Pump Six and Other Stories”, and his novel, “The Windup Girl”. I know that Paolo Bacigalupi has a new novella coming up from Subterranean Press, “The Alchemist”, paired with one by Tobias S. Buckell, but those editions are not very friendly when it comes to their prices and therefore I am not that I will include this novella in my resolution too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"The Drowning City" by Amanda Downum

"The Drowning City"
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Publisher: Orbit Books
The review is based on a bought copy of the book

The Drowning City: home to exiles and expatriates, pirates and smugglers. And violent revolutionaries who will stop at nothing to overthrow the corrupt Imperial government.
For Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and spy, the brewing revolution is a chance to prove herself to her crown. All she has to do is find and finance the revolutionaries, and help topple the palaces of Symir. But she is torn between her new friends and her duties, and the longer she stays in this monsoon-drenched city, the more intrigue she uncovers – even the dead are plotting.
As the waters rise and the dams crack, Isyllt must choose between her mission and the city she came to save.

A mix of information, cover art and reviews prompted me towards Amanda Downum’s “The Drowning City”. With my curiosity tickled heavily by the synopsis of the novel it was only a matter of time before I’d pick up a copy of “The Drowning City”. Although the respective moment came after more than a year since Amanda Downum’s debut novel was published it finally came, as I was certain that it would.

My curiosity paid once I opened the novel, because as the first pages are turned so Amanda Downum raises the curtain on the city of Symir. A combination between Venice and the Far and Middle East cultures, Symir made an immediate and strong impression. The streets, or more exactly the canals, of the flamboyant city are bustling with life, Symir feeling truly vivid, without leaving any sensation that it is an inert setting. Symir is made even more distinctive with the culture Amanda Downum builds around the city. Customs, food and drink inflict new sparks of life within the setting and transform Symir in an almost three dimensional location. The outskirts of the city are not neglected either, contributing with new elements and details to a setting that turns out to be the masterpiece of “The Drowning City”.

However, I cannot say the same about the rest of the novel. The story is concentrated on three major characters, Isyllt Iskaldur, a necromancer and a spy, Zhirin Laii, an apprentice who finds herself caught between the conflicts of interest and Xinai Lin, a mercenary who returns home and struggles with her past and present. Unfortunately, although all of them do not turn out to be just cardboard or stage set characters, they do not turn out to be strong or remarkable ones either. The potential for their transformation is in the pages of the novel, Isyllt with her past memories and lost love, Zhirin with a desire to fight for her country but without forfeiting her principles and Xinai who returns home to find her past and the desire to remain there, but none of these incipient metamorphoses takes place. Amanda Downum makes these aspects felt, but not even close of the scale of the setting of her novel.

Symir is a city occupied by the ever expansive Empire of Assar, but its citizens fight to overthrown the Assarian dominance. Isyllt Iskaldur comes to Symir in an attempt to divert the Assari Empire attention from her own country. “The Drowning City” develops around this plot and it is moving fast and effective. Political intrigue, underground plotting and action scenes are present aplenty and keep the story moving in a steady pace. Ghosts, magic and necromancy are important ingredients for the story and everything reaches the high peak in a vigorous end. Sadly, “The Drowning City” is not a striking story, the novel doesn’t touch any boundaries of the genre or attempts to step over any of them. To put it simple, although it is a novel that I read until the end with any problem it is not one that makes me want to reread it in the future.

“The Drowning City” might not be suitable for a reread, but it certainly emanated a strong flavor when it came to its setting, powerful enough to make me read eventually the following novels in Amanda Downum’s “The Necromancer Chronicles”.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cover art - "The Iron Khan" by Liz Williams

We’ve seen towards the end of 2010 the cover artwork for the e-book edition of the fifth novel in Liz Williams“Detective Inspector Chen” series, “The Iron Khan”. Morrigan Books made an interesting choice, but not the best of it. However, that changed in the case of the physical editions of Liz Williams“The Iron Khan”, Morrigan Books choosing a better cover artwork for this release, made by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. Stephanie Pui-Mun Law is a very interesting artist, different and original. I cannot say that her works are among my top favorites, but I do love to see them and they are always drawing my attention. Such is the case with Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s cover of Liz Williams“The Iron Khan”, an artwork that we don’t see every day on a book cover, interesting and catchy. A fine choice in my opinion. I am also happy to say that Stephanie Pui-Mun Law was among my guests of fantasy art posts and you can find that result here on my blog.

Here is Liz Williams“The Iron Khan” synopsis too:

Being considered a friend to the Emperor of Heaven has its drawbacks — especially when you’re Detective Inspector Chen and the Emperor needs assistance in finding the Book; an escaped, self-aware magical artifact with the power to alter the world. Tasked with retrieving the Book before it can alter reality, Chen crosses paths with his former partner, Zhu Irzh, who is in hot pursuit of the Iron Khan, an evil, homicidal immortal intent on conquering Asia by any means.
While Chen and Zhu are otherwise occupied, Inari — Chen’s demon wife — is whisked away by forces intent on revenge against Chen and ultimately, the Emperor of Heaven. The fantastical deserts of Western China and a mythical city of wonders serve as a backdrop for Chen, Zhu Irzh and Zhu’s lover, Jhai Tserai, as they wage an intense, personal war to prevent their world from suffering a cataclysmic destruction.
Liz Williams delivers an exotic tapestry of unique urban fantasy — rich with Asian mythology and interesting, fully-formed characters. From the quirky inclusion of a taciturn badger teapot, to the luxurious descriptions of Singapore Three, Williams crafts a solid and fantastical world like no other writer in the fantasy genre. Strong storytelling and unexpected plot twists are guaranteed to keep the reader intrigued…and longing for more.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Title spotlight - "The Collected Stories: The Legend of Drizzt" by R.A. Salvatore

Although I will repeat myself I have to say that Drizzt Do’Urden will always remain one of my favorite characters and his adventures a delightful memory for me. Well, not exactly all of his adventures since I believe that his series of novels stretches over the limit and started to lose its soul for some time. But, “The Dark Elf” and “The Icewind Dale” are two of the best fantasy series I read and two of my favorite readings. And even though Drizzt Do’Urden’s series of adventures are constantly growing I would rather go back to those early novels.
Through time Drizzt’s story expanded not only through novels, but also through a series of short stories published by R.A. Salvatore in Forgotten Realms anthologies and Dragon magazine. I always wished to read those short stories, but I never had the opportunity to do so. This situation is about to be changed, because on 1st of February Wizards of the Coast will release “The Collected Stories: The Legend of Drizzt”, an anthology that gathers the classic short stories featuring the dark elf hero together with one all new tale. Now I feel that the new novels are forced, but I believe that this collection is truly welcomed. Because I think that it will give me the chance to link the stories I love and to experience again the magic of those first Drizzt Do’Urden’s adventures.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cover art - "City of Ruin" by Mark Charan Newton

At the end of 2010 Mark Charan Newton posted the cover artwork for the US edition of his novel, “City of Ruin”, and I have to admit that I quite like the look of it. I also have to admit that I like this cover artwork a bit more than the one of the UK hardcover edition of “City of Ruin”. This cover looks livelier, concentrating itself more on the scenery than on the character, which is a welcomed change, at least for me. “City of Ruin” was one of the novels I enjoyed a lot last year and knowing the outcome of the story I can say that the color scheme of the cover is very appropriate. I also like that the US publisher kept the same line with the cover artwork of the first novel in Mark Charan Newton’s series, “Legends of the Red Sun”, concentrating more on the scenery. However, the lettering is something that I do not like at all, the title taking too much from the scene and I see it more as an impediment than anything else. Otherwise it is an interesting cover.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Looking forward to 2011

2010 was a busy year. I had a few projects to take care of and those proved to be rewarding. 2010 had its downfalls too, with a few things that disappointed me, although they shouldn’t have, but towards the end of the year, after more consideration, those actually proved to be totally irrelevant. To put it simple, 2010 was a great year. As for the reading, well, it was good. Good, because looking over the resolutions made at the beginning of 2010 not many of them were accomplished. Therefore looking into the perspective of 2011 now I better start with only a few goals into mind. I am thinking to balance the readings I will have this year, with both older and newer titles and a bit more horror and science fiction books, a couple from outside the speculative fiction too. Also, I would like to read a bit more short fiction and this way to review more than 10 collections of stories on my blog this year. Since in 2010 I had more goals, but accomplished too little, I will set only these two for 2011 and see how it will turn out. I hope that 2011 will be a great year for you all and I hope you’ll have some marvelous time.

Here are some of the 2011 releases that look very interesting to me and I hope to read this year:

John Joseph Adams – “Brave New Worlds”

Peadar Ó Guilín – “The Deserter”

William Hussey – “Gallows at Twilight” & “The Last Nightfall”

Jasper Kent – “The Third Section”

George R.R. Martin – “A Dance of Dragons” (if it is released this year ;))

Gary McMahon – “The Concrete Grove”

China Miéville – “Embassytown”

David Moody – “Them or Us”

Mark Charan Newton – “The Book of Transformations”

K.J. Parker – “The Hammer”

Sarah Pinborough – “The Shadow of the Soul”

Adam Roberts – “By Light Alone”

Patrick Rothfuss – “The Wise Man’s Fear”

Brian Ruckley – “The Edinburgh Dead”

Ekaterina Sedia – “Heart of Iron”

Catherynne M. Valente – “Deathless”

Conrad Williams – “Loss of Separation”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón – “The Midnight Palace”