Author Archive

BOOK REVIEW: Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

REVIEW SUMMARY: Lawrence wraps up the story of Jorg and the Broken Empire with pathos, care, deft, and surprising brevity

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The backstory of Jorg’s history, and the history of his broken world, are revealed as his quest to become Emperor is opposed by forces Jorg is barely cognizant of.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Clever and well execution use of multiple time periods and narrative to draw readers to the conclusion; excellent worldbuilding and character study.
CONS: A newly introduced POV does not rise much above a plot exposition device; strains to wrap up series in only three volumes.
BOTTOM LINE: A well executed end to the Broken Empire Trilogy that ends the series before Jorg wears out his welcome.
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Second Chance by David D. Levine

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Astronaut Chaz Eades’ fraught awakening onto a mission to Tau Ceti unfolds a web of mystery, deceit, and emotional tension.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Intriguing set of interlocked mysteries; strong character grounding and focus; emotionally resonant.
CONS: The story is missing a beat on the protagonist’s emotional and social path.
BOTTOM LINE: An evocative, emotional, character-focused novella with enough crunch to satisfy space travel SF grognards too.

Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: The Tyrant’s Law by Daniel Abraham

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The power of the tyrant Geder Palliako only grows, as the few individuals actively working against him, openly and otherwise, find challenges and problems of their own.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: More solid revelation of the world and its nature; a sharp wham in the denouement; interesting use of deconstruction and skewed view of classic tropes.
CONS: Parts of the plot feel a little too forced and derivative, or repetitive.
BOTTOM LINE: Three novels into the Dagger and the Coin series, the energy and craft remains strong.
Read the rest of this entry

Interview with Chadwick Ginther, Author of THUNDER ROAD

Chadwick Ginther is a Canadian author based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His short stories have found a home in On Spec, Tesseracts and the Fungi anthology from Innsmouth Free Press; his reviews and interviews have appeared in Quill and Quire, The Winnipeg Review and Prairie Books NOW. A bookseller for over ten years, when
he’s not writing his own stories, he’s selling everyone else’s. His first novel, Thunder Road, is now out from Ravenstone books. He was kind enough to answer some questions about himself and his work.


Paul Weimer: Who is Chadwick Ginther?

Chadwick Ginther: The short answer is that I am a reader and a writer. I learned to read at very young age from comic books, hard wiring my brain for the mythological and fantastic and I’ve never looked back. I’ve worked a variety of jobs in my time, but most of my adult life has been spent as a bookseller. (As addictions go, books are about as good as it gets.) I’ve written stories almost as long as I’ve been reading them, but it was working in a bookstore and seeing authors launching their books almost every day that really kicked me in the butt and made me decide to take the craft seriously and start submitting my work.

My debut novel, Thunder Road, released in September 2012 and the next book in the series, Tombstone Blues, is due this fall.
Read the rest of this entry

REVIEW SUMMARY: A flawed sequel to The Quantum Thief that is even more inscrutable than its predecessor.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Jean Le Flambeur and his ally Mieli travel to Earth, seeking a way to open up the prize so hard won from the Oubliette.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A strongly imaginative and intricately worked out post-Singularity far future; interesting use of the Arabian Nights as a template.
CONS: Concepts and depictions of complex concepts that leave a lot to be desire; not enough explanation by half; underwhelming ending.
BOTTOM LINE: A follow up to The Quantum Thief that ultimately has major problems of accessibility.

Read the rest of this entry

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

From Bilbo traveling to the lonely Mountain and Frodo’s journey to Mordor, to Steven Erikson’s Malazan novels having armies crossing fantasy continent after continent…the road trip, as it were, is a staple of science fiction and fantasy, particularly epic fantasy. See the scenery, meet interesting characters and explore the world! What could go wrong?

Q: What are your favorite “road trips” in science fiction and fantasy? What makes a good road trip in a genre story?

Here’s what they said.

Gail Z Martin
Gail Z Martin‘s latest novel is Ice Forged.

My favorite fictional road trips include Canterbury Tales, David Edding’s Belgariad books, and David Drake’s Lord of the Isles series.

A good road trip reveals hidden truths about the people who are traveling. If you’ve ever gone on a long car trip with friends or family, you know what I mean! You don’t really know someone until you’ve been stuck in a vehicle with them for 12 straight hours—or on a sailing ship on the high seas during a storm. Since things go wrong on long trips, they provide insight into resourcefulness and character. A really good “journey” story reveals the world and the characters simultaneously, while moving the story forward—no small feat!
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Thunder Road by Chadwick Ginther

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Following an oilfield fire sparked by a Giant out of Norse Mythology, Ted Callan finds himself forged into a weapon and pawn caught between the scheming Norse mythos survivors of Ragnarok.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Zelazny-esque dive into post-Ragnarok mythology from a blue collar perspective.
CONS: Typical first novel writing weaknesses.
BOTTOM LINE: A solid entry into the Modern Mythology subgenre of contemporary fantasy.

Druids living in Arizona? Egyptian Gods hanging out in funeral parlors in a town on the Mississippi River? A summer camp on Long Island for children of deities? Post-Singularity beings putting on a live action version of the Iliad? Authors seem to enjoy bringing mythology into our present or even into our future. It’s practically a sub-genre of Urban Fantasy. (A recent Mind Meld on SF Signal explored the phenomenon.)

Ted Callan, protagonist of Chadwick Ginther’s debut novel Thunder Road, wishes he wasn’t dropped into a modern myth story, though. Seeing a Fire Giant in its pyrotechnic fury, and the trauma of subsequently seeing it destroy his oilfield, his job, and his marriage, is bad enough. Getting turned into a mythological weapon and caught between mythological Ragnarok survivor factions is even worse. Between Fates, Loki, and Dwarves, it’s not at all clear who Callan can trust, if anyone. Or even just how to get back his normal life.

Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the colonial possession of Khandar, the beleaguered and marginalized Vordanai garrison finds itself unexpectedly turned into an offensive fighting force by a new commanding officer with a hidden agenda. However, he is far from alone in having one…

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Excellent battle sequences and military slice of life; appealing and interesting take on magic.
CONS: Some significant point-of-view and characterization problems; a central mystery is somewhat imperfectly drawn up.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting addition to the burgeoning subgenre of Flintlock Fantasy.

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler fits into a subgenre of fantasy that has been called in several quarters “Flintlock Fantasy”. It’s Muskets and Magic! Recently, The Lays of Anuskaya by Bradley Beaulieu, Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan and the Spiritwalker Trilogy by Kate Elliott have mixed gunpowder weapons with magic systems, to various effects and degrees. And now, The Thousand Names.
Read the rest of this entry

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In an alternate World War II, the supermen (and women) of the Third Reich are opposed by the hastily discovered and drafted warlocks of the British Empire.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Excellent concept; consistently action packed and entertaining; excellent set of characters; good narration.
CONS: The alternate history is a bit inconsistent in its credulity; problems with the ending make it feel incomplete.
BOTTOM LINE: A striking and sharp beginning to the Milkweed triptych.

Bitter Seeds is the debut novel from Ian Tregillis where, in the wake of and alternate World War I, a German doctor devises a plan to to change the course of history by experimenting on war orphans. Two decades later, in the Spanish Civil War, on the doorstep of World War II, his superhuman experiments are unleashed. Raybould Marsh, agent for the British secret service, discovers the glimmerings of the threat, and is instrumental in helping recruit England’s response to the German Gotterelektrongruppe. It’s Warlocks versus Battery powered Supermen, in a World War II that goes very differently.

Read the rest of this entry

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Glory Road by Robert Heinlein

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: During the Vietnam War, Oscar Gordon finds himself recruited to an epic quest to another world to obtain a MacGuffin and win The Girl, and discovers that is only half the story.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Excellent audiobook adaptation; high concept of satire of fantasy hero tropes more relevant now than when written; a waterfall of neat ideas.
CONS: Problems with the major female character; plotting issues in the second half; overbearing politics.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting if badly imperfect audiobook adaptation of a classic Heinlein work.

Glory Road is one of the relatively few forays Robert A. Heinlein made into fantasy and it’s the only novel-length one he wrote. Having read the book years ago, I decided to listen to the audiobook on a recently long driving trip.
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Cold Steel by Kate Elliott

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Cat seeks to rescue her lost husband and her cousin Bee seeks to bring revolution to Europa.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Very satisfying denouements of character and theme; gorgeous cover.
CONS: Slightly too many coincidences; some plotting/pacing issues and some resolutions aren’t quite set up as well as they could be.
BOTTOM LINE: A satisfying and strong conclusion to the Spiritwalker trilogy
Read the rest of this entry

MIND MELD: The Successors of Orwell’s 1984

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

This week, we decided to transcend Orwell by asking panelists to go beyond 1984.

Q: Recent events have caused the resurgence of George Orwell’s classic 1984. Ever since its original publication, however, genre has tackled and wrestled with the themes of dictatorship, totalitarianism, total war, and more. What works of genre since are worthy of exploring these themes?

Here’s what they said.

Nick Namatas
Nick Mamatas is an American horror, science fiction and fantasy author and editor for the Haikasoru line of translated Japanese science fiction novels for Viz Media.

Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s recent surge of popularity — Bookscan tells me that sales of the mass market paperback edition increased by 35 percent during the week ending June 9th, and a further 60 percent the week after, and other editions saw spikes as well — is a great sign. Both tyranny and collapse are as likely to sneak up on a populace as anything else, so I am pleased to see that people are wary of these horrific intrusions into their privacy by the state. The vision of waking up one morning to swastikas flying from every flagpole is a fanciful one. First we’ll be told, “Now now, Nazism is just a political view some intelligent, college-educated people have…”
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Wolf in Shadow by John Lambshead

REVIEW SUMMARY: An engaging addition to the canon of urban fantasy novels set in London.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In Modern London, a Shapeshifter discovers that Modern London is just a veneer for a complex and complicated otherworld threatening to erupt.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Interesting take on the otherworld; excellent evocation of London as a place; memorable protagonists; often extremely funny, dry humor.
CONS: Some aspects of the stories of the protagonists seem under-written.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting addition to the growing set of Urban Fantasy novels that deal with the Matter of London
Read the rest of this entry

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Two worlds collide as the head of a Mars research and mining base investigates a mystery connected to a world where 18th century British sailing ships sail the solar system.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Interesting high concept; excellent action sequences.
CONS: The Mars base universe and characters don’t shine or sing as well as the universe of the Daedalus.
BOTTOM LINE: An ambitious and fun romp whose enthusiasm outweighs its flaws.
Read the rest of this entry

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

In the endless new iterations of Dungeons and Dragons, version changes have often been an inescapable, fresh start from scratch. These radical reboots have not always been welcome, especially if beloved or appreciated aspects of previous editions get lost in the struggle, or new aspects are not welcome. Wizards get endless uses of spells now? Everyone roughly does the same amount of damage? I can just buy magic items from a list on the Players Handbook? Why do I have powers that refresh after every ‘encounter’? These changes were not always welcome.

In 2007, the OSRIC (Old School Index and Resource Compilation) was created. The stated goal of the OSRIC was to compile and bring together rules for old-school style fantasy gaming and to reproduce Dungeons and Dragons style rules from the 1970’s and early 1980’s, without the baggage, or the copyrightable elements of those old rules. Thus the Old School Renaissance, the OSR was born. As such, the Old School Renaissance has produced a sheaf of OSR games of various stripes and types. Too, if one takes 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons as your baseline, rather than 1st Edition, one might consider the successful and burgeoning Pathfinder Roleplaying Game to be an example of the OSR phenomenon as well.

Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Quintessence by David Walton

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: On a Flat Earth, an alchemist’s desire for a magical substance draws an expedition to the edge of the world into conflict with dangers mundane and magical alike.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: An interesting high concept and some interesting worldbuilding ideas; fast paced; good use of proto-scientific method for magical researched. Beautiful cover art.
CONS: Stock, often uninteresting and unsympathetic characters; contrivances of plot are precisely that, contrivances.
BOTTOM LINE: A novel whose high concept and ideas do not quite live up to their execution.
Read the rest of this entry

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a cold, cold winter, the fate of Venice hangs in the balance as Emperors and Princes scheme.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Wonderful worldbuilding and character development; excellent action set pieces; engrossing universe.
CONS: A Chekov’s Gun of a plot line is seemingly dropped without a whimper; one new plotline regarding Tycho seems a bit grafted on and not inorganic.
BOTTOM LINE: A conclusion to the Assassini series that leaves the reader and the world with room for more.
Read the rest of this entry

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Nikandr and his fellow Anuskayans struggle to keep both war and cataclysm from destroying their world.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Excellent ending; conflict and stakes clearly laid out and followed through; strong worldbuilding and character development.
CONS: Some characters are cheated out of a more definite denouement; takes a long time to gain momentum.
BOTTOM LINE: A fine and fitting conclusion to the Lays of Anuskaya Trilogy.

The war between the superpower Yrstanla and The Duchy seems destined to go Yrstanla’s way unless their superior strength of arms can be blunted, turned aside, or tied up somewhere else. The wasting disease continues to ravage populations old and new alike. And, of course, The Rifts threatening the Duchy, Yrstanla and the rest of the world continue to open. And the power that opened them seeks to finish the job. Nikandr, Atiana and the rest of the Grand Duchy, and beyond, have a War to stop, the possible solution to the Rift problem to find and rescue, and a world to save before it tears itself apart on both the social and the literal level. But what sacrifices are going to be necessary, and will they be enough?

Read the rest of this entry

Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas are the editors of Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It , the latest in a series of books of essays on genre from Mad Norwegian Press.

I sat down to ask Sigrid and Michael about themselves, and the book.


Read the rest of this entry

REVIEW SUMMARY: An interesting and illuminating look at Doctor Who through a queer lens.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A collection of essays and personal reminisces about LGBTQ fans’ reactions and thoughts about the show.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Intriguing, interesting essays and perspectives that invite the reader to reconsider Doctor Who and by extension their relationship to it.
CONS: A stronger focus on analysis would make it a stronger work, academic-wise; more connections to the audios and other media would have been welcome.
BOTTOM LINE: Anyone with an interest in Doctor Who will enjoy this set of perspectives.

A media property approaching fifty years old has, just by the sheer fact of its longevity, invites interpretations, reflections and connections from its fans. In five decades, there is something for every stripe if you look hard enough and sometimes you find it without even looking that hard. You just need a slight change in perspective.

Thus, enter Queers Dig Time Lords, A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It…the latest collection of essays on genre from Mad Norwegian Press.
Read the rest of this entry

 Page 5 of 14  « First  ... « 3  4  5  6  7 » ...  Last »