Monday, August 31, 2009

Interviewed (Again)

Well, I guess that when Harry interviewed me a few weeks ago, it was so successful that people just wanted more. So, now I’ve been interviewed at Ubiquitous Absence. So, go learn more about me and Neth Space.

I’m still a bit surprised, honored, and chuffed when things like this happen.

One Door Closes, Another Opens

So, today is the day that Wotmania.com dies. Wotmania was at one time the single best community on the web devoted to the late Robert Jordan’s series, The Wheel of Time. Unfortunately, it suffered management problems – the guy running the site just didn’t seem to have the time, energy, desire, or whatever to help Wotmania become what it could have been. Thankfully, the community there kept it alive.

I care because Wotmania is the place that got me started on all this. Back in about 2001 I discovered Wotmania when I was looking for information about the next Wheel of Time book – I liked what I saw and lurked for many months. Then I started posting, then I became more active. Somewhere along the way, the
OF Board was started and I became introduced to SFF authors beyond Robert Jordan. Authors like Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, Steven Erikson, China Miéville, Scott Bakker and many, many more. I became even more active and then I became an admin as well. Somewhere along the way I started writing reviews, then I created a blog to store those reviews at. And now…

So, I owe my being here to Wotmania and I’m sad to see it close. And I’m not alone –
Larry, Pat, Adam, and others were all there in the beginning. Wotmania influenced a lot of us who have greater visibility now. In reality, I’m also very angry at how and why it is closing and I lament the website it could have been if were allowed.

But the music never dies and some faithful members have started
RAFO.com. The intent is to center things on discussion of SFF books (like the OF Section at Wotmania). The admin are all fresh and enthusiastic. The community is invigorated (if a bit smaller). The message board is still archaic (as the community wishes). So, join me in welcoming RAFO.com to web – I sure hope it’s a success.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Link Post Where I Once Again Say How Busy I Am

The title kinda says it all – I’m busy. Work is busy, I’ve been traveling a lot, we’ve had visitors at the house, and I’ll be camping next weekend. The truth is that I love being busy, but the result is that I’m not as active here as I like – and I’m now 3 reviews behind and counting (though I suspect it’ll take me a while to get through the nearly 900 pages of Dust of Dreams).

Anyway, I like to do the occaisional link post, and I’m behind on that too – but here are few that I just can’t let slide.

  • EDIT: Lev Grossman, author of the new fantasy novel THE MAGICIANS and book critic at Time magazine, will be doing a live chat this Wednesday from 12:30pm – 1:30pm EST at Penguin’s Water Cooler site.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

News and Winners Announced

Well, I’m seemingly hopelessly behind around here. I review pretty much every book I read and I generally only read one book at a time. A quick glance over at the Currently Reading widget shows 4 books. Well, I’m really only reading one right now – Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound). I’ve finished the others, but still need to right reviews for them. I got behind with work and personal travel last month, almost got caught up, and then got really busy again. Dust of Dreams is a huge book (just shy of 900 pages in hardback), so I’ll probably get caught up before I finish reading it. And maybe I’ll find some spare time for other posts, but we’ll see.

Anyway, enough about me. With the help of
Random.org, winners have been chosen for the WIND BAGS OF DUNE giveaway…err… the giveaway of two copies of The Winds of Dune by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound) and 5 string Winds of Dune bags from the good people over at Tor Books. So the winners are…

Winds of Dune bags:
  • David from Toronto, Ontario
  • Linda from Burford, Ontario
  • John from Winder, Georgia
  • Ric from Cutler Bay, Florida
  • Bill from Greensburg, Pennsylvania
Signed copies of The Winds of Dune:
  • Jeff from Fitchburg, Massachusetts
  • Andrew from Toronto, Ontario
Congrats to all the winners!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Review: The Affinity Bridge by George Mann

Steampunk always seems to float just below widespread notice in the SFF world, cycling like a steam-driven piston, occasionally poking its head up and saying ‘look we’re still here’. This cycle seems to be peaking yet again, with recent and forthcoming publications like Mainspring/Escapement, Boneshaker, Whitechapel Gods, and the Steampunk anthology. The Affinity Bridge by George Mann (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound) stands right in the middle of this mini steampunk invasion.

In Victorian London airships circle, steam-driven taxies are the new rage, and clockwork automatons have become status symbols for the rich. Zombie attacks plague the slums, a serial killer in the form of a supernatural glowing policeman raises alarm, and Queen Victoria herself is kept alive through a horrific life-support system. In this familiar yet alien London, Sir Maurice Newbury conducts investigations for the crown that enter into the realm of the supernatural and occult and his new assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbs, breaks barriers of the time to join him. Two separate investigations converge in this dark, yet proper steampunk Victorian world as Sir Maurice and Miss Hobbs settle into their new partnership.

In The Affinity Bridge Mann channels the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Sexton Blake. This is a detective story that harkens back to an original-feeling buddy-cop tale, with a healthy dash of sexual tension thrown into the mix. In fact it feels much like the homage made by Michael Moorcock with his Sir Seaton Bregg stories, only without the biting satire, subversive humor, exotic settings and crazy alternative histories within a multi-verse. While Mann suffers an apparent lack of depth in comparison with Moorcock, this isn’t (necessarily) a bad thing. The mystery may not present many shocking twists and turns (i.e. it’s a bit predictable), but the presentation is a joy to read while maintaining a fresh feel about it.

Mann captures Victorian-era London very well, yet he truly excels with that proper, stuffy British-ness that one associates with the time. People are respectful, kind, and often insincere while insults are decidedly passive-aggressive. The British Empire is at its height and the riches and the confidence it bestows on the people (well the upper classes anyway) shows through.

This success also breeds failure – when a character is stuffy, respectful and insincere, they are hard to get to know. They become caricatures of society and what they should be. Mann seems to strive to show us more of both Newbury and Hobbs yet can’t quite get past this prevailing image of the times. At the same time, I’m not convinced that he really wants us to see too much of his characters. This is the first adventure in a series with more to come – Mann is clearly holding back a bit for the future, sacrificing the present as a result. This tendency to hold back leads to further issues where character aspects just don’t play out as they should. For example, Newbury’s clear interest and obsession with the occult seems to go nowhere and didn’t really add much to the plot, yet Mann clearly places great importance in it, particularly for future novels. Also, Mann shakes things up at the end with implications for future events, yet these revelations are so drastic they seem too far out of character from what’s been presented to be entirely credible. The overall resulting feel is that of unevenness.

The Affinity Bridge by George Mann is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s got a wonderful, classic steampunk vibe and presents a very enjoyable reading experience that at times becomes a true page-turner in-spite of the stuffy Victorian setting. Unfortunately the characterization comes across as uneven, and a few aspects of the plot often feel just as uneven. However, for me, the good outweighed the bad by a large enough margin for me to recommend this piece of the latest steampunk invasion. 7/10

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Neth Space Profiled and Interviewed

Harry Markov over at Temple Library Reviews has a regular feature where he interviews bloggers. It’s an interesting look behind the blog and a curious experience for those of us who are generally on the other side of such a feature.

So, if you ever wanted to know just a bit more about me (or if you are hopelessly bored),
check it out.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Review: The Sheriff of Yrnameer by Michael Rubens

So, what happens when a TV funny-man (well, the person behind the TV funny-man) decides that they need to write a hilariously funny science fiction parody for a novel in the spirit of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? In the case of Michael Rubens, a former field producer for The Daily Show and others, and his debut novel The Sheriff of Yrnameer (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound), and to put it kindly, nothing particularly interesting happens at all.

The Sheriff of Yrnameer is the story of Cole, a second-rate galactic criminal who has a really bad day. The enforcer who he owes money is threatening to lay a bunch of parasitic eggs in his head and he hijacks a rival’s ship to escape. This begins his journey across the galaxy to a planet that supposedly doesn’t exist. Along the way Cole grows a heart (kind of), is featured on intergalactic public radio, is relentlessly pursued by Kenneth the egg-laying enforcer, is reunited with the love of his life, and faces yet another enemy from his past.

There’s a problem when trying to emulate someone like Douglas Adams – it’s almost impossible to get even close. One of the things that works best about Adams’ books is how thoroughly British the humor is. Conversely, one of the reasons that Rubens’ effort so thoroughly fails is due to just how American the humor is. Everything has a flippant, consumerism feel about it – sure it’s supposed to, after all much of The Sheriff of Yrnameer is satire – but it just isn’t funny (or at least it isn’t funny to me). Yes, when the title of your book has the word ‘Yrnameer’ in it, then it is appropriate to make a joke about hard-to-pronounce things, but just leave it at one – don’t flog the dead horse of silly, hard-to-pronounce words.

When one picks up a book like The Sheriff of Yrnameer, it isn’t really expected that the science part of the science fiction will be well developed. However, at least make things plausible. The protagonist can’t travel the length of a galaxy that is presumably inhabited by billions, trillions, or more sentient beings to the one hidden inhabitable planet that has all of about 100 beings on it and know no less than 3 of the ‘people’ living there. It’s just ridiculous (which is an apt descriptor for much of The Sheriff of Yrnameer). And don’t blatantly copy Douglas Adams by ‘inventing’ bendspace as a means for traveling galactic distances. Also, while the hapless rogue is a well-loved character in American pop-culture, if you are going to center a 288-page book on him, at least make him somewhat likeable and interesting. Cole is an insensitve idiot, the kind of person I would like to see fail in life if I could be bothered with caring.

Satire is something I quite enjoy, so there are some redeeming qualities to The Sheriff of Yrnameer, just not enough to make the book worth recommending. Rubens’ galaxy is one of universal corporate sponsorship (even planet names) and his presentation of these worlds did bring an ironic smile to my face at times. Heck even the oft-joked about hard-to-pronounce Yrnameer is a play on ‘your-name-here’ for the only planet in the galaxy without a corporate sponsor. The satire bites deepest with an intelligence implant that turned a corporate retreat into an over-the-top cannablistic hell, perfectly remincent of a popular video game in Rubens’ world. The cameo of intergalactic pubic radio (I’m an avid NPR listener) and naming an indescribable bad-ass, yet surprisingly sensitive, alien enforcer Kenneth also provided me with amusement.

Frankly put, if I hadn’t been in a small Arizona town on a work assignment that gave me the choice of watching other people work or reading while watching people work with a choice only 3 books (all of which I read), The Sheriff of Yrnameer is not a novel I would have finished reading. Of course, this is a humor novel, which means that if the novel doesn’t appeal to your sense of humor, it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy it. The Sheriff of Yrnameer clearly didn’t appeal to mine – maybe it will appeal to yours, but I won’t bet on it. 4/10

World Fantasy Award Nominees Announced

So, via Twitter I see that the 2009 World Fantasy Award nominees covering the 2008 award year have been announced. I generally like this award more than most of the main-stream SFF awards since it is a juried-award, though due to whoever the jury is made up of, the sort of books that get nominated year-to-year can vary quit a bit. Anyway, this year’s nominations for Best Novel are below:

The House of the Stag, Kage Baker (
US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)
The Shadow Year, Jeffrey Ford (
US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (
US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)
Pandemonium, Daryl Gregory (
US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)
Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan (
US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)

What’s interesting about this year’s nominees is that I’ve actually read 3 out of the 5 books.

The House of the Stag by Kage Baker
Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

Of those 3, I think that Tender Morsels really stands out as the front-runner (even though personally, I didn’t care for it). I also find it interesting that at least 2 of these books are considered YA – see some of the best SFF being written right now is for the YA market and it crosses-over to the adult market very well. We’ll see where it goes from here.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Winds of Dune Giveaway!

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a giveaway around here, so when Tor approached me, I couldn’t turn them down. In celebration of the release of The Winds of Dune by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound) going on sale tomorrow (August 4th), I have 5 Winds of Dune bags (black and white string backpacks) to give away, and 2 signed hardback copies of The Winds of Dune as a grand prize.

Synopsis:
Paul Atreides, Muad’Dib—cheered as a hero, worshipped as a messiah, hated as a tyrant—has vanished into the endless deserts of the planet Dune. Blinded in an assassination attempt and grieving after the death of is beloved Chani, Paul abandons his newborn twins and leaves his galaxy-spanning empire in the hands of his young sister Alia.

Living in self-imposed exile on Caladan, Lady Jessica and the faithful Gurney Halleck receive word that Paul has vanished and is presumed dead. They race to Dune, the Heart of Muad’Dib’s empire, where they find a planet in turmoil and Jessica’s daughter Alia— along with the resurrected Duncan Idaho—willing to impose more and more extreme measures to maintain order.

Fuelling the flames of dissent, the outspoken rebel Bronso of Ix, once a friend of Paul Atreides, releases hateful treatises and disrupts sacred ceremonies, doing everything he can to destroy the myth of Paul-Muad’Dib, who—through his Jihad and his corrupt priesthood—is responsible for more deaths than any other in history.

As winds of rebellion brew and treachery occurs from outside the government and within, Jessica discovers that her son had plans that extend far beyond history, and that Muad’Dib may have knowingly planted the seeds for his own downfall. And that Bronso of Ix has a secret mission of his own, one that will force Jessica to choose between the memory of her son and the future of the human race…
The authors are touring as well – dates are found at The Winds of Dune webpage.

So, if you want a chance to win the backpack or a signed copy of The Winds of Dune, all you need to do is email me at nethspace [at] gmail [dot] com (remove the at and dot as needed) or use the relatively spam-free link in the sidebar. The subject of the email needs to be WIND BAGS OF DUNE* and be sure to include your name and mailing address (snail mail, US and Canada only). Contest is open for the next 2 weeks, so get your entry to me by August 18th (Arizona time) for the chance to win. Good Luck!

Edit: I edited the contest details after clarification from Tor - there are 5 bags and 2 copies of the book for giveaway. Sorry about the confusion (trust me, odds are good for giveaways are here).

*Ok, so the real reason I agreed to sponsor a giveaway in this case was because I simply could not resist this pun.

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