Monday, October 29, 2007

Win a Copy of The Metatemporal Detective by Michael Moorcock

The good folks over at Pyr have offered up a copy of Michael Moorcock’s latest, The Metatemporal Detective (my review). This is fine book that can serve as an introduction to Moorcock’s multiverse or satiate the biggest fan.

Collected for the first time, eleven tales of Sir Seaton Begg vs. Count Zodiac, including the never before seen “The Flaneur of the Arcades d'Opera.”

Seaton Begg and his constant companion, pathologist Dr. “Taffy” Sinclair, both head the secret British Home Office section of the Metatemporal Investigation Department — an organization whose function is understood only by the most high-ranking government people around the world — and a number of powerful criminals.

Begg's cases cover a multitude of crimes in dozens of alternate worlds, generally where transport is run by electricity, where the internal combustion engine is unknown, and where giant airships are the chief form of international carrier. He investigates the murder of English Prime Minister “Lady Ratchet,” the kidnaping of the king of a country taken over by a totalitarian regime, and the death of Geli Raubel, Adolf Hitler's mistress. Other adventures take him to a wild west where “the Masked Buckaroo” is tracking down a mysterious red-eyed Apache known as the White Wolf; to 1960s’ Chicago where a girl has been killed in a sordid disco; and to an
independent state of Texas controlled by neocon Christians with oily (and bloody) hands. He visits Paris, where he links up with his French colleagues of the Sûreté du Temps Perdu. In several cases the fanatical Adolf Hitler is his opponent, but his arch-enemy is the mysterious black sword wielding aristocrat known as Zenith the Albino, a drug-dependent, charismatic exile from a distant realm he once ruled.

In each story the Metatemporal Detectives’ cases take them to worlds at once like and unlike our own, sometimes at odds with and sometimes in league with the beautiful adventuresses Mrs. Una Persson or Lady Rosie von Bek. At last Begg and Sinclair come face to face with their nemesis on the moonbeam roads which cross between the universes, where the great Eternal Balance itself is threatened with destruction and from which only the luckiest and most daring of metatemporal adventurers will return.

These fast-paced mysteries pay homage to Moorcock's many literary enthusiasms for authors as diverse as Clarence E. Mulford, Dashiell Hammett, Georges Simenon, and his boyhood hero, Sexton Blake.

So, the rules are basically the same as you see elsewhere. Send me an email at

nethspace [at] cox [dot] net

You’ll need to appropriately edit the email so I can avoid the spambots, or you can click on the email link in the sidebar which is coded ‘special’ to block the bots. Use METATEMPORAL in the subject and include your full name and mailing address (no P.O. boxes please). Only one entry per person. This contest limited to those who live in North Amercia. The deadline is Sunday, November 11th.

Good luck to all.

Michael Moorcock Answers Questions Five

Michael Moorcock is an author who needs no introduction in the world of fantasy. He’s been around since the 60’s writing everything from pulp crime fiction to literary fiction and SFF. He’s won pretty much every meaningful SFF award and few more beside. His most recent book gathers his Sir Seaton Begg stories, including a new offering – The Metatemporal Detective (my review). I also happen to have a copy (graciously provided by Pyr) to giveaway, so go here and follow the rules

I am honored that Mike has taken to the time to answer Questions Five.

As a forerunner in the coming mass migration of brilliant English writers to central Texas, what advice do you have about life in Texas?

MM: Get good health insurance. Don’t come unless you want to discover just how many allergies you can possibly pack into one body.

Compare a typical English pub with a Texas bar. Have you found anything good to drink in Texas? How about the food?

MM: Shiner Bock and a LOT of outstanding beers. Our local cowboy bar has good company and excellent live music. As good as the best UK pubs. Food’s more problematic since I’m allergic to TexMex (jalepenos mostly) and Mexican food and don’t much like BBQ. But I do like a good grass-fed local steak.

If The Metatemporal Detective were a fortune cookie, what would its fortune be?

MM: ? There are many roads to resolution.

If this fortune were your own, how would you interpret it?

MM: ? Write some more stories, you lazy bastard.

Why should The Metatemporal Detective be the next book that everyone reads?

MM: Well, I think I’m too much of a libertarian to take that attitude. If they like it, well and good. They might enjoy the humour or even alternate worlds without the internal combustion engine…

Joe Abercrombie Answers Questions Five

Joe Abercrombie is the author of The Blade Itself (my review), the first book in a new epic fantasy trilogy that has been garnering a bit of attention lately. It’s been out in the UK for some time, but was released last month in the US by Pyr. The second book, Before They are Hanged is out in the UK and will be available in the US around March, 2008 and rumor has it that advanced proofs of the final book in the trilogy, Last Argument of Kings, have been sighted. Joe was born in Lancaster, England and currently resides in London

I’m very pleased that Joe has taken to the time to answer Questions Five.

If I were going on holiday to London and I can only visit one pub, which pub do you recommend and why?

JA: You could try the Phoenix Artist’s Bar off Shaftsbury Avenue, where a glittering array of genre writers are often to be found arguing with their editors over that most eternal of literary questions – whose round it is. It has the added advantage of being right next to several of the UKs biggest bookstores. Once you are drunk enough, I therefore recommend you stumble outside and buy any and all copies of my books that you can find. The dizzy rush of excitement you’ll experience will be far superior to anything you can get in a pub.


So, which is preferable, reading The Blade Itself or visiting a dentist? Why?

JA: The Blade Itself will not give you a whiter smile. The Blade itself will not leave you with a minty fresh sensation on the tongue. The Blade Itself will not alleviate dental pain. Indeed, with its many scenes of mouth-based torture it may have the opposite effect. It will, however, I am reasonably sure, be cheaper than a visit to the dentist. In that respect, it is a winner.

Please describe one reason The Blade Itself would inspire a reader to strip naked and run screaming into the forest?

JA: Ah, interesting that you should ask. The Blade Itself contains a number of scenes set in forests and, yes, several of these involve moving faster than walking pace at various levels of undress. The very first line, in fact, has someone ‘plunging through the trees, bare feet slipping and sliding’. The book furthermore contains a great deal of screaming, yelling, wailing, blubbering etc. It also includes at least one instance of a stark naked wizard.

The possible effects on impressionable readers of these elements?

You do the math.

What other peculiar qualities of The Blade Itself should readers be aware of?

JA: It isn’t immediately clear from pictures on the internet (and I’m talking about pictures of the book, here), but potential readers should be aware that both the US and UK editions of The Blade Itself are covered in a sumptuously textured paper that puts one in mind of aged parchment, that caresses the fingertips and invigorates mind and body. Many criticisms have been leveled at my writing, but no-one has ever said that my books are not Grip-Friendly.

Why should The Blade Itself be the next book that everyone reads?

JA: Because I need a massive house.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie’s debut novel, The Blade Itself, has been quietly gathering praise since its initial release in the UK last year. I’ll say it right up front – I’m not going to say anything different, though I just might say it more emphatically. The Blade Itself easily equals anything released in epic fantasy in the past few years, and just may rise to the top.

The Blade Itself is book one of The First Law Trilogy and serves as the beginning of what should be considered a single story told in three parts. The reader is introduced to the central players – the aging and surprisingly contemplative warrior from the barbaric north with his mantra of ‘I’m still alive’, the spoiled-rotten nobleman with a purchased commission in the army training for a contest, the crippled, formerly spoiled-rotten nobleman and survivor of indescribable torture turned torturer of the King’s Inquisition, and the ancient magi with unknown goals, a wicked sense of humor and a biting temper.

This book is about characters first, and Abercrombie skillfully portrays them with near-perfect internal and external dialogue set at an ideal pace. These seem like real people from history rather than some over-done cliché or archetype. I simply loved the part where the magi, his apprentice, and the barbarian from the north must purchase clothes from a costume shop to look the way they should. This clever, verging on satirical, humor and wit infuses Abercrombie’s writing as he plays with many of the common fantasy tropes, makes them his own and shows us how things can be done in capable, yet irreverent, hands.

The closest I can come to a criticism of The Blade Itself isn’t really a criticism at all, just the realization that this isn’t a complete story. This is only the beginning – the players emerging, meeting and just embarking on the real adventure. Only hints of the underlying political struggles as well as re-emerging ancient battles are given with answers presumably forthcoming in the remainder of the trilogy – Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings. And I’m looking forward to finding out just where Abercrombie takes us from here.

The Blade Itself is the beginning of one of the most promising epic fantasies that I’ve read in years. Abercrombie had me laughing with his guile as he stops just short of spitting in the face of genre and set my heart racing through some the best written fight scenes of any genre. This one is not just for fans of epic fantasy. 8.5/10

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cover Art Discussions

I've been quite on the cover art side of things for a while - I guess I just haven't had much to say, and especially in the last couple of weeks, I've just had other things on my mind. Anyway, while I've been quite the rest of the internet/blogosphere has been buzzing about the subject. There's lots of interesting stuff out there - Lou Anders' latest post points to most of the relative discussions and is well worth reading in its own right. For my thoughts on cover art - the various discussions can be found here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Review: Postsingular by Rudy Rucker

Rudy Rucker is a mathematics professor who has at times made a career of writing with 30 books to his credit, Postsingular being one of his latest. Rucker’s take on the singularity, the oft-considered inevitable merger of humans and computers, draws from an irreverent approach to the world and his background in mathematics and computer science. The result is a mixed a bag of quantum physics, alternate dimensions, nanotechnology, sociopathic megalomaniacs, and cephalopods that just didn’t quite work for me.

Postsingular follows a variable array of characters around San Francisco in a not-too distant future. Through the course of the book, we see two separate singularities occur through the development of nanotechnology – one event destroys everything, replacing it with nanomachines referred to as nants and creating a virtual earth. Another singularity event occurs where nanomachines serve as means for linking humanity through a virtual ‘orphidnet’ that allows for the equivalent of telepathy, mind-reading, and seeing through people’s clothing. The varied cast includes the brilliant, and somewhat absent-minded, inventor of the nanotechnology, his autistic son, his sociopathic, megalomaniac business partner with a tortured past, his wife, friends, visitors from an alternate dimension, and a group of free-loading, orphidnet junkies who augment their intelligence and coast through life. Buried within are love stories, tragedy, and the rescue of the world from real and virtual destruction.

The concept of Postsingular is just the quirky, irreverent take on life and a possible future that appeals to me, making it all the more disappointing when it did not work for me. The two areas that I struggled the most with are the dialogue and the jumbled mess of a plot. In a book that is 320 pages long, at page 150, I could not have told you what the point of it all is; there was no satisfactory idea of what the book was even about. The ideas within Postsingular are great, but it seems that Rucker just couldn’t find a good enough story to go along, or the story that was found is told in such a convoluted way that making sense of it all is too a daunting task.

The dialogue that Rucker forces into the mouths of his characters ranges from merely adequate to flat-out horrible. I suspect that the goal was to be both clever and a bit cheesy in a good way, but I could never get past that cheesy stench. Rather than a smell of the feet of angels, Rucker’s dialogue smells of the feet of bad B-movie directors.

Somewhat, but not completely, redeeming Postsingular are its characters. These are real flawed people. They have real problems, addictions, troubled love lives and often come with a past. There are some surprisingly touching human’ moments that are ultimately spoiled by Rucker’s choice of an ending. Included in the cast of characters are a few clearly satirical leaders that may look familiar. This is just the sort of thing I love in a book, but rather than pulling off a cleverly silly satire, Rucker seems to reach too far, becoming kitsch.

Rudy Rucker’s Postsingular takes some very interesting ideas, mixes them around with some rather interesting characters and attempts to create a brilliant mess of novel. For me it was simply a mess – but it does come with a great cover. 5/10

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New Arrival

The picture says it all, so I'll probably be a bit scarce around here for the next week or so. If you've sent me an email in the last week, I'm not ignoring you, I've just been very busy and very tired.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Review: Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman

The foundation of Feast of Souls (Book One of the Magister Trilogy) by C.S. (Celia) Friedman lies at the way magic works in this world. For those that can use magic, there is a cost – their own soulfire that resides in every human and drives life. Every time a witch uses magic, they shorten their own lifespans. Exceptions to this are magisters, a sorcerous, near-immortal upper class. Magisters have mastered a way of feeding off of the soulfire of other human beings – their magic use slowly kills some poor individual, while they live long lives free of natural death. Magisters fervently guard this secret source of their power from the mortal world. An important aspect of magisters is that they are all male – women are not appreciated in this world and the common ‘wisdom’ is that they are too compassionate to survive magister training and feed from the souls of other human beings.

A young and abused peasant woman, Kamala, has the gift of witchery, but refuses to slowly kill herself through magic use. She seeks out a reclusive magister to avert the inevitable fate of witches, early death. One common thread in the word of magisters is that they grow bored through centuries of life, so Kamala is apprenticed, and eventually the impossible does happen and she becomes something new – a female magister.

This sets up the events of the rest of the book, which serve as an introduction for the trilogy to come. A prince of the most powerful kingdom has become the ‘magical food’ for an unknown magister, a secret the royal magister must keep at all costs. Events move forward from here, as the larger story takes shape. Feast of Souls is a complete, if introductory, story. But the greater struggle is to come, a struggle I look forward to reading about.

Friedman creates a vivid, unnamed world while not spending a great deal of time or effort at worldbuilding. Instead, she concentrates on characters, fully showing their motivations while maintaining proper mystery for some and slowly revealing the history and workings of the world. Feast of Souls largely serves as an introduction to characters that will presumably have key roles in the remaining books of the trilogy. The growth of Kamala with her tortured and abused past and the mystery surrounding Magister Colivar leave me anxiously anticipating book two.

Aside from the magic system, the defining aspect of the Feast of Souls is the gender relations of the world. Friedman has built a fairly standard, medieval fantasy society, and along with it, the fairly standard gender relation. Women are second class, barely human. Young girls are bought and sold as sexual objects, routinely abused, and can only hope to gain anything in life through men. Rather than keep this at a subtle level, rather than sweeping it under the rug or pretending it doesn’t exist like the majority of fantasy books, Friedman throws it into the face of the reader, never letting you forget this horrible aspect of the world. At times, there is an uncomfortable, even man-hating feel about it all, which is entirely appropriate – it works for this world. There are a few redeeming men here and there, but they are the exception to the rule. For those concerned about this aspect of the story, I say don’t be – this is a fundamental part of the world, its characters, and their motivations, and the most intriguing feature of the book.

Friedman’s Feast of Souls (Book One of the Magister Trilogy) begins what is so far an excellent new fantasy trilogy, distinguished from others with its life-stealing magic system and sharp gender relations. This was my first exposure to the writing of Friedman and it won’t be my last. Highly recommended – 8/10.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Manga: The Complete Guide

I recently received Manga: The Complete Guide by Jason Thompson from Del Rey. I’ve never been a big comic person, and by extension, I’m not into manga – I have a busy life and I need to draw the line somewhere and comics/manga is just one place I’ve drawn that line. But, I did flip through this book a bit and found it to be a rather informative outline of manga. It seems best suited to relative newbies to manga who are looking to expand their reading into new things and the many different sub-genres of manga. I don’t know what the value would be to a full blown fan of manga, but the guide does appear to be very complete, so I imagine that it would be of good use. I also think that this book could be a tremendous resource to the informed parent looking to know more about what their kids are reading – it might be an opportunity to relate to their tastes a bit more as well a source of information for gifts and such, and it appears to be a great source for helping with figuring what manga is appropriate as you see it.


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