Sep 29, 2011

Galactic Suburbia » Episode 43

Galactic-Suburbia-CakeTansy and Alisa, get stuck into DC’s new comic reboot & talk Doctor Who – where Alisa insists that the Doctor is sleeping with his female companions (again).

Apparently Alisa gets her rant on when it comes to eBooks and publishing – haven’t got there yet – the podcast is a shade under 2 hours. 

But for al of those firmly on the “ePublishing is easy” bandwagon tune in.

You can stream it from the player below, but it’s a long podcast (yay!) so the download link is here.

 

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Goodreads Giveaway–The Secret Signal

HalJnrCover_thSimon Haynes is an Australian speculative fiction author who’s been labelled the Australian Terry Pratchett.  He’s written a series of humorous sci-fi adventure stories – Hal Spacejock for adults and Hal Junior for those ages 9 and up. 
Being the generous fellow that he is, Simon is  giving away 5 copies of The first Hal Junior book – The Secret Signal on Goodreads.  Click here and enter.
But if that’s not enough he’s also giving away a signed copy of the book via his website – click here for the conditions of entry.

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Sep 27, 2011

Goodbye Sara

944696-sara-douglass

Trailblazing Australian Fantasy author Sara Douglas died today aged 54 from ovarian cancer.

As a reader I have her many books and countless hours of enjoyment to thank her for.

For writers of speculative fiction she is one of a select few that put Australian fantasy writing on the world map.

Sep 25, 2011

Love and Romanpunk eBook for sale

 

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After much effort I am sure, Twelfth Planet Press with their newly updated web store have on offer Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Love and Romanpunk.

You can purchase the book for $5.95 AUD from this link.  It’s all automated, just click and download. 

You can also grab the glorious paperback here.

Note: It’s epub only format at this stage. But is available worldwide. There should be kindle versions available in the near future.

 


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Rekindling first loves

My first love in a literary sense was speculative fiction.  I can vaguely remember writing a Dr Who story called “Dr Who and the Volcano Men” when I was eight (seriously it was cool, about 4 pages long and illustrated) my mother probably still has it somewhere. 

Then it was Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings which I started at age nine and finished about age 13.  It was the first time I experienced a strong emotional connection with character.  Then it was Weis and Hickman’s Dragonlance Chronicles followed by almost everything written by David Gemmell.

Somewhere between high school and university that love departed, I think reading for study killed the joy that I experienced from reading good fantasy fiction.  It was Robin Hobb that brought me back though through her Farseer Trilogy .

Rowena Cory Daniells has just interviewed Robin over at her blog.  Said interview has rekindled a bit of nostalgia.

Below is a short interview with Robin snipped from the bottom of Rowena’s post.  It has two important lessons for writers – that you can’t protect your lead characters from misfortune and that they must have changed or grown by the end of the tale.

Enjoy and go and read Rowena’s interview.  I think that Robin’s answer to the last question is the beast I have read yet.

And for those of you interested in my progress on the novel.  It’s sitting at around 25,000 words and I have a short horror story that I hope to finish and sell, nearing completion as well.


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Sep 24, 2011

Book Review–Bus Stop on a Strange Loop by Shaune Lafferty Webb

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Bus Stop on a Strange Loop by Shaune Lafferty Webb is an Australian speculative fiction offering from Perth based publisher Winterbourne Publishing.

The Story

Two brothers Nicky and Ethan escape a collapsing dystopian future Australia, through the use Ethan’s “Bus”, a time machine of sorts.  Intending to hide out safely in the past. Unknown to them they are followed.  Are their actions a catalyst or a result?  Such are the questions raised by time travelling paradox’s.

There they come across Olivia, a school teacher and orphan who seems strangely familiar.  It becomes apparent to the three of them that their lives have, or will, or is it have, intersected before?

A workout for your brain.

At only 163 pages you could be forgiven for thinking that Bus Stop on a Strange Loop would be a quick easy read, devoured in an afternoon.  You would be mistaken.  What we have is an evocative, intense and dense book, whose prose demands constant attention.  This is no 45 minute jaunt in a blue box,  but a book that demands that the reader work to unpack the story, the connections and implications.

It’s a well sequenced novel and I found myself going back after having read it through the once to tease out the full significance of early scenes.

Recommendations

I found it demanding, which is not a mark against it.  Those that enjoy their science fiction  “harder' will enjoy it despite the time travel trope.  It’s also a book that I think you could hang a “literature” tag on. 

And finally, on reflection the tale would also work extremely well as an a low budget Australian indie film project.

This book was provided to me free of charge as part of Goodreads First reads initiative.


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Sep 23, 2011

Book Review - Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder

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Buried Secrets is Joseph Finder’s second Nick Heller novel.  The first, Vanished was an international best seller.

Like another top flight thriller writer, Barry Eisler, Finder has a past that informs his writing, giving it an air of authenticity.  Joe, a graduate of Yale with a Major in Russian Studies was recruited by the CIA.

While his own life story sounds interesting Buried Secrets is what I’m here to talk about.

The Story

Nick Heller is a modern private eye or is that spy.  He’s no ordinary gumshoe, and Buried Secrets isn’t hardboiled detective fiction. On paper Heller’s an accountant, in reality he’s a corporate intelligence specialist with fingers on the pulse in regards to corporate crime and government operations. 

In Buried Secrets his work gets personal when an old family friend’s daughter is kidnapped.  Nick’s the man for the job but when your friend conducts business in the shadows, his enemies are likely to be very nasty people.  At first the snatch and grab seems to be aimed at extorting money from one of the counties richest men Nick’s friend.  But soon enough Nick realises that they things are far more serious and dangerous than that.

What I liked?

With good thriller writing the prose should really fade into the background and Finder does this.  There wasn’t one instance where I felt jolted out of the story.  Pacing was near perfect as I was hauled through the text at breakneck speed.  There’s no eloquent musing on life’s deep questions, but a girl to be saved, lies to be uncovered and a violent “killing for pleasure” antagonist to be confronted.  That’s not to say that the writing is formulaic, or simple.  It’s details that impart verisimilitude and help this book standout from the mountain of thriller writing out there.  From the mention of de Becker’s Gift of Fear in the first chapter to a hundred little technical details along the way, it’s clear that Finder knows his stuff, or has talked to people who do.

This being my first meeting with Nick Heller I found him to be realistic and believable, he’s not superman and he’s not a master of all trades. Nick’s smart and decisive and knows how to make the best of his contacts. 

What I didn’t?

This is top shelf thriller writing, no complaints from me here. My only regret with this book is that it’s my first, I will have to track down his other works to catch up on what I’m missing out on.

Haven’t Heard of Finder?

I kept thinking that the book would make a good movie, so it was perhaps no surprise to find out that finder has had previous works picked up by Hollywood. His book High Crimes was made into a movie of the same name starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.

Recommendations

Definitely top shelf thriller writing.  I enjoyed it more than the Lee Child books I have read and it’s getting perilously close to my favourite Barry Eisler.  You’ll devour this book in a couple of days.  I’d even go so far a to suggest it would be a good buy for those relatives who enjoy movies like the Bourne trilogy but are reluctant readers.

This book as provided by the publisher at no cost to myself.


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Sep 22, 2011

Criminal Masterminds or not?

killingI have been listening to my wife read Killing for Pleasure : The Definitive Story of the Snowtown Serial Murders.  It’s been interesting on a couple of fronts.

Snowtown is close enough to where I live to be called just around the corner.  I have taught in the town and have walked past the bank where the murder victims were stored, on numerous occasions.  So I experience the retelling of the story with some added physical experience or sense of place.

(On a tangent it’s not really fair to call them the Snowtown murders, of the 11 people killed, only one was killed in the town and no residents were involved.  The town is unfairly stigmatised due to a quirk of attention grabbing media headlines.)

From a crime fiction point of view it’s interesting to note that those who committed the torture and murders were not criminal masterminds like we are used to seeing in crime fiction. 

We may laugh at the antics of Dexter and say to ourselves that there’s no way he could get away with what he does in real life.  After listening to the facts of this case though I am not convinced that it takes anymore than a couple of factors combined

a)lack of police resources/interest

b)combined with victims and perpetrators being drawn from poorer classes

c)combined with victims lack of faith/trust in law enforcement

The murderers managed to kill one victim while under police surveillance.  They were able to loot victims residences in broad daylight.  One of the bodies was even left for a time rolled up in a carpet in a house frequented by other people.

Essentially Australia’s worst serial murders were committed by people with average intelligence, who bragged about the murders within a small circle of associates and who seemed to escape detection because they were poor white folk killing other poor white folk.

So does this change things for writers of crime fiction?  Do our serial killers have to be masterminds?  Do we write about clever killers, because in reality is it so much easier to fall victim out of neglect or disinterest and that doesn’t sit well with the reader?

Sep 20, 2011

More than a lifetime's reading


Well you can now get a Kindle in Woolworths (they are grocery stores here in Australia).  Saw an ad on the television last night and noted that you could store up to 3500 books on them.


And it struck me that:

 
a) that’s a lot books to buy

b) that’s a lot of books to read


I wondered if that really was such a good selling point.

 
I did some rough calculations.  I am a fairly solid reader (obviously, hello - book blogger and reviewer).  I would manage a book a week if I am working and anywhere between 3-6 per week when I am not.  But lets say on average I would read about 80, 400 page novels a year.


If I filled up a Kindle  it would take me 43.75 years to read every book on it.  At an average price of $5 per book it would cost me $17, 500.  Yes I know you can get free books.


So is quoting a ridiculously high book storage number really a selling point?

Sep 16, 2011

Book Release–The Detachment by Barry Eisler

detachment-225hIt’s not speculative fiction but I have been a huge fan of Barry since before I started blogging.  He’s just released The Detachment via Kindle today. He’s also produced an audiobook, which he’s voiced himself.The Paperback version will be out in October.

The Low Down

John Rain is back. And "the most charismatic assassin since James Bond" (San Francisco Chronicle) is up against his most formidable enemy yet: the nexus of political, military, media, and corporate factions known only as the Oligarchy.

When legendary black ops veteran Colonel Scott "Hort" Horton tracks Rain down in Tokyo, Rain can't resist the offer: a multi-million dollar payday for the "natural causes" demise of three ultra-high-profile targets who are dangerously close to launching a coup in America.

But the opposition on this job is going to be too much for even Rain to pull it off alone. He'll need a detachment of other deniable irregulars: his partner, the former Marine sniper, Dox. Ben Treven, a covert operator with ambivalent motives and conflicted loyalties. And Larison, a man with a hair trigger and a secret he'll kill to protect.

From the shadowy backstreets of Tokyo and Vienna, to the deceptive glitz and glamour of Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and finally to a Washington, D.C. in a permanent state of war, these four lone wolf killers will have to survive presidential hit teams, secret CIA prisons, and a national security state as obsessed with guarding its own secrets as it is with invading the privacy of the populace.

But first, they'll have to survive each other.

[source]

An added bonus is that there’s no DRM on the file so, while I had to buy it from Amazon I’m not necessarily restricted to reading  it on my 2.8 inch phone screen.

I can safely say that I'd read almost anything Barry’s written, he could write it on toilet paper for all I care.  Realistic action,espionage and political intrigue.  It also helps that we have similar political leanings. 

This is my guilty pleasure for the holidays.

Writer & the Critic 11 and Galactic Suburbia 42

PD*3141165I remarked that it felt like Christmas getting both Galactic Suburbia and Writer and the Critic episodes at almost the same time. 

Of course Mondy and Kirstyn  just did the Outer Alliance podcast so I have heard them sooner than the usual monthly turnaround.

If your are new to the podcast go back and listen to them all.  Brilliant commentary and opinions on all manner of Speculative fiction.

You can stream the latest episode below or go here and download.

 

 
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The Women of Galactic Suburbia briefly discuss the Hamlet’s Father debacle, after which I am pretty sure I won’t be reading any Orson Scott Card, no matter how good his fiction may be. 

He’s been relegated to the same box as Tom Cruise.

They also attempt to get me to buy Blakes 7, well not me specifically, but their continued discussion of it has me wanting to revisit it for nostalgia’s sake.

You can iTune them here or go here and scroll to the bottom and grab the mp3 file.


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Book Review–Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper

songsSongs of the Earth is the first part of the Wild Hunt Trilogy and Elspeth Cooper’s first novel and foray into epic fantasy.  It’s been hailed as the “most compelling debut fantasy novel since Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind.”  I am not inclined to agree, but we will get to that shortly.

The Story

We begin this epic tail with our hero being readied for execution. Gair is a novice knight of the Suvaeon Order-a holy order that has its history rooted in the destruction of the magic using Sun Cult.

Gair can hear the song, a magical reality that he can reach out to and at times manipulate.  But, as it is written in The Book of Eador, Abjurations 12:14: Suffer ye not the life of a witch, and so our hero is doomed. 

Until of course, in an unprecedented move, the head of the order banishes him instead of killing him.  What follows is pursuit by those who feel he should fry, rescue by a mysterious order of magic users and the surfacing of an ominous evil that threatens the destruction of the very world in which they live.

What I liked

Cooper’s writing is polished and for the most part it drops into the background and lets the story come to the fore. 

The use of the song, of music as magic seemed a reasonably fresh approach to a magic system.  I am sure that  is not entirely original but it didn’t strike me as over done.

What I didn’t

Sometimes it can be the smallest of things that can interrupt a reader’s enjoyment.  For me it started on line 5 with;

Hail, Mother, full of grace, light and life of all the world.  Blessed are the meek [snip]..amen.

which is awfully close to,

Hail Mary full of grace, the lord is with thee, Blessed art thou…

Which, if you are an ex-catholic or a current one you’ll recognize as the Hail Mary of Catholic prayer. Possibly more than recognize - it is probably etched forever into your grey matter. 

A fellow reviewer found its inclusion slightly offensive to Christians.  I found it dropped me  out of the story every time Gair mentioned lines like, “blessed are the meek” and finished with “amen”.  Amen is a baggage laden word of Hebrew origin, co-opted by Christianity that you can’t just plonk down in a fantasy story.

I understand what Cooper was trying to do - add verisimilitude by having something that might be familiar to the reader, to tap into the collective shared experience of prayer that the populace might have, craft a secondary world with familiarities that help ground the reader. 

In this instance though I feel it’s a failure.  To find a successful application of this technique we can look at GRRM’s Oath of the Night’s Watch; its metre, its word choice and tone is reminiscent of a solemn prayer, without feeling like it’s Christian prayer with the serial numbers rubbed off. 

Night gathers, and now my watch begins.

It shall not end until my death.

I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children.

I shall wear no crowns and win no glory.

I shall live and die at my post.

I am the sword in the darkness.

I am the watcher on the walls.

I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men.

I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

This small thing was a reasonable hurdle to overcome in my enjoyment of the novel.

Another small thing was the choice of names, one in particular, Alderan(see Alderaan) as the name of an Obi-wan Kenobi mentor figure. 

In a book that’s also lauded for its characterisation, there were a couple that to me seemed very poorly developed.  The first was Goran,leader of the Curia faction that wanted Gair dead.  He’s presented as an overweight priest-like pervert.  This combined with holy knights, catholic prayer, inquisitions and the burning of witches, had me at one stage wondering if author voice was creeping in. 

I like my fiction to be fiction, not a veiled dig at institutions,unless it’s really well done i.e. subtle and original. My rule of thumb is to leave that sort of stuff for non-fiction. 

The poorest characterisation, in my opinion was of Savin, the all powerful evil. The sketch we are given near the end of the book, of his backstory, was utterly unbelievable.  A babe born evil that kills both its parents before it can crawl, but that the Order of the Veil decide to raise instead of dashing its head against a rock?

When the rest of the characters are bound by human developmental psychology and motivations, Savin stands out as an aberration.

Recommendation

So despite the issues I had with it, I think it’s worth giving Cooper ago.  When I put the issues to the side the story worked well enough and kept my interest.  Younger readers with less experience of fantasy may have no issue with the work at all.

This book was a review copy provided by the publisher.


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Sep 13, 2011

Out now–Creeping In Reptile Flesh (Ebook)

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Creeping in Reptile Flesh is a collection of the works of Australian Horror Master - Robert Hood.

The paperback edition was released in late July, but if you are not sure if you might like it, or you are already a fan, who wants an e-copy Morrigan Books have released it for the paltry sum of $4.95.

Morrigan like Twelfth Planet Press are connoisseurs of fine genre fiction and I would have bought a copy if Morrigan hadn’t provided one for review.

Do yourself a favour, pick it up and Scenes from the Second Story as well.  Quality work.

Creeping in Reptile Flesh – Ebook

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Sep 12, 2011

Supa-Star Guests | Supanova Pop Culture Expo

 

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The guest list for Brisbane Supanova has been released.  Personally these peeps would be enough to get me to go:

  • Jennifer Fallon
  • Marianne de Pierres
  • Kylie Chan
  • Rowena Cory Daniells

But the organisers have also managed to get

  • Doc' Brown Christopher Lloyd

Check out this link to see who else they have coming.

Luna Station Quarterly Issue No 7 is out

The Luna Station Quarterly is a magazine focused on speculative fiction written by up and coming women authors.  Issue 7 is below for your reading pleasure, you can checkout their site here.

Sep 11, 2011

Angel Arias coming out in 3 weeks

 

Angel-Arias_web-192x300Angel Arias, sequel to Burn Bright, is coming out in roughly three weeks time – October 3rd if Booktopia is correct.

Burn Bright was brilliant, a dark, slightly sensual YA debut from Australia’s current queen of Sci-Fi.

To my mind it leaves Twilight and its clones in the dust.  Vampirism, mixed with social comment mixed with sci-fi, with a dollop of Dystopia.

Not heard of Marianne de Pierres? Check out the Interview I conducted with her here.  She also has a flash new comic.

Marianne’s Minions have already published some reviews – Cecilia at Confessions of a Bookie Monster and Jamie in the video below.

This is the type of young adult fiction that us …err older adults can really enjoy.


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Sample Chapters - Debris by Jo Anderton

I have this book to review for you my wonderful readers, but if you can't wait there's some sample chapters below:

Book Review–America Pacifica by Anna North

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America Pacifica is Anna North’s first novel.  She’s a graduate of The University of Iowa’s ‘Writer’s Workshop’ (2 year residency program that delivers a Master of Fine Arts).

Dystopia with a capital D

America Pacifica is bleak.  Now you may well say, “Come on Sean, it is a dystopian novel, it’s not supposed to be sunshine and roses” but to some of you who may have picked up Bacigalupi’s Shipbreaker (which to be fair is YA) and found it to be a nice adventure story with a ‘dystopian light’ background, America Pacifica might come as a bit of a shock. 

 

Here’s what the reader is hit with on page 5:

The bathroom hadn’t been cleaned in weeks; old human smells lay thickly one on top of the other, piss and shit  and menstrual blood and paper towels so sodden with these things that they became almost human themselves.’

It’s certainly not all dried bodily fluids, but North paints a rather gutsy, visceral image.

The Synopsis

Eighteen-year-old Darcy lives on the island of America Pacifica—one of the last places on earth that is still habitable, after North America has succumbed to a second ice age. Education, food, and basic means of survival are the province of a chosen few, while the majority of the island residents must struggle to stay alive. The rich live in "Manhattanville" mansions made from the last pieces of wood and stone, while the poor cower in the shantytown slums of "Hell City" and "Little Los Angeles," places built out of heaped up trash that is slowly crumbling into the sea. The island is ruled by a mysterious dictator named Tyson, whose regime is plagued by charges of corruption and conspiracy.

But to Darcy, America Pacifica is simply home—the only one she's ever known. In spite of their poverty she lives contentedly with her mother, who works as a pearl diver. It's only when her mother doesn't come home one night that Darcy begins to learn about her past as a former "Mainlander," and her mother's role in the flight from frozen California to America Pacifica. Darcy embarks on a quest to find her mother, navigating the dark underbelly of the island, learning along the way the disturbing truth of Pacifica's early history, the far-reaching influence of its egomaniacal leader, and the possible plot to murder some of the island's first inhabitants—including her mother.

The Writing

The writing tends to be dense and vivid – America Pacifica should really leave you in no doubt of the poverty and deprivation that some on the island survive in. 

I couldn’t help but think that while America Pacifica might deliver an experience of the future that will want to make you take a shower- it should be noted that there's not much contained within these pages that is not experienced now by a majority in developing countries and by a growing minority in the west. 

 

A message?

Aliette de Bodard, the French science fiction author recently wrote a critical post regarding the predominance of American tropes in science fiction, she writes:

‘I’m tired of plots that value individualism and egotism above all else; of heroes that always have to be the masters of their own fates, to be active and not take anything that life deals at them lying down (whereas most of the time, we lie down, we accept, we deal with what we have been given)’.

I think De Bodard would appreciate North’s America Pacifica. Darcy is not the archetypal American all conquering hero.  She’s a survivor, she has to do things and face obstacles that heroes don’t usually.  She’s sexually assaulted twice in the novel, first at the hands of a guard she goes to to report her missing mother to and second by an overbearing, and originally helpful ally.  Both these instances and her reaction to them strike me as very real.  She survives not by “kicking the guy in the balls” but by detaching herself, by walling off a part of herself- by effectively “accepting” and “dealing with it”.  It’s a raw but painfully real depiction of character.

The message, if the novel has one, is a call for humility and acceptance - that the past is gone and we need to change, lest we repeat our mistakes.

The reader is presented with two possible paths; the first a recreated microcosm of old America (our present one). There are  huge disparities between rich and poor, a clinging to the past, to fossil fuels, and luxuries. There’s even an ecological disaster gnawing at the edges of the island, as the solvents used to power this society cause the land to decay and slip back into the ocean.

The second path, less explored than hinted at, is that advocated by Daniel an almost mythical teacher who refused to travel to the island.  We find out that he began learning to adapt to the cold, to survive in the new ice age.  The book ends with Darcy setting off to find the mainland, and people who she thinks have followed Daniels example.

The book works as a critique of consumer society broadly and America specifically.

Not preachy

Despite the picture North has painted for us, I didn’t feel as though the authors voice was intruding on the story. This is due to the focus never really shifting from Darcy.  The dictator is overthrown in the end with the help of Darcy’s allies, but its almost a in the background.  The importance is placed on Darcy seeking out Daniel and discovering more about her past.

What I liked?

I appreciated the realism, and the shift of focus away from the overthrow of the dictator and society. That there was more fundamentally wrong with America Pacifica than simply one man.  That it was, essentially, a society that was unsustainable.

What I didn’t?

There’s nothing that gives me cause for complaint.  It’s honest dystopian fiction and that might not sit comfortably with readers who are not willing to examine the implications of what North is hinting at.  The realism, might be off putting for those that have lived a sheltered existence. The sexual assaults while certainly not graphic might well be triggering.

Recommendations

Read this book if you like intelligent dystopian fiction.  It sits comfortably in that grey area between genre fiction and literature.

This book was a review copy provided by the publisher


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Free e-book from Patty Jansen

 

OutOfHereFINAL-187x300I have reviewed Patty’s work here and here.  I think she’s an excellent writer of both Hard Sci-Fi and Fantasy.  She’s currently offering her collection of short stories Out of Here for free download. 

These works have all seen the light of day in published pro-zines.  This is your chance to check out some quality work from an Australian speculative fiction writer at no cost.

Seriously its a couple of clicks away

[Okay enough already, take me to the downloads]


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Sep 10, 2011

Business of Death is on sale.

 

jamieson_business-of-death-mmI should probably mention that Trent Jamieson’s third book of the Deathworks series is out now as  part of a multi book omnibus i.e. Business of Death includes both Death Most Definite and Managing Death.

Seriously this is top quality aussie speculative fiction.

If you’re in the mood for some Australian Urban Fantasy with a dry humoured,self deprecating hero. 

Check it out.

 


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Outer Alliance and Live & Sassy - Two New Podcasts you might like

 

On the way to the Port Pirie Art prize today I had the joy of listening to the Outer Alliance Podcast, specifically their Spotlight #90 where Julia interviews the Writer and the Critic’s Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond.

It’s just shy of 2 hours long and true to form Mondy’s open and frank discussion style is prominent(ie this podcast contains rude words and unfettered opinions)

You can stream it below or download it direct here.

And just popping up in my reader as I have returned is the Live and Sassy Podcast Episode 1 – Featuring well known Speculative Fiction Editor Jonathan Strahan and Twelfth Planet Press’ Alisa Krasnostein. In their words :

Once a month we aim to catch up at our favourite (or not) coffee shop, grab a coffee and chat about all things in the SF&F publishing world.

We recorded our first episode a while ago now and in it we talk about the Borders bankruptcy, all things ebooks, the SF Gateway project and make wild predictions about the future of publishing.

So you can stream them below or download direct here.

 

Sep 9, 2011

I haz returned

I am having some severe issues on my wordpress blog, so after 6 months or so I am returning to the free blogger system.  I have manually transferred all reviews and interviews here but be aware that there will probably be snarfed links.

Hope to have a new review up and those of you subscribed by a feed might not even notice anything different as I have simply switched the feed to run from this blog.

Sean.

Book Review–The King’s Bastard by Rowena Cory Daniells

FC KINGS BASTARD60K

The King's Bastard is the first book in the King Rolen’s King Trilogy by Rowena Cory Daniels.

I was immediately attracted to the cover of this book by the art of Clint Langley before I even knew of Rowena.  So using an artist who is so widely known in geek subculture certainly paid off in this instance.

The Tale begins :

The Kingdom of Rolencia slumbers through a 30 year peace. The King’s heir, the older of two twins readies himself for a marriage that will cement a further time of prosperity. The Spar Warlords come to pledge their loyalty once again, peace will reign under King Rolen’s Kin or so the story begins.  What the reader receives is roller caster ride of action and drama as Rolencia is beset by powerful and devious enemies and the royal family attacked from within. 

Why King’s Bastard had me biting my shield and frothing at the mouth:

It’s not often that I sit down and read an entire trilogy in a week, but The King's Bastard was the start of a glorious week of reading, that still left me wanting more.  It’s quite possible that if the next trilogy had been written I would have devoured it as well.

The pacing in The King’s Bastard is superb, the only thing that I can compare it is Barry Eisler’s military/thriller novels. I’d like an afternoon to sit down with Daniells and talk about how she structured the novel to achieve this, as she deftly weaves a number of plot lines together and seems to be an excellent judge on when to leave the reader hanging.

Daniells has been criticised for her inclusion of a gay supporting character. I found her  handling of the character Orrade to be well done.  He is fully fleshed out, he’s not window dressing or some hat-tip to liberal sentiment, but a fully realised character whose sexuality and choices impact characters, circumstances and story in a believable way.

Like Sands through the hourglass

The series has also oddly been labelled as fantasy soap opera.  I can’t agree with that – if we want to look at the structure, the cyclical nature of soaps, a broad cast of important characters,  then Martin’s  A Song of Ice and Fire series presents a much more convincing case for that label.  Perhaps this label is a symptom of bias (ie women write soap, men write pseudo-historical drama)? Comparing the King Role’s Kin series with A song of Ice and Fire the former is a tight, punchy entertaining read while the later to quote a friend comes perilously close to,  “The Young and The Restless meets Lord of the Rings, in slow motion”.

With high fantasy it’s dreadfully easy to imitate those who have gone before.  With The King's Bastard I found enough original world building to give me a fresh read  - no elves, an interesting take on magic (that has direct impact on character, and plot), and geology and geography that make sense.

In hindsight the only thing that niggled at me was that the size of the world felt too small for the action taking part in it.  I feel that their needs to be other continents and other civilisations.

What are you doing still reading this review?

If you are looking for a fresh entertaining fantasy read,I’d recommend The King's Bastard without reservation.  Indeed the whole trilogy is value for money - fast paced, high action fantasy

I’d also check out the review by Rob Will for an in depth analysis.


Rowena Cory Daniells was also kind enough to consent to an interview on authors and social media here.

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Sep 1, 2011

Book Review - Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse Book 1)by James S.A. Corey

 

Leviathan-wakes-220x344

Leviathan Wakes is the first book in what I assume will be the Expanse Trilogy.  It’s written under the pseudonym of James S.A. Corey – the writers responsible are Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank. I presume this literary skulduggery, thinly veiled though it is, has something to do with marketing.

The Story

Humanity has colonized the solar system - Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond - but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for - and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.


Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations - and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

Is it Kickass? Is it Space Opera?

George R.R. Martin has labelled Leviathan Wakes ‘Kickass Space Opera’.  I don’t know that it hits either of those descriptors right on the head.  I’ll take on Space Opera first.  The world building has it registering with me as a plausible future.  The attention to detail in regards to the harshness of space, the limits of human expansion being within our solar system, the Mormons building a generation ship. It’s not grand enough to be Opera, not yet anyway.

Is it Kick Ass? For something to register as ‘Kickass’ to me it either has to hook into me emotionally, or have unbelievable levels of cool or both. Leviathan Wakes is a good exciting read, don’t get me wrong, I was rocketed through its 560 odd pages, eagerly turning but It didn’t hit me where it hurts and like I have said it’s setting is plausible, realistic even.

What I liked?

Characterisation and world building were brilliant, within 50 pages I could see, hear, taste and feel what life was like out in the solar system.  Deft little touches like the hand gestures used by Belters(occupants of the asteroid belt) to add inflection to conversation - a by-product of a culture that spends most of its time in vacuum suits where facial gestures are useless.

I liked the mix of futuristic hardboiled fiction and  fugitives on the run from evil empires in the “galaxy’s fastest ship”.  Leviathan Wakes  feels  a bit like Rick Deckard meets Han Solo, crossed with Event Horizon plus Dead Space and it’s all good.

Gender Issues?

This story is really about two men, Miller and Holden.  The only significant women are Naomi -a competent XO / love interest, Captain Shaddid  -Miller’s superior and Juliette who strikes me as not much more than a plot device.  So the women, though developed as strong and independent are only supporting characters.

Summary

It’s a very entertaining read and there's enough resolution of the story in this volume for the reader to not feel cheated and by the same token enough dangling threads to make the second volume enticing.  For me the highlight of the book was characters and world building, a little too gritty and restricted to be Space Opera but a worthwhile investment of 10 hours of my time.

This book was a review copy provided by Orbit.


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