REVIEW SUMMARY: Like a steampunk cross between The Terminator films and The Darkness comic.
PROS: Compelling characters; interesting premise; lots of potential.
CONS: Lots of questions but few answers; predestined events lessen suspense.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting, if flawed, start to a series with loads of potential.
I didn’t get far into The Wolves of London by Mark Morris before I had to check the book description to make sure I was reading the right thing. Book One of the Obsidian Heart series starts out so grounded in reality that despite the promises made on the back cover I didn’t quite believe it could progress into the “nightmarish” and “unearthly.” It’s quite the incredible feat and I can’t say I’ve ever experienced its like before. It just goes to show how deft Morris is at writing personal drama. The Wolves of London is a book that hooks readers from the first page and though some elements of the story aren’t as successful as others, Morris tells a twisty-turny tale of the supernatural that is sure to thrill and intrigue.
Nick Sharps had the opportunity to chat with Ubisoft Scriptwriter Oliver Sudden about the new living-world game Far Cry 4.
Join them, won’t you?
Nick Sharps: Hello Oliver, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your position at Ubisoft Montreal.
Oliver Sudden: Well, I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario and I first came to Montreal to do a degree in Filmmaking at Concordia University.
I moved away and then moved back and after applying two or three times to Ubisoft Montreal, I was hired on as a scriptwriting intern and hope to become a full-time scriptwriter soon.
NS: It is my understanding that you worked on the action-adventure first-person shooter video game Far Cry 4. As a long time fan of the Far Cry franchise I have to say, this must have been an exciting opportunity. Can you tell us a little about your contribution to the game and what it’s like to work with a team of writers?
Henry V. O’Neil is the name under which award-winning mystery novelist Vincent H. O’Neil publishes his science fiction work. A graduate of West Point, he served in the US Army Infantry with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, and in the 1st Battalion (Airborne) of the 508th Infantry in Panama. He has worked as a risk manager, a marketing copywriter, and an apprentice librarian.
In 2012 he published his first military science fiction novel Glory Main (written under the name Henry V. O’Neil) which was picked up by HarperCollins in 2014 as a three-book series. The sequel Orphan Briagade is due in January.
Nick Sharps had the chance to chant with “Henry” about his highly-enjoyable series…
Nick Sharps: How did you come to be published by Harper Voyager Impulse?
Henry V. O’Neil: That’s a fantastic story. I’ve been writing for a long time, and was first published in the mystery genre by St. Martin’s Press in 2005. I branched out into horror and military science fiction, and just after I completed Glory Main HarperVoyager announced they were opening a submissions window to help launch the Impulse imprint. I submitted Glory Main, and was thrilled to learn that it had been selected as one of Impulse’s first releases and would be followed by two more books in the series.
NS: Were you able to draw from your own military service in the writing of Glory Main?
REVIEW SUMMARY: Another great entry in the American Vampire series.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Fortitude Scott must investigate the death of a werebear while the supernatural community prepares for a change in leadership.
PROS: Great characters; believable and compelling relationships; original vampire mythos; sets up for one hell of a sequel.
CONS: Murder mystery could use more immediacy; lack of werebear mythos.
BOTTOM LINE: Another solid American Vampire novel that builds on its predecessors and sets up a big change in the series.
I did not expect to receive an ARC of M.L. Brennan’s third Fortitude Scott book so soon. I reviewed Generation V and Iron Night (American Vampire Books 1 and 2) and absolutely adored them, so it was a pleasant surprise when I opened my mailbox to find Tainted Blood. Brennan’s American Vampire series is a bit of an anomaly, I must admit. In recent years I’ve become far more accepting of the urban fantasy genre but I’m still not keen on the usual suspects: vampires, werewolves, and the like. Yet Brennan has me waving the Team Fortitude flag.
REVIEW SUMMARY: Stock characters but great action and even greater magic.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: With war drawing to a close Yulan and his mercenary company accept one final commission — to hunt down an old foe and bring him to justice before he can kill more innocents.
PROS: Intriguing setup and setting; better-than-usual revenge motivation; husband/wife dynamic; dynamic action; memorable scenes; stunning magic; Permanences!
CONS: Stock characters.
BOTTOM LINE: Brian Ruckley crafts a fun and satisfying revenge story.
It seems my choice in video games has influenced my reading habits of late. Playing Bungie’s Destiny reignited my desire for military science fiction and so I read Henry V. Neil’s Glory Main and was not disappointed. Last week I started playing Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and just had to get my hands on some quality fantasy. Fortunately Brian Ruckley’s The Free showed up around this time. This being the first time I’ve read Ruckley’s work, a nice thick standalone seemed a good place to start. I love the current state of the fantasy genre but there are so many different series that a standalone story has a special sort of appeal to it…or at least it did until I finished The Free and immediately wished I could read more about the world Ruckley has created.
REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong military science fiction debut.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Lieutenant Jander Mortas and three other shuttle crash survivors seek escape from a harsh alien planet that may be even more dangerous than they first assume.
PROS: Satisfying character arc; interesting and original aliens; gripping fight for survival; lots of potential for future entries in series; a killer ending.
CONS: The story would benefit from stronger characterization.
BOTTOM LINE: Henry V. O’Neil’s Glory Main is an unexpected, yet satisfying, military sf novel.
Though the majority of my reading these days consists of fantasy and urban fantasy titles, military science fiction will always be my favorite sub-genre of fiction. It’s been a while since I read any military science fiction but I’ve been playing a good amount of the video game Destiny lately and it rekindled my interest in good ol’ fashion space war. Fortunately I stumbled upon Henry V. O’Neil’s novel Glory Main: The Sim War Book One, one of the winners of the Harper Voyage digital submission contest. If Glory Main is to serve as any indication, Harper Voyager Impulse is publishing some quality novels and well worth keeping an eye on.
It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of M.L. Brennan’s American Vampire series. If you’re into urban fantasy you’ll want to read Generation V.
Recently I got the opportunity to read/review the third book in the series, Tainted Blood (out November 4 from Roc) and I loved it. I also got the opportunity to pick Brennan’s mind about the series.
NICK SHARPS: Sell me Tainted Blood (American Vampire #3) in one sentence.
M.L. BRENNAN: Fortitude Scott gets thrown into the deep end when his brother’s personal crisis means that he’s stuck monitoring the family territory – just in time for the murder of the werebear leader to land him and his wingwoman, kitsune Suzume, on the trail of a killer.
REVIEW SUMMARY: Epic Sword & Sorcery.
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.
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.
REVIEW SUMMARY: Possibly Lovegrove’s best yet.
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?
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…
REVIEW SUMMARY: Code Zero? More like Code Awesome!
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?
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.
REVIEW SUMMARY: Broad in appeal and grand in scope.
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.
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.
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…
REVIEW SUMMARY: Amazing sequel that sees a stronger plot and even greater character development.
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.
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.
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]
REVIEW SUMMARY: An entertaining and thoughtful urban fantasy thriller.
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.
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.
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!
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.
REVIEW SUMMARY: Frighteningly plausible cyberpunk.
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.
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.
Jason M. Hough (pronounced ‘Huff’) is a former 3D Artist and Game Designer (Metal Fatigue, Aliens 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.”
REVIEW SUMMARY: A thrilling and distinctive sci-fi adventure.
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.
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.