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INTERVIEWS

Peter Higgins, author of Wolfhound Century

Myke Cole, author of Shadow Ops Series

John Brown John, translator of the Zamonia Novels

Jim C. Hines author of Libriomancer

Nick Harkaway author of Angelmaker (review here)

Martha Wells author of The Cloud Roads

David Tallerman author of Giant Thief

Mazarkis Williams author of The Emperor's Knife

Rob Ziegler author of Seed

Steven Gould author of 7th Sigma

Douglas Hulick author of Among Thieves (review here)

Mark Charan Newton author of Nights of Villjamur (review here)

Kameron Hurley author of God's War (review here)

Brent Weeks author of The Black Prism (review here)

Anthony Huso author of The Last Page (review here)

Brandon Sanderson author of The Way of Kings (review here)

Lou Anders Editor of Pyr Books

Ian Tregillis author of Bitter Seeds (review here)

Sam Sykes author of Tome of the Undergates (review here)

Benjamin Parzybok author of Couch (review here)

Kristine Kathryn Rusch author of Diving Into the Wreck (review here)

Ken Scholes author of Lamentation

Cherie Priest author of Boneshaker (review here)

Lev Grossman author of The Magicians (review here)

Character Interviews

Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Eva Forge from Tim Akers's The Horns of Ruin

Atticus from Kevin Hearne's Hounded

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My BlogCatalog BlogRank Wikio - Top Blogs - Literature

REVIEW | The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman (Penguin)

The Left Hand of God is one of a few books gaining quite a bit of buzz or hype as the next best Epic Fantasy.  Some believe when a book is "hyped" it had better be one of best books written that year if not in a few years.  To me that is a bit of a misnomer as hype is really all about what publishers think the general public will key into the most, which does not always denote top quality prose but more of a story that grabs readers.  For example The Windup Girl is a book that deserves hype, but one most of general reading public would find off putting because of its stark realism. While The Left and of God will pull you in from the opening pages if the style hits you right as it did with me. It is a very morose and deeply brutal, but had me staying up late just to get a few more chapters in.  This is why I think it is deserving of the "hype" it has gotten thus far. I was most reminded of Brent Weeks's Night Angel series although with a much smaller cast and not as detailed of a world. That is not to say The Left Hand of God is not without its problems, which I'll go into.

Told in an almost Thriller like fashion with short sentences and short cliff-hanger chapters Hoffman has concocted the story of young acolyte Thomas Cale in service to The Redeemers who have raised him since he was 4 or so.  Cale flips between been quixotic and all too reserved. But nothing feels quite right about Cale, but nor should it. He is an anomaly. A boy who has never been shown any kindness in his upbringing and whenever he did well was punished for it. 

The Redeemers are followers of The Hanged Redeemer. Kind of like a Christ-like figure only more mysterious. Basically Redeemers seem like a much screwed up version of Christianity. Think Inquisition times without trials. The Redeemers are one of the most zealous religious groups I've encountered in years nearly beating out the Khalidorians of the Night Angel Trilogy in their cruelty and wanton dismissiveness of other groups. Cale had been singled out by one of its leaders for his special abilities and escaped their clutches after many years as a teenager. Thus ensues the elevation of Cale into world politics because of his skills and knowledge. Cale is accompanied by two other acolytes, who didn't get nearly enough page time as they enliven the story despite the sullen and disconnected Cale. Another standout character is the mysterious IdrisPukke who is a sort of mentor to Cale and brings to mind a cross of Durzo Blint and Nicomo Cosca.

The setting is an alternative Earth with no magic to speak of, where religions and factions took far different turns more than a thousand years ago. There are scant mentions of Jesus, Rabbis, and references to Norway and other countries. Plus the main city involved is named Memphis. I'm still puzzling out exactly where the story is taking place, but it is most likely Europe and Memphis may be the city in Egypt although this is all far from clear. The technology is that of medieval times, but it also feels strangely more advanced because of some of the garb worn and other references.



Some of the bad: The characters are a bit overly terse to nearly everyone whether it be friend to foe or daughter to father. I couldn't find Cale likeable, but I did care what happened to him despite this. The love story didn't feel right even after all the heroics gone through to ensure the parties willingness. A few of the fight scenes were a bit confusing at times where I found myself re-reading sections to make sure I understood precisely what was going on. The ending was all too abrupt, but the big battle scene that precedes was quite unexpected.  By the end we learn what it is that makes Cale so damn important that different groups are willing to fight a war over him.

Even with all the flaws The Left Hand of God is an unrepentantly evil yet enjoyable book for those into the darker side of Epic Fantasy that kept me thinking about it long after I finished. There are many questions unanswered that left me eager to get to the next volume to learn more about this world and its secrets. As of right now I'd be surprised if this made it into my year end best, but there is enough good to recommend it. I give The Left Hand of God 7.25 out of 10 Hats. We only get a glimpse of two major factions in a much broader world of cultures so there should be much to be revealed in the further volumes. The question is does Hoffman go bigger and better from here? Penguin UK has put up a 36 page sample for the book, which definitely gives you a good flavor of whether this is a book for you.


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MISHMASH | Dresden Files RPG, ToC for Running With the Pack, and Free Bacigalupi

Four years into development and Evil Hat Productions has finally announced the impending publication of The Dresden Files RPG.  The RPG will be based off the FATE system which I am not familiar with, but it certainly sounds workable for this world.  The game has now grown into at least two volumes: The Dresden Files RPG: Volume 1 – Your Story and The Dresden Files RPG: Volume 2 – Our World.  Fred Hicks from Evil Hat has this to say:

“Originally, we were planning to do this game in a single volume. As time went on and word count grew…so did the amount of flat-out awesome we knew we had on our hands. And so our game grew out of the confines of one book, into two gorgeous volumes.”
Ryan Macklin, head developer-wrangler of Evil Hat added:
"The thing is jam-packed with great rules for making your campaign & playing all sorts of different beasts and badasses from the Dresdenverse, supported by loads of advice for players & GMs as well as a lot of characters and creatures from the books statted out. (To give you an idea of what we mean by A LOT, Fred got to about the 75% mark on the first pass through layout and saw he already had 460 pages of material. The final combined page count of the two books together could break 600. Over 140 pages of that is our comprehensive tour of the characters of the first ten novels, complete with stats where they’re stattable.)"
A preview of Harry Dresden's character sheet is available here.  Evil Hat is hoping to have pre-orders up in June so be on the lookout, but it seems like you may not  have product in hand until July as they are first releasing it at a convention.  Visit the official site for the game for more details as they are released as they've gone all out on the development details.




Ekaterina Sedia has released the table of contents for her second anthology Running With the Pack, which will be released this May from Prime Books.
INTRODUCTION
WILD RIDE by Carrie Vaughn
SIDE EFFECTS MAY INCLUDE by Steve Duffy
COMPARISON OF EFFICACY RATES FOR SEVEN ANTIPATHETICS AS EMPLOYED AGAINST LYCANTHROPES by Marie Brennan
BEAUTIFUL GELREESH by Jeffrey Ford
SKIN IN THE GAME by Samantha Henderson
BLENDED by C.E. Murphy
LOCKED DOORS by Stephanie Burgis
WERELOVE by Laura Anne Gilman
IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING by Molly Tanser
ROYAL BLOODLINES by Mike Resnick
DIRE WOLF by Genevieve Valentine
TAKE BACK THE NIGHT by Lawrence Schimmel
MONGREL by Maria Snyder
DEADFALL by Karen Everson
RED RIDING HOOD'S CHILD by N.K. Jemisin
ARE YOU A VAMPIRE OR A GOBLIN? by Geoffrey Goodwin
THE PACK AND THE PICKUP ARTIST by Mike Brotherton
THE GARDEN, THE MOON, THE WALL by Amanda Downum
BLAMED FOR TRYING TO LIVE by Jesse Bullington
THE BARONY AT RODAL by Peter Bell
INSIDE OUT by Erzbet Yellowboy
GESTELLA by Susan Palwick

Stories by Jesse Bullington, N.K. Jemisin, and Amanda Downum definitely move this collection up on my list. Also, I love the title of Geoffrey Goodwin's story Are You a Vampire or a Goblin?



iO9 in conjunction with Night Shade Press is giving away the ebook version of Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl, which keeps garnering praise left and right.  So if you haven't picked it up yet now is your chance to grab it for free.  This looks to be a limited time offer to coincide with iO9's book club event for The Windup Girl, so put a request in while you can.


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LOOKING FORWARD | 3 YA Books (Zafon, Bacigalupi, & van Eekhout)

Examining my "Looking Forward" posts for 2010 releases it seems I neglected to mention any YA books except for Neil Gaiman's The Tales of Odd. That's not too surprising considering I'm far from an expert on YA releases as it would be too much to keep up with both those and adult releases, but I always read a few every year and for the most part they are every bit as enjoyable as adult fiction. In fact many so called adult books would probably fit just as well in the YA category such as Boneshaker by Cherie Priest and Joe Haldeman's Marsbound. Now the books mentioned below may not be me thinking too far outside the box, but they are all books worth pointing out from accomplished and imaginative authors who are for the first time working in the YA arena.


The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher: Little Brown | Release Date: May 4th

Zafon's name is enough to put this on the top of my list unequivocally. He also has a couple other YA books that will be seeing English publication over the next few years.

A mysterious house harbors an unimaginable secret . . . It’s wartime, and the Carver family decides to leave the capital where they live and move to a small coastal village where they’ve recently bought a home. But from the minute they cross the threshold, strange things begin to happen. In that mysterious house there still lurks the spirit of Jacob, the previous owners’ son, who died by drowning.

With the help of their new friend Roland, Max and Alicia Carver begin to explore the suspicious circumstances of that death and discover the existence of a mysterious being called The Prince of Mist—a diabolical character who has returned from the shadows to collect on a debt from the past. Soon the three friends will find themselves caught up in an adventure of sunken ships and an enchanted stone garden, which will change their lives forever.



Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Publisher: Little Brown | Release Date: May 5th

Ship Breaker is Bacigalupi's YA debut, but this is also the start to a series. As with The Windup Girl this is set in a dystopian future where resources are scarce and everyday is a challenge.  I love the cover art as it sets the tone for a work by Bacigalupi well.

In a shanty town in America’s Gulf Coast region, 100 years in the future, where grounded oil tankers are dissembled for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, searches for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. But out on the blue ocean, Nailer can see the new hightechnology clipper ships sailing the open waves, and he dreams of a better life, if only he can figure out a way to get there.

When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship and its lone survivor beached during a recent hurricane, he must choose between his dreams and doing the right thing. The decision will lead him on an adventure that could cost him his life—or end up saving it.


Kid Vs. Squid by Greg van Eekhout
Publisher: Bloomsbury  | Release Date: May 11th

van Eekhout's shorts certainly lend themselves to a YA audience.  In fact this story has its impetuous from a piece of flash fiction he wrote a few years back.  Plus I'm a sucker for Atlantis related ficton.  This must stem from all the In Search of episodes I watched as a child narrated by Leonard Nimoy.

The citizens of Atlantis are stuck selling cotton candy on the boardwalk, and only our hero can help

Thatcher Hill is bored stiff of his summer job dusting the fake mermaids and shrunken heads at his uncle’s seaside Museum of Curiosities. But when a mysterious girl steals an artifact from the museum, Thatcher’s summer becomes an adventure that takes him from the top of the ferris wheel to the depths of the sea. Following the thief, he learns that she is a princess of the lost Atlantis. Her people have been cursed by an evil witch to drift at sea all winter and wash up on shore each summer to an even more terrible fate—working the midway games and food stands on the boardwalk. Can Thatcher help save them before he, too, succumbs to the witch’s curse?


With sharp, witty writing that reads like a middle-grade Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Greg van Eekhout’s first book for young readers is a wild ride packed with as many laughs as it has thrills.

Are there any other YA books we should be looking out for?


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VIDEO | The Mice Templar Vol. 2 Trailer



Behold the trailer for The Mice Templar: Vol. 2: Destiny, which shows off the art quite nicely.  Now some people swear by Mouse Guard and while I love that series The Mice Templar has a bit more going on in terms of action, magic, and epic scale.  Here is a bit of what I had to say in my review of The Mice Templar Vol. 1: The Prophecy:

"At its heart The Mice Templar is a coming of age story, but the authors have created a rich mythology behind the Templars.  The Mice Templar is bound to become a modern classic that is cherished and re-read for years. "
The Mice Templar: Vol. 2: Destiny has finished its complete run with the 6th and final issue coming out this week.  The collected edition release date has not yet been announced, but hopefully it should see the light in  early to late Fall at the latest.

UPDATE: I received an e-mail from Mice Templar co-creator Bryan J. L. Glass who said the 2nd series The Mice Templar: Destiny is 9 issues and will be split into two collected editions because of their size, which combined is nearly twice that of the first collected edition and break down as follows: 

PART 1 releases March 17 (collecting DESTINY 1-5)

PART 2 releases July 7 (collecting DESTINY 6-9)

The dates given are for comic shops as they get the first shot with bookstores and online getting it a couple weeks later.  In Fall 2010 we should be treated to Volume Three: A Midwinter Night's Dream.  Also, the series is project to run to four volumes.


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FREE FICTION | Prologue to Spellwright by Blake Charlton (Tor)



Spellwright by Blake Charlton is at the top of the big Fantasy debuts for 2010 and now we have some lengthy samples to peruse. Here is the prologue to whet your appetite.

Spellwright
by
 Blake Charlton

Prolog
The grammarian was choking to death on her own words.
And they were long sharp words, written in a magical language and crushed into a small, spiny ball. Her legs faltered. She fell onto her knees.
Cold autumn wind surged across the tower bridge.
The creature standing beside her covered his face with a voluminous white hood. “Censored already?” he rasped. “Disappointing.”
The grammarian fought for breath. Her head felt as light as silk; her vision burned with gaudy color. The familiar world became foreign.
She was kneeling on a stone bridge, seven hundred feet above Starhaven’s walls. Behind her, the academy’s towers stretched into the cold evening sky like a copse of giant trees. At various heights, ribbon- thin bridges spanned the airy gaps between neighboring spires. Before her loomed the dark Pinnacle Mountains.
Dimly, she realized that her confused flight had brought her to the Spindle Bridge.
Her heart began to kick. From here the Spindle Bridge arched a lofty half- mile away from Starhaven to terminate in a mountain’s sheer rock face. It led not to a path or a cave, but to blank stone. It was a bridge to nowhere, offering no chance of rescue or escape.
She tried to scream, but gagged on the words caught in her throat.
To the west, above the coastal plain, the setting sun was staining the sky a molten shade of incarnadine.
The creature robed in white sniffed with disgust. “Pitiful what passes for imaginative prose in this age.” He lifted a pale arm. Two golden sentences glowed within his wrist.
“You are Magistra Nora Finn, Dean of the Drum Tower,” he said. “Do not deny it again, and do not refuse my offer again.” He flicked the glowing sentences into Nora’s chest.
She could do nothing but choke.
“What’s this?” he asked with cold amusement. “Seems my attack stopped that curse in your mouth.” He paused before laughing, low and breathy. “I could make you eat your words.”
Pain ripped down her throat. She tried to gasp.
The creature cocked his head to one side. “But perhaps you’ve changed your mind?”
With five small cracks, the sentences in her throat deconstructed and spilled into her mouth. She fell onto her hands and spat out the silver words. They shattered on the cobblestones. Cold air flooded into her greedy lungs.
“And do not renew your fight,” the creature warned. “I can censor your every spell with this text.” She looked up and saw that the figure was now holding the golden sentence that ran into her chest. “Which of your students is the one I seek?”
She shook her head.
The creature laughed. “You took our master’s coin, played the spy for him.”
Again, she shook her head.
“Do you need more than gold?” He stepped closer. “I now possess the emerald and so Language Prime. I could tell you the Creator’s first words. You’d find them . . . amusing.”
“No payment could buy me for you,” Nora said between breaths. “It was different with master; he was a man.”
The creature cackled. “Is that what you think? That he was human?”
The monster’s arm whipped back, snapping the golden sentence taut. The force of the action yanked Nora forward onto her face. Again pain flared down her throat. “No, you stupid sow,” he snarled. “Your former master was not human!”
Something pulled up on Nora’s hair, forcing her to look at her tormentor. A breeze was making his hood ruffle and snap. “Which cacographer do I seek?” he asked.
She clenched her fists. “What do you want with him?”
There was a pause. Only the wind dared make noise. Then the creature spoke. “Him?”
Involuntarily, Nora sucked in a breath. “No,” she said, fighting to make her voice calm. “No, I said ‘with them.’ ”
The cloaked figure remained silent.
“I said,” Nora insisted, “ ‘What do you want with them?’ Not him. With them.”
Another pause. “A grammarian does not fault on her pronouns. Let us speak of ‘him.’ ”
“You misheard; I—” The creature disengaged the spell that was holding her head up. She collapsed. “It was different in the dreams,” she murmured into the cobblestones.
The creature growled. “Different because I sent you those dreams. Your students will receive the same: visions of a sunset seen from a tower bridge, dreams of a mountain vista. Eventually they will become curious and investigate.”
Nora let out a tremulous breath. The prophecy had come to pass. How could she have been so blind? What grotesque forces had she been serving?
“Perhaps you think Starhaven’s metaspells will protect your students,” the creature said. “They won’t. They might keep me from spellwriting within your walls, but I can lure the whelps into the woods or onto these bridges. It won’t be hard to do now that the convocation has begun. If I must, I’ll snuff out your students one by one. You could prevent all these deaths by speaking one name.”
She did not move.
“Tell me his name,” the white figure hissed, “and I will let you die quickly.”
Nora glanced at the railing. An idea bled across her mind like an ink stain. It might work if she moved quickly enough.
“No answer?” The creature stepped away. “Then yours will be a slow death.”
Nora felt a tug on the magical sentence running through her chest.
“I’ve just infected you with a canker spell. It forces a portion of a spellwright’s body to forge misspelled runes. As we speak, the first canker is forming in your lungs. Soon it will spread into your muscles, compelling you to forge dangerous amounts of text. An hour will see your body convulsing, your arteries bleeding, your stomach ruptured.”
Nora pressed her palms against the cold cobblestones.
“But the strongest of your cacographers will survive such an infection,” the creature sneered. “That’s how I’ll find him. He’ll survive the cankers; the others will die screaming. I’ll spare you this torture if you tell me—”
But Nora did not wait to hear the rest. Soundlessly she pushed herself up and leaped over the railing. For a moment, she feared a swarm of silvery paragraphs would wrap about her ankles and hoist her back up to the bridge.
But the force of her fall snapped the golden sentence running through her chest . . . and she was free.
She closed her eyes and discovered that her fear of death had become strange and distant, more like a memory than an emotion.
The prophecy had come to pass. The knowledge would perish with her, but that was the price she had to pay: her death would keep a small, flickering hope alive.
Still falling, she opened her eyes. In the east, the crimson sky shone above the mountain’s dark silhouette. The setting sun had shot the peaks full of red- gold light and, by contrast, stained the alpine forests below a deep, hungry black.
* * *
To read the rest of the samples including the first four chapters of Spellwright visit Blake's site. Blake also kindly put the samples up as PDF, RTF, and HTML files. While there also check out Charlton's short story Endosymbiont.

The above electronic samples are distributed on a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

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New Procurements



Luck has been with me the past couple weeks as I've received or found a lot of books from my wishlist.

Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter - I've been looking for a copy of Infernal Devices for quite some time, but I finally tracked a used copy down of one of the original Steampunk stories written by the man who coined the term.

The Mount by Carol Emshwiller - I kept hearing about this really crazy book in which aliens have taken over earth and after a century of occupation now use humans as transportation much like we use horses. My friend Comicaze somehow bought two copies without realizing it and gifted the extra copy to me.  I read Emshwiller's The Secret City a couple years ago and found it to be quite a twisted take on crash landed aliens.

Clementine by Cherie Priest - This long novella is in Priest's Clockwork Century world and will be released by Sub Press in May. It picks up a subplot from Boneshaker with some of the same characters and I'm dying to dig-in, but since it is a few months away from release I'll hold off for now.

Horns by Joe Hill - Here is one I've mentioned a couple times. I was lucky enough to win one of the galley's Publisher's Weekly had up for grabs of this highly anticipated February release.  The ARC was actually done with a cool metallic finish so maybe my earlier thoughts on the cover are a bit unfounded. Sometimes the final in-person cover can look leaps and bounds better than online.

Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois - Featuring a new Dunk and Egg story is pushing this to the top of my to-read pile, but first I'll be re-reading the two prior installments stories in the series since I need to reacquaint myself with the characters. But even without that story it still longs to be an incredibly strong collection, which releases in March.

The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar - Not pictured as it just came today. This is from BookDepository.com as part of a large order that will be coming in over the next few months of some books I just had to have mostly comprised of books with no US publication date in sight.


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REVIEW | The Clockwork Jungle Book (Shimmer 11)


I meant to do a review of Shimmer 11: The Clockwork Jungle Book a few weeks back, but I misplaced my copy during all of the hullabaloo of moving and remodeling. Now that everything is unpacked things should be getting back to normal.

The Clockwork Jungle Book
as the name implies is based on the theme of Steampunk animals. This simple theme was carried above and beyond my expectations. Most of the authors were new to me, but some well known names do appear in the volume such as Jay Lake, Chris Roberson, along with the first fiction I've read from Lou Anders the impresario of Pyr. Overall, The Clockwork Jungle Book is a sumptuous feast of all things Steampunk with many stories that I hope are only beginning glimpses inside these wonderful and sometimes weird alternative worlds. Now on to some of the highlights.

Shedding Skin; Or How the World Came to Be by Jay Lake - To start we have Jay Lake's take on a mechanical animal filled Eden. This story sets the tone for the volume well, but they only get better from here, which says quite a bit as Lake is one of the better short stories writers out there.

The Jackdaw’s Wife by Blake Hutchins - This was one of my favorite tales. Hutchins's managed to do a lot with a little, creating an incredible monster from scratch within a few pages. Some of the development happens a bit too quickly though.

The Student and the Rats by Jess Nevins - A nice tale about a man tinkering with creatures to see how they work and make them better. It is almost a Steampunk retelling of the myth of Prometheus only with rats.

Otto’s Elephant, by Vince Pendergast - Stories within a story about what mechanical elephants of the past could do if they existed throughout history. Beautiful telling as if a bard were right there next to you. It felt like this was only the beginning to a much larger book of tales that I hope Pendergast revisits.

The Monkey and the Butterfly by Susannah Mandel - Hands down the cutest story in the bunch. A monkey who falls in love with a cat in a Victorian setting where most animals are highly intelligent, but still give into their animal instincts at times. Great character building in such a scant space.

The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar by Shweta Narayan - Possibly the biggest standout in the collection. This tale could have easily fit in Arabian Nights as it evokes a desert setting as well as a moral beautifully done. It is also another story within a story.

Message in a Bottle by James Maxey - This is a story Jules Verne could almost have written. Maxey’s great adventure tale on the moon goes in unexpected directions.

The Clockwork Cat’s Escape by Gwynne Garfinkle - The shortest tale in the bunch, but most definitely one of the most heartfelt about knowing when to let go of something you love.

The Wolf and the Schoolmaster by James L. Cambias - Cambias needs a contract right now to write a book based off this story as this is clearly only the impetuous to a much longer story with a rich world history at his finger tips. This story is also startling similar in terms of tone and setting to what Scott Westerfeld did with Leviathan, so if you're a fan of that book you'll absolutely love Cambias. That said Cambias does put his own unique spin on this tale in some very good ways.

And How His Audit Stands by Lou Anders - Anders surprised me with one of the most well thoughtout and adventurous stories in the bunch yet the animal theme is a bit lost. He somehow gives a new life to trains with great Western style flair. I recently learned that Mike Resnick upcoming Steampunk themed series Weird West was initially Lou's idea. I now understand where Lou gestated the thought.

The Story In Which Dog Dies by Sara Genge - The anthology starts at the beginning of creation so it was only fitting to include a story about the end of the world with this tale of how the last dog on earth keeps moving.

The Fishbowl by Amal El-Mohtar - A perfect use of the theme in which the world's oceans are now populated by clockwork fish because of the proliferation of steam tech.

His Majesty’s Menagerie by Chris Roberson - A clockwork animal arms race followed by a clockwork animal war. Wonderfully done.

The Emperor’s Gift by Rajan Khanna - With an Asian flare the workings of a clockwork builder come to life.

There was not a clunker in this bunch. I give The Clockwork Jungle Book 9 out of 10 Hats. This is a volume that had it been a little longer could have easily found a home with a large publisher for the mass market. If you are a Steampunk fan go out and order this book or if you've always wondered what keeps me reading this genre it would be a great volume to induct yourselves into the fold. You'll thank me later. Now Shimmer has got me wondering whether every issue is as high quality as this so much that I'll have to check out another.


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Win a Copy of Lauren Beukes's Moxyland



I have one galley copy of Moxyland by Lauren Beukes up from grabs.  This is a rare chance to get a book which won't be out in the US until May.  I received this copy last year and it just wasn't for me after all was said and done.  But I want to give someone else a chance to read this cyberpunk tale who may love the book as a few others have.  Here is the short description:

Moxyland is an ultra-smart thriller about technological progress, and the freedoms it removes. In the near future, four hip young things live in a world where your online identity is at least as important as your physical one. Getting disconnected is a punishment worse than imprisonment, but someone’s got to stand up to government inc., whatever the cost.

Send an email to madhatterreview (AT) gmail (dot) com with your full name and snail mail address and "MOXY" in the subject line to enter the contest. The deadline is midnight January 31st. I'll announce the winner on the following day. This contest is open to the United States and Canada only. If you send multiple entries you will be disqualified from the contest.


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New Cover Unveiled for The Red Wolf Conspiracy



The mass market edition of The Red Wolf Conspiracy will be released next week. Redick's publisher Del Rey has opted to change from the great art used on the hardcover to something a bit more commecial. This also explains the diviation in art for the sequel The Ruling Sea, which has a very similar setup.  Overall the art for the weapons is wonderfully detailed, but I did like seeing the ship in the background on the hardcover and UK editions.  Either way I should be getting to The Red Wolf Conspiracy in the near future.




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FREE FICTION | John Scalzi's Judge Sn Goes Golfing



Subterranean Press and John Scalzi have put an audio performance of the short story Judge Sn Goes Golfing up for free on their website as part of the Winter 2010 issue of Subterranean Magazine. This is an abridged version of their recently released chapbook of the same name, which I just read and enjoyed quite a bit.  The book collector/coveter in me is a bit peeved that I bought the limited edition chapbook thinking I was getting exclusive content just to see it being given away for free weeks later. Yet I love it when authors and publishers give away audio stories. Still I have the wonderful Gahan Wilson art work, extra words with swearing, and a signature to show for it.

Judge Sn is one of the most memorable characters from The Android's Dream, which seems to be Scalzi's red-headed step child of novels yet it also happens to be my favorite as it loads the snark and is so tightly plotted. Judge Sn Goes Golfing attempts to give you a day in the life of this infamous Judge as he dodges more than just sand traps on the links. It is especially a great read or in this case listen for fans of The Android's Dream. Overall, it is a hugely funny tea biscuit of a story and well worth checking out whether you buy the chapbook or download the audio.


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GUEST POST | Lavie Tidhar author of The Bookman

Recently I've been mulling over a few new features for Mad Hatter's Bookshelf and one thing kept coming to mind. Everyone always asks what is your favorite book? Or the book that made you love reading? But what about all those books that were just plain strange? Basically, what is weirdest thing you've ever read?

So with that in mind I sent this question on to a few authors and one of the first to respond was Lavie Tidhar author of the recently released Steampunk adventure The Bookman from Angry Robot. Most of the responses were a paragraph or two, but Lavie had so much to say I thought it best to give him his own spot. Look for further posts on this question in the near future. Some incredible responses are in store from a wide swath of authors.


What is the weirdest book you've ever read?

by Lavie Tidhar

Luna: Gan He’eden Ha’geneti (Luna: The Genetic Paradise) by Ram Moav (1985)

I first came across Luna in the school library, and to my horror that must have been almost twenty years ago. It stood out, being one of the only—if not the only—titles on the science fiction shelf not to be a translation from the English. It was—almost miraculously, it seemed—written by an Israeli writer.

And what a writer!

Luna is, to a large extent, the last will and testament of its author, the Israeli geneticist Ram Moav. Like the unnamed narrator of his novel, he was dying of a terminal illness—he passed away shortly after completing the novel. His illness, and the narrator’s, inform the novel on a deep level—

But what is it about?

Luna’s narrator is a disillusioned scientist who, while slowly dying, is granted visions of the future by means of “The Camera”, a device that allows him (and us) to explore a future colony on the moon, a utopian place founded on extreme ideas of eugenics. Luna’s story is split in two: one follows the life story of the narrator, while the other follows a group of new immigrants to the lunar colony. They stand in marked contrast to one another. The scientist’s life is that of a modern Candide. Having survived the Holocaust as a child, he arrives in Israel only to be shunned and tormented by the “Sabras”, the native-born children. Growing up, he continues to suffer. His wife leaves him (after telling him he had never sexually satisfied her), his boss steals credit in his life’s work—until he is forced to conclude that:
my entire sorry life-story in one chart of disappointments and hurts caused by the bad acts of people. All those coalesced to an understanding, that there is no hope for the current state of man. He is bad at the core and must be replaced. This is the sum of my personal experience, and it is but a small example of the general state.
In one of the most powerful moments in the book, the narrator describes arriving in Israel as a child, after the Holocaust:
My first trauma was the Nazi Holocaust. It filled my entire being as a small child. Bad people, very bad people. An entire nation of bad people united to kill my father, to chase my mother and me, with nothing, to a terrible country where all the children are bad, and all they do, all the days, was to pick on me and hurt me, the little Yekke. [...]

Understand, Barnie, to the Sabras, to the children of the Israel of then, the European Holocaust was something distant, not a great wound of the psyche. Their childhood memories are of nostalgia to the beautiful days of the small Eretz Israel, beautiful, good, pioneering, idealistic. My childhood, in that same Eretz Israel, was one of suffering. A second soul-destroying trauma. A second proof for the evil of man. Adult Nazis in Germany, Jewish children in Israel—they were the same.

Then comes the Camera. With the aid of this mysterious device the narrator is able to glimpse a better, future world. Luna. A multi-cultural, multi-ethnic moon colony founded on a quest to create a Homo Moralis, a moral human. Exploring that new world forms the core of the novel.

And what a strange world it is!

It would be pointless to going into too many details of the new society. In brief, what Moav proposes is the establishment of a society along the lines of selective breeding, a complex structure dictating how many children—and with whom—anyone can have, based on their “humanity index”, a combination of IQ, artistic talent, and social-moral behaviour, with the focus on moral quality. Inherent in this scheme is Moav’s conviction that moral behaviour has a genetic basis, and can be passed on from parent to child. Computers help the selection process. There is a deep conviction behind Moav’s “genetic utopia” that humanity as it stands is inherently bad, but Luna is nevertheless deeply ambiguous in its promotion of eugenics, not dissimilar in nature to the scientific theories of the Nazis. The group of new immigrants, led by Luna-born Vasil as their guide, is composed of an Indian Woman, an Afro-American [sic] Man, a Pygmy family, a Chinese Man, a Russian Woman, and Gil and Cynthia Goldman—an Israeli professor and his Hawaiian wife, the only two of the group to actually have names, and whose quest to find relatives on Luna leads to the discovery of a wide family also related to Moav’s first novel,Zirmat Chachamim (“Genes for Geniuses, Inc.”, 1982). Genes for Geniuses—another deeply troubling novel—concerns the plan of an Israeli geneticist and an African dictator to create a new breed of Jewish-African “supermen”—combining, if I recall correctly, the African “physical prowess” with Jewish “brains.” I wish I was making that up!

In fact, here is another one of the strange, uncomfortable moments of the novel:

“New Africa was founded eight years ago. The majority of founders are what is called “Afro-Americans.” Amongst them there are also Africans, racially-pure blacks, who came straight from Africa, but they are few. We still don’t have many Africans in Luna. You...” his smiling gaze centres on the Pygmies: “you’re an important addition... the purpose of the founders was to preserve in a living way the positive components of Africa’s original culture.”
When the [female] Pygmy raises the problem of talking about “an African culture in the singular, when hundreds of different cultures developed in Africa?” Vasil confidently explains that “you have to start somewhere. The city’s founders decided to concentrate on Africa of the equatorial jungle, and we all hope that in the future more cities will be built, specialising each one in a different African culture.” On this level, Luna functions as a kind of Noah’s Ark (it aims to preserve not only human types but wildlife) but Moav is aware of the difficulties (practical if not ethical) of such an approach, and in fact advocates the creation of a truly multicultural society, in which all peoples and types of people play an important part. When the [female] Pygmy points out to Vasil that her and her husband’s “humanity index” is lower than the minimum entry requirement, Vasil makes a case for the need of an intercultural society. When the [male] Pygmy points out that, without Apartheid, intermarriages would lead to the loss of a clearly-defined racial type, Vasil offers Luna’s solution: cloning. The [female] Pygmy then points out that this would be a form of evolutionary dead-end Vasil admits the problem: clearly, even Luna does not have answers for everything.

This is such a bizarre novel, that I find myself going back to it, again and again—I have even managed to acquire my own copy of what is by now an incredibly rare volume (it has never been reprinted). It is not a particularly good novel, but it is disturbing on so many levels... and thought-provoking. And it does that rare thing—it offers a searing critique of Israeli identity, of the mythos of Israel itself.

I could go on—and on... another fascinating aspect of the book is its use of what is probably the only uniquely Israeli sub-genre of science fiction: the dystopia in which Orthodox Judaism takes over Israel, establishing the Jewish equivalent of a Sharia state (we learn of this in the course of the novel). This is, to my mind, the only genuine form of Israeli science fiction to date. In The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction, Sheldon Teitelbaum mentions a couple of the others:
[A] significant dystopia was written by the established novelist Binyamin Tammuz (d1990): Pundako shel Yermiyahu [“Jeremiah’s Inn”] (1984) is a broad comic satire about an Israel taken over by religious zealots. A grimmer version of the future is Yitzhak Ben-Ner’s Ha’malachim Ba’im [“Angels are Coming”](1987), in which [a] world atomic apocalypse has spared Israel, but by the 21st century life within the theocratic state is characterized by street violence, persecution of the secular minority and widespread alienation.
While the best known of all is probably Amos Keinan’s The Road to Ein Harod, which not only won a Palestinian Peace Prize but was also made—in one of those strange confluences of fate— into a (rather dreadful) English-language film starring none other than Alessandra Mussolini (granddaughter of Il Duce), in a full-frontal nudity scene.

Life really is stranger than fiction... though perhaps not as strange as Luna. Incidentally, in my own The Tel Aviv Dossier (with Nir Yaniv), we got to pay homage to this sub-genre (albeit tongue-in-cheek), while in my forthcoming novel Martian Sands (from Apex Books) a place called The Ram Moav Institute plays a significant role... two other very strange books, I think.

And so... Luna. It’s been with me for years—a deeply disturbing, odd, irritating, impossible book – that very few people have ever read. The last vision of a dying mind? a Fascist utopia? A study of the Israeli psyche? All of these, and more?

Those questions will keep me guessing for a long time to come.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lavie Tidhar is the author of The Bookman and forthcoming sequel Camera Obscura. Other books include linked-story collection HebrewPunk, novel The Tel Aviv Dossier (with Nir Yaniv), novella An Occupation of Angels and a host of to-be-released novels and novellas including Cloud Permutations , Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God, and Martian Sands. He also edited The Apex Book of World SF and runs the World SF News Blog.


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Contest winner and general updatery


The lucky winner of Graham Joyce's British Fantasy Award winner How to Make Friends with Demons is Emily from Silver Spring, Maryland.  The book will be sent out sometime this week.

As for my informal poll asking what readers their favorite read of 2009 The Steel Remains was one that kept popping up the most, which has been on my to-read pile for quite sometime.  Since it was mentioned so much I'll be sure to read it in the coming weeks. Also, I have officially moved back home.  Stayed tuned for more contests as I have cleaned my shelves out a bit as I was unpacking and I have a few things some would hopefully like quite a bit.  Some of these would be fairly new books and some older.

I'll be getting up a review in the next few days and an author guest post will be going up as well. The guest post was originally supposed to be part of a larger article but Lavie Tidhar took the idea so far I wanted to give him a solo post.

Stay tuned!

Love,
You friendly book-loving Mad Hatter

2 Mini-Reviews | The God Engines by John Scalzi and Paul Hoffman's The Left Hand of God

Late last night I finished John Scalzi's novella The God Engines.  It wasn't because of its length that I started late. I had to stay up to finish as it was so utterly engrossing. Scazli completely surprised me with the settings, characters, and stark darkness he created. I've always found his work very entertaining with an often lighthearted bent not found in most other Sci-Fi.  Who else would have the impetuous of a story center around a fart joke? Yet with The God Engines he clearly wanted to try not only a different genre, but an entirely new mindset.

Scalzi still manages to sneak in some wonderful Sci-Fi elements into his Fantasy such as setting the story mainly in space, which I haven't seen before but it works beautifully.  If Scalzi doesn't write more stories in this universe it would truly be a crime against Fantasy.  I've already seen The God Engines on some lists being nominated for the Nebula award and it would certainly get my vote if I were eligible.  Sub Press has sent the trade hardcover back for a second printing, which they seldom do so get it while you can.


********************

Rarely do I mention a book when I've only just begun, but I feel so strongly about Paul Hoffman's Fantasy debut The Left Hand of God that I had couldn't hold back.  The amount of world-building is staggering considering I am only a few chapters in. The main character Cale has never been shown kindness living in the strictest setting imaginable yet he is still impertinent and snarky.  Mark my words when this is released in the US this summer it will make waves. Right now it reminds me of The Name of the Wind only about ten times darker.  If Abercrombie and Rothfuss had a baby it might write something as screwed up as The Left Hand of God. I can only hope the story keeps up to the extraordinary start, but so far the hype is well deserved.  I'll most likely do a full review when I'm done.  FYI: My thoughts changed dramatically about this book once I got further.


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NEWS | Anthology Based on Joss Whedon's Firefly Announced

Titan Books, who have pushed 3 official companions to Firefly, have announced they will be publishing a collection of short stories in the Firefly universe along with its characters.  So far little is know other than one of the contributor, but we can all hope some good names sign on.  That said the one announce writer is none other than Firefly alum Jane Espenson who wrote episode 4 "Shindig" who just happens to be Executive Producer of Caprica.  Here is a little from SciFiWire.com quoting Espenson on the anthology:
 "I'm writing a short story set in the Firefly universe that someone's putting together. Titan Books is putting together a collection written by various of the Firefly writers. But [it's a] very short story, ... 2,000 words. Oh, I just came up with a very clever little short story that involves Kaylee and Wash, two characters that we haven't seen together that much."
It looks as though more Firefly writers will be involved.  I hope Joss dusts of his pen to partake.  It seems likely that Whedon collaborator Brett Matthews who wrote the Serenity graphic novels Those Left Behind and Better Days might jump in.

The tip of the hat goes to Aidan for first noticing this grand piece of news.


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NEWS | Sequel to Lev Grossman's The Magicians signed


During my interview with Lev Grossman last year he hinted at a sequel to The Magicians, which now has a title: The Magician King. This is very exciting news for those of us who enjoyed The Magicians and for the other possibilities Grossman left open to explore.  Here is the announcement from Publisher's Weekly:
Tina Bennett at Janklow and Nesbit has closed on a sequel to Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. Molly Stern at Viking (who edited The Magicians) bought North American rights to The Magician King. The new book picks up with protagonist Quentin Coldwater five years after the original—at the end of The Magicians Coldwater is 23—when he and his friends have become royalty in the fantasy world of Fillory. Coldwater, who is dealing with the challenges of being a member of the ruling class, embarks on a dark quest in the novel, which Bennett called “Voyage of the Dawn Treader [book 5 in the Chronicles of Narnia] as rewritten by Raymond Chandler.”
The Magician King is slated for a Fall 2011 release on Viking's schedule. Mark this as my first Looking Forward Fantasy of 2011.


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