Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An Interview with Nathan Long


The Gotrek & Felix series has long been one of Black Library’s most popular (indeed, it’s the longest running), and is certainly one of my favourite fantasy series, having read it since the short stories appeared in the early Warhammer anthologies – Wolf Riders (1989), Ignorant Armies (1989), and Red Thirst (1990). Created by William King, the characters were taken over (and expanded) by Nathan Long, who has now written five increasingly-strong additions to the series. With his next novel, Bloodforged being published in June, featuring Ulrika the vampire (one-time flame of Felix), Nathan was kind enough to answer a few questions about the series, writing, and working in the Warhammer shared universe.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

“All Star Superman, Part 1” by Grant Morrison (DC Comics)


Quick review of highly-recommended, but disappointing Superman graphic novel

The world’s most famous superhero, Superman’s adventures protecting Metropolis have thrilled readers worldwide for over sixty years! Now, with his body supercharged to the point of self-destruction, the Man of Steel makes his preparations for the end. But first, he must deal with some tragic, personal events that life still has to throw at him.

Written by acclaimed Grant Morrison (The Invisibles, Final Crisis) and artist Frank Quitely (We3), All Star Superman marks a reimagining of sorts, a “unique and elegant interpretation of the original and most recognizable of superheroes.”

I used to read comics whenever I could, as a kid and teenager – because we lived overseas, however, choice was rather limited (I tended to read X-Men, G.I.Joe and the occasional Spiderman, Superman and Batman comic when available). So, after a couple of years involved in blogging, and because a number of other blogs and sites that I follow cover comics and graphic novels, I decided to dive back into this branch of publishing. After a few open calls for suggestions via Twitter, and among friends, the near-unanimous suggestion was All Star Superman, written by comic-extraordinaire, Grant Morrison. So, off I went and bought it… and came away rather underwhelmed.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Upcoming Series: “Ancient Blades” by David Chandler (Voyager)

[A debt is owed to Adam Whitehead over at the Wertzone, where I first saw this.]


As you can see from the graphic above, Voyager have commissioned some pretty interesting and connected artwork for David Chandler’s upcoming fantasy series, The Ancient Blades. (There’s an obvious nod to the artwork adorning Joe Abercombie’s novels, so I guess we can assume that’s the market they’re pitching this to.) The series has been on my radar for only a short while, but after seeing it mentioned on Voyager’s website, with scant detail (clicking on the title sends you to an error message, at the time of writing), my interest has been well and truly piqued.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Upcoming: Amanda Downum’s “Kingdoms of Dust” (Orbit)

I’m a big fan of Amanda Downum’s Necromancer Chronicles, which have thus far been dark, gothic and evocative fantasies, set in an exotic world where the lines between the living and the dead are blurred. (It’s reminiscent of Gail Z Martin’s world, although I have to say I much prefer Downum’s creation and writing.) Both of the previous volumes in the series have been reviewed on CR, and if you haven’t yet checked either out, I would certainly recommend it!

The Drowning City was a good start to the series, not without some faults, but showed great promise for the future; while The Bone Palace was a superb, slow-burning supernatural fantasy and thriller, and fulfilled that promise.

Today, Orbit announced the artwork (by Larry Rostant) for the third book, Kingdoms of Dust:


The new artwork sits nicely alongside the previous two novels’, with a more sandy-palette to suit the setting. I think it’s a pretty good cover, if a tiny bit derivative, but it does the trick.

[Please Note: After the break, there are some spoilers in the synopsis]

Thursday, March 24, 2011

“The Sea of Ghosts” by Alan Campbell (Tor)

Campbell-GC1-SeaOfGhostsAn astonishing new series from the author of The Deepgate Codex

When the last of the Gravediggers, an elite imperial infiltration unit, are disbanded and hunted down by the emperor they once served, munitions expert Colonel Thomas Granger takes refuge in the unlikeliest of places. He becomes a jailer in Ethugra – a prison city of poison-flooded streets and gaols in which a million enemies of the empire are held captive. But when Granger takes possession of two new prisoners, he realises that he can’t escape his past so readily.

Ianthe is a young girl with an extraordinary psychic talent. A gift that makes her unique in a world held to ransom by the powerful Haurstaf – the sisterhood of telepaths who are all that stand between the Empire and the threat of the Unmer, a powerful civilization of entropic sorcerers and dragon-mounted warriors. In this war-torn land, she promises to make Granger an extremely wealthy man, if he can only keep her safe from harm.

This is what Granger is best at. But when other factions learn about Ianthe’s unique ability, even Granger’s skills of warfare are tested to their limits. While Ianthe struggles to control the powers that are growing in ways no-one thought were possible, another threat is surfacing: out there, beyond the bitter seas, an old and familiar enemy is rising – one who, if not stopped, will drown the world and all of humanity with it…

This is the first novel I’ve read by Scottish author Alan Campbell, and it is easily one of the best I’ve read in years. This novel is almost indescribably good.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An Interview with Bradley Beaulieu, Author of “The Winds of Khalakovo”


Last month, Kevin J Anderson mentioned debut author Bradley Beaulieu in an interview with CR. This was the second reference to this new author I’d heard in a short while (the other one was on LEC Book Reviews), so I thought I’d see if I could learn some more about his work. With The Winds of Khalakovo published in April, it seemed like a perfect time. Luckily, Bradley had some time to answer a few questions about his novels, work, and genre fiction.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

“The Unnamed” by Joshua Ferris (Penguin)

Reviewed by Alyssa Mackenzie

Ferris-TheUnnamedAn unsettling picture of modern America

In an America gone awry with strange weather, New York lawyer Tim Farnsworth suffers a peculiar affliction: the inability to stop walking. While his wife, Jane, struggles to keep their family together in the face of the unfathomable, Tim alone must battle to survive pitiless surroundings, encounters with hostile strangers, and the unrelenting demands of his own body. These challenges force Tim to ask life’s most pressing questions, which he answers in a final return on foot across country to reunite with his wife and daughter.

Stripped of all defences, and the sense of hope that lies at the very heart of the American dream, Farnsworth is compelled to confront the terrifying reality of what it is to be a human being.

In this story of a man inflicted with an inexplicable compulsion, Joshua Ferris offers an ambitious exposure of modern life and the human condition. This is a modern-day tragedy, which, while occasionally lacking in emotional resonance, is nonetheless an arresting read.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A (Very) Slight Pause…

Just a heads up that things might be a little quiet this week on the site: I am putting the final touches to my PhD thesis, which I’ll be submitting at the end of the week. This doesn’t prevent me from reading, but it does seem to be having a negative effect on my writing stuff that isn’t about foreign policy…

Never fear, however! There will still be some content posted here this week! I have an interview with Bradley Beaulieu, all laid out and ready to go (Wednesday); and I’ll also be posting a review of Alan Campbell’s truly magnificent Sea of Ghosts over the next couple of days as well.

After I submit, normal services will resume, if perhaps also pick up a bit – I’ve got a shelf of novels and graphic novels I’ve been wanting to read for some time, and they’re all ready and waiting.

Hope all’s well with everybody. Back in a bit…

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Interview with Douglas Hulick, Author of “Among Thieves”


There has been quite a bit of online buzz surrounding the imminent release of Among Thieves, the first in Douglas Hulick’s Tales of the Kin fantasy series. I first wrote a post that mentioned Among Thieves back in August last year, when very little information was available, but a tantalising recommendation from Brent Weeks (a favourite author of mine) was doing the rounds. Weeks described Among Thieves as “an unalloyed pleasure” and “The kind of story that reminds you why you love to read.” Ever since reading this, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for more information and, luckily, I was also able to get a copy of the book early. Equally good news, the book has lived up to my expectations.

Anyway, my thoughts on the book are for another post. Doug Hulick luckily had some spare time recently, and he was kind enough to answer the questions I sent him. So, without further ado, here are his thoughts on writing, novels, and why walking into the fantasy section of a bookstore is not unlike walking into a modern coffeeshop…

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sanderson returns to World of Mistborn

Right, first off, let me just say I’ve not read a single novel by Brandon Sanderson. It’s something I fully intend to rectify next month (I’ve bought The Final Empire and also The Way of Kings), but I saw some of the new posts on other sites that showcased the synopsis and artwork (which is disappointingly familiar – dare I say cliché – and similar to a number of other recent fantasy covers):


Now, the reason I’m posting all this information is not just to say “Lookit! Something new!” (which is always nice, it’s true), but because I think Sanderson’s done something pretty interesting with this novel, which I’ve not seen done with many other fantasy series.

[Warning: There are some minor spoilers in the Synopsis.]

“Among Thieves” by Douglas Hulick (Tor)

Hulick-AmongThievesThe Tales of the Kin begin

Drothe is a Nose, an informant who finds and takes care of trouble inside the criminal organization he’s a part of. He also smuggles imperial relics on the side.

When his boss sends him to Ten Ways to track down who’s been leaning on his organization’s people, Drothe discovers hints of a much bigger mystery. Someone is trying to stir up trouble between lower-level criminal organizations, including the one Drothe belongs to. And there’s a book rumored to contain imperial glimmer (or magic) that a lot of very dangerous people seem to be looking for - including two crime bosses known as the Gray Princes.

When Drothe discovers the book, he finds himself holding a bit of swag that can bring down emperors, shatter the criminal underworld, and unlock forbidden magic…that's if he can survive long enough to use it.

I’ve been waiting for this novel for what feels like a very long time, ever since the artwork, synopsis, and glowing endorsement from Brent Weeks appeared on the internet. It’s always a fear with highly-anticipated books that they won’t live up to expectations. Such was definitely not the case with Among Thieves: This was a pleasure to read – full of intrigue, colourful and realistic characters, and a fast-paced, action-packed plot.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Introducing… Mark Lawrence, author of “Prince of Thorns”


The Prince of Thorns is one of this year’s most anticipated fantasy debuts. In advance of its release, I thought it might be nice to introduce the author, Mark Lawrence, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his new novel and writing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

“Thunder & Steel” by Dan Abnett, et al (Black Library)

Abnett-ThunderAndSteelA Collection of Warhammer fiction from one of Black Library’s most successful authors

Across the Old World, the powers of Chaos seek to bring corruption and death, poisoning the minds of men and filling them with hatred and fury. Only the bravest dare stand against them – two Empire soldiers, marching into the cold wastes of Kislev to face the barbaric Northern hordes, where one will lose his soul to the Ruinous Powers. The high elf Gilead Lothain, who seeks to strike at the servants of the Dark Gods in a quest for vengeance that can never end. The ranks of the noble White Wolves, who stand to defend the majestic city of Middenheim until the last man, never backing down in the face of their enemies.

Thunder and Steel is an epic collection of Dan Abnett’s Warhammer fantasy, including the novels Riders of the Dead, Gilead’s Blood and Hammers of Ulric, plus short stories “Swords of the Empire” and “Shyi-zar”, and the full graphic novel of The Warhammer.

In Thunder & Steel, Dan Abnett’s Warhammer work is collected into one volume. Some of this work was written in conjunction with others – Gilead’s Blood and Hammers of Ulric were written with Nik Vincent, and the latter was also written with James Wallis. Collected into this new omnibus, these long-hard-to-find novels are great additions to any Warhammer library.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

An Interview with Stephen Deas


Stephen Deas, the author of the Memory of Flames fantasy series, has a flare for grim, dark and gripping fantasy. And luckily, after putting the final touches to his latest novel, he was able to take some time to answer a few questions about writing, fantasy, what he’s looking forward to in 2011, and of course, dragons…

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

“Embedded” by Dan Abnett (Angry Robot)


A journalist finds himself unprepared for a most unusual, potentially deadly predicament…

The colony planet of Eighty-Six looks as dull as all its fellow new worlds to veteran journalist Lex Falk, but when a local squabble starts to turn violent, and the media start getting the runaround from the military high command, his interest is seriously piqued.

Forbidden from approaching the battlezone, he gets himself chipped inside the head of a combat veteran – and uncovers the story of a lifetime. When the soldier is killed, however, Falk must use all his resourcefulness to get back home again… and blow the lid off the whole damn thing.

Since the Iraq War began in 2003, a lot has been made of the Pentagon’s willingness to allow journalists to “embed” themselves with combat groups, reporting from the frontlines how the war is going. In Embedded, Abnett takes this one step further, taking this theme and transferring it onto a hypothetical future of intergalactic expansion and journalism. It’s not only insightful and intelligent: it’s also a very satisfying and entertaining read.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Artwork: “The Iron Jackal” by Chris Wooding (Gollancz)

This is just a quick post, because I stumbled across this today on Amazon UK:


Long-time readers of the site will know that I’ve really enjoyed the previous two novels in the Tales of the Ketty Jay series – Retribution Falls and The Black Lung Captain – so any news of The Iron Jackal is of great interest to me. And, I believe, it should be to you, too.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

An Interview with Michael J Sullivan


Michael J Sullivan is the author of the successful Riyria Revelations series, which Orbit Books has just picked up to repackage and offer to a wider audience at the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012 – much of Michael’s success thus far has been through the support of a couple of small presses and Amazon and the Kindle store (it frequently pops up in recommendations alongside some of my favourite authors, so I’ve bought the first couple as Kindling to try out).

The new Orbit deal, announced on February Sullivan-AuthorPhoto22nd, should bring Sullivan’s series to a much broader audience. The novels will be released in three volumes: Theft of Swords (November 2011), Rise of Empire (December 2011), and Heir of Novron (January 2012). The final volume will include the as-yet-unreleased final novel of the series, Percepliquis.

Orbit Senior Editor Devi Pillai said of the series:

“This is the kind of fabulous new adventure fantasy that readers of Terry Brooks and Brent Weeks can fall in love with. Michael really delivers a great story that keeps to the idea of great epic fantasy while taking on fantasy clichés and having fun with the idea of two thieves caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I read the first book – and I was hooked.”

I thought it would be an opportune time to interview Michael, to find out a little bit more about his series, and he was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions for this interview.

Friday, March 04, 2011

“The Sworn” by Gail Z. Martin (Orbit)

Martin,GZ-FKC-1-TheSwornThe Fallen Kings Cycle, Book One

As plague and famine scourge the Winter Kingdoms, a vast invasion force is mustering from beyond the Northern Sea. And at its heart, a dark spirit mage wields the blood magic of ancient, vanquished gods.

Summoner-King Martris Drayke must attempt to meet this great threat, gathering an army from a country ravaged by civil war. And neighbouring lands reel toward anarchy while plague decimates their leaders. Drayke must seek new allies from among the living – and the dead – as an untested generation of rulers face their first battle.

Then someone disturbs the legendary Dread as they rest in a millennia-long slumber beneath sacred barrows. Their warrior guardians, the Sworn, know the Dread could be pivotal as a force for great good or evil. But if it’s the latter, could even the Summoner-King’s sorcery prevail?

I’ve been aware of Martin’s work for a while, now, but for some reason I never got around to reading the first story arc set in her world (The Chronicles of the Necromancer, published by Solaris). As Orbit sent me a copy of The Sworn, and because it’s the start of a new series, I figured there was no better time to get stuck in, and I was rather happy with what I discovered within…

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Paperback: “Backlash” by Aaron Allston (Arrow)


Backlash, the fourth in the Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi series, will be published on March 10th in the UK. In case you missed my original review of the book, I’ve posted a truncated and slightly tweaked version, below. Looking back on it, I still remember it as being one of the best ones in this new series so far.

If you’ve read my other Fate of the Jedi reviews, then you know I’m a little on the fence about the wisdom of continuously releasing nine-book stories, as the momentum can often be seriously effected in the middle – even when the publishers and authors promised surprises and major events in the middle volumes of previous large story-arcs, often it’s not enough to satisfy all fans (true, something that is never possible). I do wish they would hone their vision a bit, though – make the story-arks shorter, which would allow for tighter plotting and greater excitement and broader appeal. But maybe that’s just me.

[If you’ve not read any of this series, I should warn you that there might be some minor spoilers contained in the review.]

An Interview with Kevin J Anderson

Kevin J. Anderson is one of the most prolific and popular science-fiction/fantasy authors working today. He is also one of my favourite authors. Long-time readers of Civilian-Reader will have seen how much I’ve enjoyed the first two volumes in his Terra Incognita fantasy series (the third, The Key to Creation, is out this year).


When I was younger, there were always some of his books in the house, and I should really thank my sister for introducing me to his writing (through his contribution to the Star Wars universe, The Jedi Academy Trilogy). While I’ve never managed to get around to his epic Seven Suns series (something I fully intend to rectify), he has a great talent for writing engaging, gripping and fun novels.

Last week I contacted Kevin, to see if he would be willing to answer a few questions about upcoming projects, his new novels, and writing. To my delight, he answered much quicker than expected.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

“The Heir of Night” by Helen Lowe (Orbit)

Reviewed by Alyssa Mackenzie

Lowe-HeirOfNightIntroducing The Wall of Night

The violence of an age-old war casts a long shadow. It falls on a world where mercy is weakness and conflict is a way of life.

Young Malian is being trained to rule. Her people garrison the mountain range known as the Wall of Night against an ancient enemy, keeping a tide of shadow from the rest of their world. Malian is expected to uphold this tradition, yet she’s known little of real danger until the enemy launches a direct attack upon her fortress home.

In the darkest part of the night, the Keep of Winds becomes a bloodbath. Women and children, warriors and priests, are slain by creatures with twisted magic flowing in their veins. And as the castle wakes to chaos, Malian flees deep into the Old Keep, her life at stake. Then when the danger is greatest, her own hidden magic flares into life.

But this untapped potential is a two-edged blade. If she accepts its power, she must prepare to pay the price.

The Heir of Night is a novel filled with intrigue and dark magic, in which the conflict between duty and personal desire is constant. While the story is weighed down a bit with a somewhat ponderous magic dimension, this is a promising beginning to the Wall of Night series.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

“Theories of International Politics & Zombies”, by Dan Drezner (Princeton)

This is a rather unconventional review for Civilian Reader. I would normally post reviews of politics and international relations books over at The Politics Reader, but because this one was so interesting, accessible and above all fun, I thought I’d cross-post it, on the off-chance that someone who frequents this site would, uh, bite…

*     *     *

Drezner-TheoriesOfIR&ZombiesThe Best Book ever written about International Politics?

What would happen to international politics if the dead rose from the grave and started to eat the living? Daniel Drezner’s ground-breaking book answers the question that other international relations scholars have been too scared to ask. Addressing timely issues with analytical bite, Drezner looks at how well-known IR theories might be applied to a war with zombies. Exploring the plots of popular zombie films, songs, and books, Drezner predicts realistic scenarios for the political stage in the face of a zombie threat and considers how valid – or how rotten – such scenarios might be.