Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist Brandon Sanderson Tor Teen, 2013

I don’t understand Brandon Sanderson. Seriously. Most fantasy authors are lucky if they come up with one new fascinating and intricate fantasy setting. Most fantasy authors are lucky to come up with a single complex magic system (or unlucky depending on your view). Except Brandon Sanderson isn’t most fantasy authors. It seems likely that he has somehow tapped into some mystical wellfont of fantasy ideas. Of course that doesn’t even mention the fact that he seems to produce material at a seemingly inhuman rate. Since Elantris‘ release in 2005 (and up to and including The Rithmatist) Sanderson has released somewhere around 16 novels (and at least 2 novellas), 3 of which completed Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (he has at least one more novel due this year, Steelheart in September). A Feast For Crows was published in 2005 so in that same time period George R. R. Martin has released one book: A Dance with Dragons. I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison but it’s still impressive to say the least.

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Review: Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk

Shadow's Son by Jon Sprunk
Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk

Shadow’s Son
Jon Sprunk
Pyr, 2010

Looking for a quick and exciting read a while back I cast my eyes over my ever growing list of books I should read some time (better known as my Goodreads to-read shelf) and settled on Jon Sprunk’s Shadow’s Son. Given my penchant for character-based fantasy I thought it might be a good fit. As it turns out I was right and Shadow’s Sonmakes for an energetic albeit somewhat dark read. Caim is a haunted young man; both literally and figuratively. He is plagued by the memory of his famiy’s death while being constantly followed by a protective spirit named Kit that only he can see. Caim’s tortured past has cast him on a path of violence and darkness and he now works as an assassin. Things get dicey when someone attempts to set Caim up as a fall guy leaving him in possession of the deceased mark’s daughter Josephine. Suddenly, Caim is on a desperate quest to unravel the web of conspiracy in the city of Othir.
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Review: The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh by Steven S. Drachman

The Ghosts of Wat O'Hugh by Steven Drachman
The Ghosts of Wat O'Hugh by Steven Drachman

The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh
Steven S. Drachman
Self-published, 2011

The American West is already imbued with a near mythological quality in the American imagination and thus the combination of the American West with elements of the fantastic is an infrequent occurrence. Given its infrequency I rather look forward to that special combination of familiar American mythology made strange by the mystical or the macabre. So when author Steven S. Drachman asked me to take a look at his novel The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh I was excited to once again delve into the magic of the American West.

The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh is part time travel tale, part ancient mystery, part romance, and part Western adventure. The title character, Watt O’Hugh III, is an orphan, turned cowboy turned Western Hero turned showman. As the novel opens he is living large as the star of his very own Western show funded by none other than J. P. Morgan. Of course things don’t go smoothly for O’Hugh and he soon finds himself embroiled in a scheme to rescue the love of his life, secure money stolen from J. P. Morgan, and stop the discovery of an ancient Chinese secret from destroying the world.

The time travel elements of The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh are subtle despite being prevalent. Drachman cleverly side-steps the typical difficulties of time travel stories by carefully setting out that Roamers can only observe and never change the outcome of past events. It is a nice touch and gives Watt O’Hugh to useful means to get a change in perspective. Of course there is an exception to this rule; a man who Watt eventually (and reluctantly) becomes an agent of. Bizarrely (and refreshingly) the titular Ghosts are never quite addressed completely. You learn where the Ghosts come from but our narrator (Watt himself) is hardly impartial and while his companions question their presence Watt himself (and thus the novel at whole) never does. I think this is a nice touch; it keeps the magic magical.

The heart of The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh is a love story. The novel opens up with Watt’s last brief, cherished encounter with Lucy Billings. Watt’s rose-tinted view of his last moments with Lucy are cut short by the New York Draft Riots and what follows is a hard-scrabble life that eventually leads to some fame and eventually back to Lucy. That reunion is well worth the journey and is one of the most touching scenes I’ve read in a long time. Lucy is the real impetus behind Watt’s actions and her presence, even when she isn’t physically in the novel, is palpable throughout.

The novel, narrated by a future incarnation of Watt, employs a deft tone of both loss and humor. The novel’s only real stumbling block (a well-documented pet peeve of mine) was a lengthy spat of exposition. Said exposition deals with the ancient Chinese secret which, even after all the exposition, I wasn’t too clear on (I suppose because it is still a secret). The pacing up until that point was pretty solid and it took me a minute or two switch gears. It really is a minor issue and Drachman does his best to break it up a little bit but it remains the only part of the novel that really did not work for me. Really that section was just Drachman tapping lightly on the brakes before smashing the gas pedal straight to the floor. The final chapters fly by and feature some of the funniest (Oscar Wilde’s cameo!) and most over-the-top ridiculous (holes in reality!) scenes of the novel.

The Ghosts of Watt O’Hughis one of the most exciting and original debuts I’ve read in years. While it’s being released independently I wouldn’t be surprised to see it picked up by a major publisher at some point in the future. Tragic, funny, thrilling and something completely different The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh is well worth a look for fans of westerns, fantasy, and adventure. This is only the beginning and I really look forward to seeing where Drachman takes Watt next. You can read a sample of the novel, and find out more about the book, at www.watt-ohugh.com.

Hood’s Breath! What a ride! (The Crippled God)

The Crippled God by Steven Erikson
The Crippled God by Steven Erikson

The Crippled God
Steven Erikson
Tor, 2011

I remember all those years ago, lurking in the wotmania OF Forums looking for something, anything, to read while I waited anxiously for the next Wheel of Time novel. I remember reading glowing posts about this guy named Steven Erikson and his first book Gardens of the Moon. I remember finally giving in and ordering the paperback from amazon.co.uk. The following years were filled with ridiculous battles, philosophic soldiers, and more powerful beings than any world should ever really contain. Along the way I laughed, I cried (maybe a little when a certain someone died), I cringed, and I occasionally struggled my way through the increasingly massive tomes of Erikson’s vibrant Malazan world. Finally here we are. The “final” volume, the confrontation that everything has been leading up to and the characters, so newer some older, now ready to make one final desperate last stand.

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East Peace 2011 Thoughts

You know that feeling you get going to sleep the night before Christmas?  That excitement?  You know the feeling you get on Christmas morning tearing open your gifts?  Well, that those sensations are exactly the same one gets during PAX.  Except instead of one night and one morning it’s three straight days of that mixture of anticipation, excitement, and joy.  It’s kind of like riding a three day high.  Of course come Sunday evening you’ve crested and are plunging headlong back into “real life” and it’s really like the worst come down ever.

One day your standing amidst 70,000 of your best friends and the next your sitting at your desk.  It is a bizarre, wonderful and unique.

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A(nother) Whiny Rant Wondering Where All the New Horror Books Are

Ok, there will be a review up later, in the meantime “enjoy” this whiny semi-coherent rant.

Last year, when doing my October month of horror fiction (and likely at least once before that) I’ve mentioned the difficulty I’ve had in finding and locating new and interesting horror fiction. While my reading has been slow this month I struggled again this year in trying to track down horror fiction to read. In the course of my brief and hardly comprehensive search for new fiction of the supernatural and macabre I’ve still struggled to find titles.

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Comic Thoughts: Scheduling Fail

There is a lengthy rant about the Batman titles below this so before I subject you all to that here is my pick from last week (I’ll get this thing out more timely soon, I swear!).

Superior #1 Millar/Yu
Superior #1 Mark Millar/Leinil Francis Yu
This title is very very unabashed a riff of the classic film Big.  Ollie Jansen is wheel chair bound due to his multiple sclerosis but maintains an upbeat attitude.  Ollie is a huge fan of the somewhat dorky and very old-school Superman riff called Superior.  Then a space monkey shows up; the space monkey is Superior’s Zoltan.  Needless to say this is another one to watch from Millar who seems to have cornered the market on combining superheroics and supervillainry with a real world approach.  Yu has definitely improved as an artist over the years, his stint on New Avenger having honed his skills in portraying big superhero action without sacrificing his attention to detail.  Excellent stuff here and I highly recommend picking up a copy!

 

Now, on to the rant!

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Review: Out of the Dark by David Weber

Out of the Dark by David Weber
Out of the Dark by David Weber

Out of the Dark
David Wber
Tor, 2010

Out of the Dark is a novel that is far too straightforward to be entirely successful.  For those that don’t know Out of the Dark is an intelligently written alien invasion penned by military-sf master David Weber. The Hegemony, a council of alien races capable of interstellar travel, are horrified by the brutality and violence of the recently discovered human race have.  In response they have allowed the Shongari, one of the most war-like and less-respected members of the Hegemony, to send a fleet to Earth for “colonization.”  What ensues is a very straightforward invasion story that touches upon the classic themes that subgenre has come to be known for: underground resistances, underestimation of human capabilities  by a more “advanced” species, and the unification of different people and groups in light of a common threat are just some of the familiar elements Weber employs in the majority of Out of the Dark.

Where Out of the Dark stands, particularly in its advertising, is the inclusion of vampires.  Yes, you read that right.  When humanity’s back is to the wall it is the vampires that rise up to aid in humanity’s defense.  Which is, to put it mildly, ridiculous.  I don’t mean that in a bad way.  I’m totally willing to embrace the ridiculous in the name of awesome.  The problem seems to be that I’m not sure Weber is similarly willing.  While Out of the Dark is certainly a competent alien invasion/resistance novel for the first three-quarters of the text; it takes a sharp turn towards B-movie-ville in the final quarter.  Now, that b-movie vibe is pretty fantastic but considerably less so given the dire tone and straight-faced storytelling of the majority of the novel.

I’m heading into spoiler territory, it’s hard to discuss the vampire-laden section of the novel without it, so bear with me here.  Those I haven’t scared away from the novel by the above comments would still due well to check it out for themselves.  This is still a classic Weber sci-fi novel to start and if the addition of craziness to that model tickles your fancy I think you’ll have a good time with Out of the Dark.  Now, for everyone else, hit the jump for some more spoiler laden discussion.

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Review: Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Empire in Black and Gold
Adrian Tchaikovsky
Pyr, 2010 (orig. UK 2008)

Empire in Black and Gold the first in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series, is a book that has been on my radar since it first released over in the UK back in 2008.  Thanks to the fine folks at Pyr we have a nice, shiny, US edition in trade form (the UK first printing was a mass market) with some splendid new cover art that is far more dynamic and lively then the original printing.  While I don’t typically harp on covers all that much that last is important since I think the US cover (both for this volume and the rest of the series) does a better job of conveying the unique elements of the series.
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