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Jul. 15th, 2011

"Sword of Fire and Sea" by Erin Hoffman

…For many reasons, I rarely give up on fantasy debuts, especially ones by authors from my hometown San Diego, but Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman just didn’t have what it takes to keep me reading past the midway point — and even making it that far was a struggle… Erin Hoffman is a video game designer as well as an author, and it’s hard not to feel that this world and story would maybe have worked better as the template for an elaborate RPG. There are heroes and villains, lots of action, an interesting magic system and an intriguing fantasy universe. All this material obviously took a lot of thought and imagination, and it would be fun to explore it in an interactive format… but as a novel it unfortunately doesn’t work. I genuinely wanted to like this novel, so I kept going back to it to give it another try, but in the end Sword of Fire and Sea is one of the very few books I just couldn’t find the motivation to finish.

Read the entire review here! (and by the way, also on GoodReads - I'm going to stop updating this thing at some point because hardly anyone reads it.)

Disclaimer: the publisher of this novel sent me a free review copy of this novel.

Next up: I'm re-reading Robert Charles Wilson's "Spin" and "Axis" for tor.com articles, and as a warm-up for "Vortex".

Jul. 10th, 2011

"The Clockwork Rocket" by Greg Egan

The Clockwork Rocket, which is the first volume in Greg Egan’s brand new hard science fiction trilogy Orthogonal, is a book with three different but equally important focal points. On the one hand, it’s the story of a young woman who also happens to be a very alien alien. On the other, it’s a novel about a planet—a very alien planet—on the cusp of tremendous social change. And, maybe most of all, it’s a book about a universe with, well, alien laws of physics. Greg Egan successfully weaves these three threads into one fascinating story, but be warned: if you don’t like your SF on the hard side, The Clockwork Rocket may be a tough ride for you. Hard as it may be, it’s worth sticking with it, though.

Read the entire review here!

Disclaimer: got a free copy of this novel for review from the publisher.

Next up: I'm reading "Sword of Fire and Sea" by Erin Hoffman, and working on a couple of new reviews both for tor.com and FanLit.

Jul. 5th, 2011

"City of Ruins" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

One of 2009’s most pleasant surprises was Diving into the Wreck, a short but excellent SF novel by Kristine Kathryn Rusch about Boss, a specialist in the exploration of derelict spaceships… In City of Ruins, the excellent follow-up to Diving into the Wreck, Boss runs a much larger operation and has become more of a manager than an explorer… City of Ruins has just about everything that made Diving into the Wreck great, and a few extras. Returning again is the fascinating protagonist, who just goes by the name “Boss.” She’s an intensely private control freak with an empathy deficit that borders on the pathological… City of Ruins is an excellent novel that combines adventure and excitement with solid world-building and subtle narration. By the time you turn the final page, you’ll be very eager to find out where Kristine Kathryn Rusch is going to take this series next. Recommended — but make sure to read Diving into the Wreck first.

Read the entire review on tor.com or FanLit!

Disclaimer: Pyr sent me a free copy of this book for review.

Next up: I'm working on my review of Greg Egan's "The Clockwork Rocket", and reading "The Devil's Diadem" by Sara Douglass.

Jun. 25th, 2011

"The Magicians" by Lev Grossman

The Magicians by Lev Grossman is one of the most frequently reviewed fantasy novels of the last few years, which isn’t surprising because the author is a well known writer (and book reviewer) for TIME Magazine, and the book was very effectively hyped as “Harry Potter with college age students.” The end result of all of this is that lots of people who don’t regularly read fantasy have picked up this novel, and many of them had their expectations severely challenged. So, is The Magicians also worth the time for true-blooded, die-hard fantasy fans? In a word: yes… Lev Grossman is doing more than just telling a story here. Indirectly, he’s having a conversation with fantasy readers about what it’s like to be a fan of stories that involve magic and alternate realities… The Magicians is the perfect antithesis of an escapist novel: it pulls the curtain up, reveals that magic is real, and then makes it clear that even young, gifted people often don’t have it in them to use it wisely or even appreciate it. That it does this by actually using some of the most beloved young adult fantasy fiction as a starting point makes the experience of reading it even more disconcerting. It’s no wonder that this novel got some very extreme reviews from fantasy fans…

Read the entire (and rather long) review here! I was actually kinda happy with how this one came out, for once...

Next up:still working on the Stephen R. Donaldson story collection. After that, I just got a new commission from tor.com - a review of "The Clockwork Rocket" by Greg Egan.  Yay.

Jun. 24th, 2011

"The Shadow Men" by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

The Shadow Men is the fourth book in Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon’s THE HIDDEN CITIES series. If (like me) you’re not familiar with the previous books, it may be good to know that all four books can be read as standalone novels that share a common premise but (as far as I know) no major characters or plot elements. In the series’ fantasy universe, cities have something like a soul or consciousness, which is incarnated in a human “Oracle” who helps the inhabitants and the city itself. The previous three novels (Mind the Gap, The Map of Moments and The Chamber of Ten) were set in London, New Orleans and Venice respectively, and The Shadow Men takes place in Boston… The Shadow Men is smoothly written and fast-paced. It starts off with a massive hook and then relentlessly pulls the reader along.  The story rarely if ever slows down until it reaches the end, so if all you’re looking for is an action-packed urban fantasy novel, The Shadow Men will certainly deliver for you. If you’re looking for more, though, you may end up disappointed…

Read the entire review here!

Dlsclaimer: I received a free copy of this novel for review.

Next up: I'm working on The Best of Stephen R. Donaldson.

Jun. 19th, 2011

"Traitor's Knot" by Janny Wurts

With every new book in the WARS OF LIGHT AND SHADOW series by Janny Wurts, it gets harder and harder to write a review without either including massive spoilers for previous volumes or simply repeating the praise already heaped on it in earlier reviews. There are only so many variations on “gorgeous prose,” “intricate world-building,” “deep characterization,” “the books are consistently excellent” and so on… As a middle book in a series, Traitor’s Knot is almost flawless: it advances the story significantly, reveals meaningful new details and hidden layers, contains a few unforgettable scenes, and has an ending that will have you screaming for the next book… you’re in for a wild ride that will push you past the boundaries of comfort… Having now read seven books in the WARS OF LIGHT AND SHADOW, I consider it one of my favorite fantasy series ever, and Traitor’s Knot is yet another brilliant part of it. If you’re not reading these books yet, you’re missing out on one of the most well-rounded fantasy epics ever.

Read the entire review here!

Disclaimer : the FTC wants you to know that I received a free copy of this book for review.

Next up: still not sure!

Jun. 17th, 2011

The 2011 Nebula Awards Showcase (edited by Kevin Anderson)

The Nebula Awards are one of the great institutions in science fiction and fantasy. Each year since 1965, the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have voted for the Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story in SF and fantasy. Compiling a list of the nominees and winners for all those years would get you an excellent reading list and a comprehensive cross-view of the best that can be found in the genres. To make this task easier, every Nebula Award since the first one has had a corresponding book that collected some of the stories, ballots and related texts. The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011, edited by Kevin J. Anderson, is the first one of these to be released by Tor… Taking a look at the Table of Contents for this anthology, it’s hard not to feel that this book offers truly excellent value for your money: it contains every single nominated short story and novelette on the final 2010 ballot, as well as the winning novella in its entirety… The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011 offers a wonderful and generous sample of the best SFF has to offer. It’s a great snapshot of the genre, presented in a wonderful format and at a very reasonable price. I’m already looking forward to next year’s installment!

Read the entire review here.

Disclaimer: Tor sent me a free copy of this book for review.

Next up: I just finished reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman, so that'll probably be the next review I write. And, for once, I haven't decided what to read next. I'm actually about to buy the Supporting Membership for this year's WorldCon, which will include a packet with e-book versions of almost all the works that were nominated for a Hugo this year (novels, novellas, novelettes, short stories, anthologies, non-fiction, even some magazine issues) so I may start digging into all of that reading material, both for review and to decide my vote!

Jun. 15th, 2011

"Green" by Jay Lake

… As a novel, Green is a mixed bag. There’s much to like here, and it isn’t hard to see why some readers raved about this book… Unfortunately a strong main character and lovely prose weren’t enough to make this novel work for me… I truly enjoyed the first 150 pages or so, but after a strong start, Green completely fell apart, to the point where I strongly considered giving up on it several times. If not for Jay Lake’s beautiful prose and some lingering curiosity about Green’s fate, I probably would have ditched this novel long before the end… In the end, it’s hard not to have mixed feelings about Green. Parts of the novel are excellent, while others are so poorly executed that it almost makes you forget about the good bits. Unfortunately, most of the better parts come early on, and the poor ones later, so by the time you reach the end of the novel you’re left with a bad taste in your mouth. I had high hopes for this novel, based on Jay Lake’s excellent short stories, but after turning the final page, I felt mostly disappointed that Green didn’t deliver on its early promise.

Read the entire review here.

Disclaimer: Tor was kind enough to send me a free review copy of this novel.

Next up: I have reviews of the 2011 Nebula Award Showcase and "The Shadow Men" by Tim Lebbon and Christopher Golden coming up, and I'm about to start reading "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman.

Jun. 11th, 2011

"Sleight of Hand" by Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle will probably always be best known for The Last Unicorn, the 1968 fantasy novel many consider his masterpiece, but the author has assembled a long and impressive bibliography since this perennial classic, including several excellent short story collections. The most recent of these is Sleight of Hand, recently released by Tachyon. If all you know of Peter S. Beagle is The Last Unicorn, this is as good an opportunity as any to jump in and explore the author’s shorter works. Sleight of Hand offers thirteen stories that stretch to the far corners of the fantasy field, from cute children’s tales to ghost and werewolf stories, from traditional, straightforward narratives to more challenging fiction, and from humor to the most painful emotions… Just like all the great authors working in the genre, Peter S. Beagle uses fantasy to examine the most straightforward, non-fantastical, human aspects of our lives. In Sleight of Hand, he offers thirteen excellent examples of why he’s one of the better fantasists working today.

Read the entire review here.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for review from Tachyon.

Next up: I've got review of "Green" by Jay Lake and "Traitor's Knot" by Janny Wurts in the pipeline, and I'm about to finish the "Nebula Awards Showcase 2011".

Jun. 3rd, 2011

"Embedded" by Dan Abnett

News coverage of military conflicts changed forever when journalists were allowed to travel along with combat units and report right from the front line, providing dramatic real life images of what life is like for soldiers and civilians in a war zone. Dan Abnett effectively takes this concept of the “embedded reporter” into futuristic territory with his new military science fiction novel, EmbeddedDan Abnett has written an almost surreal number of comics and Warhammer novels, so it should come as no surprise that he knows how to tell a story… the first half of Embedded, focusing on Lex before being embedded and his first experiences afterward, is truly excellent, and while the second half is too repetitive, it’s still well-written and action-packed. This is a novel that almost begs to be turned into a sci-fi action movie, and it also sets up very effectively for a possible future sequel. If you’re a fan of military SF, definitely check out Embedded by Dan Abnett.

Read the entire review here!

Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC of this novel from the publisher.

Next up: I'm almost done with "Sleight of Hand", a beautiful collection of short stories by Peter S, Beagle.

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