Much was made about John Scalzi’s recent $3.5M deal with Tor books (10 years, 13 books) and I can think of few authors as deserving. While I haven’t read all of Scalzi’s work everything I have read has been somewhere around fantastic. I am a particular fan of the Old Man’s War universe and have thoroughly enjoyed each successive work set there. The End of All Things is the hardcover release of Scalzi’s latest Old Man’s War novel which was previously serialized on Tor.com. I greatly enjoyed Scalzi first serialized Old Man’s War work in The Human Division so I eagerly snatched this up when Tor sent me a review copy. It should be said that for anyone new to the universe first seen in Old Man’s War, The End of All Things is not necessarily the place to start. It primarily builds on the events in The Human Division but a general knowledge of past events seen in Old Man’s War, Zoe’s Tale, and The Last Colony will definitely help readers.
In honor of Del Rey re-releasing Paul S. Kemp’s The Hammer and the Blade today I am re-posting my review of the original release here. You can find the new edition at your book seller of choice.
The Hammer and the Blade
Paul S. Kemp
Angry Robot, 2012
I haven’t read a lot of Forgotten Realms fiction, what I have read was typically from the setting’s creator Ed Greenwood or the ever-poular R. A. Salvatore but what I had read I enjoyed. But you can only take so much of a certain powerful wizard and a particular scimitar wielding dark elf before you grow a little weary. So, when I had heard buzz about Paul S. Kemp’s Erevis Cale books I decided to give it a shot. Kemp’s Twilight War series managed to not only tell an entertaining story full of action, adventure and magic but also managed to muse a bit about the nature of spirituality and faith. Kemp has primarily worked with in shared worlds moving from The Forgotten Realms to Star Wars but I’ve always wanted to read something of his that was wholly original. Now, with the release of The Hammer and the Blade that time has come.
Weston Ochese’s American Golem was one of my favorite stories from the Operation Arcana collection and as a result I was excited to give Seal Team 666 a shot. Unfortunately, I wanted to like Seal Team 666 far more than I actually did. The novel opens up with Cadet Jack Walker, nearing completion of SEAL training, suddenly yanked out of said training and attached to titular Seal Team 666 for a covert mission. Walker, finds himself suddenly part of a strange new world where everything that goes bump in the night is real. The novel’s primary threat centers on a cult being led by a man possessed by an ancient spirit and the efforts of Seal Team 666 to bring him down.
Lauren Beukes follows her excellent The Shining Girls with another cross-genre blend of the real and the other-worldly in Broken Monsters. When boiled down to its most basic elements Broken Monsters lays somewhere near the intersection of mystery and thriller with the majority of the focus on the murder investigation involving a young boy whose remains were sowed to those of a fawn. It’s a horrific premise but one that despite forming the bedrock of the narrative isn’t really what the novel is about. The novel features a variety of perspectives including that of the divorced Detective Gabriella Versado and her daughter Layla, the journalist Jonno, Thomas Keen (TK) a homeless Detroit native, and Clayton who the less I say about the better. Each different perspective offers a different thematic thread that weaves into a novel of surprising breadth that still offers a taught, cohesive story.
Helen Lowen’s Wall of Night series was recommended by Courtney Schafer here as a series that improves after book one. Having read the first book of that series, Heir of Night, I’m excited to see if that truly is the case. Malian, the heir of Night, is set to inherit her father’s title and take over the long watch for the Darkswarm; the abominations that her people are pledged to fight against. Before she can even dream of ascending however it is revealed that the Darkswarm is rousing and the time of ancient prophecy, a prophecy in which Malian will play a key part, is at hand. What is so fascinating about The Heir of Night is how much the familiar elements are used in counterpoint to what is an original and interesting world. There are element of The Heir of Night that are strictly borrowed from science fiction and while couched in terms of the fantastic there is the general feeling that this is a novel of the far future and an alien world more than a typical secondary world fantasy tale.
The Exapnse series is back once again and, as has been the case so far, is once again an excellent and exciting dose of science fiction adventure. Where the previous novel, Cibola Burn, dealt with unauthorized colonies beyond the edge of know space Nemesis Games sees a return to more familiar locales and deals primarily with the political repercussions of events that have occurred in the series so far. The primary focus of Nemesis Games is zeroed in on the crew of the Rocinante in roughly equal measure. Where the previous novels focused more on Holden’s journey Nemesis Games expand perspective quite a bit by splitting up the crew and giving readers chapters from each of Roci’s core family members.
I read Alive by Scott Sigler while on my honeymoon in April. I’ve enjoyed his previous work, especially the Infected series, so I’m always willing to read whatever he has written. The premise of the novel is fascinating:
A young woman awakes trapped in an enclosed space. She has no idea who she is or how she got there. With only her instincts to guide her, she escapes her own confinement—and finds she’s not alone. She frees the others in the room and leads them into a corridor filled with the remains of a war long past. The farther these survivors travel, the worse are the horrors they confront. And as they slowly come to understand what this prison is, they realize that the worst and strangest possibilities they could have imagined don’t even come close to the truth.
I started Alive and didn’t stop reading until I finished. Exciting, thrilling, and eminently readable Alive is not a novel without its issues. In previous works Sigler doesn’t shy away from violence and while that is still true here it is certainly less graphic than in previous works (but can anything really top Perry’s sections in Infected?). Alive is a novel that is targeted a bit towards the teen crowd and I can’t help but think the audience limited the places that Sigler could go with his story.
When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner is the author’s debut novel. This is a big swords and sorcery epic that seems to channel a touch of Steven Erikson. The story is catapulted into action by the theft of a magical book that is filled to the brim with magic; the Book of Lost Souls. As the mage who stole the book begins to explore its power over the dead it begins to drawn the attention of gods and men into an epic convergence of power. The story follows several characters from different corners of the world as each is drawn ever towards the book’s power; each for a different reason. Luker, a magic wield swordsman called a Guardian, seeks to find his master who was also on the trail of the book; Romany, a priestess of the Spider is an agent of her Goddess’ machinations; Ebon, a Prince whose home lies close to the site of the convergence seeks to end the book’s effects on his people (mainly in the form of an army of undead); and Parolla a mysterious necromancer whose motivation I don’t want to spoil.
Continue reading “When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner”
Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War is a new military thriller available in June. Singer has written several non-fiction titles about war and military industrial complex. This appears to August Cole’s first book and both authors’ first novel. Singer and Cole blend familiar tactics with modern (and future) technologies to tell the story of a Chinese attack on Pearl Harbor that heralds the beginning of another world war. Ghost Fleet is a fascinating premise that, while speculative, is grounded in technologies and tactics that either currently exist or could exist in the near future. The authors’ premise is backed by a rather extensive bibliography at the end of the novel. As such, Ghost Fleet makes an interesting thought exercise marked with some thrilling action set pieces. Ghost Fleet is a breezy, quick read, that will be well-suited to anyone looking for an exciting piece of fiction to enjoy by the pool or on the beach.
Ghost Fleet, while on sure-footing when talking about tactics and technology, and while dealing with action, is far less sure when it comes to characters. While some exceptions, particularly the U.S. Marines turned insurgents in Hawaii, many of the characters feel like deliberate tropes who fall into familiar roles. The novel, clocking in at decent 417 pages, is fast paced but offers little room for developing the myriad of characters seen across the novel. In a bizarre move there is significant section of the novel given over to the hunt for a serial killer in occupied Hawaii. This section of the novel marks for a sharp departure from the military and political focus of the novel. If the intent was to illustrate the effect of occupation on the Hawaiian population then it falls flat on its face. That isn’t to say the serial killer story isn’t interesting, or even well-written, it most certainly is both of those things. However, its tone is such a departure from the rest of the novel that I frequently found it distracting. The various perspectives seen in Ghost Fleet could likely have each filled out their own novel and trimming some of the dross could have lead to a deeper emotional investment in the characters. As a result, I was not invested in the fate of the characters and simply pressing forward to see what happened next.
Ghost Fleet, while exciting feels like a novel that could have been far more that what it ended up being. This fact is depressing because it still manages to be an exciting read that draws the reader in with a vivid picture of a war the could have been. Ghost Fleet will be available in the U.S. on June 30th.
You should know first that I am fan of Cinema Sins. Jeremy is half the writing team behind Cinema Sins and the narrator so when I saw on their Youtube channel that Jeremy had written a book I figured that I should check it out. It didn’t hurt that John Dies at the End author David Wong has a nice little quote up over on the book’s website. I jumped when I saw that Netgalley had it up. The Ables is about a secret society of superpowered peoples living around us. We don’t see them but they are there protecting us from both regular criminals and from super-powered individuals who do not have out best interests at heart. So when Phillip Sallinger learns that he has inherited superpowers he absolutely ecstatic; even if his telekinesis is difficult to use due to his blindness.