Author Archive

REVIEW SUMMARY: Two fine short Fantastic Victoriana stories from Daniel Abraham.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Balfour and Meriwether, special agents to the British crown, deal with extraordinary and fantastical threats to their monarch, and the world.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Light, fun atmosphere, breezy dialogue, clever action and appealing protagonists in a fine Secret Fantastic Victorian Era.
CONS: The stories are a bit short, and feel a bit constrained in word length.
BOTTOM LINE: Two fun stories that show yet another side to one of Genre’s best and facile writers today.

Balfour and Meriwether in Two Adventures, published by a new digital publisher called SnackReads, collects two Victoriana stories by Daniel Abraham, one of the most facile and flexible writers today.  The title characters are agents for the British Crown in the late 19th century. The two stories deliberately obscure in time, and are told from the perspective of Mr. Meriwether looking back on the adventure from a journal written after the first world war. The stories have a fantastic Victorian feel, but with the twist of it being a secret history. Ordinary people have no idea the extraordinary threats and dangers Belfour and Meriwether face.

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John Birmingham is a British Born Australian Author. He is best known for his Axis of Time trilogy, and his new series, starting with Without Warning. Paul Weimer sat down to talk to John about his work and career.


PW: Who is John Birmingham?

JB: Some people are convinced he’s a delightful old children’s book illustrator, but that guy is actually a skinjob, a human analogue droid sent here to work his way into the hearts of children over two or three generations. Nobody ever thinks of the children.

Me, I’m just a guy who used to wrote for porn mags and got lucky mashing together other people’s ideas. Mostly Tom Clancy’s and Harry Turtledove’s.

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BOOK REVIEW: Shadow’s Master by Jon Sprunk

REVIEW SUMMARY: Sprunk finishes his series in strong fashion.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Caim continues his journey north to find his heritage and legacy, even as the young Empress he left behind has her reign tested.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Strong finish to the trilogy; more interesting worldbuilding; further emergence of characters.
CONS: Some hangovers from the second book clutter up narrative.
BOTTOM LINE: A very good, if not spectacular, end to what will hopefully be not the last book series from Sprunk.

Shadow’s Master is the third and presumably final novel in the Shadow’s Son Trilogy from Jon Sprunk, following Shadow’s Son and Shadow’s Lure.  In the world of Nimea, Caim has managed to depose a local potentate, bury his father’s sword, and head further north to find the true source of his heritage. The Empress he has left behind faces the greatest challenge yet to her rule, and Kit the faerie has a fateful decision to make that could change the lives of all three of them forever…if it doesn’t get one or more of them killed first.

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BOOK REVIEW: Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey

SYNOPSIS: War threatens the solar system as forces react and move in a world rocked by the events detailed in Leviathan Wakes.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW
PROS: strong classic Space Opera; excellent set pieces; intriguing new characters.
CONS: The characterization beats of longstanding characters continues; they are eclipsed by the new characters.
VERDICT: Another solidly entertaining space opera from the team of Abraham and Franck.

Caliban’s War takes off some months after the events of Leviathan Wakes, and ups the ante. In the wake of the heroic (and drastic) actions taken to avert a total catastrophe for humans, the powers in the Solar System have not been idle. In point of fact, metaphors about fighting in a burning house might be extremely appropriate.

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Bradley Beaulieu has emailed us the cover image for his latest, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, Book 3 of the Lays of Anuskaya series.  The artist is Aaron J. Riley.

Here is the book description:

The Flames of Shadam Khoreh begins nearly two years after the events of The Straits of Galahesh. In it, Atiana and Nikandr continue their long search for Nasim, which has taken them to the desert wastes of the Gaji, where the fabled valley of Shadam Khoreh lies. But all is not well. War has moved from the islands to the mainland, and the Grand Duchy knows its time may be limited if Yrstanla rallies its forces. And the wasting disease and the rifts grow ever wider, threatening places that once thought themselves safe. The Dukes believe that their only hope may be to treat with the Haelish warriors to the west of Yrstanla, but Nikandr knows that the key is to find Nasim and a lost artifact known as the Atalayina.

Will Nikandr succeed and close the rifts once and for all? The answer lies deep within the Flames of Shadam Khoreh.

More information about the Lays of Anuskaya series  can be found at Bradley’s website: http://quillings.com/.

BOOK REVIEW: Archangel Protocol by Lyda Morehouse

REVIEW SUMMARY: A first novel from Morehouse that still holds up years later.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a theologically oriented 21st Century, an excommunicated NYC cop learns that Angels are more, and less real, than commonly believed

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A fascinating 21st century world. The scene-stealing and book-stealing characters of Mouse. The original book’s gorgeous cover art wonderfully re-used.
CONS: Some of the book feels a bit dated. Deidre is not quite as interesting as the cast of characters around her.
BOTTOM LINE: A first novel from Morehouse that still holds up, and has a chance to be read by a wider audience.

Back in 2001, on the far side of 9/11, I became aware of, thanks to a “Maiden Voyage award” from Barnes and Noble and mention in a quarterly publication of theirs highlighting upcoming books, a debut novelist named Lyda Morehouse. On the boundaries of SF and Fantasy, with a big helping of theology, I decided to give this book set in a 21st century New York a try, and ended up reading it and its sequels in short order.

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MIND MELD: The Books We Didn’t Love

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

This week we asked about books you don’t love.

What books do people expect you to love or read, but you don’t?  Why?

This is what they had to say…

Jamie Todd Rubin
Jamie Todd Rubin is a science fiction writer, blogger, and Evernote Ambassador for paperless living. His stories and articles have appeared in Analog, Daily Science Fiction, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex Magazine, and 40K Books. Jamie lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and two children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

Robert Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land was not the first Heinlein book I read. I started with what is still, in my mind, one of his best, Double Star. Nor was Stranger the second Heinlein book I read. Or the third. Or the fourth.

Indeed, back in the days when my interests in science fiction were broadening and I would occasionally talk to people about them, Heinlein would inevitably come up. “You should read Stranger In A Strange Land.” I must have been told this a dozen times by a dozen different people. I even tried reading the book, but on two occasions, spaced years apart, I simply couldn’t get very far into it. I felt terribly guilty about this. Something must be wrong me. It seemed everyone who ever read a book had read and loved Stranger. But not me. I couldn’t even get through it.

It wasn’t Heinlein. Couldn’t be, right? I went on to read and enjoy Heinlein’s future history in The Past Through Tomorrow. I read and loved Podkayne of Mars. I read Puppet Masters and Starship Troopers and found those entertaining. (Although both movies were appallingly bad.) I adored Friday and The Door Into Summer.

It finally took jury duty for me to get through Stranger. In the fall of 2000, in a cavernous room within a Hollywood courthouse, I battled my way through Heinlein’s tour de force. And before my jury service was up, I’d managed to finally finish the book.

And hated it. Just plain didn’t like it. To this day, when asked if I’ve read Stranger, I reply with a world-weary, “Of course. I read it while suffering through jury duty in the fall of 2000.”

“And what did you think of it?”

And without skipping a beat, reply, “I couldn’t be picked for a jury soon enough. My how I suffered through that book!”

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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: #7RPGS

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world. This time, I am going to tackle a meme that has been going around the RPG sphere.

#7RPGs is a meme that asks roleplayers to talk about the seven roleplaying games you have GMed or played the most and what you have learned from them. I’ve discussed a couple of these before. However, since the end of the year is a time of lists, I thought I would share my list with you.
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Interview with Author & RPG Designer Aaron Rosenberg

Aaron Rosenberg is a prolific novelist and roleplaying game designer. His credits run from White Wolf Roleplaying Games such as Exalted and Mage to the Pete’s and Penny’s Pizza Puzzles children’s books to Star Trek media tie in novels and original novels, some under his cooperative publishing venture Crazy 8 Press.

Paul Weimer sat down to talk to Aaron about his work and career.


Paul Weimer: My opening question is the deceptively simple one: Who is Aaron Rosenberg?

Aaron Rosenberg: Heh, yeah, you don’t start small, do you?

And that’s a hard one to answer. In fact, my agent was just asking me the same thing the other day: Who is Aaron Rosenberg? Is he the guy who writes fun, fast, action-packed science fiction like Star Trek and StarCraft and Stargate: Atlantis and the original Dread Remora space-opera series? Or maybe he’s the guy who does fantasy novels like WarCraft and Warhammer, and the modern-day fantasy anthology ReDeus: Divine Tales? Is he the guy who does tense occult thrillers like the O.C.L.T. series? Or is he the guy who writes mysteries, like half of his other books have been, just wrapped up in other genres? Maybe he’s the guy who writes really silly humorous novels like the Eureka novels and his original SF novels No Small Bills and Too Small for Tall? My agent’s advice was to pick one of these and stick to it, because it’d be easier to market myself if I focused on a single area.
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BOOK REVIEW: The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe

REVIEW SUMMARY:An entertaining second entry in the Wall of Night series

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Five years after the events of The Heir of Night, intrigue and machinations of the Swarm, and others, catch Malian and her friends / allies in the South.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: All the best Epic Fantasy elements present; strong character-driven story, high adventure and magic, beautiful prose.
CONS: The pace of the novel in Malian and Kalan’s story is problematic. Some aspects of the intervening years are not entirely clear. The map given needs work.
BOTTOM LINE: A strong second entry to the series that avoids most of the pitfalls of middle series novels.

Five years after Malian of Night and Kalan fled from the Wall in search of fulfilling a prophecy to save the Derai and the rest of the world, the action focuses down to the lands of the River. The heralds Jehane Mor and Tarathan stumble into unexpected danger and bloodshed in the city of Ij. Soon, though, the danger spreads to other locations in the South, and threatens Malian and Kalan, who are very different following people five years later.
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BOOK REVIEW: A Red Sun Also Rises by Mark Hodder

REVIEW SUMMARY: An entertaining piece of Fantastic Victoriana in terms of content, mood and style.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A 19th century bookish priest and a crippled hunchback together are unexpectedly transported to an alien world that soon becomes oddly familiar.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A vivid and interesting premise and an enthusiastic audacity of telling it in period style and trappings.
CONS: Secondary characters are often flat, the devotion to its conventions sometimes works against it.
BOTTOM LINE: An entertaining, bizarre tale that remains true to its Victorian conventions and style, sometimes to a fault.
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Can You Name This Story? (Part 30)

Another Name That Story challenge for our readers: Do any of you out there know the title to this story?

The story is a report from a World Science Fiction convention in the early 21st(?) century. A nuclear war has set technology back to the 19th century levels (sailing ships and carriages are mentioned) and so it takes weeks if not months for SF fans and readers to get together. The story talks about various works being written by authors, and their misadventures in getting to the convention. A mention of pirates capturing or killing a prominent female science fiction author is mentioned.

The main thrust of the story is that the nuclear war and regression of civilization has inadvertently rejuvenated science fiction, making it the literature of the times for everyone, the repository of hopes and dreams and imagination.



Can you name this story?

REVIEW SUMMARY: A second Sword and Sorcery from Howard Andrew Jones that improves and deepens his characters and world.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Dabir and Asim return, and face an ancient sorcery that threatens to unleash a new Ice Age upon the world.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Strong characters, excellent sword and sorcery action. Always entertaining. Characters grow and develop.
CONS A couple of sequences are a bit unclear.
BOTTOM LINE: A marriage of strong characters and stronger action and adventure that rarely flags or goes below 50 miles per hour.

In The Desert of Souls, Howard Andrew Jones introduced us to an 8th Century Baghdad of Arabian Days and Nights. In the personages of Dabir, a scholar not unfamiliar with a blade, and Asim, a guard captain who is much more than muscle, we were given a glimpse into a mostly historical Middle East. Mostly, if you don’t count animated monkeys, dark sorcerers and strange magical cities in an alternate world desert realm. The successful defeat of the forces of evil left Dabir and Asim high in the esteem of the Caliph, with the blessing to go on to the scholarly city of Mosul in the north.

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Interview with Marianne de Pierres

Australian author Marianne de Pierres is the author of the acclaimed Parrish Plessis and award-winning Sentients of Orion science fiction series. The Parrish Plessis series has been translated into eight languages and adapted into a roleplaying game. She is also the author of dark fantasy, notably her Burn Bright novels. I talked with Marianne about her and her writing.


Paul Weimer: You mention in your bio that your then-boyfriend introduced you to reading SF [Rendezvous with Rama]. But when did you start putting pen to paper and writing SF yourself?

Marianne de Pierres: I had started writing fiction at the age of eight or nine – adventure stories really, I guess. And even though I was reading SF in my twenties, I wasn’t game to have a go at writing them myself until I’d read widely in the genre. Ten years later I penned my first ever short story, about the discovery of a brown dwarf. It’s the only short story I’ve written that’s never been published – probably because it was horrible. I enjoyed writing the descriptions of the planet so much though, that I was hooked from that moment. I went out and brought a subscription to Sky and Space magazine (an Aussie astronomy mag) and ideas started proliferating.

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MIND MELD: Great Books to Read During Winter

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

This week, in time for the change of season, we asked about Winter:

In the Northern Hemisphere, the weather is turning colder, and the season of Winter is upon us. What are your favorite genre stories and novels that revolve around the coldest season. How do they make use of the season, and how do they evoke it?
This is what they had to say…
Gwenda Bond
Gwenda Bond’s debut novel, Blackwood, was a September 2012 launch title for Strange Chemistry, the new YA imprint of Angry Robot Books. Her next novel, The Woken Gods, will be released in July 2013. She is also a contributing writer for Publishers Weekly, regularly reviews for Locus, guest-edited a special YA issue of Subterranean Online, and has an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband, author Christopher Rowe, and their menagerie. Visit her online at her website (www.gwendabond.com) or on twitter (@gwenda).

The first novel that leaps to mind is Geraldine McCaughrean’s The White Darkness. It’s a wonderfully bizarre tour de force about a girl, Sym, who is obsessed with all things Antarctic, including her imaginary boyfriend, the deceased Captain Lawrence “Titus” Oates. Her mad “uncle” takes her on a once in a lifetime trip there, which turns out to be a nightmare. He believes in the hollow Earth theory and that they will prove it’s true. Along the way, McCaughrean masterfully reveals more and more about Sym’s own past and her phony uncle. Sym’s voice is arresting despite how very in her own head she is—and it’s perhaps because of how that works with a backdrop that is spectacularly isolated and physically challenging. Some people may argue this isn’t a true fantasy, but I would debate them (citing spoilers), and regardless of which of us won I maintain it’d still be of interest to many genre readers because of the hollow Earth fringe science driving the plot.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper

REVIEW SUMMARY: Cooper marries the classic SF trope of a Generation Starship to an intensely character-driven drama with a fascinating main character.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Ruby Martin, bot technician trainee on a class-riven generation starship, struggles for freedom and the rights of her underclass peers.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Captivating main character; strong character-focused story with strong themes; stunning cover art.
CONS: A couple of Ruby’s relationships feel a bit false.
BOTTOM LINE: The Creative Fire is a powerful opening half to a planned diptych of novels.

Ruby Martin lives on The Creative Fire, a generation starship, making its way between the stars. As one of the underclass, called ‘greys’ by the classes above her, she feels she is destined to live out her life as a robot technician quietly toiling away, unappreciated and unnoticed, in the bowels of the ship.  An accident exposes Ruby to the world above. At the same time, the shakeup caused by the accident provides Ruby with the opportunity to try and reach that greater world. Little does Ruby realize that her gifts are stronger than she suspects, and her charisma, voice, thirst for knowledge, and potential leadership skills are perhaps more powerful than any weapon on board the ship, if she is only allowed the chance to use them.

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Interview with “Dark Lord” Author Jamie Thomson

Award winning author Jamie Thomson is the author of numerous books, ranging from Choose your own adventure style adventure books to his newest series, revolving around a Dark Lord trapped in the form of a ten year old boy. Jamie was kind enough to answer a few questions about him and his work.


Paul Weimer: Let’s start off with the deceptively simple opening: Who is Jamie Thomson?

Jamie Thomson: Jamie Thomson is the Greatest Living Writer to Ever Walk the Earth. Well, alright, perhaps not the entire earth. My village anyway. Actually, that’s not quite true. Oh alright, Jamie Thomson is the Greatest Living Writer in this room. At the moment. As long as no-one else walks in. He has also been in writing and computer games and fantasy and SF and all that stuff for years, and years and years.

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BOOK REVIEW: Be My Enemy by Ian McDonald

REVIEW SUMMARY: McDonald proves the concept of his world of the Infundibulum has legs, and provides some intriguing new ideas amid an entertaining adventure.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Fleeing Charlotte Villers and seeking a way to find and rescue his father, Everett and his friends aboard airship Everness discover why a particular world is off limits.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Lots of ideas thrown out and explored; good development of main characters.
CONS: The establishment of Everett’s double as nemesis feels extremely forced.
BOTTOM LINE: Malevolent Nanotech. More world hopping. A solidly entertaining second volume to the series.

In Planesrunner, the first novel in Ian McDonald’s YA series about Everett Singh, we were introduced to the world of the Infundibulum. Everett’s father, with help from Everett himself, unlocked inter-world travel, a breakthrough powerful and potent enough that people will go to great lengths to possess the technology. Everett’s journeys takes him to a parallel world of carbon fiber technology and enormous airships. At the end of the first book, Everett’s father has been cast to somewhere in the multiverse, and Everett is determined to find and save him, even as the forces arrayed against him are in hot pursuit.  Now, those forces, led by Charlotte Villiers, have a new plan for capturing Everett and his key to the mulltiverse. They intend to use the one person who can anticipate and counter Everett’s moves and actions: himself…

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Interview with Chaz Brenchley

British Fantasy Award winning author Chaz Brenchley is the author of nine thrillers, most recently Shelter and two fantasy series, The Books of Outremer and Selling Water by the River. As Daniel Fox he has published a Chinese-based fantasy series, beginning with Dragon in Chains, as Ben Macallan, an urban fantasy, Desdæmona. I talked to Chaz about his many hats, and his writing.

Photo by Donna-Lisa Healy.

Paul Weimer: So let’s begin with a deceptively easy question. Who is Chaz Brenchley?

Chaz Brenchley: Chaz Brenchley is a British novelist and short story writer. He sold his first stories when he was eighteen, and he’s never had another job: which means he’s been making a living from his keyboard for thirty-five years now. He’s published short fiction in almost every genre except Westerns (and that may change). His novels range from mysteries through supernatural thrillers to fantasies and SF. He likes to say he lives down the dirty end of genre fiction; in fact, after thirty years in Newcastle on Tyne, he’s just moved to Silicon Valley with two fractious cats and an unconscionable quantity of books.

Also, Chaz Brenchley is Daniel Fox. Who went to Taiwan for the millennium, as a guest of the government; went back as a guest of his interpreter; studied classical Mandarin for six years after that and then wrote a trilogy set in an analogue world, transposing contemporary Taiwan – loosely – onto imperial China.

Also, Chaz Brenchley is Ben Macallan. Who began life as the narrator of two Chaz Brenchley novels, Dead of Light and Light Errant, but then branched out into writing fiction of his own. His first book, Desdaemona, is an urban fantasy set in an England saturated with mythic figures; the sequel, Pandaemonium, has just been published.

Away from the keyboard, he has been described as “the finest cook in this room”. That isn’t always true.

He has also been described as “the only man we know – apart from Christopher Lee – who’s met both Tolkien and Gandalf.” As far as we know, that one is true.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Siren Depths by Martha Wells

REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong third entry in the Books of the Raksura series by Martha Wells.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Moon, only slowly getting used to his role in his own Court, finds himself unexpectedly traded to another. Worse, the Fell are on the move again and they have a plan…

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Strong writing, especially with regards to the social relationships and conflicts within the Raksura; more interesting worldbuilding.
CONS: Pacing in the last portion of the novel is too swift; the final act feels far too short as compared to the remainder of the novel
BOTTOM LINE: A welcome way to round out the three Books of the Raksura.
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