Author Archive

REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong, character-focused story that serves as an excellent introduction to the Pathfinder universe

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: Salim Ghadafar, reluctant minion of a Goddess of Death, investigates a set of missing souls, and so becomes caught up in machinations ranging from Heaven to Hell and the mortal plane between.

MY REVIEW:
PROS:: Strong, focused characterization; intriguing and diverse settings.
CONS: A couple of subplots don’t hold up quite as well as the rest of the book.
BOTTOM LINE: Solid, entertaining fiction that works for both those already familiar with the Pathfinder universe and newcomers.

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BOOK REVIEW: Younger Gods by Michael R. Underwood

REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong urban fantasy novel that shows the author’s diverse tastes and skills in the subgenre.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: Former cultist Jacob Hicks’ relatively innocuous life in New York City gets a kick in the rear as his sister comes to town to start the Apocalypse.

MY REVIEW:
PROS:: A pair of strong characters as family protagonist and antagonist; excellent overall use of New York City as a setting.
CONS: Almost too much worldbuilding and things thrown into the Urban Fantasy blender; one tiny mistake regarding a locale in Staten Island.
BOTTOM LINE: A strong story that introduces a delightfully tasty and complicated urban fantasy world that consistently keeps the reader turning pages.

It’s a classic story as old as time. Farm boy from North Dakota goes to the big city (in this case New York City), gets into big trouble because he is a hick from the sticks. In Michael R. Underwood’s urban fantasy novel The Younger Gods, he even has the adopted last name to prove it. Jacob Hicks née Greene has bigger problems than just managing his classes and his job, and even dealing with the confusing maelstrom of culture that is New York. Jacob’s big sister is coming to town, and she is not happy with her baby brother at all. How does the farm boy, already somewhat adrift in an alien and confusing world, handle family coming to town on top of it?

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REVIEW SUMMARY: A multifacted set of essays that has proven unexpectedly topical.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: The Mad Norwegian Chicks dig… series continues with three dozen essays by women on gaming from video games to Dungeons and Dragons.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: High profile contributors on a variety of types and aspects of games; strong personal stories; many “I didn’t know that!” moments to be had reading essays.
CONS: Some of the essays feel like filler.
BOTTOM LINE: A set of essays made more timely by recent events than when the anthology was first conceived and essays written.

Stereotypes of women and their relation (or lack of relation) to games, particularly videogames and roleplaying games, have abounded since the dawn of both. From the old anti-D&D movie Mazes and Monsters to Felicia Day’s The Guild and The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, depictions of games and videogames as a male-only activity rarely touched by women have been stereotyped, parodied and deconstructed. And on the face of it, the idea that half of the human population neither plays “real” videogames (whatever that means) or roleplaying games is ludicrous. And yet this misperception persists.

Even the idea that the gaming industry is exclusively male and therefore targeted to males is completely at sea with reality. Fantasy authors like Carrie Patel and Erin Hoffman write fantasy novels and work in the videogaming industry. Authors and publishers like Shanna Germain write and publish high-profile roleplaying games.

For answers — and real essays and thoughts by women on their relationship to games — one can come to Chicks Dig Gaming, the latest in the Chicks Dig… series put out by small press publisher Mad Norwegian Press. This latest volume is edited by Jennifer Brozek, Robert Smith and Lars Pearson. Brozek, like the aforementioned Shanna Germain, works both in roleplaying games and as an author and anthologist herself.

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6’7” tall Jay Kristoff grew up in the second most isolated capital city on earth and is a tragic nerd. The first installment of his Lotus War trilogy, STORMDANCER, was critically acclaimed and shortlisted for several SF/F awards, and the Lotus War novella THE LAST STORMDANCER won the 2014 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Fiction. The third book, ENDSINGER, is out in November 2014.

Jay kindly answered some questions about the Lotus War trilogy.


Paul Weimer: Congratulations on finishing the third volume of the Lotus War! How does the end of the novel and series differ from your original conceptions, when you started writing Stormdancer?

Jay Kristoff: Thanks so much!

Well, I originally wrote Stormdancer as a one-shot novel—I didn’t have an agent or book deal at the time, and I figured planning a trilogy would be a little presumptuous of me. Yukiko actually died in the end of the original Stormdancer, but then I landed an agent and he was like “This whole brutally murdering your protagonist thing…how wedded to that idea are you?”

I tend to be something of a pantser when it comes to writing. I don’t plan too far in advance, and prefer to let the story find me. So I really had noooo idea where the series would go or how it would end, especially back in 2012. But I did go into writing the third book knowing the body count would be high. Last book in the series. All bets are off. No one = safe. And that conception turns out to be pretty spot-on.

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Texas born and raised, Martha Wells is the author of over a dozen science fiction and fantasy novels, including the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer, as well as a number of short stories and nonfiction articles. Her books have been published in seven languages. Her most recent work has been in the Three Worlds universe, stories of an extended family of a shapeshifting race called the Raksura. The story of Moon, orphaned and found by members of his race starts in The Cloud Roads, continues through its sequels The Serpent Sea and The Siren Depths.

Her latest book, Stories of the Raksura Volume I: The Falling World and the Tale of Indigo and Cloud, presents us with several new stories set in the universe.

Martha was kind enough to answer some questions about the Raksura and her work.


PAUL: The Three Worlds universe is strikingly different than the fantastical European settings of the Ile-Rien novels. What were your inspirations in creating it?

MARTHA WELLS: I wanted to do something that was very different from my other books. I wanted a world where, as the characters traveled through it, the reader would have no idea what was over the next hill. I wanted scope to do things I hadn’t ever done before with magical cities, characters, and environments.
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REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong set of stories that joyfully show new and extended aspects of a fascinating fantasy world.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: Explores the present and past of the Indigo Cloud Court with stories that look into the past history of characters.

MY REVIEW:
PROS:: Detailed and vivid worldbuilding; intriguing non-human politics and character interactions; welcome return of favorite characters.
CONS: Worldbuilding and explanation inserted to allow new readers to catch up sometimes drags a bit on story flow.
BOTTOM LINE: A set of novellas that introduce and extend the Three Worlds to new and returning readers.

Martha Wells’ The Cloud Roads introduced a new fantasy universe to her readers. Set in the “Three Worlds”, The Cloud Roads started the story of Moon, an orphaned humanoid with a secret (and terrifying) ability to shapechange into a monstrous flying form. Discovered by a tribe of creatures similar to himself, Moon learned who and what he really is, even as the court of Raksura was under threat by their mortal enemies, the Fell. The subsequent novels (The Serpent Sea and The Siren Depths) continued the story of Moon and Indigo Cloud as they return to their ancestral homeland, only to be immersed into adventure and old rivalries with other Raksura as they seek to reestablish themselves in the Reaches.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week we asked our participants to talk about Words they first encountered in genre.

Q: What interesting, new-to-you words have you first learned or come across in your genre reading?

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MIND MELD: Words We Learned from Genre Fiction

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week we asked our participants to talk about Words they first encountered in genre

Q: What interesting, new-to-you words have you first learned or come across in your genre reading?

Here’s what they said…

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MIND MELD: Books That Carried Us Outside Our Comfort Zone

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week we asked our participants to talk about reading out of their comfort zone…

The right kind of author, and the right kind of book, can lure readers to try subgenres of fiction and genre fiction that they wouldn’t normally think to try. These authors and books lure unwitting readers into trying and embracing a new subgenre by virtue of being well-written, subverting genre expectations, and sometimes being a case of a favored author trying a new subgenre and following her into it.

Q: What authors and books have gotten you to try new subgenres of fiction and genre fiction?

Here’s what they said…

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REVIEW SUMMARY: A diverse and well-balanced anthology that delivers on its promises.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An anthology of 24 military science fiction stories.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Excellent stories with highlights by Karin Lowachee, Linda Nagata, and Yoon Ha lee; beautiful Galen Dara Cover art.
CONS: As always with an anthology, some stories stronger than others; story order imperfect.
BOTTOM LINE: An essential set of stories for readers interested in military science fiction.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a pair of worlds dominated by the magic of stars and moons, a building conflict threatens.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Fascinating cultures and societies; diverse set of protagonists; interesting ecology and magic systems; wonderful cover art.
CONS: Some worldbuilding elements are only skin deep; novel skirts some of the meat of events in its focus on its characters.
BOTTOM LINE: A successful transit from SF into Epic Fantasy that retains the author’s signature voice and style.

Moons and Stars rise and fall in the skies, and with it, does the powers and abilities of the practitioners of magic wax and wane. Nations and cultures too, and even effects on a continental, global scale. The last time the dark star arose, the geography of two worlds changed irrevocably. For you see, two worlds are bound by these moons and stars, their ebbs and flows. Two worlds, with the same peoples, the same cultures, but with distinctly different histories. Enough that a broken people on one world is a power on the other, an Empire seeking to bridge the gap, and conquer its neighbor. With invasion, intrigue, and the dark star rising, the fate of these two worlds are inextricably linked, and those living on them swept up in a time of tumult that will change them all, if not sweep them away entirely.
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BOOK REVIEW: The Incorruptibles, by John Hornor Jacobs

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: On the frontier of an Empire squabbling with the indigenous elf-like inhabitants and its global rival, a fateful trip shepherding a governor and his family upriver throws two mercenaries into intrigue and danger.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Strong pair of central characters; excellent and original worldbuilding; gritty, sharp and potent action and dialogue; a beautiful book cover.
CONS: A few more thousand words to flesh some of the worldbuilding would help clarify some matters.
BOTTOM LINE: An absorbing turn into secondary world fantasy that deserves a wide audience.

The Incorruptibles is a turn into secondary world fantasy for John Hornor Jacobs, best known for his horror and dark fantasy. In it, Dveng “Shoe” Ilys and Fisk are a pair of long-time partners in the mercenary business in the territories. Their current job (along with their young recruit, Banty) is to shepherd a bunch of rich Rumans — a Governor’s family, no less — as they steam upriver on their riverboat. It is Banty’s impulsiveness, however, that will bring these mercenaries into close contact with Gnaeus’ family, and it is the mercenaries that will stand between the family and the very dangerous frontier. Not even the feral elf-like vaettir is the most dangerous thing in the Territories, not when a potential failure of the real reason for Govenor’s Gnaeus’ trip upriver could mean a world war.

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MIND MELD: Comic Book Characters Who Deserve Reboots

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

The recent announcement of the Falcon taking over Captain America, the announcement of a female Thor, Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, the new Ms. Marvel, the various incarnations of Green Lantern…there is opportunity in rebooting comic book characters to reflect our diverse society, or to cast new light and new angles on old characters.

Q: What are the perils and challenges and opportunities of doing such a reboot? Pick a comic book character that you’d like to reboot. How would you do it, and to what end?

Here’s what they said…

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Why are aristocratic forms of government so common in fantasy? Is it because so much fantasy is set in faux-medieval countries and polities, and so kings, dukes, countesses and their ilk are the expected and anticipated methods in which a country is going to be ruled? It is true that for much of human history, for a large proportion of the glove, large complex societies have tended toward a hierarchical social pyramid, often with a single figure, or a small group of figures, on top.

From a literary standpoint, though, a limited number of political actors offer enormous advantages for writers and their readers. A democracy or republic would mean a cavalcade of characters for the writer create and depict, not only as political actors, but simply as characters. Even a novel completely and utterly focused on the sausage-making of political decisions would be unreadable if the author had to detail 300 electors in the course of the plot. Attempts at simplification of republican politics in novels and stories usually mean collapsing factions and political alignments to a few key actors that can be explored–which returns us to a de facto aristocratic form of government. In other words, we return to Kingdom Politics and the limited number of characters that ultimately matter.
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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: Mindjammer

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world.

It’s the Second Age of Space, 200 years after the invention of a faster-than-light drive has arrested the seemingly inevitable senescence of humanity and brought about the possibilities of a true galactic culture. In the 10,000 years since the first Age of Space and that slow decline, humanity spread to the stars in vast waves of sublight colonization. Now, with planing, a faster than light travel drive, the Commonality has spread out from Old Earth, with a new strength, a new drive and new purpose.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

REVIEW SUMMARY: McCellan’s second Powder Mage novel expands the canvas of the story in a welcome and engaging manner.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: The repercussions of Promise of Blood echo forward, as Tamas strikes into Kez even as political events back in Adopest (and an angry god) threaten to overwhelm the promise of his revolution.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Engaging story of the main protagonist; excellent set pieces; tight writing.
CONS: Some choices in POV characters remain something of a lost opportunity.
BOTTOM LINE: A solid follow-up to The Crimson Campaign that keeps the momentum of the series.

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BOOK REVIEW: Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

REVIEW SUMMARY: The Third Craft Sequence novel continues to show the burgeoning skills of one of the newest and freshest voices in fantasy

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Diverse, interesting cast of characters; conceit of the Craftverse transplants nicely to yet another new setting; pacing is improved from previous novels.
CONS: Although not a direct sequel, novel doesn’t stand on its own well.
BOTTOM LINE: The Craft Sequence gets better in this third volume, but it’s not the place to start your engagement with this world and characters.

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MIND MELD: How to Avoid The Suck Fairy of Re-Reads

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week we asked our participants to talk about the perils of re-reading. Going back to a book read in one’s golden age of SF reading can be a fraught exercise. Characters we thought we wonderful can turn out to be wooden. Settings we thought diverse and open turn out to be monochromatic. Plots that enthralled us can seem facile. Books we enjoyed can be rife with questionable material. Writers whose work we loved can turn out to be terrible human beings.

Q: Let’s talk about Jo Walton’s “Suck fairy”. How do you find the process of re-reading a book? How does a re-read of a book change your initial bliss and happiness with the book? Do you have any strategies for avoiding disappointment? What books have managed to escape the suck fairy for you?

Here’s what they said…

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BOOK REVIEW: Hurricane Fever by Tobias S. Buckell

REVIEW SUMMARY: Buckell continues to explore the near future world of Arctic Rising with a distinctly excellent focus on the Caribbean.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Interestingly drawn and well-depicted main character; amazingly immersive setting.
CONS: A point or two of motivations and setting need a bit fleshing out; a couple of off-the-shelf elements of the genre jar against inventiveness; lightness of genre may turn off some genre readers.
BOTTOM LINE: A science fiction thriller set in a startlingly plausible and intriguing future.

Prudence “Roo” Jones thought he was out of the game. He is so very wrong.

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The mathematically inclined Joshua Palmatier is an author and co-editor of fantasy anthologies under both his real name and his pseudonym Benjamin Tate. His latest work is Shattering the Ley.

I spoke with Joshua about writing, publsihing, fantasy, his busy schedule, and of course, his recently released novel.

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