Monday, July 28, 2014

Wars to End All Wars: Alternate Tales from the Trenches Published!

As a member of the SFFWorld team (lead US book reviewer, forum moderator) for the past decade and more, I've come across quite a few folks: fans, published authors,  and people behind the scenes. One of those people is writer and  editor N.E. White.  Nila has been editing anthologies comprised mainly of stories from members of the SFFWorld writing community, which is a very vibrant and strong community. I'd even say over the past few years, the writer's forum/community has been the most consistent and active of the many subforums. Each year Nila has compiled anthology, she has featured a big name, published writer. The first anthology featured Michael J. Sullivan and Hugh Howey, last year's featured Mark Lawrence and this year's anthology features another favorite author: Elizabeth Moon. (Yes, that New York Times best selling and award winning Elizabeth Moon who wrote a trilogy of books that resides in my Omnibus Hall of Fame).

My part in this was small, I read most of the submitted stories, provided feedback (whether the story should our shouldn't be included) and gave each story a full edit. So, without further ado, here's Wars to End All Wars: Alternate Tales from the Trenches.

Alternate tales set during the first World War, this short story collection takes history and tweaks it.

2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1. Seven authors, including the award-winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author, Elizabeth Moon, commemorate that event by writing stories set during the great war, adding their own, sometimes speculative, interpretations and answering the question, "What if...?"

Here's the full table of contents:

  1. “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” by Igor Ljubuncic
  2. “Wormhole” by Lee Swift
  3. “Jawohl” by Wilson Geiger
  4. “Tradition” by Elizabeth Moon
  5. “On the Cheap” by Dan Beiger
  6. “One Man’s War” by G.L. Lathian
  7. “The Foundation” by Andrew Leon Hudson
The book is currently only $.99 and can be found at your favorite here:

Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes, etc. generally take a little longer.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-07-26)

Small batch of arrivals this week. I suspect many of the folks who normally would send me stuff are heavily involved in San Diego Comic Con...

Willful Child by Steven Erikson (Tor Hardcover 11/04/2014) – Erikson changes tune here with is first Science Fiction novel, which has a Space Opera/Military SF feel.

From the New York Times Bestselling author Steven Erikson comes a new SF novel of devil-may-care, near calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through the infinite vastness of interstellar space.

These are the voyages of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms, to boldly blow the...

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space.’

The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his lifelong passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive, and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-gadgets-along-the-way, overblown adventure. The result is an SF novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

Assail (A Novel of the Malazan Empire) by Ian Cameron Esslemont (Tor Hardcover 05/21/2013) – I’ve only read Night of Knives in this second Malazan sequence, so I’ve got some catching up to do with ICE’s brand of Malazan stories. Mark Yon and I interviewed with him up at the SFFWorld last year.

Tens of thousands of years of ice is melting, and the land of Assail, long a byword for menace and inaccessibility, is at last yielding its secrets. Tales of gold discovered in the region’s north circulate in every waterfront dive and sailor’s tavern, and now countless adventurers and fortune-seekers have set sail in search of riches.

Into this turmoil ventures the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard. Not drawn by contract, but by the promise of answers: answers to mysteries that Shimmer, second in command, wonders should even be sought.

Arriving also, part of an uneasy alliance of Malazan fortune-hunters and Letherii soldiery, comes the bard Fisher kel Tath. And with him is a Tiste Andii who was found washed ashore and cannot remember his past life, yet who commands far more power than he really should. Also venturing north is said to be a mighty champion, a man who once fought for the Malazans, the bearer of a sword that slays gods: Whiteblade.

And lastly, far to the south, a woman guards the shore awaiting both her allies and her enemies. Silverfox, newly incarnated Summoner of the undying army of the T’lan Imass, will do anything to stop the renewal of an ages-old crusade that could lay waste to the entire continent and beyond.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-07-19)

Just one book this week, but a major release for 2014...

The Widow’s House (The Dagger and the Coin #4) by Daniel Abraham (Orbit Trade Paperback 08/05/2014) – Any time a Daniel Abraham book arrives, I’m happy, I’ll be reviewing this for


Lord Regent Geder Palliako's war has led his nation and the priests of the spider goddess to victory after victory. No power has withstood him, except for the heart of the one woman he desires. As the violence builds and the cracks in his rule begin to show, he will risk everything to gain her love or else her destruction.

Clara Kalliam, the loyal traitor, is torn between the woman she once was and the woman she has become. With her sons on all sides of the conflict, her house cannot stand, but there is a power in choosing when and how to fall.

And in Porte Oliva, banker Cithrin bel Sarcour and Captain Marcus Wester learn the terrible truth that links this war to the fall of the dragons millennia before, and that to save the world, Cithrin must conquer it.

Lord Regent Geder Palliako's war has led his nation and the priests of the spider goddess to victory after victory. No power has withstood him, except for the heart of the one woman he desires. As the violence builds and the cracks in his rule begin to show, he will risk everything to gain her love or else her destruction.

Clara Kalliam, the loyal traitor, is torn between the woman she once was and the woman she has become. With her sons on all sides of the conflict, her house cannot stand, but there is a power in choosing when and how to fall.

And in Porte Oliva, banker Cithrin bel Sarcour and Captain Marcus Wester learn the terrible truth that links this war to the fall of the dragons millennia before, and that to save the world, Cithrin must conquer it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Link Round-up Corey @ SFFWorld, Mind Meld @ SF Signal, Stross @

It has been a while since I did one of my link round-ups of my reviews and assorted writings, so here goes...

Last week I posted my review of what will likely be one of my favorite SF novels of the year (I might even decide to register for Hugo voting so I can nominate it), Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey, the fourth book in their superb Expanse series:

Returning as one of the primary viewpoint characters is James Holden, captain of the Rocinate. Holden is one of the most famous men in the solar system, thanks to the events detailed in the previous three novels of THE EXPANSE (Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, and Abaddon’s Gate). As in those novels, Corey tells the story through multiple Points of View: Elvi Okoye, one of the scientists on New Terra charged with cataloguing the various life forms and the environment; Havelock, a security officer aboard one of ships orbiting New Terra; and Basia Merton, one of the first colonists who arrived (squatters, one might say) on New Terra and part of a group unhappy with the RCE.
The conflict between the colonists and RCE is not the only problem on this new world, even if it is the primary “human-level” problem, so to speak. Globally, New Terra is not a completely lifeless world. An ancient civilization, the one thought to be responsible for the protomolecule has left ancient remnants of itself scattered around the planet. These things are hybrids between machines and organic life and some of them are waking up.
Holden is still haunted by the ghost or borrowed personality of Miller, the investigator from Leviathan Wakes who has been prodding and guiding Holden in all things related to the protomolecule. Though Holden is perturbed by this continued haunting, Miller’s voice is absolutely essential to the novel.

Earlier this week (Wednesday) the second Mind Meld I curated for SF Signal was posted, wherein I ask:

Participants for this one included:

Lastly, I reviewed and gave a Hugo handicapping assessment to Charles Stross's Neptune's Brood at, which didn't completely work for me:

Neptune’s Brood, in this case, imagines a post-human, far future where we as humanity have become a thing of the past often referred to as Fragiles. The novel is many things, but a primary thrust revolves around economics in the future and a supposed defrauding scam as it features Krina Alizond-118 on her journeys through the galaxy.
The novel focuses through first-person narration on Krina Alizond-118 as she searches for her missing “sister” Ana Graulle-90 (which in this sense indicates they are cloned from the same being). Krina, with her deep knowledge of the history of accounting and banking, manages to get passage on a space vessel after being convinced to offer her services as a banker. It isn’t long before Krina becomes involved with interstellar pirate bankers, and eventually receives body modification to become a mermaid on the water world of Shin-Tethys in order to search for Ana. On top of all of that, Krina tells us, she has a stalker and discovers what amounts to a 2,000-year old money laundering scam which hinges on an object which might be in the possession of her sister. So yeah, lots of stuff going on here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-07-12)

A trio of books arrived this week and each of them look very inviting...

Dust and Light (A Sanctuary Novel #1) by Carol Berg (Roc, Trade Paperback 08/05/2014) – Berg has been on my radar for a couple of years, even more so over the past few years as a few SFFWorld forum members whose opinion I trust (Erfael, NickeeCoco, and suciul specifically) and my friend Sarah Chorn, have recently been raving about her work. This book looks like it is friendly to readers who haven’t read her previous books, which is just what I need.

National bestselling author Carol Berg returns to the world of her award-winning Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone with an all-new tale of magic, mystery, and corruption....

How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of “unseemly involvement with ordinaries,” which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her....After that one mistake, Lucian’s grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries—beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets.

But sketching the truth of dead men’s souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe.

The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad—and mad sorcerers are very dangerous....

Codex Born (Magic Ex Libris #2) by Jim C. Hines (DAW Books, Hardcover 08/05/2014) – I read and thoroughly enjoyed Libriomancer when I read it a few years ago and look forward to picking up Isaac’s story here.

Five hundred years ago, Johannes Gutenberg discovered the art of libriomancy, allowing him to reach into books to create things from their pages. Gutenberg’s power brought him many enemies, and some of those enemies have waited centuries for revenge. Revenge which begins with the brutal slaughter of a wendigo in the northern Michigan town of Tamarack, a long-established werewolf territory.

Libriomancer Isaac Vainio is part of Die Zwelf Portenære, better known as the Porters, the organization founded by Gutenberg to protect the world from magical threats. Isaac is called in to investigate the killing, along with Porter psychiatrist Nidhi Shah and their dryad bodyguard and lover, Lena Greenwood. Born decades ago from the pages of a pulp fantasy novel, Lena was created to be the ultimate fantasy woman, strong and deadly, but shaped by the needs and desires of her companions. Her powers are unique, and Gutenberg’s enemies hope to use those powers for themselves. But their plan could unleash a far darker evil…

The Rise of Aurora West (Battling Boy #2) by Paul Pope (First Second Books, Hardcover 09/30/2014) – Pope is one of the most prominent figures in the independent and non-traditional comic world. This thing looks like it will be a blast.

The extraordinary world introduced in Paul Pope's Battling Boy is rife with monsters and short on heroes... but in this action-driven extension of the Battling Boy universe, we see it through a new pair of eyes: Aurora West, daughter of Arcopolis's last great hero, Haggard West.

A prequel to Battling Boy, The Rise of Aurora West follows the young hero as she seeks to uncover the mystery of her mother's death, and to find her place in a world overrun with supernatural monsters and all-too-human corruption. With a taut, fast-paced script from Paul Pope and JT Petty and gorgeous, kinetic art from David Rubin, The Rise of Aurora West (the first of two volumes) is a tour de force in comics storytelling.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Books I Enjoyed Most Thus Far in 2014 - First Half Six-Pack Plus 2 Shots

We are in the first full week of July 2014 which means we’ve passed the half-way point of 2014. Therefore, subsequently, ergo, here is my mid-year six pack – the books I’ve enjoyed most through the first half of 2014. What makes this a bit challenging (besides my natural tendencies to make simple things complex) is that a book I read a few months back doesn’t technically publish until the second half of 2014 and one of the books I enjoyed most was published a number of years ago. I’ll give those two special mention at the end. Also making things difficult is that so many of the books hover in the same qualitative region. Nonetheless, here are the six books published between January 2014 and June 2014 I enjoyed the most, in the order I read the books.

Breach Zone by Myke Cole (Shadow OPS #3) - "Harlequin, who was painted as something of an antagonist in the first novel in the series, grew out of that role in the second novel and for all intents and purposes in Breach Zone he’s the star and de-facto hero even if he shares the spotlight. One of the undercurrents of the novel, from my reading, is how one adjusts to being the hero. Due to his actions in Fortress Frontier, Harlequin is thrust into the spotlight as a voice supporting the rights of Latent people – those who possess magical abilities. He finds this transition from on the battle-lines military man to man in the spotlight difficult, it isn’t something he wanted or something he enjoys. That said, Cole manages to make Harlequin’s ultimate acceptance of this new role a believable growth of character.
Breach Zone works on many levels; one of which is overriding themes of character evolution in the face of conflict and a globally changing environment. Each of the four primary characters – Britton, Bookbinder, Scylla, and Harlequin are not the same characters they were at the novel’s beginning and more drastically, at their introduction in Control Point. That’s an easy line to map out, characters change, but the true mark of the writer’s skill is illustrating in a believable fashion how characters change and evolve. On both the book level of Breach Zone and the trilogy level of the Shadow OPS series, Cole has exhibited great skill in making me believe in these characters: their motivations, their reactions to events that affect them, and their ultimate evolution because of these things."

Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach (Paradox #2) - "Bach ratchets up the politics in Honor’s Knight and dials back the romantic element a bit. There’s also an ongoing discussion in the novel about the price of security and safety, in that can the fate of humanity be measured against the life of innocent girls who lose their identity and humanity? A difficult question to answer, and sometimes the easiest answers prove to be the incorrect answer in the long run. In other words, war breeds difficult moral choices, which leads to drastic consequences. The black ink-like substance afflicting Devi also happens to be like kryptonite to the phantoms, but Devi has little control over it and when it comes out on her skin.
With the Paradox series, Rachel Bach is crafting a sequence that hits so many of the right buttons – compelling characters, great plotting, thought provoking and difficult choices. Bach does some interesting things with character, giving readers a strong woman in a role most often associated with male characters and she does it so well. Readers who enjoy Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War novels would very likely enjoy these books."

Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez - "I think my copy of Alpha & Omega had a lot of dust mites in it or maybe I’m allergic to the glue used on the binding because my eyes kept watering up. Seriously though, it isn’t always the case that storytellers can promise something in the early stages of a story and not only deliver on that promise, but surpass the hopes of what may come. Hill and Rodriguez, for me, far surpassed my expectations.
So, with Locke & Key complete, Hill and Rodriguez have finished taking readers on a journey over five years in the travelling. It had highs and lows, we saw the maturation and redemption of many of the characters. Strike that, Kinsey, Tyler, and Nina were all redeemed by story’s end; Lucas’s soul was saved, Tyler’s conflicted thoughts and feelings with his father were resolved, and Bode was returned to the boy we first met.
Bravo to all those involved in producing Locke & Key; it is a superb literary achievement."

Defenders by Will McIntosh - "In the near future, Earth is attacked by the Luyten, giant alien starfish intent on taking over the world and making it their own. As humanity fights back, the world bands together in their goal to find a weapon that will successfully combat the Luyten forces. Making this more difficult is the fact that the Luyten can read our thoughts. It isn’t to revealing of a spoiler to say that a weapon is crafted in the form of 16 foot tall super-soldiers created from human DNA.
What makes Defenders such an incredible novel is McIntosh’s pure elegance, the beauty of its simplicity. Each element of the novel, the characters, the situations, the world, the results of the world’s actions, organically feed into each other as the novel progresses. Oliver could very easily have been the typical geeky scientist and there are elements of that in him; he’s a bit socially awkward for example. However, it isn’t a defining trait. Wiewall could, in the hands of a writer with lesser skill at fleshing out characters, been the proverbial bitch on wheels so many women in power are painted as with shallow strokes. However, in the (relative to other characters) small amount of space we are in Wiewall’s head, she comes across as a woman who is admirably head-strong, as well as flawed and nervous. In other words, she’s reads like a real, living and breathing person."

Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey (The Expanse #4) - "Corey tells the story through multiple Points of View: Elvi Okoye, one of the scientists on New Terra charged with cataloguing the various life forms and the environment; Havelock, a security officer aboard one of ships orbiting New Terra; and Basia Merton, one of the first colonists who arrived (squatters, one might say) on New Terra and part of a group unhappy with the RCE.
Corey has always populated these novels with strong characters. We’ve come to know Holden fairly well over the course of these four novels, and while it is great to see returning characters (Bobbie Draper was a POV character and she returns as a POV character in the prologue here), meeting new people is always a feature. The standout here was Elvi, a determined scientist who fits the mold of ‘scientist hero’ in the same vein as many protagonists from the Golden Age aside from her gender. One of the most telling things we learn through her is how the “life” on New Terra cannot be really measured by any known means.
One narrative trick Corey pulled off very well was showing the same conversation from the sides of both participants. For example, an Elvi chapter may end with a conversation between her and Holden. The next chapter featuring Holden as the POV character will show his side of the conversation early in the chapter. It may seem a simple thing, but it comes across very fluid and gives a natural feel to the narrative."

The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler (The Shadow Campaigns #2) - "The King is dying, people are vying for power with his death on the horizon and as a result, one of our new (and a most welcome one at that) point of view characters is the king’s daughter, Raesinia. However, the young princess is far more than she appears. Soon after Wexler introduces her, she jumps out of her window only to “survive” the fall. Raesinia is also working as something of a revolutionary with the populace, realizing that Duke Orlanko, the true power in Vordan, is close to seizing all the power he has been craving. 
That introduction to Raesinia is one of the most shocking and powerful character introductions I’ve come across in quite some time and with it, Wexler sets the tone for the novel.One of the things that Wexler does so well in both of these novels is to really lay down a level playing field for gender and sexuality.

The groundwork was laid in The Thousand Names with Winter’s character and again, the theme continues when she is reunited with her friend / companion / lover Jane, whom she last saw in the women’s prison from which she escaped prior to the beginning of The Thousand Names. What I found most effective in this point is how matter-of-factly Janus works with Winter and Jane to bring their female-only battalion into the military fold. In fact, Winter is the one who made the biggest deal out of it and was surprised at how amenable (and frankly figured into his plans) Janus was to Winter’s plan. Janus places the same rules and restrictions as he would on any military unit, but adds the caveat that the men alongside whom they serve may not be as friendly."

Those two honorable mentions are Elizabeth Moon’s Trading in Danger (published just over 10 years ago) and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs, publishing in September of this year which is about when my review will post.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-07-05)

Only two books on this shortened week, one of which is an eArc.

The Little Green Book of Chairman Rahma by Brian Herbert (Tor Hardcover 07/08/2014) – This solo outing for Herbert is a near future environmental SF thriller.

A revolution has taken over the government of the United States and the environment has been saved. All pollution has been banned and reversed. It's a bright, green new world. But this new world comes with a great cost. The United States is ruled by a dictatorship and the corporations are fighting back. Joining them are an increasing number of rebels angered by the dictatorship of Chairman Rahma. The Chairman's power is absolute and appears strong, but in The Little Green Book of Chairman Rahma by Brian Herbert, cracks are beginning to show as new weapons are developed by the old corporate powers, foreign alliances begin to make inroads into America's influence . . . and strange reports of mutants filter through the government's censorship.

Blightborn (Book 2 of The Heartland Trilogy) by Chuck Wendig (Skyscape Mass Market Paperback 07/29/2014) – The writing machine that is Chuck Wendig gives us the sequel/second book in the this trilogy, the first (Under an Empyrian Sky) of which I enjoyed
a great deal.

Cael McAvoy is on the run. He’s heading toward the Empyrean to rescue his sister, Merelda, and to find Gwennie before she’s lost to Cael forever. With his pals, Lane and Rigo, Cael journeys across the Heartland to catch a ride into the sky. But with Boyland and others after them, Cael and his friends won’t make it through unchanged.

Gwennie’s living the life of a Lottery winner, but it’s not what she expected. Separated from her family, Gwennie makes a bold move—one that catches the attention of the Empyrean and changes the course of an Empyrean man’s life.

The crew from Boxelder aren’t the only folks willing to sacrifice everything to see the Empyrean fall. The question is: Can the others be trusted?

They’d all better hurry. Because the Empyrean has plans that could ensure that the Heartland never fights back again.

Chuck Wendig’s riveting sequel to Under the Empyrean Sky plunges readers into an unsettling world of inequality and destruction, and fleshes out a cast of ragtag characters all fighting for survival and, ultimately, change.