Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Books Received: February 3 - 21

Books Received: february 3 - 21, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Official Release Date for A Memory of Light, the final Wheel of Time book

Tor has announced an official release date for A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, the final book in The Wheel of Time - it'll be on January 8, 2013. The news release is quoted below:
The first novel in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time®, The Eye of the World, was released on January 15, 1990. Now more than twenty years later, Tor Books is thrilled to announce the official publication date for the final novel in the series.


A Memory of Light will release on January 8, 2013, in the final month of the Year of the Dragon.

A Memory of Light is one of the most important titles that Tor will ever publish. Many of the principal players have been involved with the series since its inception, including Publisher Tom Doherty and Editor Harriet McDougal, who worked with Robert Jordan on all of his books, and who is working with Brandon Sanderson, the writer finishing the series from Robert Jordan’s outline and his notes. This is a landmark publication not just for Tor but for millions of fans of the late Robert Jordan, who eagerly await the conclusion to his epic tale. Everyone involved with the project is committed to making this an ending to remember.

Over the next few seasons, Tor will continue to release new Wheel of Time material, including trade paperback editions of the early novels with new art, new graphic novel editions of the The Eye of the World comics, and other material related to A Memory of Light as we get closer to publication date.
As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of The Wheel of Time and it is essentially due to my love of the series that led me to starting this blog a bit over 6 years ago. So, it's no surprise that I am very excited about this book. Of course I'll also be sad to see a series that has had such an impact on me come to a close.

So, what are your thoughts? I see some of the early reactions to the news release are not positive at all due to the later-than-expected release date.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole

An army officer leads his team into a fire fight. One of his men is down with severe burns from an explosion. An enemy advances on his position, armed, firing and carrying a bomb. Only the enemy is a 16 year old girl who was given no choice. What does the officer do?

Essentially, the above seen is how Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) opens, only it’s a bit different. The scene is the roof top of a high school in Vermont and there are only 2 ‘enemies’ – both are teenagers who just discovered that they have magical powers, powers they didn’t ask for and can’t control. One is pyromancer who has basic control over fire elementals. The other is more dangerous – she can summon and control sentient elementals, a prohibited school of magic and an automatic death sentence.

Shortly after Army Lieutenant Oscar Britton leads his team into the above situation, the unthinkable happens – he manifests in a prohibited school of magic, portomancy. And then Oscar does what society says is the most selfish thing he can do in that situation – he runs. The rest of the book is all about Oscar’s flight, capture and then re-introduction into a shadow military where he’s a given a choice to serve his government without question or die. He’s conflicted about the horrible things he witnesses, his own power to help the Army do good, his own power to help the Army kill indiscriminately, and everything in between.  

Control Point is many things at once – a thoughtful exploration of the conscious of a military officer, the military bureaucracy it depends on, while being a wildly fun, exciting and creative military fantasy. It’s a reflection of the times we live in and the ever-present threat of terrorism and the military’s response to it. Control Point is a reaction from a veteran of the US’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan just like Joe Haldeman's The Forever War (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound, my review) is a reaction from a Vietnam veteran. It’s a nearly perfect book for a generation of gamers, yet it’s just as accessible to the non-gamers among us (like me). And it manages to do all of these things in thoughtful, balanced way that is an extreme adrenaline ride and one hell of a good read.

Control Point strikes an impressive balance between the tortured introspection of a very conflicted individual versus magical military fantasy in a wild setting with non-stop action. The reader is taken through a myriad of scenes from military raids, to fugitives on the run, hard-ass boot camp Sergeants beating the crap out of new recruits, thoughtful sacrifice and all-out battle chaos. It’s precisely this balance that allows for Control Point to have a little something for everyone – it’s both deep and action-packed, it’s both a conflicted military drama and a journey full of magical adventure, it’s a commentary on our own current government and an unhappy future, and it’s all about one soldier’s conflict with doing what he thinks is right.

The balance act continues as Cole shows a government that is both good and evil. He shows soldiers that do good and bad. There are no easy answers and Cole doesn’t try and provide any. Does Oscar ultimately make the right decision? I don’t know, but I am very much looking forward to reading more in the forethcoming sequel, Fortress Frontier, scheduled for early 2013.

No balancing act can go on forever, and none can be absolutely perfect, and neither is Control Point. After the strong opening of the book, I felt that the momentum slowed too much in the middle portions of the book. On the plot side of things, I would say that it’s rather predictable, in fact the book lacks that significant twist that so many found their conclusions on, though the story is told in such an engaging way that it hardly matters. But, after the slower middle, the end of Control Point picks up and ends with just the sort of high-level impact that it began with.

In summary, Shadow Ops: Control Point looks like an early favorite to be one of the most significant new SFF releases in 2012. It literally has something for everyone – magic, military, conflicted internal dialogue, a budding romance, magical creatures, guns, explosions and much, much more. It’s easily one of the most impressive debuts I’ve read in the last several years and I truly feel it could be this generation’s The Forever War. I highly recommend that you read this book right now.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Room With A View and an Update

I was in Denver, Golden, Denver again, Boulder, Denver again this weekend. Yes it went that way and it was all professional society related meetings. So, a few drinks, but no real outside enjoyment - but it was cold and a bit snowy, so I'm not too bummed by that.

I've finished up Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole (Book Depository, Powell's Books, Indiebound) and should have review up soonish, but it could easily be a week out if I don't find some free time somewher. I'm almost done with The Hungar Games by Suzanne Collins  (Book Depository, Powell's Books, Indiebound). I can see why it's spoken of so highly - it is good, and I can see it translating very well into a movie. I'm not sure what I'll read next, but I'm leaning toward Arctic Rising by Tobias Buckell  (Book Depository, Powell's Books, Indiebound). I should also have another whisky review up soon.

So, on to the room with a view.

Denver, CO
And a bonus - not truly a room with a view, since it's the view from my new office that I moved into late last month. It's nice, but it can get a bit warm in the afternoon. It's February, if it gets a bit warm in February, I dread July.


Phoenix, AZ (west)

Phoenix, AZ (west-southwest)


Monday, February 06, 2012

Review: Kultus by Richard Ford

Kultus by Richard Ford (Book Depository, Powell's Books, Indiebound)  is the debut of a new secondary-world urban fantasy series with a steampunk setting and an undercurrent of dark magic and demons. I can see how this will appeal to some audiences, but for me there were too many flaws to overcome the potential.

Thaddeus Blaklok is something of an underworld badass. He’s got a nasty reputation and apparently the skills to back it up. His demonic employers have tasked him with acquiring the Key of Lunos – only he’s not the only one looking for it. Blaklok finds himself up against a few demonic cults, the Judicature (police) and various gangs of the underworld as he carves a path of destruction through the dark streets of the Manufactory.

First, let me say that this book has potential, but that potential doesn’t rise up until far too late in the story. The setting is well formed – it’s dark, layered and a fun sort of steampunk. The interaction of demons with humanity and the only barely mentioned church is a great backdrop. And everyone loves an anti-hero.

However, the beginning of the book in particular has a number of flaws. The prose is over-written and interspersed with clumsy info-dumps. The descriptions are evocative, but they go at least one step too far and often end up contradictory as a result.

He closed the window and fastened the latch. Pausing a second more to look out at the vast metropolis, he suddenly caught sight of his image reflected in the glass. Beuphalus had never been a handsome man but he had always prided himself on personal grooming. Alas, the years were beginning to catch up with him and soon no amount of preening and trimming would be able to halt the onset of age. It was in that moment he that he saw his own reflection was not the only one caught in the window. Someone was standing behind him, just visible in the shadows. Someone…or something.

This passage isn’t all that damning on its own, but the cumulative effect of page after page of this sort of writing drags on. And then we come to the primary point of view that we get, that from Blaklok.

There was nothing else for it, he needed advice. First of all he needed to know exactly what he was dealing with. What was this bloody Key and why was it so important? The rest he would figure out as he went. After all, how hard could it be? The Repository’s safeguards might be considered insurmountable by its custodians, but then again they had never tried to stop Thaddeus bleeding Blaklok!

And it goes downhill from there. Yes, Blaklok isn’t a very nice guy. Apparently he’s pretty tough, but the unsupported confidence and pathetic arrogance is just too much. And from there, we get to see Blaklok repeatedly fail, get beat up, captured multiple times, and nearly killed a few times along the way while that arrogance never goes away. Finally toward the very end of the book Blaklok suddenly starts using all of these powerful magical abilities that he hadn’t bothered to use when his life was just as threatened at earlier times in the book. It simply doesn’t fit together.

The depth that you get from the quote above is about as deep as Blaklok gets. That is until the very end, when we get just a few hints that there is actually reason behind his madness and perhaps something even interesting about him. I really don’t have the desire to read about some arrogant asshole without any real motivation. But someone with a conflicted past, someone in it for a greater purpose? Hell, it may be rather cliché, but at least there’s potential. It’s a real shame that this sort of hints didn’t happen until the last few pages of the book.

And finally, there is a distinct lack of female characters. Yes, the head inspector for the Judicature is a woman, but she is literally the only female character I can think of in the whole book.  (at least who isn’t a whore). It’s promising that she’s not there as a sexual object or damsel to be rescued, but that doesn’t seem to be enough. I suppose that the world portrayed is a very male-dominated society, but the lack of women certainly doesn’t help the book out.

So, while there is potential, the flaws that plague Kultus outweigh the good. I think this book will probably be enjoyed by some people, but it didn’t work for me. Perhaps if I hear outstandingly good things about any sequels to come I’ll change my mind, but I’d be surprised.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Day After Groundhog Day

So, not that any of you have been counting (which is more than just understandable) but this blog was ‘born’ on this day (also a Friday by the way) six years ago. That makes me something of an internet old fart, if not an ancient like a few out there. I find it suitably ironic and appropriate that it was the day after Groundhog Day that this was founded. Certainly I’ve evolved a lot over the years, but at the same time, there is certainly a very repeatable cycle to discussion in blogs that does indeed remind one of a certain Bill Murray movie (and yes, it is indeediSuntory time, though that isn’t the Bill Murray movie I’m referring to).

I’ve had many starts and stops along the way – from regular cover art posts, to rants, to travel posts, to Questions Five interviews, to the SFF Literary Pub Crawl, to something completely different photos, to room with a view photos, to whisky reviews, and of course, lots and lots of book reviews. I’ve gotten much better at reviewing and I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with many of my favorite authors (in person and on-line). It’s been a wild ride, and even though my ‘productivity’ has declined over the last year or so, I plan to forge ahead for the foreseeable future. So, thanks for reading, I’ll see you ‘tomorrow’ and now it is Suntory Time.




Cheers! Salud! Na Zdravi! Kampai! Noroc! Sláinte! Or however you prefer…

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Books Received: January 18 - February 2

Books Received: January 18 - February 2, 2012

A Red Country by Joe Abercrombe - Update and Synopsis

Over the past few years, one of my favorite authors in the SFF world has been Joe Abercrombie. He has a new book coming out, probably this fall, called A Red Country (Book Depository, Powell's Books, Indiebound) and he's just given us a bit of synopsis for it.

“Shy South comes home to her farm to find a blackened shell, her brother and sister stolen, and knows she’ll have to go back to bad old ways if she’s ever to see them again.  She sets off in pursuit with only her cowardly old step-father Lamb for company.  But it turns out he’s hiding a bloody past of his own.  None bloodier.  Their journey will take them across the lawless plains, to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feuds, duels, and massacres, high into unmapped mountains to a reckoning with ancient enemies, and force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, a man no one should ever have to trust…”
Now, I've really been looking forward to his take on a fantasy western, with a vision of Quentin Terantino meeting Sergio Leon. However, this synopsis has a tidbit that makes me even more excited - Nicomo Cosca. This is probably my favorite Abercrombie character, and IMHO, it was Cosca that saved Best Served Cold (review) from being an unreadabley bleak book.

I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Ebooks for Breast Cancer Support

So, many of you following the news here in the US have seen that the hugely popular Susan G. Komen Foundation has decided that it will stop providing funding for Planned Parenthood and will in effect, end the access of many poor women to breast cancer screening and treatment. I find this deplorable and don’t for a second buy into the idea that this has nothing to do with political motivations of the far-right. But, let’s forget about this.

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