Small Pub/Backlist/Classics I’ve Reviewed

While typing my review I was mentally trying to recall the times I’ve reviewed Small/Indie Pub, backlist, and classic titles.  I’ve come up with a pretty good list that I’ve linked to below and I’ll try to keep this updated going forwards:

Indie/Small Press:

The Blood Red Sphere (Swimming Kangaroo Books)

Day by Day Armegeddon (Permuted Press)

John Dies at the End (Permuted Press at the time of the review, now picked up by St. Martin’s)

Open Your Eyes (Apex Press)

The Revenant Road (Drollerie Press)

Riyria Revelations Series (Ridan Publishing)

The Space Between (Blue Fairy Books)

Tel Aviv Dossier (Chizine Publications)

The World More Full of Weeping (Chizine Publications)

Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires (Hells Kitchen)

Classics/Backlist:

At the Mountains of Madness (SF/horror classic)

The Dragonbone Chair (Fantasy Classic)

The Ghost Brigades and Old Man’s War (SF backlist)

The Gunslinger (Stephen King, backlist)

Long Price Quartet (books 1 & 2, backlist)

Revelation Space and Redemption Ark (sf backlist)

The Stars My Destination (SF Classic)

Various hard-boiled fiction (classic and backlist)

Young Miles (omnibus, SF Classic)

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August Summary

I decided to try and get this done on time/early rather than late this month.  As usual here are a list of titles I reviewed in August:

Heretics by S. A. Swann
The Office of Shadow by Matthew Sturges
The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman (audio)
The Grave Thief by Tom Lloyd
A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files
Mission of Honor by David Weber
Warp Riders by The Sword (music)
The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

I’m currently working my way through Col Buchanan’s Farlander and Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama.  The latter title is sort of a response to Mark C. Newton’s recent post on Genre Diversity (itself an extension of an early post about frontlist titles) calling for more coverage of backlist and indie published titles.  While I’ve done a smattering of indie titles, typically in the horror genre, I’m less frequent with backlist titles.  While I can’t promise the sort of epic and in depth reviews that the folks over at the SFF Masterworks blog are producing (Larry’s reviews in particular always make me feel bad about my own general laziness) I’ll at least make an effort to cover some more “classic” and backlist titles in the coming months.  I’m contemplating a horror binge come October (it being the month for that kind of stuff) so if anyone out there has suggestions let me know.

You know…

…that movie there male/female lead is friends with another male/female but really in love with them? Then the lead goes and change how they look/act only to find out that their friend was already interested in them before but is now totally not interested at all? Well, I’m getting the feeling that Bioware’s new direction in Dragon Age 2 is kind of like that….

Review: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The Black Prism is the first book in the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks, author of the Night Angel Trilogy.  Unlike Weeks’ first series The Black Prism features at its forefront a magic system based the transmutation of light, based on color spectrum, into a physically and magically manipulative substance called luxim.  Drafters, as the magic users in the world are called, absorb one or more hues of light via the use of colored lenses (if none of their associated colors are present) or ambient light (if it is prominent in a color the drafter can draft).  Each color, in addition to having its own unique physical properties, also elicits a unique emotional effect  in its drafters.  For example red drafters become angry and aggressive; blue drafters cool, calculating and serene; and green drafters become wild.  Not complicated enough yet?  Ok, the more a user drafts a color the closer they come to insanity and death as they eventually become a color wight; warped and twisted by the ideals their color represents.

Continue reading “Review: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks”

Review: Warp Riders by The Sword

Warp Riders / The Sword
Warp Riders / The Sword

Austin based metallers The Sword are one of my favorite bands of 21st Century.  Age of Winters and Gods of the Earth with their mythology and fantasy themed songs are some of the best, groove-heavy metal of this millennium.   Warp Riders, their 3rd studio album, released today and it blows both earlier efforts into tiny particles of space dust.  I won’t lie; I was excited about this album.  Excited to a degree where I was already starting to cope with my inevitable disappointment; no album could possibly live up to the album that existed in my head.  Well, turns out I was wrong about that.  Warp Riders is exactly as amazing I hoped it would be and then some.

This also marks one of the few specific instances  wherein I feel a little less strange about posingt a review of a metal album on a mostly science fiction and fantasy book blog.   Why is that?  Take a quick look at a  synopsis of the story told on Warp Riders (courtesy of the band’s official website):

Warp Riders tells the tale of Ereth, an archer banished from his tribe on the planet Acheron. A hardscrabble planet that has undergone a tidal lock, which has caused one side to be scorched by three suns, and the other enshrouded in perpetual darkness, it is the background for a tale of strife and fantasy, the battle between pure good and pure evil. ….The story of Warp Riders, entitled “The Night The Sky Cried Tears Of Fire” (written by Cronise), follows Ereth as he discovers a mysterious orb and meets the Chronomancer, a being beyond time and space who enlists him in a quest to restore the planet’s balance. Along the way he encounters strange warriors, mysterious witches, ancient androids, and a crew of space pirates with a vessel that will alter the course of history…  a vessel known as, The Sword.

The Sword manages to tell this story not only through the lyrical content of each song but through the music that drive each track as well.  Album opener Acheron/Unearthing the Orb starts off with a quiet synthesized introduction that evokes the science-fiction theme quite nicely right before the Unearthing the Orb section takes off with a furious crunch of guitar. Tres Brujas, released earlier this year as a single, and show some improvement on J. D. Cronises’ vocal skills; though he never strays far from his “barely sung” style.  There are no metal wails or power metal screeches here and Cronises’ vocal style suits the band’s sound perfectly.  Both Cronise and Kyle Shutt take ample opportunity to show off their guitar chops, more than in any other album and I found myself grinning on multiple occasions as one or the other burst into a solo.  Production on Warp Riders sounds a bit cleaner than on previous albums.  While the sonorous drone of the heavy distortion favored by the band is still present and accounted for Warp Riders sounds tighter than the band has ever sounded in the past.

Hands down I love this album from start to finish.  While I found that the galloping rythmn of Lawless Lands to be my particular favorite every song on this album is an absolute winner.  As of right now, with just over 3 months left in 2010, Warp Riders is my favorite album of the year and it will likely take something impossibly amazing to unseat it.  I have no real complaints except that the damn thing ended!  Thankfully I have a video trilogy to look forward to (Tres Brujas, Lawless Lands, Night City) as well!  You can check out The Sword on their website or  listen to some samples on their myspace.

Review: Mission of Honor by David Weber

Mission of Honor by David Weber
Mission of Honor by David Weber

Mission of Honor
David Weber
Baen, 2010

Mission of Honor marks David Weber’s twelth main entry into the Honorverse as it’s known amongst fans; though it is in truth a follow up to Storm from the Shadows; which Baen is marketing as a Disciples of Honor novel.   Mission of Honor returns the titular character to the forefront though the sprawling events of the novel indicate that Weber’s Honorverse has become increasingly informed by his work on the Safehold series; a fact that is something of a double-edged sword.  Some spoilery summary occurs after the jump so skip the next paragraph if you haven’t read the previous books.

Continue reading “Review: Mission of Honor by David Weber”

Review: A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files

A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files
A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files

A Book of Tongues
Gemma Files
Chizine Publications, 2010

I was excited to read A Book of Tongues on just the mention of the “weird west” in the book’s description. My love of Pinnacle’s Deadlands setting certainly fueled my interest even the title of the series this books kicks off Hexslinger reminded me of Deadlands so I was certainly excited to dive into my A Book of Tongues with my past experiences with the weird west as impetus.  Nostalgia is always a dangerous thing and I’m uncertain how much what I hoped the novel would be colored my interaction with the text; likely more than was healthy.  The novel centers around Pinkerton agent William Morrow’s undercover job with notorious hexslinger and outlaw Reverend Asher Rook and Rook’s lover the murderous Chess Pargeter.  Morrow is their to ferret out the extent of Rook’s powers at the behest of a scholar seeking to harness magic users for use by the Pinkertons and the U.S. Government.  Things of course don’t go to plan and the machinations of an Aztec deity have repercussions for everyone involved.

Continue reading “Review: A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files”

Review: The Grave Thief by Tom Lloyd

The Grave Thief by Tom Lloyd
The Grave Thief by Tom Lloyd

The Grave Thief
Tom Lloyd
Pyr, 2009

The Grave Thief is the third book in Tom Lloyd’s Twilight Reign series following both The Stormcaller and The Twilight Herald.  Where as The Twilight Herald broadened the scope of the series beyond Isak’s travails The Grave Thief increases the complexity of the plot and the gravity of the threat in the series.  Where The Stormcaller stayed more tightly focused on Isak and his coterie The Grave Thief continues to expand upon the cast and players in the Twilight Reign.  This was both boon and bane to the novel; the latter primarily because I waited something close to 7 months to read this latest volume.

Continue reading “Review: The Grave Thief by Tom Lloyd”

Some thoughts D&D Essentials

I’m really excited about this product.

That being said I am, to a certain extent, troubled by it.  For the skinny I highly recommend you check out the previews that have been running over in Bill Slavicsek’s Ampersand column (handily linked here for your convenience):

Fighter Preview 1
Fighter Preview 2
Rogue Preview
Wizard Preview
Cleric Preview
Rules Changes Preview

Now, before I go on, I should say that WotC has been very very careful and insistent that this is not a new edition.  Nor does it supersede the originally published 4e material.  While I’m willing to concede the former, though it definitely lays somewhere between the kind of large scale change of 3.5 and something new entirely, the later I find a tougher sell; though I’m not wholly unconvinced.  That doesn’t mean I don’t think that what we’ve seen in the Essential previews won’t work in your average 4th Edition game but I do wonder if it should.  While the core mechanic in Essentials remains the same there is a step backwards (in time at least) towards a more basic use of attacks modified by class abilities and powers from the power-centric approach indicative of 4th Edition.

Indeed from the upcoming re-release of Dark Sun, the pending resurrection of Gamma World, the Tomb of Horrors remake, the inclusion of more fluff in the Monster Manual 3, and the planned Gazetteer for the Nentir Vale it seems very obvious that WotC is looking backwards to direct their strategy going forwards.  A quick glance at the 2011 product line reveals a bevy of titles that include a number of box sets (Monster Vault, DM’s Kit, Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale) and old settings given fresh life.  All this I love and yet I am still slightly concerned the impact that the Essentials line will have on 4e as a whole.  To be fair it is the anxious excitement that is part and parcel of anything new.

Sarah Darkmagic has a post on her blog about Running the Red Box during Gen Con and has fueled my excitement.  Of note was her comment that:

Something to note about the adventure is the abundance of opportunity to explore and interact with the environment. Runes need to be understood, crates need to be busted open, and bodies need to be looted. This sort of detail fills my heart with joy. Similarly, they present skill challenges in a way that promotes conversation and the integration of challenges within the story line rather than as something that pulls the players out of immersion.

Which has me pretty excited as well.  This is something the encounter centric philosophy behind most 4e games has been lacking and I’m excited to see how the Red Box encourages this type of stuff for new (or experienced) players.  Over at Neuroglyph Games there is a lengthy interview with Mike Mearls and Rich Baker on the Red Box.  While it doesn’t divulge anything all that new it does help enlighten some of the design philosophy behind the new product line.  Last but not least the always awesome folks over at Critical Hits have actual Red Box play on their latest podcast (which I haven’t had a chance to listen to yet).

All of WotC’s recent product decisions and upcoming releases, be they success or flop, have done perhaps the most important thing: reinvigorate my interest in the game.  Dark Sun, Essentials, the Rules Compendium, the Ravenloft Board Game, and the bevy of material in the pipe for 2011 has me as excited as ever to roll me some d20s and have some laughs with friends.

Now if only WotC would start selling a box set of free time…

Review: The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman (Audio)

The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman
The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

The Left Hand of God
Paul Hoffman, read by Steve West
Penguin Audio/Books on Tape, 2010

Alternate reality, pseudo-history, or distant future Paul Hoffman’s The Left Hand of God takes known elements of Christianity and history and weaves them into a dark and fascinating story that will grab you and drag you forward.  Thomas Cale is an orphan apprenticed to the Redeemers; a harsh order of warrior monks and fanatics devoted to a twisted version of Christianity (with definite Catholic overtones) to the point of fanaticism.   Subject to cruelty not limited to daily beatings and insufficient nutrition, Cale is finally confronted with a horror even he cannot tolerate.  The resulting conflict sends Cale and his friends Vague Henry and Kleist on the run into a new and dangerous world far different from what they’ve experience at the Sanctuary. Continue reading “Review: The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman (Audio)”