This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

28 September, 2012


Cover image: Steward Noack/Don Sipley
Cover design: Lauren Panepinto


ISBN: 978-0-356-50143-7
Pages: 342 +extras
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 5 July 2012

On the cover:


She’s the undead matriarch of a Britain where the Aristocracy is made up of werewolves and vampires, where goblins live underground and mothers know better than to let their children out after dark. A world where technology lives side by side with magic, where being nobility means being infected with the Plague (side-effects include undeath) and Hysteria is the popular affliction of the day.

Xandra Vardan is a member of the elite Royal Guard, and it’s her duty to protect the Aristocracy. But things get complicated when her sister goes missing. Xandra will not only realise she’s the prize in a dangerous power struggle – but she’ll also uncover a conspiracy that threatens to topple the empire itself.

   This novel stretches the usual Steampunk setting into the present day. But it is not the present day as we know it, but an Alternate History present day that is the home to the denizens we are with familiar seeing in Victorian times.
   The setting itself is pretty much what you would expect from a Steampunk novel that has the werewolves and vampires from modern Urban Fantasy, but that doesn't mean that this is a formulaic novel. There are lots of great ideas here, and Locke manages to take the elements that make up the novel and make a very entertaining story out of them.

   Locke puts a very nice twist on the origin of werewolves and vampires that I found very interesting. In fact he whole worldbuilding is very nicely done, there's much history too it, and it has many very interesting elements. There's actually quite a bit to take in here, and that is something I really appreciated. It shows that Locke can create a vivid world, and has the skill to make it come alive on the page.

   The characters are also done in a realistic fashion. Xandra comes especially alive, and we get a very good insight into her. That events take her to places that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable to her adds to both her depth and her strength. She's a strong female, who is both special, and for what she is, also feels realistic. Xandra is definitely a character who is worth spending some time with.
   Supporting Xandra are quite a few diverse characters, along with some historic persons who add to the realistic feel of the novel. All of these are well realised, and are interesting in their own right. They never feel like they exist just to be "scenery" for the main character.

   On to the story. Locke gives us a story that has action and mystery from the start. Central to it is a conspiracy that Xandra is thrown into. Along the way there are lots of twist and turns, the pace is fast and there is plenty of tension.
   Locke is very good at getting the balance been a fast pace and the building of tension. There is a sense of never quite being in the know that runs through the whole novel, and as we learn more we get dragged into the events. There's a real sense of the story developing before our eyes, and being taken along for the ride. And it is a thoroughly entertaining journey to go on.

    This is a very good example of the Steampunk/Urban Fantasy crossover genre done right. The setting is well developed enough to satisfy fans of Alternate History, and the werewolf/vampire elements will be great for fans of that type of Urban Fantasy.
   Locke has created a great world, and some great characters well worth spending time with. And I look forward to future installments in this series.

LINKS: Kate Locke  Orbit

27 September, 2012


Cover art: Michael Whelan


ISBN: 0-345-30306-7
Pages: 332
Publisher: Del Rey
Originally published: December 1982
This edition published: February 1984

On the cover:
(Taken from the Random House web site)

Nine years after the disastrous Discovery mission to Jupiter in 2001, a joint U.S.-Soviet expedition sets out to rendezvous with the derelict spacecraft, to search the memory banks of the mutinous computer HAL 9000 for clues to what went wrong . . . and what became of Commander Dave Bowman.

Without warning, a Chinese expedition targets the same objective, turning the recovery mission into a frenzied race for the precious information Discovery may hold about the enigmatic monolith that orbits Jupiter.

Meanwhile, the being that was once Dave Bowman, the only human to unlock the mystery of the monolith, streaks toward Earth on a vital mission of its own . . .

   This is the second book in Clarke's Space Odyssey quartet, and follows 2001: A Space Odyssey. It does function as a direct sequel, and it does a very good job of bringing the reader back to the world of the first book.

   The novel starts out on Earth, but quickly move on to another expedition to Jupiter. Despite having the same destination as in the previous book we get a wholly different journey this time. And Clarke is really good at giving us a realistic feeling for how this journey passes.
   There's quite a bit of hard science involved in the "space exploration" side of this story. And that is something I found very interesting, despite it being dated. Although a lot has happened in the thirty years since this book was published there's still a very good sense of realism, and for me the parts that have been dated by later discoveries didn't impact my enjoyment of the story.

   Alongside the scientific exploration of the solar system, we also get another story that is much more fantastical. And this is a part of the story that adds a lot to the novel as a whole. The return of Dave Bowman, and his part of the story, is fascinating. It does however provide quite a departure from the rest of the book.  It's almost metaphysical, and it takes some effort to get used to the shift in direction.
   Despite this being quite different to the feeling of the rest of the story, it does as I said add a great deal to it. And Clarke shows himself to be very capable of blending two so different elements into a coherent whole. The more fantastical elements would not have worked so well without having a grounding in the more mundane elements of the rest of the story.

   From the start this novel moves at quite a quick pace, it doesn't take long before we are thrown into events. There are some real surprises for the reader before we even get to what is the physical destination of the novel. These add quite a bit of suspense and wonder.
   Suspense and wonder are really the essential elements of the story. The suspense is not only there in the events that unfold, but there is an eerie atmosphere to what is going on that creates some real tension. Clarke keeps his cars close, and it is really hard to get any sort of grip on what is going to happen next.
   As for sense of wonder, there is a lot of it. There are things happening here that are really mindblowing, and they can really stretch your imagination when you try to grasp what is happening. Especially events towards the end make this a work of great imagination.

   Overall this is a really great follow up to 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you have read that book, or seen the film, I'd urge you to get this book and see what Clarke has in store next. The expansion of ideas is great to experience, and it is great reading for those that like near future Science Fiction.
   The more fantastical parts of this novel will make it suitable for those who like their Science Fiction to not be constrained to hard science. And the space exploration part is very much a must for those that find that fascinating.
   This is another great Science Fiction novel from Clarke.

Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Link: Del Rey/Spectra

26 September, 2012


  Quite a few covers this time, as I'm trying to catch up with some of the covers I've missed in previous posts, and there's some very recent reveals as well.

First two covers for the same book, Terry Brook's Bloodfire Quest. At the top the US one, and at the bottom the UK one.

   These are two very different covers. And I don't think there's much doubt that the UK one, with art by Stephen Youll, is the superior one here. (Only too bad we get that annoying "sticker" on it.)
   I like the cover a lot. It's a classic fantasy cover, but it's still not a design that has been done to death. And the creature whose skull that is looks really interesting. The book is out 19 March 2013.

This is the cover to the third Department 19 book by Will Hill, Department 19: Battle Lines. It fits very well with the two previous ones, and I like the style of them. Having read the first book, and having the second on my TBR pile, this is a book I'm looking forward to. It's out 28 March 2013 in the UK.

The follow up to Alchemist of Souls, The Merchant of Dreams, by Anne Lyle. Art by Larry Rostant. Having just read the first book, I can say that this cover very much captures the feel of the world. It's also a book I look forward to getting my hands on.

Another book two, this time The Glass Republic by Tom Pollock. I like the fact that this cover, as the cover to book one The City's Son, is really stylish and simple.

Pantomime by Laura Lam, with cover art by Tom Bagshaw, is out from Strange Chemistry in February 2013. This is a really intriguing cover, and it looks really good. Having been inspired by the cover to read the synopsis/cover copy on the publisher's website, I'm even more interested. So there's no doubt that for me this cover grabs attention.

Another cover from Strange Chemistry. This time it's by Steven Wood for A. E. Rought's Broken. This cover looks really good, although not very original in my opinion. But despite being of a woman in a dress, I think the background and title makes it stand out a bit. And again it's a book I had to find out more about.

Rounding up the trio of Strange Chemistry covers this time is the one for The Holders by Julianna Scott. I like covers of this type, those with a mysterious/magical object and nothing much else. Although I must say that it reminds me of the movie Romancing the Stone. That statement needs a bit of explanation...The Norwegian title of Romancing the Stone is Kampen om den grønne diamant, which translates as The Battle for the Green Diamond.

The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination is a title that really grabs your attention. And I think the cover fits that title perfectly. I'm very curious to see what this anthology, edited by John Joseph Adams and out from Tor next year, brings to the table.

And while we are on the subject of mad scientists, here's the cover for The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke, coming from Angry Robot in February 2013. I like this cover, not sure why exactly but it just sort of calls to me.

From Tor we have the cover for Brandon Sanderson's Young Adult novel The Rithmatist with art by Christopher Gibbs, out in May 2013. Looks very Stempunk-y to me. Not a bad cover, but it still feels a bit meh to me.

This cover for Joe Hill's NOS4R2 is really good, I like it a lot. No information on the novel yet, but the title obviously refers to vampires, and the license plate says 1931, so I'm guessing it will be set at that time.

I've already had a cover for this book up here. I'm not sure if the previous cover is the US one or an earlier version, but this is the UK cover for Banks' new Culture novel, The Hydrogen Sonata. There's nothing really special about it, but it fits in perfectly with the previous Culture covers from Orbit, so I like it.

That concludes a rather long cover reveal post. I hope you find at least some of these covers interesting. And as always I welcome any comments you have.

25 September, 2012


Cover by Sarah Coleman


ISBN: 978-1-908844-00-2
Pages: 320
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Published: US/Can/E-book 2 October 2012, UK 4 October 2012

On the cover:

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. And when Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn’t really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together

To break the curse, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks—all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic...and the growing romantic tension between them.

   This is a novel that have much in common with Fairy Tales, and its setting is very much reminiscent of A Thousand and One Nights. There's also elements here that are reminiscent of traditional Epic Fantasy. After a beginning that is bound to a single city we are taken on a quest, and this quest blends Epic Fantasy with Fairy Tale in a seamless manner.

   Clarke is very good at getting the Fairy Tale feel of the novel across. It's established early and never lets go as the novel progresses. But these elements don't constrain the novel, and it becomes apparent as the story progresses that it is not a simple Fairy tale re-telling. Instead it is a Fantasy novel that soon takes you on a journey through an interesting landscape.
   I'm always a bit skeptical of the "quest format" of Fantasy, but I needn't have had any worries here. Clarke makes the journey a very interesting one, and the change in scenery as the story progresses makes it a very interesting journey of discovery. From the desert setting of the beginning we are taken to different landscapes that become a great backdrop to this tale.

   Although the story does follow a similar path to other Fantasy novels out there, there is more than enough here that sets it apart, it never feels like it's just following a formula. Clarke's main strength when it comes to the story is making the events that happen along the way unpredictable. Even when you get a sense of where the story is going she manages to get there in ways that were unexpected.
   While the larger through line of the story is interesting enough, there are also many small events here that are really interesting and add to the story a great deal. Clarke is very good at adding great deal of exposition and worldbuilding without bogging the story down. There's lots of little details here that makes the atmosphere of the world in the novel come alive, and that is a world where it is well worth spending some time.

   There's a great deal of magic in the world Clarke has created. And that element of the book is done in a great way. It's certainly not wholly original, but what we are presented with here feels very fresh.
   We do get a good idea of magic's place in this world, and it feels like an integral part of it and not as an afterthought on the author's part. The way magic is done also feels very realistic, which in my opinion is a great strength in a novel like this.

   We also get some very interesting characters here, especially in Ananna - who is also the one telling us this story. Clarke manages to get across early on what type of character Ananna is, and as the novel progresses we get to see her show herself as a well rounded and realistic person. She never become just a vehicle for the story, but stays believable in all she does throughout the story. Ananna does have her flaws, but those only make her become more alive, and they don't make her come off as annoying in any way.

   The other main character, Naji, the assassin, is also very well realised. At first he seems a pretty standard mysterious figure, but as we get to know him better we see that he is much more than that. And despite him not always being the most forthcoming type, he does reveal that he has sides to him that make him feel like he's very much an individual formed by his past.
   We also meet quite a few other supporting characters along the way. Not all of them are as well developed as the main characters, but we do get to know them as more than just extras needed to get the story moving. There's especially one of them that stands out, and I think we may see more to her later. Clarke is very good at getting her characters come alive to the reader. They are interesting, and realistic, and are well worth spending a day with.

   All in all this is a very good Fantasy story. Clarke takes us on a great journey, in very good company. The style the book is told in fits in perfectly with the story and adds to the novel as a whole. The Fairy Tale elements make it a great books for fans of Fantasy based around that, and the quest format makes it worth reading for fans of Epic Fantasy. And it's a novel I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to Fantasy fans of all ages.
   Clarke has managed to create a set of very compelling characters that inhabit a well realised and interesting world. A world it is well worth travelling to.
   I really enjoyed this story, and I can't wait to follow it further in later volumes.

NOTE: An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

Links: Cassandra Rose Clarke  Strange Chemistry

24 September, 2012



ISBN: 978-0-45119-101-4
Pages: 489
Publisher: Signet/Penguin USA
First published: 1996
This edition published: 1 September 1997

On the cover:
(Taken from King's website)

It's a summer afternoon in Wentworth, Ohio, and on Poplar Street everything's normal. The paper boy is making his rounds; the Carver kids are bickering at the corner convenience store; a Frisbee is flying on the Reeds' lawn; Gary Soderson is firing up the backyard barbecue. The only thing that doesn't quite fit is the red van idling just up the hill. Soon it will begin to roll, and the killing will begin. A quiet slice of American suburbia is about to turn to toast.

The mayhem rages around a seemingly still point, a darkened house lit fitfully from within by a flickering television screen. Inside, where things haven't been normal for a long time, are Audrey Wyler and the autistic nephew she cares for, eight-year-old Seth Garin. They're fighting their own battle, and its intensity has turned 247 Poplar Street into a prisonhouse.

By the time night falls on Poplar Street, the surviving residents will find themselves in another world, one where anything, no matter how terrible, is possible…and where the regulators are on their way. By what power they have come, how far they will go, and how they can be stopped-these are the desperate questions. The answers are absolutely terrifying.

   This novel is set in (what I assume is) a typical American suburb. The horror aspect of this novel is all about what happens when this idyllic setting gets turned completely on its head.
   As always King is excellent at setting up the ordinary life, and then subverting it by turning up the horror. The reader will quickly get a sense of where we are, and how this little neighbourhood functions. But that feeling of familiarity quickly disappears, and the suburb turns into a place of terror within few pages.

   As is usual with King we get to know the characters pretty well, although this time the novel is set mostly in a very short period of time. We do however get a longer storyline of a couple of the characters, and this works very well. The characters are pretty diverse, and we get to see some very different reactions to the events of the novel, to me this heightened the realism of it.
   The action in this novel is pretty much a constant, there's an almost relentless stream of it. This actually works very well, it sets a fast pace for the novel and makes it feel shorter than it actually is. King also writes these action scenes very well, and although there's a lot of them they don't feel repetitive.
   However, there are times when the action is seen from many points of view when it can become a bit difficult to follow. There are many characters involved, and it's not difficult to loose track of who's where. This passes, but can become a bit confusing while it's going on.

   Action isn't the only element of this book, there's a strong supernatural element here. This element is excellently described, and we get intimately connected to it through the point of view characters. We get to follow closely how this develops through the diary of one of the characters, and this is a really interesting story. It shows how it develops and deteriorates.
   This element is also what connects this novel to its companion novel Desperation. The connection becomes clear pretty early on, and we find out more about it as time passes. Some of the characters are shared with Desperation, and there are parallel events in both novels.
   I read this after Desperation, and I would suggest others do the same. I'm not sure there would be the same impact of recognition if you start with The Regulators, and there's some events in this novel that will have no significance if you haven't read Desperation first.

   All in all I think this is a very good novel. There's plenty of action to supplement the supernatural, and as such I'd recommend it as a starting point on King for those that are more into action novels. There's also more than enough of the Horror element to satisfy fans of that.
   That this is a companion volume to Desperation doesn't mean that you have to read both. ( Although as I suggested above, if you plan to, start with Desperation.) I first read this long before its companion, and it works very well on its own.
   This my not be the best of King's novels, but it is more than good enough to deserve to be read by both fans of King and those that have yet to discover his writing.

You can find a review of Desperation here.

OTHER STEPHEN KING REVIEWS: The Shining  IT  The Dark Half  Bag of Bones  11.22.63  Four Past Midnight  Just After Sunset

LINKS: Stephen King  Penguin (USA)

30 August, 2012



ISBN: 978-1-44470-1783-0
Pages: 706
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
First published: 1 January 1996
This edition published: 12 May 2011

On the cover:

Welcome to Desperation. Once a thriving copper mining town in the middle of the Nevada desert, Desperation is now eerily abandoned. It's the last place that travellers like the Carver family, bound for vacation, and writer Johnny Marinville, astride his Harley, would expect to be stopped and charged. But Desperation still has a local cop - a unique regulator who patrols the wilderness highway. 
The secrets buried in Desperation are as terrifying as the forces summoned to encounter them. A terrifying transformation is taking place and the travellers will soon discover the true meaning of Desperation.

   This novel has a very strong opening. By the end of the first chapter King has already managed to establish a very creepy atmosphere, and managed to get the reader interested in finding out what is really going on. King manages to hold off the answers for quite a long time and when they come they do nothing to mitigate the sense of dread and eeriness that pervade this story.

   Although this story takes place in a limited time frame, and is a long novel, there is little wasted space here. King does take his time coming to the conclusion but with everything that is happening there's no real feeling of there being any padding in this novel. It's hard to see how this could have been any shorter and still be written in the same style.
   On the other hand there was one element of the story that I found totally unnecessary. There's a paranormal explanation to why the main characters came to be in Desperation that I felt was not needed. And what that paranormal element is, and how it is used to explain events in the later part of the story, felt cheap to me. That part of the story would in my opinion have been better left vague, and as it stands just feels like King chose to take the easy way to a resolution.

   I've already mentioned the creepy/slash eerie atmosphere of the novel, and it is in my opinion the best thing about the story. King is in my opinion very good at creating an atmosphere of tension, dread, and eeriness in his novels, and when it comes to that element this is one of his best efforts. Even when this atmosphere is let down by an ending that is a bit easy it doesn't quite let go, and it lingers after the books final page.

   The characters in Desperation are not among the best King have done. Despite the many pages the novel encompasses we don't get very close to most of them. And although the author character here is interesting to get to know, it is easy to get a bit tired of King's use of an author as one of the main characters in his stories.
   That the main character who is closest to the paranormal explanation I have mentioned above comes off as a bit too perfect, or cliched if you want, is also a bit of a letdown.
   Fortunately the novel also shows that King can carry the story without giving us the closeness to the main characters that we have in for instance IT.

   I don't think this will be placed near the top of my favourite King novels ever, for me the paranormal explanation/element that I have already mentioned dragged it down. But it is still a very good story that offers the reader a lot of creepiness and horror.
   If it was written by any other Horror author I would have called it great, but King has simply set the bar for his readers so high that from him this is a bit below what I've come to expect. I would however not in any way discourage people from reading this, and I know there are people who rate it much higher among King's works than I do.

   It's a thrilling high-tension novel, that despite its flaws, is a very good read. Horror fans should absolutely  take the time to read this, and it has a Post-Apocalyptic feel to it that will make it interesting to those that enjoy that SFF subgenre.

NOTE: This is a companion novel to The Regulators, published under the Richard Bachman name. A review of that can be found here.

REVIEWS: The Shining  IT  The Dark Half  Bag of Bones  11.22.63  Four Past Midnight  Just After Sunset

LINKS: Stephen King  Hodder & Stoughton

27 August, 2012


Cover by Ian Sales


ISBN: 978-0-9751883-1-0
Pages: 75 (Including Glossary/Appendix)
Publisher: Whippleshield Books
Publsihed: 6 April 2012

   On the cover:

When a nuclear war breaks out and the nations of earth are destroyed, it maroons a group of astronauts on the Moon. Using the "torsion field generator", they hope to find an alternate Earth that did not suffer nuclear armageddon. But once they do, how will they return home? They have one Lunar Module, which can carry only four astronauts into Lunar orbit...

   Sales's novella is very Hard SF one, but as it becomes clear rather quickly it is set in an Alternate History. This may seem like being a contradiction, but Sales manages to make it work very well.
   Interestingly it is neither the Hard SF nor the Alternate History elements that are the best thing in this story. What stands out most is the feeling of desolation and claustrophobia that Sales conveys through his writing. There is an underlying tension to the whole of this, that together with the chilling Alternate History scenario in the background makes for a very eerie read.

   Being a fan of Alternate History, I care about how "what if..." scenarios are presented. It doesn't matter how interesting an idea the diversion from our history is if there's no plausible way to get to the alternative world that the story contains. Fortunately, that is not a problem here. Sales presents a future that seems to be  just a flicker of coincidence away from the history we know.

   There is something that has to be mentioned about the Hard SF in this novella, namely that it very easy to argue that there is none. This may sound a bit strange of me to say when I have already stated that this is "very Hard SF", but the SF is only Hard SF in the Alternate History setting of the story.
   If you, like some people I have seen online, argue that Alternate History is Fantasy, rather than Science Fiction, then this would be a Fantasy novella. As someone who has a strong interest in History, I would say that Alternate History is without a doubt Science Fiction (, i.e. scientific speculation about how history could have diverged), and thus I don't hesitate to say that this is a Hard SF story in an Alternate History setting.
   Without going into spoilers, I will say that there is an element that isn't very realistic. But in the way it is handled here that is not a problem. Rather it feels as an integral part of the alternative timeline of the story, and in my opinion doesn't detract anything from the Hard SF feel of this novella.

   The story itself is very well written. Sales manages to convey a lot in a limited amount of space,  especially the worldbuilding is excellent. Most of the history of this timeline is presented in its own passages, as retrospectives. I found this to work very well, they add to the main storyline without being disruptive to the flow of the story.
   I've already mentioned the tension of this story, and that builds nicely as the narrative moves along. It's never clear what is going to be the conclusion to this tale, and the ending comes with a very satisfying twist.

   There's no doubt that this story will be a great read for those who are fans of Hard SF, and the Alternate History elements make it worth picking up for fans of that genre. It's connection to the Apollo program will also make this a good read for anyone interested in real world human space exploration.

Note: I won a Hardcover edition of this in a competition on the author's website, and I have received an e-ARC for review.

LINKS: Ian Sales  Whippleshield Books

25 August, 2012


   There's not a whole lot of SFF being published in Norway these days,  but relatively new publisher Vendetta Forlag (Forlag=Publisher) -who does the Norwegian A Song of Ice and Fire editions- are publishing at least some titles, and they have plans for more. And there's a steady, but small trickle of SFF books that are getting Norwegian editions from the bigger publishers.
   I know there's an interest in international covers among fans of SFF, soI'll do an article like this one Norwegian covers from time to time.

    This one has already been published by Vendetta Forlag: The cover is for World War Z by Max Brooks. As you can see the Norwegian title is just "Z". I think that's a god thing, a direct Norwegian translation would be "Verdenskrig Z". That sounds really clunky in Norwegian, and I'm glad they did not go with that.

   I'm a bit embarrassad to say that this is actually the first Norwegian edition of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. It was published 20 August by Vendetta Forlag. The title is a direct translation of the original, and works very well in Norwegian.

   This pair is the two Norwegian covers for the Norwegian editions, again by Vendetta Forlag, of A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin. (It's standard practice in Norway to split up large books when they are translated, and it happens in all genres.)
    The first part (top) is called "Kongenes Kamp", which is a direct translation. Well...almost. Translate it back to English, and you get The Kings' Clash(/Battle). The second one is titled "Dragenes Dronning", which in English would be literally The Dragon's Queen, but would most likely be translated as The Queen of Dragons.

   Hope you find these interesting. I'll try to keep you up to date with Norwegian covers for translated SFF, and I may do covers for original Norwegian SFF later.

24 August, 2012


Cover by Larry Rostant


ISBN: 978-1-90884-403-3
Pages: 416
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Published: US/CAN/e-book 4 September 2012, UK 6 September 2012

On the cover:

When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he’s not so average after all. He’s a ‘Shifter’. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made.At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world quickly starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed.In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.

   It doesn't take long before this novel goes from its opening of normal teenage life into a completely different direction. There's nothing new with a teenager discovering they have a special power. But from that initial premise Shift moves unto something that is not your normal story, and it moves in directions that are surprising and impossible to predict.

   I like novels that have good central ideas, and shifting is definitely that. Curran manages to use it not only to drive the storyline forward, but also to shape the way the story moves. At times it takes a bit of concentration to wrap your head around what is happening, not because it is unclear but because it is a complex story that frequently moves in unexpected directions.
   Once you get your mind used to how things work in this story Curran ramps up the suspense. Unexpected turns and cliffhanger chapter endings makes this a fast paced and suspense filled read. Curran is very good at hiding what is coming next, and very accomplished at misdirecting the readers thoughts as to what comes next. At times I suspected she was shifting and changing the story as I read it, so that my expectations of what came next turned out to be wrong.

   It takes a bit of worldbuilding in a novel like this to establish how everything works, both as related to our normal world and to the hidden part of the world we are introduced to in the novel. Curran manages to do this in a very good way, by giving us a main character that is clueless at the start of the story and letting us learn with him. 
   It is very refreshing that this is done without resorting to the main character being an idiot. In fact, I felt as confused as Scott Tyler is when the novel begins, and was very glad that we got an explanation as to what was going on. Later revelations also flow seamlessly into the narrative, and Curran gets out all the information  across to the reader without dumping it on them.

   Character wise this is also a very well written book. We get a good idea of the life of Scott Tyler and who he is as early as the first chapter, and from there we follow him as he learns and develops - something he does in a natural way.
   Other characters are also well developed and bring their own stories to the table. And they never feel like cardboard cutouts brought in to advance the story, but rather as people who happen to be involved in the vents depicted.

   Curran's debut is a novel that is hard to put down once you start reading it. It flows at a very fast pace, and Curran's writing sweeps you along. She also manages to create a world, and characters, that you really want to know more about.
   This is a Science Fiction Thriller that doesn't work just for readers in the Young Adult demographic. Both the Science Fiction and the Action Thriller elements work very well, and together they make for a great novel. You really should get your hands on this novel if you like your fiction to take you on a thrill-ride. 

NOTE: An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

LINKS: Kim Curran  Strange Chemistry

23 August, 2012


Cover art: Steven Wood


ISBN: 978-1-90884-406-4
Pages: 352
Published by: Strange Chemistry
Published: US/CAN/e-book 4 September 2012, UK 6 September 2012

On the cover:

On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

   I'm a big fan of history, so I was immediately drawn in by the historical connection this novel has. The Lost Colony at Roanoke Island will be familiar to anyone who's ever had an interest in the "mysterious disappearances sub genre" of history, and Bond really does use it to great effect in her novel. I was especially pleased with the appearance of one historical figure who is connected to magic. It seems so logical when you read it, and it brings the supernatural elements from history to the present in a completely natural way.

   The novel doesn't take long to show us the present day mystery that is the main focus of the story, and the novel is "up and running" before the reader has time to get settled in. Bond is great at setting a fast pace, the story moves along so quick that the slower passages feel like a welcome opportunity for the reader to take a deep breath. The fast pace of the novel doesn't mean that it feels rushed, the pace of events flows naturally from the page.
   The fast pace of the novel is not caused by the action, although there is enough of that to satisfy, instead the story is driven by mystery. Bond presents the reader with events that deepens the mystery and suspense throughout the novel. There are a lot of twists and turns to what is happening and although one element is not a surprising revelation that doesn't mean it is predictable. It is very hard to see what is coming, and the answers to mystery we do get doesn't take away from that. Bond manages to keep up the level of suspense all the way to the end, and when all is finally resolved it is a satisfying ending.

   A novel isn't only driven by its story, it has to have characters that you care about in it. Bond has created some really great ones here. The main characters, Miranda Blackwood and Phillips Rawling, come very well to life. Miranda is the protagonist of the novel, she is very well drawn and manages to feel both familiar and original. That there's something special about Miranda and Phillips will not come as a surprise, but the way Bond presents them, it doesn't feel out of place but just as a natural part of who they are.
   The supporting characters are also very well done, and they come with their own stories. We may not get to see it, but they are so alive on the page that you just know it is there. Even Miranda's father, who frankly gives a cliched first impression is shown to be much more than that later in the novel.

   To sum up, this is really a great novel. It has a great supernatural suspense story at it's center, and the pacing of a good action-thriller. The Urban, or in this case rather Rural, Fantasy elements are suitably fantastic while still managing to be realistic. We get great characters whose story is a joy to follow, and who I wouldn't mind seeing again.
   Bond has written a Young Adult novel that shows the strengths of YA, and how good YA can be when done right. Despite not being anywhere near the YA age group I found this a great read, and I can recommend it to anyone who likes Urban/Contemporary Fantasy. 
   This is a great debut novel by Gwenda Bond, and it is a novel that deserves a place on the shelves of any Fantasy fan. And for those that are partial to Young Adult, this is a must buy.

NOTE: An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

22 August, 2012


Cover art: Cliff Nielsen
Cover design: Lauren Panepinto


ISBN: 978-0-316-043396-0
Pages: 384 (+appendix and extras)
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 3 November 2010

On the cover:

In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a strange homeless man on an impulse. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. And Oree's guest is at the heart of it...

   This is the second book in The Inheritance Trilogy.  Set ten years after the events at the end of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms this novel gives us a very different picture of the world this series is set in. In the previous volume we saw the world through royalty, and were mostly confined to one location, here our horizon is greatly expanded. Location wise we are still not travelling much, but we are in a much more diverse location - the city of Shadow, located underneath the palace of Sky from The Hundred Thousand kingdoms.
   Along with the change of location we also get a different perspective on the world. This time our point of view is through Oree Shoth who apart from being blind lives a completely ordinary existence in Shadow. I am not exactly giving away something when I tell you that the story of Oree here is far from ordinary though.

   Jemisin gives us a story that structurally is a pretty mundane tale, but the depth of the story combined with the worldbuilding transcend any such simplification when describing the novel.
   Gods are an integral part of the story in this volume also. But this time we are introduced to a lot more of them, and we get to learn much more of their history and daily life. It's really fascinating to learn more about the pantheon of gods, and the history behind them is definitely contributing to the depth of this story.
   There's also quite a bit about what those gods mean to the humans they live along, and how they have affected the daily life of humans. This element is very well done, and feels very realistic. Jemisin doesn't just throw the gods into the story, in many ways they are the story.

   We get lots of action in this novel, and it is quite fast paced. But there is also a lot of quieter periods in this book, and I felt that some of them were a bit too slow. Fortunately this was not a huge problem and it is really a very minor niggle. To be honest I don't think it would even be noticeable if not for the contrast to the very fast paced action and revelation sequences.
   Jemisin is great when making revelations that drive the story. There is several "wow moments" that to me came as a surprise, and it's very hard to begin to even guess where the story is going. We get some twists that are really surprising when it seems that the story is on a familiar track.

   The second book in a trilogy can often be somewhat on a let down, but that is not the case here. Jemisin follows up her debut with a novel that in my opinion is even better than the first, and once again shows she is a great writer.
   I'd really recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but I'd advice against starting here. Reading this without having read the first volume will make you loose a lot of the depth of the story. But this is a Fantasy trilogy you really shouldn't miss, so I will highly recommend you get the books if you haven't already.

REVIEW: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

LINKS: N. K. Jemisin  Orbit

19 August, 2012


  It's been a while since I did one of these posts. Anyway, here are some of the covers that have caught my eye recently.

   First up, the cover to The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women. I think this is a great cover, it captures the mood of a good ghost story perfectly, and it makes me want to get hold of the book.
   This anthology is edited by Marie O'Regan and is out from Constable & Robinson on 18 October. It contains 20 stories, and there are some great names among the authors.

   These two are the Tor UK covers for Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century novels (, Boneshaker will keep its US cover).
   They are quite different than the US covers, they are much more focused on the characters. And they actually fit better in with the Boneshaker covers than the US ones do. Whether you prefer the US or the UK covers, is a matter of personal taste. I like both versions.
   -You can find my reviews of Clockwork Century novels by here: Boneshaker, Dreadnought, Ganymede.

   This is the UK Orbit cover for David Brin's Existence. I like this cover, it's intriguing, and it makes me want to read the book to find out what is behind the image.
   Orbit are also revamping the covers to some of Brin's other books and you can look at them here.

   Another UK Orbit cover, this one for Act Three Jon Courtney Grimwood's Assassini series. It's a very nice cover, designed by Emma Graves. I like covers of this type in most cases, and I really like this one. In fact the only thing I don't like about it, is it reminds me that I haven't read any of the books, and from what I've heard I really should have.

   And again, this is a UK Orbit cover. This one for the latest Terry Brooks Shannara book. It's unashamedly  a traditional Fantasy cover, but it being a Brooks book that fits very well. I think it's a good cover, and I really like the dragon skull. You can take a look at how artist Stephen Youll made the cover here.

   Do any of these covers excite you, or put you off reading the books? Tell me in the comments.

30 July, 2012


Cover by Martin Bland


ISBN: 978-0-85766-261-3
Pages: 448
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
Publishing date: US/Canada 31 July 2012, UK/e-Book 2 August 2012

On the cover:

Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot.

For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.

    At the start of the epilogue this seems like it is going to be a story about a family with a difference, the mother and daughter being von Neumanns i.e. robots/artificial humans. But before the epilogue has ended there's an event that makes it go in a different direction.
   There are some great action scenes along the way, Ashby is very good at getting the intensity of it across to the reader. But Ashby is also shows great storytelling skill when it comes to the "quieter" parts of the novel.

   As with any Science Fiction story the setting is important to the experience. What we get here is a future that isn't at its surface all that different from the present. But it becomes clear as the novel progresses that much has changed, and the glimpses Ashby gives us of this are fascinating.
   The setting isn't that important to this story actually, what is important are the vN and how they fit into society.

   Ashby excels when it comes to the vN, when we first meet them they seem slightly alien to us, but that soon changes. As Amy, the protagonist, learns more about herself and the history of vN so do we. This is integrated very well into the narrative, and although we get a lot of information it never gives the reader a feeling that they are being infodumped upon. The information flows very well, and is so interesting, that it is at times hard to tell when we are being told things, and when we are learning by "osmosis" as we absorb the story.

   The vN, and everything we learn about them, really is something that gets the thought process going. Ashby sets out many moral dilemmas connected to them. Some of these are connected to things that most of us will find reprehensible, but there are other questions raised that aren't so easy to have an opinion about. Fortunately, Ashby never preaches to the reader, instead she makes us think about what is presented. And there really is a lot to contemplate in this novel.
   This is in many ways philosophical Science Fiction, in that it poses many big questions about how we as humans interact with other beings. It also is a story about someone who is different from others, and how they cope with that. As such I think it can be read and enjoyed by anyone with an interest in those subjects, and is not really a novel that should be confined to the Science Fiction corner of the book world.

   As a whole, this is a remarkably good debut novel. There's action, quiet contemplation, twists and turns, and it has a beautiful ending with a note of hope to it. There is so much that is great in this novel, that I don't want to single out any element. Everything in it comes together to create what very well could be the best Science fiction novel I read this year.
   Science Fiction fans would do themselves a disservice if they don't get this novel, and I see no reason why any other reader shouldn't get a hold of it too. This is one book you really don't want to miss.

NOTE: There's a short story with one of the main characters from the novel on the Angry robot Books website, you can read it here.

An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

LINKS: Madeline Ashby  Angry Robot Books

27 July, 2012


Cover design and art: Joe Roberts


ISBN: 978-1-84901-305-5
Pages: 500
Publisher: Robinson
Published: 27 May 2010

On the cover:

Have the last days begun?

Humankind has long been fascinated by the precarious vulnerability of civilization and of the Earth itself. When our fragile civilizations finally go, will it be as a result of nuclear war, or some cosmic catastrophe? The impact of global warming, or a terrorist atrocity? Genetic engineering, or some modern plague more virulent even than HIV or Ebola?

   As usual when I review anthologies, I will give a (very) brief review of each story before I give an overall view of the anthology.

First published in Universe 2 edited by Terry Carr (Ace Books, 1972)

   This is a story about commercial time travel to the end of the world. It's a pretty strong apocalyptic story. It is pervaded by a strong sense of irony that Silverberg manages to convey rather nicely. And it's a really good start to the anthology.

First published at , 2002

   A Nepali set story about end of the world prophecy. Joshi manages to tell a lot in just a few pages. The story is well written, and it is very refreshing to see an Apocalyptic Science Fiction story set outside the Western world.

First published in Interzone 198, May/June 2005

   Set in war-torn Africa, this is a cautionary tale. Although this is very much Science Fiction, both in that it is set in the future and that it has a main element that is classic Science Fiction, the topic is very relevant to our time. This makes it a better story, and it is one I really liked. It is made all the better by avoiding being preachy.

First published in Omni, June 1994

   This story centres around the wife of a scientist/viruologist. At its core this is actually a relationship story (, I wouldn't go so far as calling it romance), it's the story in the background that makes it Science Fiction. And the Science Fiction part is both original and very well written. It's a different take on a familiar story, and I highly recommend reading it.

First published in Jim Baen's World, August 2006

   A very tech-centered story about trying to keep the world together when it faces the apocalypse. This is actually a pretty good story, but it fell a bit to far from my tastes. For me it was way to tech-oriented. Apart from the tech aspect the rest of the setting barely felt sketched out. I have no doubt it will appeal strongly to to those who are more interested in the workings of tech than I am, but I felt the scope of the story is too narrow to make it universally appealing.

First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 1999

   Endless rain all over the world is the apocalyptic setting of this story about a woman who tries to escape the catastrophe with her husband. In some ways I would hesitate to cal this Apocalyptic Science Fiction. Although that is the story's setting its theme is a much more mundane one. It is not a bad story, but I feel its theme has been done so many times that it didn't give me something new.

First published in More Amazing Stories edited by Kim Mohan (Tor, 1998)

   On an island threatened by rising waters one man tries to stand against the pressures of his wife to follow the lead of others. A rather strange story. The writing is good, but it didn't really connect with me, I'm sure others will find it to their liking.

First published in Postscripts 9, Winter 2006

   A look at events leading up to the end of the world, done with a humorous twist. This is a pretty weird story, it is both serious and very lighthearted. It's a very original take on the genre, and I found it very refreshing. Definitely a story worth reading.

First published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, January 1985

   This is a typical Cold-War nuclear apocalypse tale. And as such it feels dated now, and I can't see that it would have felt very fresh or original when it first was published back in 1985. This story failed to speak to me at all. It is technically well written, but that is all it has going for it. Neither the story nor the characters stand out from the many other nuclear war stories.

First publication

   Reynolds tells a tale of a very dystopic future. It's a strange story with a central premise that can be a bit hard to wrap your head around at first, but it does grow on you. I really liked this story, mostly because it felt original to me in many ways. There are certainly elements that are familiar from other Science Fiction tales, but here they are taken in a different direction. A great story from a future with an unexpected apocalyptic event.

First published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, February 1996

   A very short end of the world story that still manages to pack in quite a lot. It is a kind very short story that I really like. And Landis has managed to let the main character come more to life in under four pages than some authors do in a whole novel. I highly recommend this.

First published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, April/May 2004

   This is a strange Post-Apocalyptic story. It takes a bit of time to get a grip on the structure of it, but once you do it has got a very good flow to it. This will not be for everyone, it is a bit too surreal for that. It's a good story that is a bit let down by confusing jumps back and forth in the timeline.

First publication

   This is the story of three children who discover a treasure house in a deserted post-apocalyptic city. This is really a great story, and one I think every reader will find to be a great experience to read.

First publication

   A story about who survived the apocalypse, but just as much about what caused it. All told through the eyes of a single person, and what he has experienced. This made me a bit uncomfortable. There are lots of questionable messages here that aren't really explored in a way I feel they should have been. Whether getting the reader thinking about it was Reed's intention I don't know, but that is not the way it came across to me. This is one story that you have to make up your own opinion about, I'm not really sure what to think.

First published in Sci Fiction, May 2005

   Bear tells the story of a woman driving through the wasteland to deliver a package. A good story that is slightly let down by it feeling like it has been told many times before.

First published in Synergy SF edited by George Zebrowski (Five Star, 2004)

   This story feels like a pointless exercise in stringing paragraphs that seem to have been edited out of a literary Science Fiction novel together. If it has anything to tell at all, it seems to consist of the opening Bible quotation and the last sentence. Utter drivel.

First published in Amazing Science Fiction Stories, May 1972

   This is a story of two journeys through history. It is excellently written and really grabs hold of the reader. It is definitely one of the best stories in this anthology, and it is an example of a really great Science Fiction short story.

First published in Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1951

   Leiber serves up a tale of a very different post-apocalyptic world. This is a truly original offering, at least I have never read anything like it before. It is a beautifully written story with great characters, tension, and it takes the reader on a wonderful journey.

First publication

   A story of travelling across a warm deserted landscape. There's a lot to this story besides the basic quest format it takes. Brown has managed to give the reader a good idea of how the world looks, and how it functions. The story is also a nice take on hope in a desperate situation. Very enjoyable.

First publication

   This story is set in a very well realised post-apocalyptic future. The story itself is not as important as the worldbuilding here, although it is a very good story. The future presented here is a very interesting one, it is a setting I would like to see much more of. Great Science Fiction.

First published in Science Fiction Age, November 1998

   Williamson has written a story that is about exactly what the title says. It's a wonderful story full of human drama. I loved this story when I read it in Science Fiction Age on its first publication, and I don't think any less of it now - quite the opposite. In my opinion this is the best story in the anthology, and one that every Science Fiction fan should read.

First publication

   This is the diary of the last human. It is a great concept, and it is very well executed. This is a story I really liked, it is a quick personal tale that has a lot of heart to it.

First published in Asimov's Sience Fiction Magazine, July 2005

   Baxter gives us several snapshots of the history of the world after the apocalypse. The way the story is structured works very well despite its short length. It's a "fun" look at what might be humanity's future that makes for a great short story.

First published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, December 2004

   The story of an old man living in the wilderness. This is in many ways a "quiet" story, one that doesn't need to shout to tell its tale. It is a lovely little melancholy story, and it serves as a great ending to the anthology.


   As with any anthology not all the stories here were for me, but there was more hits than misses and only one real dud. I read this on and off for a couple of months, and I think that is the best way to read it. Although there are many differences between the individual stories, this anthology felt a bit too restrictive in subject matter, and that made the stories feel to similar.
   I would have liked this to have a broader scope in subject matter, but that isn't the real problem. I felt that this was way too centered on the US, remove a couple of stories and you could call it The Mammoth Book Of American Science Fiction Apocalypses. I would really have liked to see more stories set elsewhere, even Europe is neglected here.

   Despite the problem I had with the narrow subject and location, I enjoyed this anthology. The stories themselves are different enough that it doesn't get boring, and there's enough spread in original publication dates to make it an interesting peek at this Science Fiction subgenre.
   It is a great place to start for those who want to check out Apocalyptic Science Fiction. And if you are a fan of that genre already and doesn't have this book, you really should remedy that at the earliest possibility.