Author Archive

BOOK REVIEW: The Fell Sword by Miles Cameron

REVIEW SUMMARY: Epic Sword & Sorcery.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Freshly blooded from the defense of Lissen Carrak, the Red Knight and his company venture to Morea where they find themselves in the midst of a civil war. Elsewhere in the realm factions move one step closer toward total warfare. Alliances are made and schemes are fulfilled.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Larger-than-life characters; authentic descriptions; densely woven plot; bold scope; high stakes; complex and mysterious magic; enthralling action.
CONS: The large cast of the first book is expanded even further, and while the characters are well developed, it results in a slowed pace.
BOTTOM LINE: The sequel to one of my favorite novels of 2013 continues to deliver on the promise of the first book. This series is bound to please fans of Epic Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, and likely even Historical Fiction.
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BOOK REVIEW: Age of Shiva by James Lovegrove

REVIEW SUMMARY: Possibly Lovegrove’s best yet.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A team of godlike super-powered beings based on the ten avatars of Vishnu from Hindu mythology is assembled, but are they in fact a harbinger of apocalypse?

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Original take on superheroes, exploration of a vivid and colorful religion, sympathetic protagonist, deft plotting, great action.
CONS: Not enough development of the Avatars.
BOTTOM LINE: A combination of science fiction and mythology, superheroes and deities, further solidifying Lovegrove’s title as Godpunk King.

I’ve been a devoted fan of James Lovegrove since I first read The Age of Zeus, his second Pantheon novel. Each year I anticipate the release of the next Pantheon novel. As far as running series go, this is one of my favorite. Six novels and three novellas (collected in one omnibus) in and Lovegrove continues to thrill. There’s no over-arcing plot and no recurring characters. It’s a series united in theme rather than narrative, a technique that results in a cohesive whole while continually managing to change up the dynamic that makes the Pantheon novels so compelling. With Lovegrove novels you always know what to expect and yet he still manages to subvert these expectations. You’re always going to get solid prose, dry English humor, a gripping mix of science fiction and mythology, and ultimately a clever plot. Age of Shiva is tied for my favorite novel in the series. Here’s why…
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BOOK REVIEW: Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

REVIEW SUMMARY: Code Zero? More like Code Awesome!

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A new foe has resurrected old threats. With DMS already spread thin, can Joe Ledger and Echo Team end a wave of bio-terrorism that is sweeping the nation?

MY REVIEW
PROS: Best villain in the series to date, nice buildup, Joe Ledger’s trademark wit, phenomenal finale, big potential changes in store for the future.
CONS: Pacing issues due to interludes.
BOTTOM LINE: The series is still going strong and Code Zero is one of the best entries yet.

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BOOK REVIEW: Pandemic by Scott Sigler

REVIEW SUMMARY: Broad in appeal and grand in scope.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The Orbital may be gone, but when its legacy resurfaces it’s up to Doctor Margaret Montoya to put an end to the alien nightmare forever.

MY REVIEW
PROS: Strong characters; large scope; intense action; intelligently written science fiction.
CONS: Slow start; lack of a shock-factor; weak ending.
BOTTOM LINE: A global biological disaster thriller that neatly wraps up a beloved series.

Pandemic is the third Scott Sigler book I’ve read. The first was Infected, the beginning of the trilogy that Pandemic closes out. The body horror and psychological thrills exhibited in Infected shocked me to say the least. It read like an Eli Roth adaptation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Despite the protagonist’s compelling personal plight I found the overall plot to be lacking and the characters largely unsympathetic. The second Sigler novel I read was Nocturnal, the start of a different series. I wasn’t completely sold on Nocturnal but I could recognize Sigler’s improvement as an author. It was a much tighter story with better plotting. Unfortunately it seemed to suffer the same issues with unlikeable characters. I’m happy to say that Pandemic continues the trend of improvement, delivering a solid bio-horror thriller, large in scope and populated with sympathetic characters.
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Available Now on Amazon Kindle: KAIJU RISING: AGE OF MONSTERS (Read an Excerpt)

Hey all! I’m wearing two hats at the moment — one as the co-creator/editor of Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters from Ragnarok Publications and one as SF Signal contributor. As co-creator/editor of Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters I’m proud to announce that the anthology is now available on the Amazon Kindle store for immediate purchase! As an SF Signal contributor I have to stress how awesome this book is — you really need to read it! For just $4.99 you can get 25 thrilling stories, accompanied by 25 awesome pieces of interior art. By funding the project through Kickstarter (achieving 185% of our initial goal) Ragnarok Publications was able to assemble a one-of-a-kind anthology featuring authors such as Peter Clines (Ex-Heroes), Larry Correia (Monster Hunter International), James Lovegrove (Age of Zeus), Gini Koch as J.C. Koch (Touched by an Alien) and more. The interior art was provided by the superb Robert Elrod and the imaginative Chuck Lukacs. To top it all off comes a tie-in story with Colossal Kaiju Combat from Sunstone Games, written by New York Times bestselling author James Swallow. All this comes wrapped in a beautiful cover provided by the legendary Bob Eggleton. That’s a lot of awesome for just $4.99 but if you’re not yet convinced here’s an exclusive excerpt from “The Banner of the Bent Cross” by Peter Clines…
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BOOK REVIEW: Iron Night by M.L. Brennan

REVIEW SUMMARY: Amazing sequel that sees a stronger plot and even greater character development.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Someone or something is killing humans in a particularly gruesome way and it just happened to pick the wrong target – the roommate of Fortitude Scott. Fort, now being brought up to speed on the family business, pursues the killer with vengeance in mind, but he might have stumbled onto something far more dangerous than a common murderer.

MY REVIEW
PROS: Fortitude is really coming into his own; Suzume is as awesome as ever; the family dynamic is developing interestingly; the elves are 50 shades of creepy; and the plot itself is an improvement.
CONS: The final showdown was a little too short.
BOTTOM LINE: I haven’t been this excited about a series in a long time. This is urban fantasy at its best, with a strong focus on characters and relationships and an awesome take on established creatures.
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Nick’s Holiday Speculative Fiction Gift Guide 2013

Having trouble deciding what to get that special person in your life this holiday? Books are my favorite of all gifts to give. Finding a book someone will appreciate isn’t always easy, but it is rewarding. Fear not, for I have a list of books you should consider wrapping up to put under your tree…or menorah…or whatever. These were some of my favorites of 2013!

[Excerpts from my reviews are taken from SF Signal and Elitist Book Reviews and Goodreads]

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BOOK REVIEW: Generation V by M.L. Brennan

REVIEW SUMMARY: An entertaining and thoughtful urban fantasy thriller.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Vampire and college graduate Fortitude Scott must embrace the supernatural world he has so long avoided in order to stop a vicious monster.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Great characters, great dialogue, great themes.
CONS: Forgettable villain, lead character is occasionally eclipsed by support.
BOTTOM LINE: This is a strong debut with a lot of heart, with an interesting take on the vampire mythos.

I haven’t had a whole lot of time for reading lately (blasphemy, I know) but I was recently able to finish M.L. Brennan’s Generation V and boy-howdy was it a fun novel! I’m not big on vampires. I don’t find them as boring as zombies but they’ve never appealed to me like other monsters. I do love the movie 30 Days of Night for making vampires frightening (perhaps I should check out the comic) and Jonathan Maberry’s portrayal of blood suckers in Assassin’s Code is insanely awesome. Brennan’s vampires are extremely interesting in a completely different way.
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Kaiju Kickstarters (Part Two): KAIJU RISING: Age of Monsters, an Anthology

In Part One of the Kaiju Kickstarters interview I asked Kevin Brusky some questions about RARRR!!, his monster-building, city-crushing card game. It proved to be quite the fun discussion and I’m looking forward to playing RARRR!! once it meets the funding goal. If you haven’t read the interview you can check it out here, and if you haven’t yet visited the RARRR!! Kickstarter page to contribute some money you can do so here.

For Part Two, Kevin Brusky took time out of his busy schedule to grill me on the details of my anthology KAIJU RISING: Age of Monsters, from Ragnarok Publications. Here’s a brief blurb from the project…

KAIJU RISING: Age of Monsters is a collection of 19 stories focused around the theme of strange creatures in the vein of Pacific Rim, Godzilla, Cloverfield, and more. The anthology will open with a foreword by New York Times bestselling author JONATHAN MABERRY, and close with an afterword by JEREMY ROBINSON, author of Project Nemesis, the highest selling Kaiju novel in the United States since the old Godzilla books—and perhaps even more than those.

From New York Times bestsellers to indie darlings we found authors that are perfectly suited for writing such larger than life stories. KAIJU RISING: Age of Monsters will honor that proud tradition, while exploring new and exciting ways to experience Kaiju.

Again, that’s 19 awesome and original Kaiju tales, and this is the minimum you will get by backing this Kickstarter. Below you’ll find options for three more stories by authors—who have already confirmed—if we can hit certain very attainable stretch goals.”

And now for the interview!
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Kaiju Kickstarters (Part One): RARRR!! A Monster-Building, City-Crushing Card Game

You may have noticed my absence from SF Signal lately – lets face it, you’ve missed me. And I’ve missed you! But I promise I haven’t been idle in my absence. In fact, I’ve been working on the coolest project I’ve ever been involved in. I am the Project Creator and Acquisitions Manager of the exciting KAIJU RISING: Age of Monsters anthology, brought to you by Ragnarok Publications. KAIJU RISING: Age of Monsters features 19 authors and includes a foreword by New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry and an afterword by Jeremy Robinson, author of the popular kaiju novel Project Nemesis. We’re running a campaign over at Kickstarter in order to fund the anthology and as I write this we are at 80% of our funding goal in just over a week.

One of the coolest things that has come from running the KAIJU RISING: Age of Monsters campaign has been making connections with all these other cool projects. One such project is the monster-building, city-crushing card game RARRR!!, from APE Games.

“In RARRR!!, players build monsters (kaiju), each with its own set of terrifying powers. Then they battle each other until only one monster remains to rampage through the city! Cities are worth victory points, and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins! Strategy is required in every aspect of the game, from building the monster that best suits you to drafting power cards (see the gameplay video below for details on how to draft) to picking which cities to battle for.”

In a cross promotional effort Kevin Brusky of APE Games has set aside some of his precious time to conduct a two-way interview. In Part One I will pose to Kevin questions about his totally awesome game RARRR!! and in Part Two Kevin will perform the role of interrogator and get the scoop on KAIJU RISING: Age of Monsters.

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BOOK REVIEW: Crux by Ramez Naam

REVIEW SUMMARY: Frighteningly plausible cyberpunk.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Following the events of the first book, Kaden Lane is on the run with bounty hunters in hot pursuit. Sam, having gone rogue, has finally found inner peace in the presence of special children born with Nexus connection. The Post-Human Liberation Front has found a way to weaponize Nexus in a frightening way and the United States government is taking drastic steps to fight such emerging risks.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Expands on the foundation of the original in a big way; continued character development; lots of character diversity; super-cool tech; moral ambiguity; intense action; lays the groundwork for future entries without coming across as filler.
CONS: A lessened presence of the Buddhism I found so cool and interesting in the first novel.
BOTTOM LINE: A worthy sequel that reads like a mash-up of Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy, Naam’s cyberpunk thriller is even better than the original.
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An Interview with Jason M. Hough, Author of THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE

Jason M. Hough (pronounced ‘Huff’) is a former 3D Artist and Game Designer (Metal FatigueAliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others).  Writing fiction became a hobby for him in 2007 and quickly turned into an obsession.  He started writing The Darwin Elevator in 2008 as a Nanowrimo project, and kept refining the manuscript until 2011 when it sold to Del Rey along with a contract for two sequels.  The trilogy, collectively called the The Dire Earth Cycle, will be released in the summer of 2013. He lives in San Diego, California with his wife and two young sons.


Nick Sharps: Sell me the Dire Earth Cycle in as few words as possible.

Jason Hough: I’m terrible at the elevator pitch for The Darwin Elevator (oh, the irony!), so I’ll tell you how my agent pitched it to publishers: “It’s like if Scalzi wrote Firefly.”
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REVIEW SUMMARY: A thrilling and distinctive sci-fi adventure.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: All that remains of humanity is concentrated in the city of Darwin, home to the space elevator. The elevator, a mysterious gift from the alien Builders, emits an aura that protects against a virus that turns victims into subhuman monsters. But the elevator is starting to malfunction and it is up to Skyler Luiken, the immune scavenger captain, to restore order before it is too late.

MY REVIEW
PROS: Plenty of action, politicking, and discovery; mostly solid characters and a unique setting.
CONS: A few characters could have used more depth.
BOTTOM LINE: Debut author Jason M. Hough has created a fantastic future that is fully fit to expand into a full blown franchise.

No one knows why the Builders sent the space elevator to Earth. All they know is that it has an aura that protects against a horrible disease that kills 90% of humans and turns the other 10% into mindless savages. And so the remnants of humanity cluster around the elevator in the slum city of Darwin, Australia. Earth’s brightest live on the elevator, sending down food in exchange for water and oxygen. There is a power struggle between the dictator that defends the elevator from the dregs of Darwin and the Orbital Council that live high above. Darwin is overpopulated, teeming with unskilled workers and rife with crime. Scavenger crews strike out into The Clear beyond the aura, braving the dangerous subhumans in order to make a living by providing much needed supplies. Bullets are a reliable form of currency and gardens are a sign of wealth and affluence. This is the future of The Darwin Elevator.
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Greg Cox is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dark Knight Rises novelization. He has also written successful novelizations and tie-ins for Star Trek, Countdown, Infinite Crisis and many more. Cox is a consulting editor for Tor Books and was nominated in 2008 for the Best Speculative Adapted Scribe Award for 52: The Novel.

I had the opportunity to speak with Greg about writing novelizations, media tie-ins and who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman…

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An Interview with Samit Basu, Author of TURBULENCE


Samit Basu is a writer of books, films and comics. His first novel, The Simoqin Prophecies, published by Penguin India in 2003 when Samit was 23, was the first book in the bestselling Gameworld Trilogy and marked the beginning of Indian English fantasy writing. The other books in the trilogy are The Manticore’s Secret and The Unwaba Revelations. Samit’s other novels include the young adult novel Terror on the Titanic, and a superhero novel titled Turbulence. Turbulence was published in the U.K. to rave reviews in 2012 and is to be published in the U.S. in 2013. It won Wired‘s Goldenbot Award as one of the best books of 2012.

Basu’s work in comics ranges from historical romance to zombie comedy, and includes diverse collaborators, from X-Men/Felix Castor writer Mike Carey to Terry Gilliam and Duran Duran. His next graphic novel, Local Monsters, will be published in 2013.

Samit was born in Calcutta, educated in Calcutta and London, and currently divides his time between Delhi and Mumbai. He can be found on Twitter as @samitbasu, and at samitbasu.com.


Nick Sharps: Sell me Turbulence in as few words as possible.

Samit Basu: Please buy Turbulence.

Right, I’ll try again with a few more words, but that’s the lowest word-count I can achieve while remaining polite. Turbulence is a superhero novel, set mostly in India and the UK. Fresh take on the genre, from a non-Western perspective. Passengers on a flight from London to Delhi find they’ve mysteriously gained physical abilities related to their deepest desires. What would you do if you actually got what you wanted? And how would you feel if you suddenly had the power to change the world?
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

The first author I ever talked to was John Scalzi. I emailed him after reading The Ghost Brigades to tell him how much I loved the series and hoped to one day see it adapted as a video game. I may never get to play as a green-skinned Colonial Defense Forces soldier, wielding the versatile MP-35 and fighting a variety of aliens – but Scalzi is developing a First Person Shooter called Morning Star, with Industrial Toys (a studio formed by Alex Seropian of Bungie fame). As an avid reader and gamer there are plenty of books I’d love to see transformed into games – a real time strategy game based off of John Ringo’s Legacy of Aldenata series, Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim as an action-adventure hack n’ slash title à la Devil May Cry, or a crazy colorful role playing game set in the world of James Maxey’s Greatshadow. But enough about the books I want to see transformed into video games, let’s ask some professionals for their opinions!

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What books do you think would make awesome games? What game mechanics might they feature?

Here’s what they said…

Scott Lynch
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1978, Scott Lynch is the author of the Gentleman Bastard sequence of fantasy crime novels, which began with The Lies of Locke Lamora and continues with Red Seas Under Red Skies and the forthcoming The Republic of Thieves. His work has been published in more than fifteen languages and twenty countries, and he was a World Fantasy Award finalist in the Best Novel category in 2007. Scott currently lives in Wisconsin and has been a volunteer firefighter since 2005.

This is possibly the nerdiest question I’ve been asked in a while, and I’ll do my best to avoid restraint in my answers.
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BOOK REVIEW: Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies by James Marshall

REVIEW SUMMARY: Surreal, demented, and hilarious.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Guy Boy Man, a spiritual leader/pirate, is determined to end human suffering. Apparently doing so requires copious amounts of bad language, violence, misogyny, and a Gothic castle (in America). His glorious mission becomes complicated when moderately attractive Baby Doll15 makes him a proposition he can hardly refuse…

MY REVIEW
PROS: I can almost guarantee you’ve never read a book like this. I was averaging at least one laugh a page (sometimes more) while marveling at Marshall’s audacity to continually push the bounds of absurdity (and common decency).
CONS: Are you the type of person to get easily offended? Can you watch a South Park marathon without forming a parental coalition to ban crass entertainment? If you answered “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second, please don’t even bother glancing at the cover.
BOTTOM LINE: If ever a book was meant to be burned, banned, or buried and booby trapped…Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies
delights in adolescent humor delivered with a mature comedic sense of timing. You’ll be so busy laughing (or screaming in outrage) that you’re bound to gloss over some of the excellent descriptions and biting philosophy.
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Samuel Sattin is a graduate of the Mills College MFA in creative writing and the recipient of NYS and SLS Fellowships. His work has appeared in Salon Magazine, io9, Kotaku, The Good Men Project, and Heeb Magazine,and been featured in the The New Yorker, amongst others. He is currently a Contributing Editor at The Weeklings, and lives in Oakland, California, with his wife, beagle, and tuxedo cat. League of Somebodies is his first novel.

Samuel was kind enough to answer some questions I had after reading his debut novel, League of Somebodies.
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BOOK REVIEW: League of Somebodies by Samuel Sattin

REVIEW SUMMARY: The most meaningful superhero origin story I’ve ever encountered.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Raised on a steady diet of plutonium, Lenard Sikophsky grows up to become the world’s first superhero. The key to Lenard’s transformation? The Manaton, a sacred tome outlining the path to manhood. Now Lenard has a son of his own to teach, but an enemy exists that desperately wants to claim The Manaton as its own.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Mature, funny, and unexpectedly moving.
CONS: Don’t buy this expecting an action packed, superhero thrill ride.
BOTTOM LINE: For those looking for a story with something to say, look no further.
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Django Wexler graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not planning Shadow Campaigns, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts. You can follow Django Wexler on Twitter as @DjangoWexler.


Nick Sharps: Sell me The Thousand Names in as few words as possible.

Django Wexler: It’s epic high fantasy in a Napoleonic setting, with great battles and a complex world. *BLAM! KABOOM!* (Do cannon sound effects count as words?)
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