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.

05 August, 2014

REVIEW: DOCTOR WHO: ENGINES OF WAR

Cover: Lee Binding/Woodlands Books Ltd

DOCTOR WHO:
ENGINES OF WAR

BY
GEORGE MANN

ISBN: 978-1-84990-848-1
Pages: 320
Publisher: BBC Books/Ebury Publishing
Published: 31 July 2014

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

“The death of billions is as nothing to us Doctor, if it helps defeat the Daleks.”

The Great Time War has raged for centuries, ravaging the universe. Scores of human colony planets are now overrun by Dalek occupation forces. A weary, angry Doctor leads a flotilla of Battle TARDISes against the Dalek stronghold but in the midst of the carnage, the Doctor’s TARDIS crashes to a planet below: Moldox.

As the Doctor is trapped in an apocalyptic landscape, Dalek patrols roam amongst the wreckage, rounding up the remaining civilians. But why haven’t the Daleks simply killed the humans?


Searching for answers the Doctor meets 'Cinder', a young Dalek hunter. Their struggles to discover the Dalek plan take them from the ruins of Moldox to the halls of Gallifrey, and set in motion a chain of events that will change everything. And everyone.


   This book isn't just a Doctor Who novel. This is our second ever look at the War Doctor. And there is no mistaking this for anything other than a war story. Although not so much a set battle one, more a small special forces engagement in a huge war. That's not to say there aren't any large engagements in this story, there is in fact some major battle action going on in these pages. The word Battle Tardis is used several times and it signals a quite different side of the Time Lords than the one we have been used to seeing. This is a glimpse into the much talked about Time War, and also our first look at how the War Doctor functions as the only Doctor Who in a story.

   I say only Doctor, because the War Doctor doesn't work on his own here. As you can see from the above cover cope he meets a young woman, Cinder. She's not a standard Doctor Who companion, but more of a battle comrade. Actually she does more fighting than the Doctor himself does in the course of this story. Cinder is an interesting person to get acquainted with, and she is a needed human insight into the story of the war between the Time Lords and their enemy the Daleks. 
   Mann avoids making Cinder a standard female Science Fiction warrior although she at times seems like she is about be one. There are some parts of her backstory that feels like it lacks a bit of originality. But let's be honest here, she really exists in this story as a companion rather than a totally separate character, and she is a very good companion. She can more than hold her own, and you feel that she really does have an effect on the Doctor.

   For me it isn't a completely new experience to read about a Doctor I hardly know anything about, but in this instance I share that with everyone else. We are actually getting a completely new Doctor here, at least in a solo adventure. It's sort of a strange experience meeting someone who is so familiar, and yet not quite the same as you are used to. This feeling struck me more than in the regenerations I have seen on TV. The lack of visual aids means that this incarnation of the Doctor is to a much larger degree dependant on how he acts rather than how he looks. 
   In my opinion, Mann has managed to give us a great second look at the War Doctor. We are only watching a short event in a long war here, but we get a good glimpse into what it is with this regeneration that formed those that came after it. It's not a hundred percent fully formed character we are presented with, but we still see enough that at the end of he novel you have a quite good idea of who the War Doctor is, and what makes him tick. It's a glimpse that whets the appetite, and I hope we will get to see more of this Doctor in the book universe in the years to come.

   The story is of course also important. There's no ignoring that it incorporates some elements that will be familiar to someone who is familiar with Doctor Who. I've already mentioned a new companion, in the shape of Cinder, and that the Daleks are the enemy is evident by a quick glance at the book's cover. There is however many elements that are not such a staple of a story about the Doctor. The immediately obvious one, and one that I have already mentioned, is that this is a war story. The Doctor starts out this story on a war footing, and we have no time spent of him figuring out his exact whereabouts, or what he is supposed to/can do where he is.
   From the above you'll probably gather that the  "discover phase" of a Doctor Who story is absent. For me that felt a bit strange, the finding out what is going on is a prologue I have become used to in the Doctor's stories. It does however become clear that this does not detract from the story at all. Being thrown into the action in the way we are makes for a plot that is action-loaded from the start, and it continues in that vein for most of its length.
   There is certainly some passages here that are more sedate in pace than a battlefield story, but they add more to the dread of war than anything else. We get to see what the Time Lords are like at war, and we see some sides to them that are very interesting.
   I won't go into what the Doctor ultimately ends up doing, but the way there is a good one. There is plenty of tension in what we are presented with. And there are some twists that keeps the level of suspense up throughout the novel.

   All in all this is a great first look at the War Doctor solo. Mann tells a really good story that has plenty to offer both Doctor Who fans and Science Fiction fans in general. I thought this was a great read, and would recommend it as a good starting point for anyone who hasn't read any Doctor Who. And if you ever have wondered about the Time War, there is no getting away from going out and getting this book.

NOTE: A US edition will be out 9 September 2014 from Broadway Books/Crown Publishing.




ANOTHER NOTE: I was provided an e-ARC of this book by the publisher through NetGalley.

REVIEWS: You can find my other Doctor Who reviews here.

LINKS: George Mann   Ebury Publishing

30 June, 2014

REVIEW: SAVAGE


SAVAGE
BY
GARY FRY

Pages: 66
Publisher: DarkFuse
Published: 10 June 2014

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

Driving home one day from a conference, Daryl seeks a shortcut through a barren countryside. He chances upon a mysterious village whose residents seem rather odd. But they have something to show him—a creature so strange he can hardly believe it exists.

And that's only the beginning of Daryl's problems, as he seeks to escape something far worse than he can ever imagine.

Something utterly horrific and extremely savage.


   This novella begins with an established Horror trope. You know, the one where someone gets lost and finds themselves in a place that is both surreal and eerie. Interestingly enough, to me at least, this happens in Yorkshire, where I moved four months ago. Although I live a little bit from where this is happening, I am familiar with the type of location this is set in.
   Tropes aren't something that are inherently bad, although for some reason they are often talked about as if that was the case, and in this case Fry does use it to good effect. It doesn't really transcend the trope it starts out with though, although it does tweak the story such that it moves in a slightly unfamiliar direction.

   Fry does a very good job at building the atmosphere of the novella. Mostly he does so through the main character, Daryl, a character we learn a lot about in a short timespan. Daryl is an excellent protagonist for a story like this, and the author has made a very good choice in who he lets us see what unfolds through. It's unclear whether Daryl is shaped by the story, or the story shaped by Daryl, he is just a so good fit that the distinction between the two gets pointless to me. I'll leave it with the character and story perfectly complement each other.

   I already mentioned that the story makes some tweaks to the trope it uses. I found those to be both refreshing and unsettling. Unsettling in the way that it does somewhat mess with your preconceptions. The way it doesn't quite turn how you expect it to makes the story a bit unreal. It just feels like it is not quite right, it just doesn't do what you thought it would.
   Of course that feeling of unease is a plus for a Horror story, and it heightens the feeling of unease and suspense that the story conveys. but it was a little bit distracting at times for me. Not the fault of the author, but a disconnect between the story and my preconceptions about how this trope will move.
   The only slightly weak point in this story is the ending. It felt a little unsatisfying to me. It is not a bad ending, it was just that the rest of the story gave me expectations of something a little bit more than what I got.

   Overall, this is a good read. It accomplishes both creating a great atmosphere and letting us get very close to the main character in a very short time. It does also tell a nice little Rural Horror story that manages to be unsettling in both its familiarity and unfamiliarity.
   If you want a quick Horror read that makes good use of a familiar trope, I can recommend picking this up. It is a tale that is well worth spending a little time with.

NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this from the publisher/NetGalley

LINKS:  Gary Fry   DarkFuse

26 June, 2014

REVIEW: Mr MERCEDES

Cover photo* by Caras Ionut

Mr MERCEDES
BY
STEPHEN KING

ISBN: 978-1-444-78862-4
Pages: 405
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 3 June 2014

On the cover:

A riveting cat-and-mouse suspense thriller about a retired cop and a couple of unlikely allies who race against time to stop a lone killer intent on blowing up thousands.

Retired homicide detective Bill Hodges is haunted by the few cases he left open, and by one in particular: in the pre-dawn hours hundreds of desperate people were lined up for a spot at a jobs fair in the distressed Midwestern city were he worked. Without warning, a lone driver ploughed through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes. Eight people were killed, fifteen wounded. The Killer escaped.

Months later, on the other side of the city, Bill Hodges gets a taunting letter in the mail, from a man claiming to be the perpetrator. Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing that from happening.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. And he is preparing to kill again.

Hodges, with a couple of misfit friends, must apprehend the killer in a high-stakes race against time. Because Brady's next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim hundreds, even thousands.


   This novel has more in common with King's Hard Case Crime novel Joyland than with most of his other novels. That is to say it is a Crime novel, unashamedly so. (Although it is easy at this point to argue that Stephen King Novel is really it's own literary subgenre.) If you have read Joyland, you will be well aware that King can pull of an excellent Crime novel when he tries. He certainly makes an effort to do so here.

   At first glance there is not much that is new here. The detective coming out of retirement to solve a large case is not exactly a new invention when it comes to Crime. There are some fresh elements in this novel though, mostly his two helpers. The first one, Jerome, seems at first to be a token Computer Whiz Kid, but he turns out to have a much larger part in what is to enfold than what can be suspected from our first meeting with him. The second one, Holly, -well- it's hard to say much about her without giving anything away. It will have to suffice to say that she is hardly a typical character, she has greater complexity than most "sidekicks".
   Bill himself is perhaps closer to the faulty Noir Crime detective, but he has something extra to him too. And his role in the final showdown is certainly a novel one, and it comes with its own share of suspense as to where we will see the character end up.

   There is one point at which this novel is much the same as other King novels, it has King's trademark build-up. We really get to know the characters and their situations. Here that includes Brady, the titular character - and the story's villain. In some ways it is Brady that we come closest too, it is him that we get the most intimate details about. He is never sympathetic though, King tells his story without making you feel sorry for him.
   This means that there is absolutely no suspense in who the killer is, but there doesn't need to be any either. It is not what the narrative is going for, and I can't see that this story would be improved by not knowing who the heroes are looking for.

   The paragraphs above makes for four main characters, which could be a bit much if every character got the same space. There is however a focus on Brady and Bill. We do not get to see much from other viewpoints, and neither do we have to. Aside from these four there are several other characters in supporting roles, they are all well realised. King once again shows us he can do very good characters, and let us get really close to them as we follow their story.
   One character did however cause a problem for me, that character is Janey. She is absolutely a good character, and she does come off as someone you would like to spend time with. However there is a part of her story that I felt was a bit cheap. Too easy, and not really up to the standard of the rest of the book. (It will be obvious what I mean if you read the book.) I don't really know if what I am talking about could be done differently without changing other events around, but what happened did feel like a bit of a letdown. This did not majorly effect my experience though,  it just made it a little less of a perfect novel.

   When it comes to the level of suspense, King is masterful as always. The novel starts out with a tense and eerie prologue. After that the tension soon starts to build gradually. By the time you get towards the end of the book you'll most likely be on tenterhooks. The last one hundred pages almost left me breathless. At that point the level of suspense is off the charts. This might not be Horror, but it doesn't really hold back in creating the feeling the constant reader will be familiar with from king's other work.

   To sum up, I found this to be an excellent King novel. Apart from the small flaw mentioned above, there is nothing wrong here in my opinion. This should be excellent reading for any Crime fan, and I will also recommend this highly to King's SFF fans. It is simply a wonderfully told story that should appeal to anyone who wants some suspense when they sit down to read.

_____

* The cover of the edition I have is actually a special cover only available in-store at UK's WH Smith High Street stores. It has a colour difference, and looks like this: 


STEPHEN KING REVIEW INDEX.

LINKS: Stephen King   Hodder & Stoughton   Hodderscape

18 June, 2014

GIVEAWAY WINNER.

   The giveaway is over. I took the entries and assigned them each a number, and then put it through a random number generator. The winner is:

MIHAI

   I have been in contact with him on e-mail, and the book will be on its way to him this week.


   I've been a bit quiet lately. The reason is that I haven't had much time lately. And what I have had has been flying past. I'll have some reviews up starting tomorrow. For those that have been waiting for reviews; I am sorry for the delay. They will be coming up shortly.

06 June, 2014

A QUICK REMINDER: GIVEAWAY

   Since I haven't gotten many entries, I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone that I have a giveaway going. You can read all about it here. It will be going until midnight 14 April. I'm afraid it is open for Europe only, but if you live in Europe, please enter!

   I've been a bit quiet on the blog the last two weeks, but will have more stuff up from Tuesday. Upcoming reviews include: Mr Mercedes by Stephen King, The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem, and Best British Horror 2014 edited by Johnny Mains.

   Have a good weekend everyone!

03 June, 2014

REVIEW: BANISHED

Cover design by Jo Thomson using Shutterstock images.

BANISHED
THE BLACKHART LEGACY: BOOK ONE
BY
LIZ DE JAGER

ISBN: 978-4472-4765-4
Pages: 387
Publisher: Tor UK
Published: 27 February 2014

On the cover:

A Blackhart's Calling:
to banish evil and hold back the night

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she's living with her unorthodox cousins and sharing their strange lives. Especially since their home-schooling includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons.

But it's not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn's enemies.

As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves - it's that or lose everyone she's learnt to love.


   What do you get if you cross Urban Fantasy, Fairy Tale retelling, Lovecraftian Elder Gods, and add a bit of romance? Well, if you are Liz de Jager you'd have the mix necessary to write a great book.

   After a very nice introduction to our main character, Kit Blackheart, we quickly learn about how special she is. This may give you a moments pause, it did for me, there are a lot of characters that have something special about them or who outright are the chosen one in modern Urban Fantasy/Portal Fantasy. (Harry Potter arguably belongs to that "slash"-genre.) Actually, that is an unnecessary worry. It didn't take long before I completely forgot about it, and it doesn't come into play in that sense in the story.
   Kit is nowhere near a carbon copy chosen one, she comes across as a fully formed person that isn't necessarily the brightest, strongest, fastest, etc. in the room. And that made her all the better in my opinion. Even though she is not an average young woman, she is very relateable. She seems like the sort of person you will meet at some point in your life, someone who despite what makes her special is not too far removed from someone you might meet in your local bookshop.
   This is the type of Fantasy that demands good characters, and de Jager handles characters very well. Kit isn't the only one that feels very real, all of them comes vividly to life on the page. Even the villains of this story are really fleshed out, and although their motives are definitely otherworldly they make perfect sense in context. Something I feel is a necessity for immersion into Fantasy, and something de Jager delivers on.

   Characters aren't everything in Urban Fantasy/Portal Fantasy, and once you are satisfied they are up to scratch (, which they certainly are here), what you usually look at is the setting. The Fae world as a setting predates Fantasy as a genre, and it takes a deft touch to use it without it feeling stale. De Jager manages it with aplomb though. It's clear that she has done her research, but she has made her own spin on the source material, the myths and Fairy Tales, and made a world of her own that feels fresh to the reader.
   Infodumping can sometimes be a problem in Fantasy, de Jager manages to avoid it by integrating it very well into the text. A lot of information is passed to the reader in conversations and other character interactions, but it always flows very well and never feels like showing off the structural supports of the story. Some extra bits are left for chapter introductions, and I really liked those. They give lots of interesting little snippets of information that feels like garnish on a good meal.

   So far I've spent a lot of time on the framework the story is built on, the characters and their world, time to move on to the story itself. It's a really fast-paced one. Not that it always moves along at break-neck pace, because it doesn't. There are some passages where we get to know the characters, and discover what is really going on. Those passages are however far from boring. However de Jager has a tendency to drip feed things, and I did get impatient at times. Although I have to stress that it wasn't the bad impatience, but the good type where you just have to keep reading to see what will happen next.
   I said above that this was fast-paced, and there is a lot going on. At times there is so much happening that it leaves you almost breathless. Fortunately de Jager manages to steer the reader through events with a deft hand. Even when there is a multitude of things happening at once the author manages to keep it focused so that it never gets confusing. Tension levels are high throughout, and there are some cliff-hangers that does not make stopping reading a real option. The last quarter of the book is not a good place to take a break from reading, you'll probably need to know how it will end at that point - I did.

   This is an excellent Urban Fantasy novel, especially for those that like a helping of Fairy Tale in their Fantasy. Kit Blackhart is an excellent main character, and the supporting cast are also a joy to get to know. Add in great worldbuilding and a fast-paced story that refuses to let the reader go, and you have the ingredients for what is in my opinion a must-read for fans of both Contemporary Fantasy and Fairy Tale retellings.
   De Jager's debut leaves you with an appetite for more. I am certainly looking forward to the next volume in The Blackhart Legacy.

LINKS: Liz de Jager  PanMacmillan (Tor UK)  Tor UK Blog
  

28 May, 2014

NO AMAZON BUY-LINKS IN 2015.

   Well, this isn't an idea that came to me during the latest incidence of Amazon behaving like a fucktard. It is something I have been thinking about for a long time, since Amazon bought Goodreads. I was planning to write this post last year, with a call to remove all Amazon buy links in 2014. But for several reasons I was delayed, and I wanted to give people time to remove their links.
   This is an experiment, or a challenge if you will, to show that Amazon is dependent upon people linking directly to their buy-pages. I honestly think that the biggest convenience with shopping at Amazon is that you get a constant barrage of direct links to buy-pages. Consumers are fickle creatures, and I think that it will not take very long for them to get used to shopping elsewhere. And I have myself witnessed things online that make me think that quite a lot of people shop at Amazon out of laziness, and I think those people would be happy to shop anywhere as long as they get a direct link to a buy page.

   First, I'll tell you what I have observed. The events that made me think that the buy-links put out there by readers, reviewers, and others are what gives Amazon its convenience.* I said I started thinking about this when Amazon bought Goodreads. Actually that was just the catalyst for thoughts that started some time earlier.
   My first real experience with Amazon buy-buttons came in late 2010-early 2011. At that time quite a lot of people in the SFF blogosphere were removing their Amazon buy-links in favour of ones linking to The Book Depository. It seemed at the time to be a real popular movement, and it looked like it could make The Book Depository a real competitor to Amazon. That didn't happen of course, in July 2011 Amazon announced they were buying The Book Depository.**
   Let's skip forwards about two years, to late 2012-early 2013.*** Goodreads had some disagreement with Amazon. As far as I could tell at the time it was about Amazon wanting them to be the first link showing up on the books's pages. Goodreads disagreed, and Amazon forced Goodreads to remove all data sourced from them.****Goodreads went on without Amazon being the first linked store on a book's pages. And then in April 2013 Goodreads announced that Amazon had bought them.*****

   When it was announced that Goodreads had had a disagreement with Amazon, a lot of people on Goodreads where very happy they didn't back down when Amazon started making demands. There was however a quite vocal group that were pissed at Goodreads. This group were Amazon customers, mostly Kindle owners from what I saw.
   Incredibly, some of them were complaining that they had to scroll down to find the Amazon link. And that is when the thought that had been forming in the back of my mind since Amazon bought The Book Depository leaped out: People find it easy to shop at Amazon because they get direct links.
   Once I'd had that thought, I couldn't really help going to the next step: The loss of buy-links was part of Amazon's decision to buy both The Book Depository and Goodreads. I have absolutely no evidence for that though, and the only way to prove I am right is to remove all Amazon buy-links. Which is what I am suggesting.

   Yes, you got it right, I want there to be no direct links to buy pages on Amazon. I suggest it now so everyone has time to remove them before 1 January 2015. And if people start removing the links now, and talking about why, I think most readers will be used to it come the New Year.

   I am aware of how people think they are dependent on Amazon to sell books, but as said above, I think Amazon's convenience is its buy-links. I do not think the average reader who shops online will take long to adjust to links leading elsewhere. And as an extension of that, shopping for books elsewhere. There might be a small short-time loss, but I think it will be survivable for everyone. With the blow back Amazon's behavior is getting, it might even turn out that those who want to shop elsewhere if it is made easy by having links to other stores outnumber those that will only shop at Amazon. And let's face it, with tablets making dedicated e-readers more or less obsolete, few reader are really locked into Amazon's e-book format.

   I'll end with making this challenge to everyone in the SFF community. Do not link directly to Amazon buy-pages in 2015. Link to other stores, or if you are an author/publisher to where the book is available to buy on your own site.

   P.S You might notice that there are no buy-links at all on my blog. There is two reasons for that. The first is I want to be a neutral reporter, to have what is referred to as journalistic integrity. ****** Linking to a single store can be construed as "textual advertising" (, or whatever the English expression is), you are sending your readers to a market. At its most basic it is advertising.
   The second is that to have buy-links and be neutral, you'd have to link to all sellers. One minute of thinking gave me ten online shops in Norway. How many thousand there is around the world I don't know, but more than enough that it is very impractical to link to them all.

_____

* I will be focusing on books, since that is what I have been observing for the past six years online.

** I think that allowing that purchase to go through was a huge mistake by the regulatory authorities. Ideally they should make amends by forcing Amazon to sell it.

*** Sorry for not giving accurate dates on everything. I simply do not have the time to spend on as much research as I would like to do.

**** I am a Goodreads Librarian, and a call went out to manually add all the lost data. A lot of people put in a lot of work to do that. -Interestingly, most of my activity as a Goodreads Librarian was correcting erroneous information that people had gotten from Amazon...

***** Apparently the purchase of The Book Depository was announced on 4 July, while the Goodreads announcement cam 1 April. Not exactly dates you'd chose if you wanted attention to what you were saying.

****** My father just retired after being a journalist in Norway since before I was born. So I know how a journalist is supposed to behave. Granted, less and less journalists behave that way these days, but that's no excuse not to keep to those ideals.

23 May, 2014

COVER REVEAL ROUND-UP (XXVII)

   This is a special cover for me. It is the cover for my girlfriend's debut novel. it will be out from Fox Spirit in July 2014, at EdgeLit in Derby. I've seen earlier incarnations of this cover,. Not much has changed, but I think the final version is the best one. I might be a bit biased this time, but I think it is a great cover. You can see the full wraparound underneath.




   This is the final book in the trilogy, and it will be out 10 February 2015 from Orbit. I think it is a very good cover. It does somewhat evoke Historical Fiction, but as the period is so late that only makes it stand out more in the SFF section of the bookstore. I actually bought the first book in the trilogy because the cover made me take a closer look at the book, and this nicely fits in with that. (Which makes me think that this cover is also designed by Lauren Panepinto with illustration by Michael Frost and Gene Mollica.)


   Another third book, this one coming 23 September 2014 from Thomas Dunne Books. The design here screams "East Asia", while the art says "Anime". I think this is an interesting one, and one that is likely to divide people's opinion. I've not read any of the books, but from what I have read about them this seems to be a good cover. Personally I like the art, it is a nice image.


   Art by Alejandro Colucci adorns this book, coming from Solaris in August 2015. I've had a few of Colucci's covers in these posts earlier, and they are always excellent. There's really nothing else to say, it is a great piece of art.


   This is the cover for Gollancz's Fantasy Masterworks edition of this famous Fantasy novel. It will be out in November 2014. The design is by Graeme Langorne and the art by Grzegorz Donaradzki. I think it is a lovely cover, both the art and design are great. It makes me want to re-read the book, and maybe I'll get this edition to do so as mine is still in storage back in Norway.


   Another re-issue from Gollancz, this time in their SF Masterworks series. From what I could see online this is collection that had its only publication in 1990. The cover is a really eyecatching and intriguing one. I think it is a very good piece of cover art. Certainly makes me want to get hold of this when it comes out 10 July 2014.


   This book will be out 25 February 2015 from Tor. The cover is by Will Staehle, and you can read about how it was made here. I quite like Staehle's covers, and I also like maps. So it should then come as no great surprise that I really like this cover.


   This will be out 16 September 2014 from Mullholland Books. I usually only do SFF books here, but I thought I'd me a rare exception for this Crime novel because the author is most known for his SFF. It's actually a strangely simple cover. I  have trouble deciding what I think of it. I'm not sure if it is good because it is cut down to basic, or if its basicness makes it look cheap.


   And finally a book that will be out 14 October 2014 from Orbit. This really screams Military SF, booth in image and title. What you think of it will probably be dependent on what you think of that SFF subgenre. Apart from feeling that I have seen this cover on a Military SF book at some earlier point I don't think there is anything wrong with this.

22 May, 2014

REVIEW: MYTHS AND LEGENDS: WIZARDS

Cover illustration: Mark Stacey

MYTHS AND LEGENDS:
WIZARDS
FROM MERLIN TO FAUST
BY
DAVID & LESLEY McINTEE
Illustrated by
Mark Stacey

ISBN:  978-1-47280-339-9
Pages: 80
Publisher: Osprey
Published: 20 May 2014

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

From the wise and mysterious soothsayer with his long grey beard to the deathless necromancer practicing his dark magics in a forgotten dungeon, wizards have captured our imaginations since the earliest days of human storytelling, presenting us with some of our greatest heroes and villains. This book collects the tales of the most interesting, popular, and important spell-casters, including such legendary figures as Merlin, Simon Magus, Zhang Guo Lao, Nicolas Flamel, Dr John Dee, and Johann Georg Faust, and examines their place in history and legend. Written in modern language, each tale captures the drama, the tragedy, and the wonderment that has ensured that these stories have survived the passing centuries.


   Despite what you might think at first glance, this book is neither Fantasy or about Fantasy. It is a short introduction to people who have been called wizards through history. That by no means that it is not of interest to fans of Fantasy though, they'll find some stories in this book that will be right up their alley.

    This book starts early, with Ancient Egypt and moves through history before ending with famous names John Dee and Johann Georg Faust. At the length it is it is more of a series of snapshot than a comprehensive guide to wizards, but this is very fulfilling as it is. There are some famous names among those covered, Merlin being the most obvious but I think Nicolas Flamel might not be far behind in the fame stakes because of his association with a certain fictional boy wizard.
   I am actually more interested in the names I have not heard, or have heard just mentioned, and most people will find those here. I was especially pleased to see that there is  several non-Europeans mentioned.

   Above I pointed out that Harry Potter is a fictional wizard, and I have said that this is a book about history. It is, this is a Non-Fiction book. Everything in here is fact, or have at least at one point been considered facts. We may look at the stories in here as myths and legends, but it is that they were believed to be true that fascinates me. And who knows, some of them might be, I wasn't there when the events they tell of happened.
   The stories are really interesting in themselves, and they give a fascinating insight into belief through the ages. But the stories don't really fall apart when the authors presents the factual accounts of the people in them. (Or the facts as we understand them. New evidence changes how we look at history all the time.) That some of these characters are important historical figures is something that will never cease to fascinate me.

    Lesley and David McIntee writes a compelling Non-Fictional narrative. This book is written in an easily accessible style, and the text flows nicely. There's no disconnect with the retelling of old myths and legends and the factual pieces that end each persons part. As far as Non-Fiction goes, this is one of those short volumes that are easy to pick up, and get through.
   This book is illustrated throughout, not only by the credited Mark Stacey, who has done some excellent work but also with different historical images, and even some pictures. The illustrations complement the text very well, and they make for an even more enjoyable reading experience.

   I don't really have any complaints about this book. It does what it sets out to do in a very good way. I came away with some new knowledge, something I always see as a good thing, and I read some fascinating stories. This could be used as pure entertainment for those that are so inclined, Fantasy fans is advised to take a look. But what it is, and what it works best as, is a short introduction to the historical figures that have been known as wizards. This is an excellent starting point for those that want to find out about where Gandalf and Dumbledore have their roots. And it will be an excellent read for all ages.

   If I was to make a couple of wishes (, that don't reflect in any way on this book) , it would be that Osprey does another volume that covers the modern Mages, like Waite and Crowley, and it would be nice to have a volume similar to this about witches.

REVIEW: Myths and Legends: Robin Hood

LINKS: David McIntee  Osprey

20 May, 2014

REVIEW: REAPING THE DARK


REAPING THE DARK
BY
GARY McMAHON

Pages: 74
Publisher: DarkFuse
Published: 20 May 2014

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

A streetwise getaway driver…

A drug raid that ends in bloodshed…

A violent criminal hell-bent on revenge…

A secret order of occultists…

And something summoned from the darkest depths of nightmare.

Who will survive this long, dark night, and how will it change them? And what kind of horror will be born from the chaos left behind?

If the old adage is true and we reap what we sow, then only evil can be unleashed by Reaping the Dark.


   The prologue is your clue here. After that it seems like just another Heist Gone Wrong story for well over half the story's length. So let's deal with that part of the novella first.
   McMahon introduces us to Clarke, a getaway driver for a small gang robbing a drug deal. Things inevitably go wrong, this is how the story starts. We get an excellent Noir tale of the aftermath of the botched robbery in the opening of part one. This is Crime Noir fiction at its best. The dark underbelly of  a modern city is given us without any polishing, and the protagonist shows himself to be considerably less than an angel himself. The atmosphere is excellent, you can see a vivid picture of the grimy locations and really get a sense of unease as we learn what kind of life Clarke is leading.

   The tension is high in the first part of the novella, but when everything shifts to a Horror direction it is cranked up several notches. The tension from the Horror aspect doesn't completely overshadow that from the Crime Noir. Instead they feed off each other and amplify it to an almost unbearable level. This is simply a very tense read.
   When the story "switches tracks" it is almost disappointing that the game is given away by the prologue. But only almost. It struck me a little bit after finishing that some of the tension of the first half or so is actually created by what we learn in the prologue. McMahon has given us a little teaser, and then he makes us wau\it for a long time to see what is coming. Seen in retrospect it is excellently done, and it makes the Horror payoff all the more satisfying when it comes.

   I won't say much about the ending except that it does play on a familiar (, to me at least,) Urban Myth in a way that does not feel cheap. It does in some way make for an easy explanation, but when it comes it simply feels like it was the natural explanation.
   The very end of the story, before the epilogue, is excellent and chilling. It is not wholly unexpected, but it still packs a powerful punch.

   Overall this is an excellent novella that manages to create a near perfect blend of Crime Noir and Horror. It is not a very short story, but it comes with all the fat trimmed off. At no point do you feel like words are wasted.
   I will say that I think this is a novella that can be picked up by fans of both Horror and Crime Noir, and they will get a satisfying read. It is also a story I would not hesitate to recommend to any fan of SFF or Crime. McMahon has simply written a great novella that will give you a tension-filled and satisfying hour or two.

NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this from the publisher/NetGalley

LINKS: Gary McMahon   DarkFuse

16 May, 2014

COVER REVEAL ROUND-UP (XXVI)

   First up, this cover has art by Richard Anderson. The book is the first in the series, and it is coming from Angry Robot 2 September 2014 in North America and E-book/ 4 September 2014 in the UK. I really like this image. It is a style I like, and it is really eye catching. It is somewhat reminiscent of 1990s Heavy Metal. I mean that in a good way, because this makes me want to get hold of the book.


   Last time I did the cover to the first book in the Marakand, this is the cover to the second one ( ,it's a two book series,) - also with art by Raymond Swanland. It will be out in December 2014 from PYR. I said last time that I was a fan the cover to the first volume, but I actually think this is even better. This is simply an excellent image.


   This is the cover for a movie novelisation, out in early 2015 from Gollancz. You can read a lot more about the book, and the movie, on Gollancz's blog. This cover drew me in immediately. To be frank though, I'm not sure I am as excited about the novelisation is I am about the movie, but this looks really good.


   This Horror novel will be out from Solaris in October 2014. It is done by Pye Parr, and you can read the author's thoughts about the book, accompanied by a slightly earlier draft of the cover, here. I like this. It's one of those pared down and stylish covers that work very well. Nice 3-D effect with the lightbulb too.


   Artwork by Kenn Brown adorns this omnibus coming from DAW, coming 2 September 2014. The author talks about the cover (, and you can see the original individual ones, ) here. I liked this cover immediately, even before I had any clue as to what the book was about (, other than it being SFF). It's an interesting image that compels you to take a closer look at the book behind it.


   10 March 2015 is the release date for this novel from Orbit. I've confessed earlier in these posts that I like the traditional style Science Fiction covers. There is absolutely no reason to make any exception for this one. It's a Science Fiction novel with a spaceship on the cover. I like that.


    Out from Solaris 9 October 2014 we have this anthology. That is some great dragons. Anthology covers are usually pretty generic for what the anthology is supposed to cover. This one differs somewhat from many of those it could be compared to, and I think that will make it stand out. I also like this image a lot, there's enough detail here to keep you looking for more than a few seconds.


   Will Staehle made this cover for a 26 August 2014 North America and E-book/ 4 September 2014 UK release from Angry Robot. The artist talks about the cover over on Tor.com. The image is a very nice one, cleverly done. I like the effect with the bullets and casings. It is a bit too bright though for my tastes, a little bit too much white.


   Robbie Trevino is the artist behind this one. The image has been reworked from last years Hardcover release for a paperback release from Night Shade Books 1 July 2014. The author talks about his thought about the changes here. This is an action-snapshot cover, and a very good one. The image comes more into its own here than on the HC, and I also like the design a bit better. I also can't help wondering what happens in the next second or two after what we can see here...


   Finally, we have another paperback edition. This one is coming July 2014 from Tor UK. According to the author this will be gold foiled and supermatt finished. (Do ask Mark about his feelings on supermatt finish on Twitter.) I seriously doubt it's a coincidence that we can see the name C.J. Sansom on this cover. It does resemble Pan Macmillan's Sansom covers. For me that is absolutely not a minus. I would definitely pick this up if I saw this cover, I think it's a great one.

15 May, 2014

GIVEAWAY: AMOK: ASIA-PACIFIC SPECULATIVE FICTION


   Time for the first giveaway on this blog. The reason I'm having this giveaway is pretty simple, my girlfriend is one of the authors in the anthology. So, I have one copy of the book available for a giveaway. Because of postage costs it's restricted to the EU and EFTA (EEA + Switzerland).  The way to enter is pretty simple, just send me an e-mail at the address on the top of the right-hand sidebar of this page, with the subject "Amok Giveaway"*.
   The giveaway is open until 23.59.59 BST (British Summer Time) 14 June. After that I will use a random number selector to choose a winner. Only one entry per person. (You can however enter the giveaway over on Jo's blog if you want to double your chance of winning.

   Since you may be a bit curious as to what you have a chance of winning if you enter, here is the cover and full cover copy of the anthology:

In an anthology that spans from India in the west to Hawai‘i in the east, and as far south as Australia and New Zealand, 24 authors bring you an exciting range of tales set in the past, present, and future.

Discover characters like the Moon Rabbit from Chinese mythology, a kitsune from Japanese mythology, and the aswang from Filipino 

mythology.

Find out what arises when a struggling Malaysian student seeks help for her studies in Chinatown, and what happens when the garbage in the Pacific Ocean is seen as a valuable treasure.

Futures imagined stretch from amazing advances in technology to depressing dystopias.

Read these stories and so many more in Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction.

You can find a full list of the authors, and links to where to buy the book
on its Goodreads page. The publisher's website is here.

*The winner will be contacted via the e-mail they used to enter the giveaway for an address to send the book to. If the winner does not answer a new draw will be made. E-mails will be saved until a draw is made and the winner has given me an address to send the book to, after that all the e-mails will be deleted. The e-mail addresses of any who enter will not be shared with anyone, and I will not send any e-mail to anyone but the winner. Should you wish to subscribe to this site's posts via e-mail, you can do that in the right-hand sidebar. You can contact me (Ole/Weirdmage) at the same e-mail address as used for the competition entries.

REVIEW: MYTHS AND LEGENDS: ROBIN HOOD

Cover illustration: Peter Dennis

MYTHS AND LEGENDS:
ROBIN HOOD
BY
NEIL SMITH
Illustrated by:
Peter Dennis

 ISBN: 978-1-47280-125-8
Pages: 80
Publisher: Osprey
Published: 21 January 2014

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

He robbed from the rich to give to the poor, or so the legend goes. But who was the outlaw known as Robin Hood? How did his legend develop, and how has it changed over the passing centuries? This new title in the Osprey Myths and Legends series takes a detailed look at the famous outlaw, beginning with a retelling of the early ballads that established his stories. From there, the book explores how the legend grew and how famous names such as Little John, Friar Tuck, Maid Marian, and Alan-a-Dale became associated with Robin Hood. It also enters the perilous world of Robin Hood scholarship with a critical analysis of the case for a ‘historical’ Robin Hood and a review of the mostly likely candidates. A perfect primer for young and old alike, this book covers both the fact and the fiction of Britain’s most famous outlaw.
 

   The last book about Robin Hood I read was fiction. (This is one of twelve books in that series.) That was about 25 years ago. I've read articles about Robin Hood since then, and of course seen films. (The best film is still the one with Errol Flynn.)

   This book is divided into four sections; The Legend of Robin Hood, The Myth of Robin Hood, Robin Hood's World, and The Modern Myth. The first one is the earliest legends, while the second one deals with what has been added since then. The Third section is about the historical evidence, and we end with Robin Hood in films and TV.
   It became obvious early on that I knew very little about the origins of the stories about Robin Hood. (Part of that has without a doubt to do with me being Norwegian.) I found the look into how the legends looked at the beginning absolutely fascinating.

   When you get into the myths, the terrain became more familiar but it was clear that I still had massive holes in my knowledge. It was very interesting to me to get a look at how the story of Robin Hood has evolved over the centuries. And you can certainly understand why Disney opted to not use the original material when they made their animated movie. I think most people will be surprised when they look at how Robin Hood acted in the early tales told about him.
   What I really found fascinating, and I think that others will too, is how recent much of what we take for granted when it comes to Robin Hood really is. We get a clear picture here of how popular culture can form our view of traditional stories.

   The writing is excellent throughout. Smith writes in a very clear, and manages to be very informative without ever getting dry. This is something that can easily be read by the younger generations, as well as their parents and grandparents.
   We get excellent illustrations throughout. Both from the credited Peter Dennis, and earlier examples. Dennis also has a few essays accompanying some of the illustrations, and I found those to be a great addition to the book.

   This may not be a very thick book, but it is pretty comprehensive. It covers a lot of material in few pages, and is great for quick reference. While it may not offer anything new to those who want an in-depth look at the myths and legends surrounding Robin Hood, it offers a lot to people like me who have an interest in Robin Hood but who have never taken the time to look any deeper. There's also a good bibliography at the back, with mostly newer works that should be easy to find for those that want to look further after reading this.
   I highly recommend this to those who want to look at Robin Hood a bit deeper than just popular culture. And it will also be well worth a look for those that are interested in how legends evolve.

NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this from the publisher/NetGalley.

LINKS: Osprey

13 May, 2014

JURY DUTY: I AM ON A BRITISH FANTASY AWARDS JURY

   The list of jurors for this years British Fantasy Awards is out, and my name is on it. I will be one of three people on the jury for the Best Collection Award. That means that I will have to read for the award, specifically the collections that have been voted to be on the awards shortlist. (This should not affect my blogging. But I will refrain from reviewing anything that is on the shortlist, at least in the foreseeable future.)
   
   I see some familiar names on the juries of the other categories, among them Jo Thomas - who is my girlfriend. (We do not talk about the awards. I have no idea who is nominated for best novella, and I haven't told her who is nominated for best collection.)  Below is the full list of jurors, as presented here:

Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award)
Gary Couzens
Laurel Sills
Matthew Hughes
Neil Williamson
Selina Lock

Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award)
Cate Gardner
Jim McLeod
Mark West
Pauline Morgan
Thana Niveau

Best Novella
Aleksandra Kesek
Jo Thomas
Paul Holmes

Best Short Story
David Tallerman
Matthew Hughes
Pauline Morgan

Best Anthology
Carole Johnstone
Gary Couzens
Matthew Hughes

Best Collection
Matthew Hughes
Ole Andreas Imsen
Pauline Morgan

Best Small Press
Dave Brzeski
Elaine Hillson
Elloise Hopkins
Rachel Kendall
Rhian Bowley

Best Comic/Graphic Novel
Jay Eales
Jennie Gyllblad
P.M. Buchan

Best Artist
Jennie Gyllblad
P.M. Buchan
Rachel Kendall

Best Non-Fiction
Djibril al-Ayad
Emma Newman
Jason Arnopp

Best Magazine/Periodical
Aleksandra Kesek
Donna Bond
Jim McLeod

Best Film/Television Episode
Adrian Faulkner
Catherine Hill
Gary Couzens

Best Newcomer (the Sydney J. Bounds Award)
Douglas Thompson
Ian Hunter
Lizzie Barrett

12 May, 2014

REVIEW: THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE


THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE
BY
PHILIP K. DICK

ISBN: 978-0-57508-205-2*
Pages: 248
Publisher: Gollancz
First published: October 1962
This edition published: [2001]*

On the cover:

(From the publisher's website.)

It is 1962 and the Second World War has been over for seventeen years: people have now had a chance to adjust to the new order. But it's not been easy. The Mediterranean has been drained to make farmland, the population of Africa has virtually been wiped out and America has been divided between the Nazis and the Japanese. In the neutral buffer zone that divides the two superpowers lives the man in the high castle, the author of an underground bestseller, a work of fiction that offers an alternative theory of world history in which the Axis powers didn't win the war. The novel is a rallying cry for all those who dream of overthrowing the occupiers. But could it be more than that?


   To start this review I have to address something that I haven't seen anybody else do, namely the racism of the text. I am not talking about the racism of the story, I am talking about the racism displayed by the author's choices in how he represents the Japanese in the book.

   I first read this book about 15 years ago, and at the time I found some passages of the text annoying. It's actually what stood out for me when I thought about the book later. The passages in question is when the Japanese speak. They do so in halting, stilted, English that is obviously meant to be directly translated from Japanese. I am very familiar with that from doing I-Ching myself, so I just found it annoying because it is totally unnecessary. However when I re-read the book late last year, leading to this review, I was on the lookout for this. I was also reading in a far more analytical manner than I did when I read it for fun the first time I read it.

   Like I said above, I am familiar with the way Japanese speech is presented in the book through I-Ching. If you see a US movie where someone is mimicking an Asian character's speech to poke fun of them you'll have an idea of how it is presented.
   To be honest I tried to come up with a reason for this not to be racist. I loved the book the first time I read it, and didn't really want to deal with it being a racist text. But no matter how I tried to excuse it, I couldn't escape the racism.
   First I tried seeing it as a way of highlighting how different the Japanese are to the occupied USAians**. That falls apart very quickly. The way the Japanese are described is more than enough to paint them as from a culture alien to the US characters, quite a lot of time is spent othering the Japanese. In fact the inclusion of the I-Ching would be over the top if it wasn't so central to the novel. The way they talk adds absolutely nothing to the book's differentiating of Japanese culture (, as different to the default US culture). It just paints the Japanese as being stereotypically incapable of speaking English properly.
   The real nail in the coffin when it comes to the way the Japanese language is presented though is how the Germans are presented. All the Germans are presented as talking in perfect English, even when they talk amongst themselves. Interestingly enough when looking for any mention of racism in connection with this novel I found that Dick read German. So he should be aware of, and capable of, presenting the sentences said by Germans in the way it would be said in German. Dick's proficiency in German also paints his choice of singling out the Japanese for the halting English depiction in a less than flattering light. Having had German at school, I am also aware of how directly translated German sounds, and when reading analytically the lack of it makes the way the Japanese speak stand out even more.

   So, does this mean that I think Philip K. Dick was a racist? Well, the text of this book is certainly racist, so in that sense the answer is yes. I will however assume that if he was a blatant racist that it would be something that the SFF community was aware of, and talked about. So I look at it as a typical USAian attitude of the time that people don't think twice about.
   The book is said to have been written in 1961. That is 16 years after the end of World War II, and eight years after the end of the Korean War. (It's also during the lead-up to the Vietnam War, the US already had military advisers there.) So it is understandable that any USAian would have a less than favourable view of the Japanese. I remember this kind of representation of Japanese being pretty much par for the course in US movies in the 1980s.
   To answer again whether Dick was a racist... He is displaying racism towards the Japanese in this book. (Although as can be seem from my description, it isn't very blatant.) So I can only conclude that he was racist against the Japanese, maybe because of ignorance, when he wrote this novel in 1961. I have not done any research  into whether Dick displayed any racism anywhere else, or if he ever acknowledged the problems with this text, so I can only comment on it in the context of this book. And as I have outlined above, I can't escape the fact that this text is racist.
 
   I could go on a bit about this subject, but I'll go on to the review of the rest of the novel. I will leave any further talk about racism for the summation, but I would be dishonest if I didn't admit it was something that was in the back of my mind as I read the book and that it affected my reading experience.
 
   The first thing to mention is that this is a novel with a base in the Alternate History trope, i.e. that the Germans won World War II. (Although this time along with the Japanese.) The worldbuilding around this is very well done, you really get a good feel for how history turned out in this world. Dick is perhaps at his best when it comes to his way of infodumping. It's not really subtle, but he makes it flow in a way that doesn't set it apart from the rest of the text. You very rarely get to read a novel where the infodumping is this well done.
   I have previously stated that I am a fan of Alternate History, and I can say that this is a very good example of it. It is one of the books in the genre that you should be reading. To say that it is the best work Alternate History, like some do, is however wrong in my opinion. The reason for that is that the Alternate History isn't really the main point of this novel.

   This novel does explore the Alternate History aspect, but it's clear that Dick is more interested in exploring the unreality of the subgenre. It's this aspect that takes over as the novel progresses, and it gets outright metatextual as we come towards the end.
   Putting aside everything that has a deeper meaning, this is still a full novel. Although one that is somewhat disjointed. The characters do connect up, but it doesn't really feel like their stories do. Dick uses the novel-within-a-novel to connect up the disparate parts of this, but it never feel wholly natural. That the character who is furthest removed from the larger part of the narrative in the end is the one given most importance feels like a bit of a cheap trick. And I can't escape the feeling that these different narratives would work a little bit better if they were in separate stories.

   The level of intricacy in the narrative is high throughout, Dick is definitely on the "literary" side of SFF. There is also plenty of interesting events throughout this novel, and an understanding of the deeper levels of this is by no means necessary. But it will of course give you a more complete experience if you can spot the many instances where Dick goes deeper than the story strictly needs.
   We do get an interesting story about living in an occupied USA (, though this is very the objectionable bits mentioned above come into play), and a quite action- filled political bit. Actually, the action is a bit of a problem. It comes out of the blue, so much that it was jarring.
   Jarring could very well be the descriptive word for Dick's writing style. Very little is done smoothly when it comes to changes in PoVs, or indeed in endings. The changes from one thing to another, both in location and plot, often comes of as abrupt. I quite like the way Dick writes, and manage to follow his changes of thought quite easily, but your mileage may vary when it comes to this. I have absolutely no problem understanding those that have problems with Dick's style of writing, and I see no reason why anyone should force themselves through his prose.

   Overall this is a very good Alternate History book, where the focus is more alternate than history. It is dragged down by all the time spent on othering the Japanese. It is hard to see anything redeeming in the author's description of the Japanese here, and if you have trouble with this sort of casual racism you would do best to stay away from this book.
    As a work of Alternate History this is without doubt something that deserves to be read. The worldbuilding isn't so detailed that it doesn't leave a desire to know more of this world, but it is still a very interesting glimpse into a different reality.
   Despite my problems with the racism I still like this book, although realising how the text treats Japanese has lessened my esteem of it considerably.So while I still would advise anyone interested in Philip K. Dick, or Alternate History to read this, I can't really condone it being called essential because of its problems.
___

* My edition of this, with the cover featured, is still in storage in Norway. The ISBN number is from the later hardcover Gollancz SF Masterworks edition (2009) that is still available. The publishing year is from the earlier hardcover Gollancz SF Masterworks edition with a different cover.

** I have made a choice to avoid using the word Americans when I talk of just one country in America. It annoys me as a Norwegian when people say Scandinavian when they mean Swedish, and I'm sure there's lots of Americans who don't want to be lumped in with USAians.
 ___

LINKS: Gollancz   Gollancz Blog  

09 May, 2014

COVER REVEAL ROUND-UP (XXV)

   This book will be out 27 May 2014 from Open Road Media/Mondadori. It is a translation from Italian, and was originally published there in 2004. It is the first of four books in this series.
   The cover immediately caught my eye on NetGalley, and a was lucky enough to be approved for an e-ARC. I think it is a great cover, the character intrigues me with her violet eyes, pointed ears, and blue hair. And the weapon she holds is an interesting one. I am really looking forward to reading this, and it was the cover that made me look at the novel.


      This one is coming from BBC Books/Ebury Publishing 31 July 2014. Really not much to say here, apart from: It's a book about The War Doctor! I mean, what's not to like? There's even Daleks there. I am really exited about this one. (You can read the cover copy here, and if this looks at all interesting you should.)


   This book is actually already out. It came out in the US on 6 May (2014), two days ago. I still wanted to feature it, since it is nice to see this in contrast to the UK one that I featured earlier. Like the UK cover, this does look interesting. However this catches my eye more and that is because it reminds me of Stephen King. Not entirely sure he's had a cover like this, but I seem to recall something not dissimilar. (Too lazy to check.) It doesn't really matter though, it is a very good cover that catches my interest.


   This cover, by Alan Brooks, is for the tenth and final book in the Shadows of the Apt series. It will be coming from Tor UK 3 July 2014. I really like these covers for this series. I've been meaning to start reading it, but want to wait until I can get all of the books (including this one). Every time I see these covers I feel bad for not having read any of it, so they are definitely very good covers.


   This anthology from Solaris will be out 27 May 2014 in North America, and 5 June 2014 in the UK. The list of authors is a really interesting one. I like this cover a lot. It pulls me in, and I am interested in seeing what is behind it. (And I have an e-ARC, so I plan to have this read before release day.)


   This is a book that will be out in August 2014, it is the first in the Children Trilogy. The top from Tor UK, with a cover by Alejandro Colucci, and the bottom from the US publisher Thomas Dunne Books, with design by Ervin Serrano. The US cover is the more stylish one, but although I like it there seems to be quite a few covers with just a sword lately, so I feel a bit meh about it. The UK one also has the sword on it. (Not the same one on the cover, but the same sword in the book from what I gather.) However this one also has a character featured, and that makes it more interesting to me. The US isn't bad, but the UK one is a clear winner here.


   Coming from Tor, 27 May. It is the first one in a new series, and you  can read an excerpt here. [A little side note here is that I have trouble not reading the authors name as Janne Lindsk├Âld, like it was Swedish.] The cover is really interesting, and the face/star effect is very well done. I like this kind of cover, and it made me look into what the book is about. Think this would look nice on my shelf.


   From PYR, coming 10 June 2014, we have this cover with art by Raymond Swanland. The art is just stunning. This is a piece of art that would do very well on a wall in a gallery, or perhaps in the library/office room I am writing this in. I am a huge fan of art like this on covers, and I think I may have to get hold of this book just so I can have that cover.


   This cover is designed by James Annal, with design agency Crush. For an e-book release 22 May 2014 from Tor UK. It is an interesting cover. It is enough SFF that I would look closer at the book even had I not known who Sanderson is. Other than that, it doesn't really do it for me. But that is a personal preference, and not a fault with the cover.

08 May, 2014

REVIEW: DOCTOR WHO: THE BOG WARRIOR

Cover by Two Associates/Woodlands Books

DOCTOR WHO:
THE BOG WARRIOR
TIME TRIPS BOOK 6
BY
CECELIA AHERN

ISBN: 978-1-44814-237-8
 Pages: 33
Publisher: BBC Books/Ebury Publishing
Published: 8 May 2014

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

Arriving on the planet Cashel, the Tenth Doctor witnesses a strange masked ball. To guarantee peace, Prince Zircon has to choose a bride from the Bog People – dead men and women who have been resurrected as slaves. Or as warriors. But Zircon is in love with the enslaved Princess Ash, whose parents were deposed and executed by the current Queen. As usual, the Doctor has walked right into trouble, and it's up to him to sort it out.


   I am a big fan of Doctor Who. I am also a big fan of Fairy Tales, both traditional and modern. This story satisfies my enjoyment of both of those things.
   No attempt is made here to hide that this is inspired by Fairy Tales. There are lots of small details, and some larger plotpoints, that are clearly taken straight out of the Fairy Tales that have been adapted by Disney. If you have read a bit of Fairy Tales, you can have fun spotting where the influence comes from.
   That is not meant to suggest that this is unoriginal, or just a straight retelling, it is far from either of those. There are some delicious twists on what you'd expect from a Fairy Tale, and this story definitely takes its own paths.

   This is not a long story by any means, but Ahern has still managed to get some complexity into it. She is showing she is very good at tight plotting, there is nothing here that is wasted. What is here though is a story that feels like it should take up more pages than it actually does. It is actually bigger on the inside. (Sorry for the pun...)
   The structure is pretty classic Doctor Who. The Doctor arrives at a planet, notices something strange, and meddles. But it doesn't feel like this is something that have been done many times before.
   The way Ahern draws us into the events at the same time as The Doctor works very well. We get to discover what is going on with The Doctor. There is a feeling that we are there with him, even though we don't have a companion that can take our place in the story. Some of this is because the Fairy Tale setting is so familiar. I think everyone will be aware of at least some of the references made. But the most important element that pulls the reader in is Ahern's writing. She gets us on an intimate footing with the characters, and that she does it by playing on familiar emotional tropes does not detract from how well she does it.

   As mentioned above there is some interesting twists to the familiar in this story. A big one has to do with the nature of some of the characters. I really liked that, it is an excellent twist and it makes for a much more complex world than the black & white that some Fairy Tale retellings descend into.
   There is plenty of tension here, it's not a given that the story turns out the way it does. The pacing is also on the faster side of things, which is good when the story is this short. There are no unnecessary breaks here, and this is definitely something to read in one go. It would be hard not to.

   I found this to be really enjoyable. It has absolutely everything you could want from a Fairy Tale, and it is a great Doctor Who story. Ahern is without doubt a very good writer, and she tells a tale that I don't hesitate to call essential for anyone who enjoys a good Fairy Tale retelling. There is also plenty to enjoy here for the Doctor Who fan who wants a strong standalone story with the Tenth Doctor.
   This is simply an excellent Fairy Tale and Doctor Who crossover.

NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this from the publisher/NetGalley.

REVIEWS: You can find a full list of my Doctor Who reviews here. (Including the first five Time Trips stories.)

LINKS: Cecelia Ahern   Ebury Publishing