We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory | Tachyon, 2014

We Are All Completely Fine is a book about monsters and the scars they leave. It centers on a group of survivors who have each encountered something strange. This group, brought together by Dr. Jan Sayer, each bear the scars of their experiences. There is Stan, the only survivor to make it out alive (though not wholly intact) after being held by a family of cannibals; Martin, a shut-in geek who never takes off his glasses; Barbara, who survived flaying at the hands of a monster who carved intricate designs into her bones; Greta, a mysterious young woman with a penchant for fire; and Harrison Harrison, aka Harrison Squared who in his youth was a semi-famous monster detective who was featured in fictionalized in a series of novels based on his real-life experiences. The group gathers together reluctantly. The various experiences of each of this weird support group makes trusting and sharing rather difficult.
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Brilliance and A Better World by Marcus Sakey

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey | Thomas & Mercer, 2013

A Better World by Marcus Sakey | Thomas & Mercer, 2014

I loved that first season of NBC’s Heroes. There was so much promise, so much potential. Of course that didn’t last long as the show became muddled in its own mythology and then got tripped up by the writer’s strike. But that first season? That is some excellent television. Thankfully Marcus Sakey takes all the promise and wonder from that first season of Heroes and pours into his novel Brilliance. In the world of Brilliance’s Agent Nick Cooper a tiny, but not insignificant, percentage of the human population is born with special gifts. While some gifts are mundane and relatively harmless others, like Cooper’s own ability to “read” people through minute cues in body language, are dangerous. Cooper works for DAR, the Department of Analysis and Response, an agency founded after a “brilliant” leader assassinated an important politician and committed mass murder. His job is to track down the dangerous “brilliants” for Uncle Sam and either capture them or put them down.

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California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout

California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout | Tor Books, 2014

California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout is the first in a new urban fantasy series that takes place in California. In the world of California Bones osteomancy is the form magic takes as power if gained through distilling and consuming the bones of other creatures. Daniel Blackland, the son of a famous osteomancer was present when his father was killed by the powerful Hierarch of Southern California (I’ll leave to your imagination exactly how he was killed). Daniel escaped and was raised in the underworld of Los Angeles where he has survived through his wits and using just enough of the magic his father taught him so as to stay beneath the Heirarch’s radar. When his estranged criminal mentor contacts him for one last job Daniel assembles an Ocean’s 11 style magical team to rob the heart of the Hierarch’s magical kingdom, the La Brea Tar Pits.

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner | Delacorte, 2009

James Dashner’s The Maze Runner has received some attention as of late thanks to its relatively successful film adaptation. A fact I’m aware of because I am, quite possibly, the only 31-year-old male who watches the star, Dylan O’Brien, on MTV’s Teen Wolf. I find this fact only mildly embarrassing. I read Dashner’s newer science fiction novel, The Eye of Minds, not too long ago and while I wasn’t enamored with the novel I at least found it enjoyable. I have similar feelings towards Dashner’s The Maze Runner.

Looking at the Young Adult/Teen novel market I consistently get the impression that its primary audience is female. From an anecdotal perspective I get the impression that females, by and large, a willing to read a broader spectrum of novels then males. Indeed the very fact that there is an entire body of academic work on young male literacy, and at least two popular movement dedicated towards advancing literacy in boys (check out Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read for an excellent example) sheds light on why teen novels seem to trend towards a more female audience. I am perhaps a little off topic here but novels like The Maze Runner, with its almost entirely male cast, are the exception in the teen world particularly when looking at teen speculative fiction.

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Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed | Brilliance Audio, 2012

I’m late to the party checking out Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon which given my love for the work of Howard Andrew Jones’ Chronicles of Sword and Sand is even more egregious an error than you might expect. However, unlike Jones’ work Adhmed takes several big steps away from the historical choosing instead to center his story a bit more loosely. The Crescent Moon Kingdoms of Ahmed’s novel are familiar but not explicitly defined as part of our world and borrowing just enough from history to lend the story an air of credibility and tangibility. The story of Throne of the Crescent Moon centers on ghul hunter Doctor Adoulla Makhslood and features a strong cast of supporting characters including the dervish Raseed, the shapeshifting Zamia, the mage Dawoud, and the alchemist Litaz. A series of seemingly unrelated events see the Doctor uncovering the fact that recent murders in the city of Dhamsawaat may be more than they appear and that something ancient, evil, and dark is stirring beneath the sands.

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Godborn by Paul S. Kemp

The Godborn by Paul S. Kemp | Wizards of the Coast, 2013

I feel like I buck the trend a bit in the world of Forgotten Realms fiction. Paul S. Kemp’s Erevis Cole is by far my favorite character and Kemp’s handle on dialogue is superb. The Godborn continues Wizards of the Coast’s Sundering event following Salvatores The Companions. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Companions as a novel, it felt far too transitory to make for a good stand alone read, and thankfully The Godborn doesn’t follow in that tradition. The Companions hinted and The Godborn confirms that the The Sundering is mostly a background tie-in that doesn’t really get expounded on in the plot. Indeed, in The Godborn the major event felt a bit more tertiary to the proceedings than even the previous novel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Kemp’s handle on characterization really brought to the needs and desires of his characters to the fore; a fact which definitely helped in getting things rolling.

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City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennet | Broadway, 2014

Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere was an interesting and complex novel that blended horror, science fiction, and the notion of the American Dream into a cohesive and entertaining whole.  City of Stairs is Bennett’s first foray into more “traditional” second world fantasy.  The city of Bulikov, the titular City of Stairs, was once not only infused with the magic of the gods but home to one as well. That was before the oppressed slaves from a distant land managed to find a way to kill gods and transformed themselves into a world spanning empire. With Bulikov’s patron diety dead the city’s magical nature is a thin spectre of what it once was. When a regional imperial judge is found suddenly dead the mousy, middle aged Shara Divani is sent to investigate.

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Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence | Ace, 2014

Prince of Fools runs parallel, at least chronologically, to Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy. Lawrence is close to the top of my list of new(er) fantasy writers and the Broken Empire trilogy is one my favorite reads probably in the last decade so seeing a new title is exciting news. Prince Jalan is a bet far down the line from the throne currently occupied by his grandmother The Red Queen. Jalan spends his time shirking responsibility, running from conflict, and basically spending all of his considerable effort in looking out for the most important person in the world: himself. The Red Queen summons her lineage to hear the testimony of several prisoners who claim that war is coming and hear the Jalan first sees the Northman named Snorri ver Snagason. Jalan thinks little of Snorri’s tale of the dead returning to plague the living and see him for what he: potential profit in the fighting pits. Jalan’s selfish decision to suborn Snorri’s freedom sets forth a chain reaction of sort that snags the young prince and the stoic Northman in events both dangerous and dire.

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Review: The Heart of Matter by Evan C. Currie

The Heart of Matter by Evan Currie | Brilliance/Audible Frontiers, 2012

I actually had to listen to this audiobook twice since I couldn’t remember if I had listened to it or not. Turns out I had but the refresher was necessary since I had seemingly forgotten quite a bit since I last checked in with Currie’s Oddysey series. While enjoyed the first novel there is a sort of generic feel to this series that is difficult to same. This is a bit of a shame since Currie sets forth some fascinating mysteries in The Heart of Matter. In the first novel Currie introduces a ship taking its maiden voyaging using an untested, instantaneous FTL drive. Of course, on this maiden voyage the Odyssey encounters a seemingly human alien species that is facing a terribly world-destroying enemy. The Heart of Matter picks up where the previous novel ended as Captain Weston and his new allies are back on Earth recovering from their ordeal against the Drasin. Fleet brass isn’t necessarily pleased that Captain Westin has embroiled Earth in yet another conflict but is at least understanding the necessity to intervene in what would have amounted to genocide. The novel sees the Odyssey retasked on a diplomatic mission to establish a more formal relationship between Earth and the Priminae people; a task that involves getting the Priminae ground forced trained and ready to face the Drasin.

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Review: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game by Jim Butcher | Roc, 2014

I love reading series fiction. I’m less a fan of reviewing it; particularly when it comes to long-running series. When you’re looking at a trilogy this aren’t so bad but when a series is 15 books in things get difficult. Who is the review aimed at? New readers picking up Skin Game certainly aren’t going to have the same experience as long-vested fans and I’ve been reading this series so long that I’m not even sure how a new reader would react to Skin Game on its own. While Butcher’s Dresden Files don’t really break down into distinct arcs I feel like the last several novels starting with, appropriately enough, Changes have been a sort of transitional shift in narrative both in terms of Harry’s character and the focus of the plot itself. Where the early focus of the novels was primarily on Harry dealing with the magical shenanigans in and around Chicago the scope of the series has gradually broadened to encompass something much larger. It hasn’t been until the last several novels where the scope and nature of magical conflict in Harry’s world has really come into focus and I’m beginning to suspect that Butcher has something epic in store as the series winds towards its conclusion (Butcher envisions 20 
“casebooks” plut a 3 book “apocalyptic trilogy“). Changes’ finale started a new chapter in Harry’s life with a single gunshot. Since then Ghost Story and Cold Days were transitional novels as Harry deals with the fallout of his decisions and actions. With Skin Game I feel like readers get the first glimpses of light at the end of a long tunnel of darkness that Harry has been travelling down. There has been a certain air of melancholy and isolation in the previous novels that is markedly present in the beginning of Skin Game but is slowly peeled away the further we get into the novel.

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