The Deep by Nick Cutter

The Deep by Nick Cutter | January, 2015

Nick Cutter, the pseudonymous author of The Troop, will release his second novel The Deep on January 13, 2015. In The Deep a strange disease called the ‘Gets has ravaged humanity attacking peoples’ minds forcing them to forget things until even their most basic abilities to function disappear. With no cure in a sight a special research station deep within the Marianias trench, the Trieste, offers the faintest glimmer of hope. Luke, a veterinarian, has been called to this research station since it his brilliant scientist brother Clayton who is spearheading the research deep beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Luke must descend into the dark depths of the ocean, into an alien landscape, in order to find his brother and discover what type of cure has been dredged up from the depths.

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Valor by John Gwynne

Valor by John Gwynne | Orbit Books, 2014

Malice, the first book in The Faitful and the Fallen series was an entertaining debut to a new series. Valor picks up mere moments after the last novel as Corban, Edana, and the handful who escaped the taking of Dun Carreg make their getaway. As in Malice, Gwynne walks a nice middle ground with his prose. There is a darkness to Valor, with the odds stacked against the heroes and with the people (at least some of them) firmly on the “villainous” side of things not necessary villains themselves. There is violence in the novel but nothing over-the-top though Valor delves a bit further into murky waters when it comes to sexuality; a fact I’ll touch on later. By and large this is an excellent continuation of the series managing a brisk pace while simultaneously deepening the lore of the world that Gwynne has created.

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Quick Shot: Sword of the Bright Lady by M. C. Planck

Sword of the Bright Lady by M.C. Planck | Pyr, 2014

When Christopher Sinclair takes a walk one night in Arizona he suddenly finds himself waking up in a strange land gripped by a freezing winter. Sinclair is quickly quickly finds himself embroiled in the affairs of the titular Bright Lady as her consort, the God of War Marcius, offers an exchange: Christopher’s help in dealing with the the threat of war for Marcius’ help in returning to his wife and home. From its initial layout Sword of the Bright Lady there is a sense of familiarity to the tale that reminded me a bit of the Thomas Covenant or even A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court series but hearkens back even further to the old fairy stories of mortals wandering into strange in new lands full of magic and water.

Sword of the Bright Lady stretches credulity with Sinclair coming off a touch like a Mary Sue. He knows a bit too much to be able to survive in a pre-industrial society as he is able to bring techniques and technologies to bear in order to improve the quality of weapons and armor. Similar his prowess with a weapon, though below that of the native in the novel, is a bit too good for someone from our world. The world of Sword of the Bright Lady often feels familiar, particularly to anyone who has played a video game or enjoyed a session of Dungeons and Dragons. Magic-users are measured by rank and their power is increased by taking on the energy of expired lifeforms, particularly other ranked individuals. It comes off a little corny and a bit derivative but I none-the-less found myself enjoying the loosely explained narrative context for “levels” and “experience points.”

Sword of the Bright Lady isn’t a particularly great novel but it is an entertaining diversion. Planck leaves the mystery of the Sinclair’s journey between his world and the magical world largely in the dark. It’s something I’d like to have seen explained a little more. While the novel lacks depths it makes up for that lack with some excellent action scenes and the pure entertainment value of watching a headstrong, independent-minded American butt heads with a rigid feudal society. If you’re looking for a fun, goofy read Sword of the Bright Lady is worth a shot.

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer

Comprised of Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy is a fascinating journey into weird fiction by one of the sub-genres most prominent adherents. Nominally the series deals with the strange locale known only as Area X. Area X is a strange morass of wilderness where things are more than a little off kilter. The events that created Area X are unknown, protected by a strange barrier the expeditions into Area X have rarely turned up anything except perhaps more mystery.

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Brief Hiatus

I find myself a bit pressed for time of late and thus I haven’t been as diligent posting here as I should be. So for now I’m going to put this blog on a bit of a hiatus while my attentions are more focused on real life (good things, not bad, rest assured). I will be back with more things and what I hope is a more regular schedule in December; until then mind the cobwebs.

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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