Friday, December 31, 2010

Something Completely Different

Conwy Castle, Conwy Wales

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winners: Wild Cards I Giveaway

With the help of Random.org, a winner has been chosen for Wild Cards I edited by George RR Martin for giveaway (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound).
The winners are…

Angela from Mattapan, Massachusetts
Matthijis from Almere, Netherlands
Luke from Inman, South Carolina
Joe from Ripon, Wisconsin
Cleveland from Omaha, Nebraska

Congrats to all the winners!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Something Completely Different

Since it's almost Christmas, I bring you Christmas Tree Worms from Bonaire, Nethereland Antilles.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just How Do You Buy Books as a Gift for Someone?

Like many families, mine does a Christmas gift exchange where each of draws the name of another family member. This year I drew my cousin John. Now John is the youngest of our 13 cousins and even though he’s now in his upper-20s, I still know him as that little annoying kid of a cousin from podunk Oklahoma. Never mind that he’s grown into a man with multiple piercings, a genius IQ, and a college degree who’s spent the last few years hanging out in Japan. Since I haven’t really spent much time around him in over 10 years I don’t know John as an adult. So, just what kind of gift am I to give him?

My family is made up of a bunch of readers. Nearly all of us read a lot and many within the SFF genre (this is where I was first introduced to the Wheel of Time). So books are the obvious gift. But, what books? A gift card is certainly the easy way out – my time is limited and valuable and it sure is easy to allow John to pick out his own gift (and I get to avoid lines at the post office). While practical, a gift card is boring and unexciting, though it still remains my default mode. My wife suggested that I actually buy him a couple of actual books – what a novel idea.

After thinking on it, I became quite excited by the idea. After all, I’m a big important blogger, of course I know what books would make good gifts. But I really don’t know John well – he’s all growed up now. So, just what books would I get a single, highly intelligent young man who (hopefully) enjoys SFF fiction but very likely falls on the eclectic side?

I decided to stick with fantasy (it’s what I know best), but I went with books that tend to be non-traditional, intelligent (even literary), and a bit dark and serious while maintaining an entertaining feel. Or at least that’s what I started with. In the end, I picked these three:





















Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)












I sure hope John likes them.


So, how do you think I did?

Mini Review: Half the Blood of Brooklyn by Charlie Huston

One goal I have with this blog is to write a review for each relevant book I read. However, sometimes I just don’t have it in me to write a full review. Sometimes it’s because I simply don’t have anything to say, sometimes it’s because the book is in a series and it’s hard to say something I haven’t already, sometimes I simply get behind on writing reviews, and sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above plus life throwing in a solid punch in the gut.

Half the Blood of Brooklyn by Charlie Huston (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) is the third book in his Joe Pitt series, which are about a rogue vampire who is a private detective of sorts in the underground of New York. These books are good, fun, short and fast reads written with a unique style uncommon in the SFF genre (it’s a style much more common in mysteries and crime fiction) that stands apart from much of the urban fantasy-horror-vampire books that populate the shelves these days. The books are dark, blunt, and aimed for a mature audience. While there is an over-arching plot through the series, each books stands on its own plot arc.

In Half the Blood of Brooklyn, Pitt ventures beyond his usual haunt of Manhattan to Brooklyn where he meets with a new clan and gets particularly nasty. I read this while in the hospital where it provided an idea escape from the boredom, stress, worry, anxiety, and all the other mixed emotions I felt watching over my daughter. While Half the Blood of Brooklyn was a great book for the moment, I felt it was a bit lacking compared to some of the other books in the series, in spite of a few key moments that have been long anticipated. I think this is mainly because things felt a bit rushed. 7/10

Below is an excerpt from my review of Already Dead (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) which sums things up rather nicely.

Charlie Huston ... takes the prototypical hard-boiled, noir detective template and injects it into a world of vampires. The result is not the Buffy-inspired urban fantasy romp that dominates the fantasy market these days, but a true noir detective tale that happens to star a vampire struggling for independence in clan dominated underworld.

This classic noir story with … a hard-ass, flawed, moralistic rogue vampire proves to be a fast-paced, engaging read that I very much enjoyed.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Giveaway: Wild Cards I edited by George RR Martin

Just in time for the holidays I have some books to give away courtesy of the good folks over at Tor. George RR Martin started the shared-world of Wild Cards, featuring many of SFF’s best and brightest. After 20+ years, the series is getting re-published, including new, original stories. Fans of comics, SFF, GRRM and many other authors should re-joice with this new edition. So, I have 5 copies of the updated Wild Cards I edited by George RR Martin for giveaway (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound).

There is a secret history of the world—a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers.  Some were called Aces--those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers--cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities.  Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.

Originally published in 1987, Wild Cards I features contributions from Roger Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, Howard Waldrop, Lewis Shiner, and George R. R. Martin himself.  And this new, expanded edition contains further original tales set at the beginning of the Wild Cards universe, by eminent new writers like Hugo–winner David Levine, noted screenwriter and novelist Michael Cassutt, and New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.

Entry is easy – just send me an email at nethspace [at] gmail [dot] com. Remove the anti-spam measures as appropriate or use the handy link in the sidebar. Include WILD CARDS as the email subject and make sure to include your full mailing address. Only one entry per person and this contest is open to anyone (though winners not from the US can expect that it’ll take a while for your book to arrive). The contest is open for 2 weeks – so make sure you enter by December 23rd.

Good Luck!.

Jack o' the Shadows

I don't know if it's because I'm procrastinating overly much today, if I'm just in a dark mood or what, but this rendition of Jack o' the Shadows from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is haunting me since I first heard it earlier. At first I didn't care for the muffled (I'm sure there's a better word for it but I can't think of it at the moment) voices that are a bit hard to understand, but it's grown on me and I now think that it's a great job. And I think the ebook cover featuring Mat is the perfect backdrop.



A song of death haunting me while I'm trying to meet a deadline isn't a good sign is it? I need more sleep.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Review: Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) collects original stories from authors who were there near the beginning of sword and sorcery and from the new guys and gals, some of whom have earned reputations as the latest and greatest. As a whole the anthology succeeds with its goal: showcase Sword and Sorcery. These stories are fun and entertaining adventures often full of dark humor. They are not, nor should they be, powerful short stories that punch you in the gut and haunt your dreams – well, OK, some of these stories will punch you in the gut and then kick you in the face, spit on your back and maniacally laugh between guzzles of some horrendous, potent beverage, but I think the point comes across that this is much more of collection of entertainment than deeply symbolic stories on the human condition.

As I was reading I actually kept decent notes for once, so I have at least some comment about every story in the anthology – of course these comments reflect my reading experience and don’t really stand in as true reviews and will probably leave you wanting, but they are what they are.

Introduction

Anders and Strahan do a good job with a complete and illuminating run-down of sword and sorcery as a genre. I felt like I learned something, which is as it should be.

"Goats of Glory" - Steven Erikson

This story embraces the idea of Sword and Sorcery a bit more fully than many of the other stories in this anthology. A small group of mysterious soldiers are ambushed by a nest of nasty demons – I’ve said before that Erikson excels in the short form and this is a pretty good example of it. And nobody names characters better.


"Tides Elba: A Tale of the Black Company" - Glen Cook

This new Black Company story is one of the standouts in the anthology. It’s fun, full of dark humor and makes me want to read more of Cook.

"Bloodsport" - Gene Wolfe

As with much of Wolfe’s fiction, I’m sure I’m missing something, but in the end I found this story to be dull and forgettable.

"The Singing Spear" - James Enge

This short Morlock Ambrosious story rides firmly in the middle of the pack in regards to quality in this anthology, but in combination with his recent World Fantasy Award Nomination, it makes me want to read Enge’s novels.

"A Wizard of Wiscezan" - C.J. Cherryh

“A Wizard of Wiscezan” is one of most complete stories of this anthology. In fact, I’m pretty sure there is a novel to be had.

"A Rich Full Week" - K. J. Parker

This dark tale of the disposal of an unwanted zombie/vampire/dead guy is subtly humorous and well executed.

"A Suitable Present for a Sorcerous Puppet" - Garth Nix

At times fun and witty, but ultimately more forgettable than anything.

"Red Pearls: An Elric Story" - Michael Moorcock

As the introduction of this anthology states, no anthology about Sword and Sorcery would be complete without the presence of Michael Moorcok. This new Elric story is probably the best written of the anthology, yet it still feels as if it’s missing something – now if I could only figure exactly what that is.

"The Deification of Dal Bamore" - Tim Lebbon

This tale of misdirection surrounding the execution of a potential martyr stands out as one of the best of the anthology. Set in Echo City, it makes me very curious about Lebbon’s new book, Echo City.

"Dark Times at the Midnight Market" - Robert Silverberg

In this all-new Majipoor tale, Silverberg writes a mildly entertaining story about a down-and-out wizard trying to make a living in hard times.

"The Undefiled" - Greg Keyes

I forgot everything about this story immediately after reading it, and I think that speaks for itself.

"Hew the Tint Master" - Michael Shea  

This story of a barbarian and a house painter on a mission to save the world started out to be the best of the anthology. The writing was clever, fun and unexpected, but the tale grows bigger than a short story, looses focus, and ultimately falls flat.

"In the Stacks" - Scott Lynch

With a lot of fans anxiously awaiting the next Lynch book for several years now, this little short story gained some legs. Lynch’s take on an exam in a sorcery academy is a good reminder of why fans are eagerly awaiting that next book.

"Two Lions, A Witch, and the War-Robe" - Tanith Lee

This tale of two good Samarians who find themselves in a bit of bind is one of the more entertaining of the anthology.

"The Sea Troll's Daughter" - Caitlin R Kiernan

I learned something I didn’t know with this story – I learned that Kiernan is a geologist. Now to most people that probably doesn’t matter, but since I’m also a geologist, I found this very interesting. As a result, Kiernan’s correct use of geology in “The Sea Troll’s Daughter” stood out. The story it a good one too – I’ll be reading more of her work in the future.

"Thieves of Daring" - Bill Willingham

This was another clever and fun adventure in an anthology that seems to save its best for the end.

"The Fool Jobs" - Joe Abercrombie

I thought this one started out slow, but by the end of the story, Abercrombie’s characteristic dark humor and sense of ‘not quite you’re father’s fantasy’ adventure really takes hold, making this one of the strongest stories in the anthology and good story to end with. “The Fool Jobs” has also been selected for inclusion in The Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy of the Year: Vol. 5 anthology edited by Strahan (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound).


Swords & Dark Magic succeeds as an anthology, though perhaps not as a great collection of stories. No single story stands out as great, and there are a couple of real duds. However, the stories in Swords & Dark Magic are hugely fun and entertaining and showcase the pulp-ish genre of Sword and Sorcery. 7.5

Friday, December 03, 2010

Something Completely Different

After a short hiatus, my every-other Firday photos are back. Since it's now officially winter (at least where I am as defined by us having several inches of snow on the ground), a topical photo.

Have you ever wondered how they plow snow from train tracks?
Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The eBook-Haters Meme

Back before life kicked me in the balls I had flagged this as good blog content for while I was away. Well, now I’m back and I’m going to resurrect this post. I’m not truly and eBook hater, just someone who thinks that the way they are going about it right now is the wrong way.

  1.   Have you ever tried reading an eBook? If so, on what device?
Yes, I’ve read a few relatively short eBooks on my computer.
  2.  What's your single main reason for not reading eBooks?
I think if I’m completely honest it’s that I simply like the feel of a real book in my hands because that’s what I’m used to and comfortable with.
  3.  Are there any other reasons you don't usually read eBooks?
Yes, the biggest of which is DRM. When I buy something, I want to actually own it and be able to do with it as I please. Transfer it from one format to another, from one device to another, etc. I’m no rampant file-sharer, I just want the flexibility to do with it as I please. Also the proprietary format that so many e-readers have is wrong. I want to be able to buy an eBook from Amazon and read it on an Apple product. Or the Nook, or whatever. All eBooks should be in the same format and fully transferable between devices.
  4.  What would it take to get you to read eBooks?
Eliminate DRM and proprietary formatting. Make all eBooks in a single, universal format that is fully transferable. Also, someone would need to buy me an e-reader (I’m probably too lazy and cheap to do it myself).
  5.  What do you think is a fair price for an eBook?
I’m not someone who is hung up on the price issue like so many others. I think a fair price for an eBook is a price that allows a publisher to recover their costs and make a reasonable profit. I don’t know what that price is, but I agree with the idea that it probably varies with time. Related to price, publishers should consider a way for people who purchase the hard copy of a book to get a free (or at least very much reduced price) eBook version. And perhaps vice-versa.
So, what about you?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Brandon Sanderson: Dude, How Do You Do It?

So, the internet is in a bit of a buzz today from a press release from Tor Books about Brandon Sanderson publishing two novels that were essentially unexpected. One is a new original alternate history of the US (with magic of course) and the other is a new installment in his Mistborn books, though it’s pretty far removed from the original trilogy. I’ve copied most of the press release at the end of this post for more details.

But, I’m more interested in how he does it and I will speculate a bit based on what I’ve seen Brandon say on the internet and from conversations I had with him during the The Gathering StormWarbreaker book tour.

It’s all smoke and mirrors – yep you heard me, smoke and mirrors (OK, just sort of). Brandon writes a lot, a whole lot, but not at the prodigious speed that he seems to with multiple books coming out. Really, it goes back to when he sold the Elantris and Mistborn. He had written and sold them several years before they were actually published. During the intervening time Brandon was not idol – he kept writing just as much as always. Combine this with his spending so much time prior to selling a novel writing them – I think it was 7 that he wrote before he ever sold one. Now I’m sure these were pretty rough, but I’m also sure that Brandon keeps those concepts in the bank and happily withdraws them when appropriate.

Also, Brandon like working on multiple projects at the same time – it’s one of the things that keeps him fresh and excited. He generally is writing one book and editing another, but sometimes he burns out on a project he’s been working on a while and takes a break from it by writing on another. During his break between writing Towers of Midnight and starting on A Memory of Light, he dusted off an idea for a Mistborn novella. He went crazy with it and it grew into a full-length novel that will be published as Mistborn: The Alloy of Law.

So, does Brandon really write something like 3 or 4 novels a year? Not really, it just looks that way. Mostly he benefited from the scheduling of his book releases and a big backlog. In reality he’s writing more like 1 or 2 books a year. Of course that’s still a pretty phenomenal rate especially considering he often writes 1000-page door stoppers.

Currently he writes something like 12-14 hours a day to meet the needs of finishing up The Wheel of Time. Brandon has said that will end with the Wheel of Time and he’ll drop back to much more reasonable daily hours. Knowing this, in the future we shouldn’t expect the same in-human production we see now, it’ll drop to just super-human production.

And the upside to all of this is that I like Brandon’s writing and it looks like there will a lot of it to read. Excellent!

Tor Books is proud to announce the acquisition of two new novels by acclaimed fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, whose recent book Towers of Midnight, Book Thirteen in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time®, recently debuted at #1 on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and ABA National Indiebound bestseller lists. Sanderson is also the author of New York Times bestselling novels The Way of Kings, The Gathering Storm, The Mistborn Trilogy, Warbreaker, Elantris, and the middle grade “Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians” series. He is currently working on A Memory of Light, the 14th and final volume in The Wheel of Time, and planning a sequel to The Way of Kings.

Sanderson’s first new project will be an original, standalone short novel set in the universe of his Mistborn trilogy (Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages). Sanderson previously announced plans for a sequel trilogy set in the far future of that world, and the new novel, entitled Mistborn: The Alloy of Law, is set during a frontier era where “allomancy” meets gunplay. The Alloy of Law will be published in late 2011.

Sanderson’s second project, titled The Rithmatist, was first drafted in 2007 and perfected this year. Set in an alternate-history America where magic users (called “Rithmatists”) battle wild chalk creatures, The Rithmatist introduces Joel, a student at the Rithmatist academy with great interest in but no ability to use the magic. But when students start vanishing, it’s up to him to expose the sinister figure behind the disappearances. The Rithmatist will be published in 2012 after the publication of A Memory of Light.

*Random point of interest - The protagonist in The Rithmatist is named Joel, as is Brandon's oldest son.

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