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.

28 November, 2010


   You may be familiar with the review blog Un:Bound.  Now the crazy nice people over there, led by megalomaniac  empress of evil my good friend Adele have decided to start a SFF genre Vidcast.
   I've already looked at what's up on the site. And you should too It's worth a look. I especially love what slave  indentured worker  video editor Vincent Holland-Keen has done with the cover for Mark Charan Newton's Book of Transformations. That alone is worth a visit to Un:Bound Video Editions.

   Oh, and I got some press releases from Adele with explicit orders  threaths a nice request for help in spreading the word, so here they are: 

This winter, internet TV will finally be Un:Bound

Un:Bound Video Editions began with a question 'Why has no one ever done a vidcast about genre fiction?'. It's a simple question and the answer to it proved to be as simple for Un:Bound editor Adele Wearing; because she hadn't put together the team to produce one yet.

That's now changed. Like George Clooney in one of the good Ocean's movies, Adele has assembled a team of specialists to bring the best in genre fiction news and reviews to the internet. They include film maker and technical genius Vincent Holland-Keen, two-fisted editor and Angry Robot wrangler Lee Harris, sleepless genre podcaster Alasdair Stuart and, on his insistence, the dread lord of Ry'leh himself, Cthulhu. With a team like this, the casinos of Las Vegas are quaking in their cuban-heeled boots. Or would be if the plan was to rob Andy Garcia and not to produce the best, most comprehensive, fun genre fiction TV show on the net.

A fast moving glimpse into the world of genre fiction, Episode 1 features coverage of the Other Worlds Event hosted by Writing East Midlands, Alt. Fiction and Tor, a tour of Tor Towers, Publishing Tips with Lee, news with Alasdair and a message from Cthulhu.

Whether you're a life long, experienced con goer, newcomer or want to find out more, the Unbound Video Edition (UBVE to its friends) is for you. And, in fact your friends, so check out the teaser trailers at the Un:Bound Video Editions site and join our mailing list to make sure you don't miss upcoming episodes, specials and exclusive mailing list contests.

Because if you do, Cthulhu will know.

Un:Bound Video Editions –
Mailing list – email and title your mail UBVE mailing list.


They told me I was crazy and i'd need a team as crazy as me to pull it off. Fortunately I knew exactly where to get them. Admittedly my crack team of presenter Kat Heubeck, director and video editor Vincent Holland-Keen, news anchor Alasdair Stuart and grizzled editor Lee Harris are not the team I would put together for a lucrative casino hit. Pulling together a show like Un:Bound VE though? I couldn't ask for a better squad of genre fiction grifters.

Don't believe me? I talked to Catherine Rogers of Writing East Midlands about the heist, I mean the show, and here's what she said:

This, it seems to me, is a natural move for George, sorry Adele as he, sorry, she has been taking over the genre world with her extraordinary team.

Sorry Adele as what , George Clooney, Oceans whatever c'mon? Un:Bound being compared to Oceans numbers - no way. I'm thinking more along the lines of Neo, red pills, Morpheus etc.

So red pills aside / taken etc ... Writing East Midlands' mission statement says something about nurturing new writers in the region ... yes so that includes new writing talent and this by all accounts is just that .... on vidcast. Yay! Check it out.

That was 'red' right?”

Yes, Catherine, yes. No chunky knit wear or unnecessary dance routines here, just a cool, suave look at the latest in genre fiction. And Cthulhu. He was very insistent I mention him.

Fellow Evil Genius ™ Alex Davis had a slightly different take on things, which also makes a worrying amount of sense:

'It sounds more like the A-Team to me than Ocean's Eleven... This truly is the crack commando unit of the genre - in fact the recording equipment was constructed from four elastic bands, three toilet roll tubes and a broken down ZX Spectrum. So if you have a problem, and you need help, and you can find them, maybe you can hire... the Unbound Video Editions team.'

Danny Ocean's team of elegant con men and the world's least violent lethal commando unit. That's heady company to be keeping. So when does the con begin? I mean the show air? And where? Simple it's going to go live on 6th December 2011 at 8:00pm (GMT) at the site . Except, much like that bit with Brad Pitt walking through the casino talking on the phone? We're not quite done. The following weeks will see additional footage of the interviews go live as we continue to plunder the vaults of genre fiction for all things bright, shiny and awesome.

So why not join us? Just remember, don't take the blue pill, don't take your eyes off the vault door and always, always, bet on Unbound.

UBVE will be running a giveaway as part of the launch week so please look out for further details and prizes.

26 November, 2010


Cover design and photo: Blacksheep

ISBN: 978-1-85723-138-0
Pages: 467
Publisher: Orbit
Publishing date: 23 April 1987

On the cover:

The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.

Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.
   This is Banks' first Culture novel, but it is by no means set in an unfinished world, or more correctly; universe. There is plenty of references to other events and history here. And one of the strengths of the book is Banks' universe-building. Some of the places we see here are absolutely stunning, and adds a lot to the story.

   The story has all the ingredients of a space opera. There's a huge war going on in the background, our hero is a rogue type character who is being hunted, and we have a quest that takes us to different locations. But this story is by no means hampered by Banks' use of the familiar. He writes a story that really stands out from the crowd. The characters are also interesting, and we get to know them pretty well as the story unfolds.
    Consider Phlebas is pretty fast-paced. There is something happening all the time, but it is not stressful to follow what is going on. Some of the action sequences here are just mind blowing, and I have to say that I wouldn't mind seeing them up on the big screen.
   Banks is very good at keeping the suspense up, and especially the ending keeps the reader guessing. There is not much of the techno babble that scare away newcomers and slows the pace down here.

   This is the first of the Culture novels, but I would like to point out that it is a self contained story. There is no cliffhanger ending, and you should be no means be scared away from reading it just because there is a whole series of novels that follow it.
   There is much to love here for fans of science fiction. And if you are a newcomer to the genre this, in my opinion, would be a good place to start. For myself, I've already bought the next Culture novel, and plan to purchase the rest.

Links: Iain M. Banks  Orbit

24 November, 2010


   Everyone knows there are three main genres of SFF, or Speculative Fiction. That is of course Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.    These three genres have plenty of sub-genres, and you would think that nothing is lacking. I disagree, there is a certain type of story that I feel belong under the SFF banner, but is currently not receiving the recognition it deserves.
   So I am going to present to you the fourth SFF genre:


   The name is by no means a new one, in fact it has been used for years to describe exactly the type of story I think deserves it's own SFF-genre. Granted it is used mostly about films and games. And it was used much more widely ten to twenty years ago. At least here in Norway where it is called "eventyr" (, also meaning fairy tale in case you come across it in that meaning). 
   Usually action is tacked on at the front, and I think everyone will recognize the term action-adventure. But by going to my DVD collection, I notice most of the films who would be classified as action-adventure during the 90s are now only described  as action. (Bizarrely this includes my Norwegian DVD of Underworld.) So I guess now would be a good time to take the adventure term back to SFF where it belongs.

   Maybe it's time I gave a description of what I think about when I use the term Adventure:

   Action-oriented story. Usually with a quest. Can sometime border the mystery/thriller genre, but it has a supernatural, paranormal or mythical element. Often the element is an artifact the the main character is looking for, or it could be some sort of ancient cult/conspiracy/guardians of wisdom that is involved. Anything that involves what can be called alternative, or fringe, archaeology falls into this category.

   From my description of Adventure, it is easy to use the most widely known example to clarify further; Indiana Jones. For some reason the Indiana Jones movies are considered SFF by fans of the genre, while most people outside the genre consider them action movies. 
   Indiana Jones looks for mythical artifacts, something that as far as we know are legends and do not exist, like the holy grail. This is what makes people see it as SFF(, I think most people use Fantasy to describe the movies). 

   But I see a huge problem with Indiana Jones belonging to SFF without the genre Adventure being utilised.
And that problem can be traced back to the holy grail, and also literature. Indiana Jones isn't the only one to hunt for, and find the holy grail, Robert Langdon did the exact same thing in The Da Vinci Code. The difference being the "san greal/sang real" interpretation.
   Take away the setting, and you have what amounts to basically the same story. But despite this Dan Brown is considered mainstream by SFF fans, while Indiana Jones is being embraced as SFF. I see this as the kind of value judgement that I hate as a SFF fan. 
    We SFF fans are tired of SFF being classified as Lit.Fic. if the literary crowd thinks it is good. But we do the same with Brown. Brown may not be a great writer, but his stories, at least The Da Vinci Code, are as much SFF as Indiana Jones' adventures.
   And to remove, as much as possible, the value judgement, I think we need the Adventure genre under the SFF umbrella.
   (If you wonder why I use Brown as an example, I considered using Clive Cussler, but settled on Brown because he's more familiar to most people. And I have to say that Cussler's books more or less embodies the Adventure genre.)

    What do you think? Am I wrong, am I right? Do you disagree that my definition of Adventure falls under the SFF umbrella? (Am I even making any sense?)
    -Please comment.

23 November, 2010


Cover illustration: Benjamin Carré

ISBN: 978-0-230-71259-1
Pages: 466
Publisher: Tor UK
Publishing date: 4 June 2010

On the cover:

Villiren: a city of sin that is being torn apart from the inside. Hybrid creatures shamble through shadows and barely human gangs fight turf wars for control of the streets.

Amidst this chaos, Commander Brynd Lathraea, commander of the Night Guard, must plan the defence of Viliren against a race that has broken through from some other realm and already slaughtered hundreds of thousands of the Empire’s people.

When a Night Guard soldier goes missing, Brynd requests help from the recently arrived Investigator Jeryd. He discovers this is not the only disappearance the streets of Villiren. It seems that a serial killer of the most horrific kind is on the loose, taking hundreds of people from their own homes. A killer that cannot possibly be human.

The entire population of Villiren must unite to face an impossible surge of violent and unnatural enemies or the city will fall. 

But how can anyone save a city that is already a ruin?

   The second book in a series can be a tricky one, but Newton pulls it of with his effort. We pick up the story a short while after the events of Nights of Villjamur. All the main characters have relocated, and most of them is now to be found in the city of Villiren.

   Newton doesn't waste any time here. By the end of the first chapter we are already re-introduced to some of the main characters from book one, and have gotten our first glimpse of their new situation.
   Again most of the story is bound to a city, with only the occasional foray to other locations. But although the overall structure of City of Ruin is similar to Nights of Villjamur, this is not in any way a retelling of the story of book one. In fact the differences between the two cities serve to flesh out the world Newton has created, and also gives the reader an appetite for more.

   The action is on a much grander scale than in the last book, we get a battle that in some ways reminded me of the real world battle of Stalingrad. Newton handles the battle action very well., and as in real life, you are never quite certain who is going to survive in the end.

   There's a second story-thread following other characters from the first book, this is in many ways different from what I expected. This part of the story is pretty weird compared to the other. And I had a bit of trouble getting them to fit together in my mind at first. But as the story progresses Newton manages to make it not only understandable, but important to the overall story.

    I had one problem with this book, and that was connected to a death. Newton brings one character I was interested to know more about back from book one only to kill him almost instantly. This felt unnecessary to me, and it annoyed me for quite a while.
    In fact it seems like Newton has a predisposition to kill off characters that he has finished with instead of letting them fade away from the story. 
    This is not a major issue, but just a small annoyance for me personally, that I think not everyone will notice or be affected by.

    I'll end this review by saying that I find Newton's ideas and writing engaging and intriguing. City of Ruin got me even more hooked on this world than I was after Nights of Villjamur, and I am certainly looking forward to the next installment: The Book of Transformations.

My review of Nights of Villjamur can be found here.

21 November, 2010



ISBN: 978-0-451-17038-5
Pages: 732
Publisher: Signet/Penguin USA
Publishing date: 4 October 1990

   This is a collection of four novellas. So first I'm going to give you my review of the individual novellas, and then at the end I'm going to give you my thoughts on the collection/book as a whole.

   As a lot of King's horror, this story has a lot of science fiction elements. Here one element straight out of science fiction is central to the plot.
   The Langoliers is not a slow starter, it doesn't take many pages before you are drawn into the story. The shorter length, at 234 pages it is short for King, works to the stories advantage, King introduces the characters pretty fast, and they come fully formed, and never feels two-dimensional.
   This is a great story, the tension builds nicely throughout, and it does not loosen its grip on you before it is finished. The atmosphere of the whole story is also very good.
   I would recommend this story to any fan of sci-fi-horror, and if you like King it is a must. -As an added bonus, there is a scene that is very reminiscent of LOST in it.  


   This story is pure psychological horror. It is also one of Kings stories about a writer, and it has in fact some elements to it that are also found in The Shining, but I must hasten to add that it is in no way a re-write.
   From page one, and all the way to the epilogue, I found myself guessing as to what was actually happening. And it got under my skin at several points. Both the main character, and the others you meet are well done, and they seem real. It is a story that will keep you wanting to read to the end.


   Making libraries a scary place for someone who loves books is difficult, but King manages to do so in this story. The build-up at the beginning is very well done, and as the story progresses it transcends the fairly standard ghost story it initially looks like it is.
   King pulls off one of the best retrospectives I've ever read here. There are in fact a couple of stories within stories, and one of them is so shocking that I think some people could be put off by it. That being said, it is essential to the overall story, and not just put there for its shock-value.
   The only problem I had with The Library Policeman, was that it was let down a bit by one of King's rather week endings.

   This story belongs in King's "Castle Rock-cycle". It is basically a sort of ghost story. Starting innocently enough, it soon builds up to quite a eerie tale. 
   The characters have back stories that adds much to their realization, and one of the characters is delightfully mysterious at first. 
    King manages to build on the eeriness factor right to the end. And the ending here is ,in my opinion, one of the best he has ever written.


   These four stories really serves well to showcase King's writing. They give a taste of how most of his novels are, at the same time they are different enough to work very well together as a collection. I enjoyed the book a lot, even though I usually prefer King's stories to be as long as possible. If you are a fan of King's work, but have yet to read Four Past Midnight, I suggest you do so as soon as possible.
   If you have never read anything of Stephen King's work, I would suggest this as a good place to start. Both because they are not as long as some of King's other work, and because these four stories are a nice taster of what you can expect from him should you wish to read more of his work.

Links: Stephen King  Penguin (USA)

10 November, 2010


Cover illustration: Stephan Martiniere
Cover design: Jacqueline Cooke


 ISBN: 978-1-59102-595-5
Pages: 599
Publisher: Pyr
Publishing date: 7 June 2004

 On the cover:

August 15, 2047 - Happy Hundredth Birthday, India

As Mother India approaches her centenary, nine people are going about their business — a gangster, a cop, his wife, a politician, a stand-up comic, a set designer, a journalist, a scientist, and a dropout. And so is Aj — the waif, the mind-reader, the prophet — when she one day finds a man who wants to stay hidden.

In the next few weeks, they will all be swept together to decide the fate of the nation.
   What I always look for in science fiction is a believable future. And the one McDonald presents here is certainly that. The India he shows in this book is all to plausible, and I would not be very surprised if the India of 2047 looks a lot like the one in this book.
   Not only is the setting near perfect, but McDonald has also managed to creative a technology level that could very well be the one we end up with in 37 years.

   The story is very intriguing. From the very start the reader is drawn in to the lives of the main characters. There is a lot of mystery to begin with as to how the different characters are connected, but as the book progresses the revelations come.

    We get lots of conflict that drives the story forward, there is little that slows down the pace. McDonald manages to keep the "techno babble" well integrated in the story. And what tech there is adds to the plot instead of distracting from it. The integration of society, technology and individual characters you care about is perhaps McDonald's greatest strength.

   There are a couple of mysteries that are central to the story, these are intriguing and will keep the reader guessing. It had me confused at a level where I just had to keep reading several times. The revelations of what is really going on is handled beautifully by McDonald.

    This book should be great for any fan of science fiction. It caters to those whose interest lies in technology, as well as those who are more interested in characters and society.

Links: Ian McDonald  Pyr

08 November, 2010


Cover illustration: Paul Kidby


ISBN: 978-0-385-61107-7
Pages: 348
Publisher: Doubleday/Random House Children's Books
Publishing date: 2 September 2010

On the cover:

Tiffany Aching is a witch. And she thinks she's doing a good job for the people of the Chalk. Even if the job does seem to involve a lot of bandaging legs and cutting old ladies' toenails and not much, well, magic.

Or sleep.

But somewhere - some time - there's a tangled ball of evil and spite, of hatred and malice, that has woken up. And it's waking up all the old stories too - stories about evil old witches.

Suddenly Tiffany isn't sure she's doing the right thing. And her tiny allies - the fightin' Nac Mac Feegles - are only making things more difficult.

Things are supposed to look better after a good night's sleep.

But they won't.

They are about to get a lot, lot worse.

And a witch has to deal with what is in front of her...

   This, being a "Young Discworld" novel, features a teenage main character, Tiffany is 16 in this book. Other than that there is not much that is different from the other Discworld books. Pratchett writes in the same style as he has always done. And anyone who avoids this book because it is labeled as Young Adult (,the publisher's website says 12+,) does themselves a huge disservice.

    In my opinion this is perhaps the most serious Discworld book in recent years. It still has the trademark Pratchett humor, but the themes are very serious. Then again it would be difficult to make fun of growing up, responsibility,and bullying. And these are some of the main themes in this book.
    All is told through the eyes of Tiffany Aching, who is a witch, and this gives Pratchett plenty to play with. We get the some important lessons about the misconceptions about witches from fairytailes, and we also learn a lot about what a Discworld witch's real responsibilities are.

    It's easiest to see that this is a Young Adult novel by the many life-lessons that Pratchett manages to weave into the tale. There really is a lot here that an intelligent teenager can take away. And of course any teenager reading Pratchett will be intelligent. But I didn't feel that Pratchett ever got preachy, he presents things and lets the reader decide for themselves.

    The story also has room for an overarching plot that is quite sinister. In fact it is part horror story. This is very well handled, and does not feel forced upon all the other things that happen in the book.
    In my opinion this book shows that Pratchett is still going strong. Any Discworld fan who doesn't already own this should go buy it at once. -But I must say it helps if you have read the "Witches"-books and the previous three books about Tiffany Aching. At the least you should read "Equal Rites" before embarking upon this book.

Links: Terry Pratchett  Random House Children's Books

03 November, 2010


Cover art: Lisa Litwack
Cover photo: Gavin R. Wilson / Photonica


ISBN: 978-0-7434-2442-4
Pages: 683
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publishing date: January 1977

On the cover:

The Overlook Hotel is more than just a home-away-from-home for the Torrance family. For Jack, Wendy, and their young son, Danny, it is a place where past horrors come to life. And where those gifted with the shining do battle with the darkest evils.

   This is the first time I've read a book where I've seen the movie it is based on several times. And since several people not only think it's a good adaption, but some even say the movie is better than the book, I was curious as to how this would affect my reading of it.
   I guess most people interested in Horror would have seen Kubrick's movie adaption of it, and is therefore familiar with the story. However if you have not seen the movie, be warned that the introduction in the book contains spoilers and if you're new to the story should be skipped. This spoiler-filled introduction annoyed me, I saw no reason for it to be at the start of the book. I think they should move it to the end of the book and call it "Author's note".

   Right from the start King takes us inside the mind of his main character, Jack Torrance, and by doing so he sets the atmosphere for the book. King also handles the back story of the characters in a way that adds a great deal to the later tension of the book.
   Everything that is added of history, back story, and what we get to know about the characters serve the story. Although the book is rather long, it didn't feel like it to me. The story moves along nicely, and there is not much that slows it down.

   King is very good at keeping the reader guessing at what is actually going on. And he keeps throwing in elements that points in different directions. This only adds to the creepy atmosphere and I think it adds a lot to the book. The level of suspense also builds as the story progresses, drawing the reader in and making the book hard to put down.
   The paranormal elements in this book are very well handled by King. They seem realistic and believable. Nothing seems to be added without it having a place in the story. The whole concept works very well and this is in my opinion one of Kings best books.

   Back to where I started this review, with the book vs the movie. I didn't feel that being familiar with the movie took much away from the book, they are too different for that. many elements are of course the same, but the book is a wholly different experience on many levels. I would suggest that anyone who has seen the movie to pick up the book. I don't think you'll be sorry you did.
   As for the movie being better than the book; not in my opinion.
Links: Stephen king  Simon & Schuster (Pocket Books)

01 November, 2010


Cover illustration: Michael Whelan


ISBN: 978-0-7653-2635-3
Pages: 1008
Publisher: Tor Books
Publishing date: 31 August 2010

On the cover:

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

The result of over ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.

Speak again the ancient oaths,

Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before Destination.

and return to men the Shards they once bore.

The Knights Radiant must stand again.

    This is true Epic Fantasy, this being the first of an announced ten books. I'm a fan of long series when it comes to both Fantasy and Science Fiction, I like to get to really know the characters and follow them over a longer period of time. (There's one exception, but I will not use the G-word in my blog.)
    Of course first impressions are important when starting a long series of books, especially when they are the size of The Way of Kings. And Sanderson gets it right, there is much to love here.

    After reading the prelude and the prologue, I was already drawn in to this world and wanted to know more. And as the book progresses the world opens up, and it is an intriguing world.
    We follow three main characters on their different journeys, this is done in such a way that the changes of viewpoint keeps you reading without being annoyed with waiting for a individual story-thread to continue.

    The individual characters are different enough to add a lot to the reader's understanding of the world, and each gives a glimpse into different aspects of it. The world building is great, there are lots of little details that really fleshes out the setting. And we are given some tantalizing glimpses of how wast this world really is. It looks like this could be one of the largest Fantasy worlds ever. And I hope it will be as interesting as this first book makes it out to be.

    We get stories set into the war-torn wasteland, and in one of the larger cities. There is not much of a quest aspect to the story, but that is a strength here. The choice Sanderson has made in setting the story mostly in fixed locations means that the reader does not have to struggle with too large amounts of information.
    There is enough action here to satisfy most people. And at the same time we get a lot of back story that is very interesting without making the pace drag. Almost everyone should be satisfied with the complexity of the story, and also it's ease of access.

    This is the first book I have read by Sanderson, and I really liked his writing. I found it fit the type of story very well. It is still early days for The Stormlight Archives, but this could very well turn out to be one of the best Fantasy series ever.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC of the book that I won from Tor Books.

LINKS: Brandon Sanderson  Tor Books