This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

30 August, 2012



ISBN: 978-1-44470-1783-0
Pages: 706
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
First published: 1 January 1996
This edition published: 12 May 2011

On the cover:

Welcome to Desperation. Once a thriving copper mining town in the middle of the Nevada desert, Desperation is now eerily abandoned. It's the last place that travellers like the Carver family, bound for vacation, and writer Johnny Marinville, astride his Harley, would expect to be stopped and charged. But Desperation still has a local cop - a unique regulator who patrols the wilderness highway. 
The secrets buried in Desperation are as terrifying as the forces summoned to encounter them. A terrifying transformation is taking place and the travellers will soon discover the true meaning of Desperation.

   This novel has a very strong opening. By the end of the first chapter King has already managed to establish a very creepy atmosphere, and managed to get the reader interested in finding out what is really going on. King manages to hold off the answers for quite a long time and when they come they do nothing to mitigate the sense of dread and eeriness that pervade this story.

   Although this story takes place in a limited time frame, and is a long novel, there is little wasted space here. King does take his time coming to the conclusion but with everything that is happening there's no real feeling of there being any padding in this novel. It's hard to see how this could have been any shorter and still be written in the same style.
   On the other hand there was one element of the story that I found totally unnecessary. There's a paranormal explanation to why the main characters came to be in Desperation that I felt was not needed. And what that paranormal element is, and how it is used to explain events in the later part of the story, felt cheap to me. That part of the story would in my opinion have been better left vague, and as it stands just feels like King chose to take the easy way to a resolution.

   I've already mentioned the creepy/slash eerie atmosphere of the novel, and it is in my opinion the best thing about the story. King is in my opinion very good at creating an atmosphere of tension, dread, and eeriness in his novels, and when it comes to that element this is one of his best efforts. Even when this atmosphere is let down by an ending that is a bit easy it doesn't quite let go, and it lingers after the books final page.

   The characters in Desperation are not among the best King have done. Despite the many pages the novel encompasses we don't get very close to most of them. And although the author character here is interesting to get to know, it is easy to get a bit tired of King's use of an author as one of the main characters in his stories.
   That the main character who is closest to the paranormal explanation I have mentioned above comes off as a bit too perfect, or cliched if you want, is also a bit of a letdown.
   Fortunately the novel also shows that King can carry the story without giving us the closeness to the main characters that we have in for instance IT.

   I don't think this will be placed near the top of my favourite King novels ever, for me the paranormal explanation/element that I have already mentioned dragged it down. But it is still a very good story that offers the reader a lot of creepiness and horror.
   If it was written by any other Horror author I would have called it great, but King has simply set the bar for his readers so high that from him this is a bit below what I've come to expect. I would however not in any way discourage people from reading this, and I know there are people who rate it much higher among King's works than I do.

   It's a thrilling high-tension novel, that despite its flaws, is a very good read. Horror fans should absolutely  take the time to read this, and it has a Post-Apocalyptic feel to it that will make it interesting to those that enjoy that SFF subgenre.

NOTE: This is a companion novel to The Regulators, published under the Richard Bachman name. A review of that can be found here.

REVIEWS: The Shining  IT  The Dark Half  Bag of Bones  11.22.63  Four Past Midnight  Just After Sunset

LINKS: Stephen King  Hodder & Stoughton

27 August, 2012


Cover by Ian Sales


ISBN: 978-0-9751883-1-0
Pages: 75 (Including Glossary/Appendix)
Publisher: Whippleshield Books
Publsihed: 6 April 2012

   On the cover:

When a nuclear war breaks out and the nations of earth are destroyed, it maroons a group of astronauts on the Moon. Using the "torsion field generator", they hope to find an alternate Earth that did not suffer nuclear armageddon. But once they do, how will they return home? They have one Lunar Module, which can carry only four astronauts into Lunar orbit...

   Sales's novella is very Hard SF one, but as it becomes clear rather quickly it is set in an Alternate History. This may seem like being a contradiction, but Sales manages to make it work very well.
   Interestingly it is neither the Hard SF nor the Alternate History elements that are the best thing in this story. What stands out most is the feeling of desolation and claustrophobia that Sales conveys through his writing. There is an underlying tension to the whole of this, that together with the chilling Alternate History scenario in the background makes for a very eerie read.

   Being a fan of Alternate History, I care about how "what if..." scenarios are presented. It doesn't matter how interesting an idea the diversion from our history is if there's no plausible way to get to the alternative world that the story contains. Fortunately, that is not a problem here. Sales presents a future that seems to be  just a flicker of coincidence away from the history we know.

   There is something that has to be mentioned about the Hard SF in this novella, namely that it very easy to argue that there is none. This may sound a bit strange of me to say when I have already stated that this is "very Hard SF", but the SF is only Hard SF in the Alternate History setting of the story.
   If you, like some people I have seen online, argue that Alternate History is Fantasy, rather than Science Fiction, then this would be a Fantasy novella. As someone who has a strong interest in History, I would say that Alternate History is without a doubt Science Fiction (, i.e. scientific speculation about how history could have diverged), and thus I don't hesitate to say that this is a Hard SF story in an Alternate History setting.
   Without going into spoilers, I will say that there is an element that isn't very realistic. But in the way it is handled here that is not a problem. Rather it feels as an integral part of the alternative timeline of the story, and in my opinion doesn't detract anything from the Hard SF feel of this novella.

   The story itself is very well written. Sales manages to convey a lot in a limited amount of space,  especially the worldbuilding is excellent. Most of the history of this timeline is presented in its own passages, as retrospectives. I found this to work very well, they add to the main storyline without being disruptive to the flow of the story.
   I've already mentioned the tension of this story, and that builds nicely as the narrative moves along. It's never clear what is going to be the conclusion to this tale, and the ending comes with a very satisfying twist.

   There's no doubt that this story will be a great read for those who are fans of Hard SF, and the Alternate History elements make it worth picking up for fans of that genre. It's connection to the Apollo program will also make this a good read for anyone interested in real world human space exploration.

Note: I won a Hardcover edition of this in a competition on the author's website, and I have received an e-ARC for review.

LINKS: Ian Sales  Whippleshield Books

25 August, 2012


   There's not a whole lot of SFF being published in Norway these days,  but relatively new publisher Vendetta Forlag (Forlag=Publisher) -who does the Norwegian A Song of Ice and Fire editions- are publishing at least some titles, and they have plans for more. And there's a steady, but small trickle of SFF books that are getting Norwegian editions from the bigger publishers.
   I know there's an interest in international covers among fans of SFF, soI'll do an article like this one Norwegian covers from time to time.

    This one has already been published by Vendetta Forlag: The cover is for World War Z by Max Brooks. As you can see the Norwegian title is just "Z". I think that's a god thing, a direct Norwegian translation would be "Verdenskrig Z". That sounds really clunky in Norwegian, and I'm glad they did not go with that.

   I'm a bit embarrassad to say that this is actually the first Norwegian edition of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. It was published 20 August by Vendetta Forlag. The title is a direct translation of the original, and works very well in Norwegian.

   This pair is the two Norwegian covers for the Norwegian editions, again by Vendetta Forlag, of A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin. (It's standard practice in Norway to split up large books when they are translated, and it happens in all genres.)
    The first part (top) is called "Kongenes Kamp", which is a direct translation. Well...almost. Translate it back to English, and you get The Kings' Clash(/Battle). The second one is titled "Dragenes Dronning", which in English would be literally The Dragon's Queen, but would most likely be translated as The Queen of Dragons.

   Hope you find these interesting. I'll try to keep you up to date with Norwegian covers for translated SFF, and I may do covers for original Norwegian SFF later.

24 August, 2012


Cover by Larry Rostant


ISBN: 978-1-90884-403-3
Pages: 416
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Published: US/CAN/e-book 4 September 2012, UK 6 September 2012

On the cover:

When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he’s not so average after all. He’s a ‘Shifter’. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made.At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world quickly starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed.In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.

   It doesn't take long before this novel goes from its opening of normal teenage life into a completely different direction. There's nothing new with a teenager discovering they have a special power. But from that initial premise Shift moves unto something that is not your normal story, and it moves in directions that are surprising and impossible to predict.

   I like novels that have good central ideas, and shifting is definitely that. Curran manages to use it not only to drive the storyline forward, but also to shape the way the story moves. At times it takes a bit of concentration to wrap your head around what is happening, not because it is unclear but because it is a complex story that frequently moves in unexpected directions.
   Once you get your mind used to how things work in this story Curran ramps up the suspense. Unexpected turns and cliffhanger chapter endings makes this a fast paced and suspense filled read. Curran is very good at hiding what is coming next, and very accomplished at misdirecting the readers thoughts as to what comes next. At times I suspected she was shifting and changing the story as I read it, so that my expectations of what came next turned out to be wrong.

   It takes a bit of worldbuilding in a novel like this to establish how everything works, both as related to our normal world and to the hidden part of the world we are introduced to in the novel. Curran manages to do this in a very good way, by giving us a main character that is clueless at the start of the story and letting us learn with him. 
   It is very refreshing that this is done without resorting to the main character being an idiot. In fact, I felt as confused as Scott Tyler is when the novel begins, and was very glad that we got an explanation as to what was going on. Later revelations also flow seamlessly into the narrative, and Curran gets out all the information  across to the reader without dumping it on them.

   Character wise this is also a very well written book. We get a good idea of the life of Scott Tyler and who he is as early as the first chapter, and from there we follow him as he learns and develops - something he does in a natural way.
   Other characters are also well developed and bring their own stories to the table. And they never feel like cardboard cutouts brought in to advance the story, but rather as people who happen to be involved in the vents depicted.

   Curran's debut is a novel that is hard to put down once you start reading it. It flows at a very fast pace, and Curran's writing sweeps you along. She also manages to create a world, and characters, that you really want to know more about.
   This is a Science Fiction Thriller that doesn't work just for readers in the Young Adult demographic. Both the Science Fiction and the Action Thriller elements work very well, and together they make for a great novel. You really should get your hands on this novel if you like your fiction to take you on a thrill-ride. 

NOTE: An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

LINKS: Kim Curran  Strange Chemistry

23 August, 2012


Cover art: Steven Wood


ISBN: 978-1-90884-406-4
Pages: 352
Published by: Strange Chemistry
Published: US/CAN/e-book 4 September 2012, UK 6 September 2012

On the cover:

On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

   I'm a big fan of history, so I was immediately drawn in by the historical connection this novel has. The Lost Colony at Roanoke Island will be familiar to anyone who's ever had an interest in the "mysterious disappearances sub genre" of history, and Bond really does use it to great effect in her novel. I was especially pleased with the appearance of one historical figure who is connected to magic. It seems so logical when you read it, and it brings the supernatural elements from history to the present in a completely natural way.

   The novel doesn't take long to show us the present day mystery that is the main focus of the story, and the novel is "up and running" before the reader has time to get settled in. Bond is great at setting a fast pace, the story moves along so quick that the slower passages feel like a welcome opportunity for the reader to take a deep breath. The fast pace of the novel doesn't mean that it feels rushed, the pace of events flows naturally from the page.
   The fast pace of the novel is not caused by the action, although there is enough of that to satisfy, instead the story is driven by mystery. Bond presents the reader with events that deepens the mystery and suspense throughout the novel. There are a lot of twists and turns to what is happening and although one element is not a surprising revelation that doesn't mean it is predictable. It is very hard to see what is coming, and the answers to mystery we do get doesn't take away from that. Bond manages to keep up the level of suspense all the way to the end, and when all is finally resolved it is a satisfying ending.

   A novel isn't only driven by its story, it has to have characters that you care about in it. Bond has created some really great ones here. The main characters, Miranda Blackwood and Phillips Rawling, come very well to life. Miranda is the protagonist of the novel, she is very well drawn and manages to feel both familiar and original. That there's something special about Miranda and Phillips will not come as a surprise, but the way Bond presents them, it doesn't feel out of place but just as a natural part of who they are.
   The supporting characters are also very well done, and they come with their own stories. We may not get to see it, but they are so alive on the page that you just know it is there. Even Miranda's father, who frankly gives a cliched first impression is shown to be much more than that later in the novel.

   To sum up, this is really a great novel. It has a great supernatural suspense story at it's center, and the pacing of a good action-thriller. The Urban, or in this case rather Rural, Fantasy elements are suitably fantastic while still managing to be realistic. We get great characters whose story is a joy to follow, and who I wouldn't mind seeing again.
   Bond has written a Young Adult novel that shows the strengths of YA, and how good YA can be when done right. Despite not being anywhere near the YA age group I found this a great read, and I can recommend it to anyone who likes Urban/Contemporary Fantasy. 
   This is a great debut novel by Gwenda Bond, and it is a novel that deserves a place on the shelves of any Fantasy fan. And for those that are partial to Young Adult, this is a must buy.

NOTE: An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

22 August, 2012


Cover art: Cliff Nielsen
Cover design: Lauren Panepinto


ISBN: 978-0-316-043396-0
Pages: 384 (+appendix and extras)
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 3 November 2010

On the cover:

In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a strange homeless man on an impulse. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. And Oree's guest is at the heart of it...

   This is the second book in The Inheritance Trilogy.  Set ten years after the events at the end of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms this novel gives us a very different picture of the world this series is set in. In the previous volume we saw the world through royalty, and were mostly confined to one location, here our horizon is greatly expanded. Location wise we are still not travelling much, but we are in a much more diverse location - the city of Shadow, located underneath the palace of Sky from The Hundred Thousand kingdoms.
   Along with the change of location we also get a different perspective on the world. This time our point of view is through Oree Shoth who apart from being blind lives a completely ordinary existence in Shadow. I am not exactly giving away something when I tell you that the story of Oree here is far from ordinary though.

   Jemisin gives us a story that structurally is a pretty mundane tale, but the depth of the story combined with the worldbuilding transcend any such simplification when describing the novel.
   Gods are an integral part of the story in this volume also. But this time we are introduced to a lot more of them, and we get to learn much more of their history and daily life. It's really fascinating to learn more about the pantheon of gods, and the history behind them is definitely contributing to the depth of this story.
   There's also quite a bit about what those gods mean to the humans they live along, and how they have affected the daily life of humans. This element is very well done, and feels very realistic. Jemisin doesn't just throw the gods into the story, in many ways they are the story.

   We get lots of action in this novel, and it is quite fast paced. But there is also a lot of quieter periods in this book, and I felt that some of them were a bit too slow. Fortunately this was not a huge problem and it is really a very minor niggle. To be honest I don't think it would even be noticeable if not for the contrast to the very fast paced action and revelation sequences.
   Jemisin is great when making revelations that drive the story. There is several "wow moments" that to me came as a surprise, and it's very hard to begin to even guess where the story is going. We get some twists that are really surprising when it seems that the story is on a familiar track.

   The second book in a trilogy can often be somewhat on a let down, but that is not the case here. Jemisin follows up her debut with a novel that in my opinion is even better than the first, and once again shows she is a great writer.
   I'd really recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but I'd advice against starting here. Reading this without having read the first volume will make you loose a lot of the depth of the story. But this is a Fantasy trilogy you really shouldn't miss, so I will highly recommend you get the books if you haven't already.

REVIEW: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

LINKS: N. K. Jemisin  Orbit

19 August, 2012


  It's been a while since I did one of these posts. Anyway, here are some of the covers that have caught my eye recently.

   First up, the cover to The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women. I think this is a great cover, it captures the mood of a good ghost story perfectly, and it makes me want to get hold of the book.
   This anthology is edited by Marie O'Regan and is out from Constable & Robinson on 18 October. It contains 20 stories, and there are some great names among the authors.

   These two are the Tor UK covers for Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century novels (, Boneshaker will keep its US cover).
   They are quite different than the US covers, they are much more focused on the characters. And they actually fit better in with the Boneshaker covers than the US ones do. Whether you prefer the US or the UK covers, is a matter of personal taste. I like both versions.
   -You can find my reviews of Clockwork Century novels by here: Boneshaker, Dreadnought, Ganymede.

   This is the UK Orbit cover for David Brin's Existence. I like this cover, it's intriguing, and it makes me want to read the book to find out what is behind the image.
   Orbit are also revamping the covers to some of Brin's other books and you can look at them here.

   Another UK Orbit cover, this one for Act Three Jon Courtney Grimwood's Assassini series. It's a very nice cover, designed by Emma Graves. I like covers of this type in most cases, and I really like this one. In fact the only thing I don't like about it, is it reminds me that I haven't read any of the books, and from what I've heard I really should have.

   And again, this is a UK Orbit cover. This one for the latest Terry Brooks Shannara book. It's unashamedly  a traditional Fantasy cover, but it being a Brooks book that fits very well. I think it's a good cover, and I really like the dragon skull. You can take a look at how artist Stephen Youll made the cover here.

   Do any of these covers excite you, or put you off reading the books? Tell me in the comments.