Archive for review

Kameron Hurley – The Mirror Empire

kameronhurley-themirrorempireOn the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.

Much can be said about the author of The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley. She’s a two-time Hugo Winner for her non-fiction essays, she’s sometimes the angry woman on the internet, and her views on the business of writing and on the SFF community are fascinating. However, most importantly she’s the acclaimed author of The God’s War trilogy. I’ve not yet read this series, because in first instance the bugpunk label put me off as creepy crawlies give me the heebie-jeebies, but it is now on my to read pile awaiting its turn. But I’ve heard nothing but praise for Hurley’s writing, so when Angry Robot announced they’d acquired Hurley’s new series, an epic fantasy series no less, I was determined I wouldn’t miss out on this one. And it’s a good thing I didn’t, because The Mirror Empire is one of the most exciting fantasy books I’ve read this year and looks fair to make it into my top ten for 2014.  Continue reading »

By Published Posted in fantasy, review | 1 Comment

Fred Venturini – The Heart Does Not Grow Back [Blog Tour]

fredventurini-theheartdoesnotgrowbackDale Sampson is used to being a nonperson at his small-town Midwestern high school, picking up the scraps of his charismatic lothario of a best friend, Mack. He comforts himself with the certainty that his stellar academic record and brains will bring him the adulation that has evaded him in high school. But when an unthinkable catastrophe tears away the one girl he ever had a chance with, his life takes a bizarre turn as he discovers an inexplicable power: He can regenerate his organs and limbs.

When a chance encounter brings him face to face with a girl from his past, he decides that he must use his gift to save her from a violent husband and dismal future. His quest takes him to the glitz and greed of Hollywood, and into the crosshairs of shadowy forces bent on using and abusing his gift. Can Dale use his power to redeem himself and those he loves, or will the one thing that finally makes him special be his demise? The Heart Does Not Grow Back is a darkly comic, starkly original take on the superhero tale, introducing an exceptional new literary voice in Fred Venturini.

I rarely read from the literary fiction shelves of the book store, not because I absolutely dislike it – though having to analyse oodles of the stuff for classes at university did put me off somewhat – but because there’s only so much you can read and my heart lies elsewhere. Yet when I was approached about being part for the blog tour for Fred Venturini’s The Heart Does Not Grow Back, the synopsis and the superhero angle hooked me right and proper—I’d say that whoever wrote that flap text did a very good job. Yet while Dale’s superpower is the motor of the narrative, the stuff that powers said motor is human emotion. Venturini’s debut novel, which was previously published as The Samaritan by Blank Slate Press and was a Kitchies finalist, is a strong effort and an interesting contemplation of the human condition.   Continue reading »

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Ripley Patton – Ghost Heart [Blog Tour]

ripleypatton-ghostheartIn the aftermath of a brutal tragedy, Jason and Passion are on the run. Marcus is lost beyond reach, and The Hold is in shambles. If that weren’t enough, Olivia Black has been taken by the CAMFers to be used as Dr. Fineman’s personal lab rat in his merciless quest to uncover the mysteries of Psyche Sans Soma once and for all. But only if he can break her.

They are scattered.
They are devastated.
They are ruined.

Their only hope is Olivia’s stubborn determination to thwart her captors and unlock the secrets of her ghost hand before Dr. Fineman can. Will she finally find the strength within herself to embrace the full power of her PSS?

And will it even matter if Marcus has already betrayed her?

Ghost Heart is the third book the in the PSS Chronicles and not – as I expected – the last, but only the next instalment in the series. In fact it is not an ending at all. Rather it is very much a beginning, of the next phase in the battle against the CAMFers and the Hold and of a new life for our protagonists. Discussing a third book in any series without giving spoilers is hard, but in the case of Ghost Heart it is almost impossible, so out of necessity, this review will contain minor spoilers and will be less extensive than usual.   Continue reading »

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Jaym Gates & Andrew Liptak (eds) – War Stories

gatesliptak-warstoriesWar is everywhere. Not only among the firefights, in the sweat dripping from heavy armor and the clenching grip on your weapon, but also wedging itself deep into families, infiltrating our love letters, hovering in the air above our heads. It’s in our dreams and our text messages. At times it roars with adrenaline, while at others it slips in silently so it can sit beside you until you forget it’s there.

Join Joe Haldeman, Linda Nagata, Karin Lowachee, Ken Liu, Jay Posey, and more as they take you on a tour of the battlefields, from those hurtling through space in spaceships and winding along trails deep in the jungle with bullets whizzing overhead, to the ones hiding behind calm smiles, waiting patiently to reveal itself in those quiet moments when we feel safest. War Stories brings us 23 stories of the impacts of war, showcasing the systems, combat, armor, and aftermath without condemnation or glorification.

Instead, War Stories reveals the truth.

War is what we are.

Conflict is part of the human condition. In every age, at any moment, conflict has been present in our history. Be it on a large or a small scale, people have always picked sides against each other, whether on political or religious grounds. And conflict unfortunately turned to war more often than not. War is devastating on many levels; whether it’s material damage like shot-up buildings, physical damage such as war wounds for both civilians and combatants, or psychological trauma for those involved, no human is unchanged by the experience of war. As such, it’s unsurprising that war and conflict are huge wellsprings of inspiration for authors in any field, not least that of SFF. Ranging from military SF, such as David Weber’s works, to fantasy, like Erikson’s Malazan series, from the epic to the intimate, war is told in many guises. But it’s easy to glorify war and violence and not think beyond the adrenaline of battle. In War Stories, Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak do just that. They chose stories dealing with the human cost of war, with the aftermath, and with those left behind. This doesn’t mean there aren’t battle stories here or those showing the brotherhood of soldiers, because there are, but they aim to go beyond the usual and look to the human element of war.   Continue reading »

By Published Posted in review, science fiction | 4 Comments

Author Query – Edward Cox

edwardcox-therelicguildLast year Gollancz announced Edward Cox’s The Relic Guild to be published this autumn. Intrigued by the premise, I followed the author’s Twitter account and ever since Ed has been a steady presence in my time line. He was also one of the first people I ran into last year in Brighton on which occasion I got one of his patented Ed-Hugs. Fast-forward eleven months and The Relic Guild has been released and I’m really looking forward to picking up a copy when I go to London next week and to get the chance to finally read it. Meanwhile I thought I’d ask Ed some questions on the occasion of the publication of his book and the following Author Query is the result.   Continue reading »

By Published Posted in fantasy, interview | Leave a comment

Alix Christie – Gutenberg’s Apprentice

alixchristie-gutenbergsapprenticeIn the middle of the 15th century, scribe Peter Schoeffer is dismayed to be instructed by his father to give up his beloved profession of illuminating texts in Paris. Instead he is to travel to Mainz in Germany to be apprenticed to Johann Gutenberg, an entrepreneur who has invented a new process for producing books – the printing press. Working in conditions of extreme secrecy, the men employed by Gutenberg daily face new challenges both artistic and physical as they strive to create the new books to the standard required by their master. In a time of huge turmoil in Europe and around the world, Gutenberg is relentless in pursuing his dream and wooing the powerful religious leaders whose support is critical. Peter’s resistance to the project slowly dissolves as he sees that, with the guidance of a scribe such as himself, the new Bibles could be as beautiful in their way as the old. Today we can see that beauty in some of our museums, but few know the astonishing tale of ambition, ruthlessness and triumph that lies behind it.

The invention of the printing press with movable type was arguably one of the biggest impulses that brought about the advent of the Renaissance and one of the biggest change agents in civilisation.The ability to print texts in large quantities quickly and at a markedly reduced cost changed medieval society in much the same way as the advent of the internet did ours. As an English Lit major specialising in book history, Gutenberg is naturally a person of interest to me, so when I saw Alix Christie’s Gutenberg’s Apprentice on the Headline site I knew I had to read it. Within its covers I found a riveting tale of a man driven by vision and ambition and the apprentice who was pressed into his service against his desire.  Continue reading »

By Published Posted in historical fiction, review | Leave a comment

Nick Pengelley – Ryder [Blog Tour]

nickpengelley-ryderAyesha Ryder bears the scars of strife in the Middle East. Now her past is catching up to her as she races to unravel a mystery that spans centuries—and threatens to change the course of history.
 
As Israeli and Palestinian leaders prepare to make a joint announcement at the Tower of London, an influential scholar is tortured and murdered in his well-appointed home in St. John’s Wood. Academic researcher Ayesha Ryder believes the killing is no coincidence. Sir Evelyn Montagu had unearthed shocking revelations about T. E. Lawrence—the famed Lawrence of Arabia. Could Montagu have been targeted because of his discoveries?
 
Ryder’s search for answers takes her back to her old life in the Middle East and into a lion’s den of killers and traitors. As she draws the attention of agents from both sides of the conflict, including detectives from Scotland Yard and MI5, Ryder stumbles deeper into Lawrence’s secrets, an astounding case of royal blackmail, even the search for the Bible’s lost Ark of the Covenant.
 
Every step of the way, the endgame grows more terrifying. But when an attack rocks London, the real players show their hand—and Ayesha Ryder is left holding the final piece of the puzzle.

Ryder by Nick Pengelley is a compelling read, but it is one that may not please everyone, both due to its format and due to its content. To start with the content, Ryder is very much a story in the vein of The Da Vinci Code and The Rule of Four; academic thrillers that work as a sort of treasure hunt following the clues to solve the mystery. It’s the aspect I enjoyed most about Brown’s Langdon books, so I enjoyed it here, but if that is not your thing, then this might not be the book for you.  Continue reading »

By Published Posted in crime, mystery, review, thriller | 3 Comments

Laird Hunt – Neverhome

lairdhunt-neverhomeShe calls herself Ash, but that’s not her real name. She is a farmer’s faithful wife, but she has left her husband to don the uniform of a Union soldier in the Civil War. Neverhome tells the harrowing story of Ash Thompson during the battle for the South. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause.

Laird Hunt’s dazzling new novel throws a light on the adventurous women who chose to fight instead of stay behind. It is also a mystery story: why did Ash leave and her husband stay? Why can she not return? What will she have to go through to make it back home?

In gorgeous prose, Hunt’s rebellious young heroine fights her way through history, and back home to her husband, and finally into our hearts.

Women disguising themselves as men to be able to do things or go places denied them by societal conventions due to their sex is an age-old phenomenon, in life and in literature. From Shakespeare’s Rosalind, Viola, and Imogen, to Tolkien’s Eowyn, Martin’s Arya, and Pierce’s Alanna, we can find many different versions of and motives for the phenomenon. But one of the most common motives seems to have been so that our main character can take up arms, be it as a vocation as Alanna, to save a beloved family member as Mulan does, or to escape from her pursuers unseen as Arya does. Those are all fictional examples, but there are many historical ones too: Joan of Arc and Hannah Snell come too mind, but as Kameron Hurley points out there are many more. In Neverhome Hunt focuses on just such a woman who takes up arms to keep her husband from going to war, because she wants to see places, because she is just more suited to it, and because she believed in the cause.   Continue reading »

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Helen Grant – Demons of Ghent

helengrant-demonsofghentPeople are falling from the rooftops of Ghent. But did they throw themselves off – or did somebody push them?

Veerle has seen enough death to last a lifetime. But death isn’t finished with Veerle just yet.

When people start to die in her new home town, some put it down to a pate of suicides. Some blame the legendary demons of Ghent. Only Veerle suspects that something – somebody – has followed her to wreak his vengeance.

But she watched the hunter die, didn’t she?

I love Helen Grant’s brand of YA mystery. I’ve read all of them so far and enjoyed them all. They’re always tightly plotted and very well-paced, with a psychological and/or paranormal element added in the mix. With the first book in the Forbidden Spaces trilogy, Silent Saturday, Grant moved away from standalone stories and started a trilogy. While the ending of that book was a bit of a cliffhanger and left me wanting Demons of Ghent immediately, I found that Grant’s abilities to pace a story worked just as well in a series setting as it did in a standalone story. Starting Demons of Ghent though was a bit disorienting; it was a continuation of Veerle’s story, but not a direct one and Veerle’s life and situation has completely changed.   Continue reading »

By Published Posted in mystery, review, YA | Leave a comment

T.E. Woods – The Unforgivable Fix [Blog Tour]

tewoods-theunforgivablefixDetective Mort Grant of the Seattle PD has finally decided to sell. The home where he and his late wife raised two kids feels too large and too full of old memories. His son is married and raising a family of his own, and despite desperate efforts to find her, Mort has lost touch with his wayward daughter. That is, until the day she walks back into her childhood home and begs for his help.

For the last four years, Allie Grant has been the lover—and confidante, confessor, and counselor—of one of the world’s most powerful and deadly men. But a sudden, rash move has put Allie in the crosshairs of a ruthless Russian crime lord. Mort knows of only one place where Allie will be safe: with The Fixer.

As a hired desperado, The Fixer has killed twenty-three people—and Mort was complicit in her escape from the law. She has built an impregnable house, stocked it with state-of-the-art gear, armed it to the teeth, and locked herself away from the world. But even The Fixer may not be able to get justice for Allie when real evil comes knocking.

The third in T.E. Woods’ Mort Grant series, The Unforgivable Fix returns us to Seattle and Mort and Lydia. We find them recovering from the events related in The Red Hot Fix. There is a general air of moving on and letting go, as Mort finally sells the house he shared with his beloved wife and Lydia is trying to leave The Fixer behind and to forget Oliver, her sort-of-ex-boyfriend. Yet however much we might want to forget our past, the past often doesn’t want to let us go, as Mort finds out when the day he leaves his house his prodigal daughter returns. And when Lydia decides to return to her practice, she learns that with The Fixer gone, it’s far harder to deal with cases that hit too close to home than it was before.  Continue reading »

By Published Posted in crime, review | 4 Comments
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