Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Introducing: E.C. MYERS


I first heard of Eugene Myers through Twitter, when someone I followed mentioned his upcoming YA novel, Fair Coin. With his novel’s publication imminent (next week), I thought it would be a perfect time to discover some more about the book and his thoughts on writing.

“Nimpentoad” by Henry L Herz & Sons


A family-created illustrated kids’ book

This is the tale of the courageous and resourceful little Nimpentoad, who leads his tribe of Niblings through the perilous Grunwald Forest, overcoming obstacles and encountering strange creatures along the way.

This is the first kids’ book I’ve reviewed, and I am kind of lost as to how to go about it. I don’t remember a single kids’ book I read when I was younger, so I have no idea how this compares, and I’m not entirely clear on what people look for when reading reviews of children’s books. Is it age-suitable? I presume so. Is it well written? For the most part – there were a few passages I thought could have been tighter.

Nevertheless, this book is based on quite a fun premise – it’s a creative adventure set in an endearing fantasy world, that has drawn quite a bit of inspiration from the Warhammer world and creatures, particularly the Forest Goblins, which I found perhaps a little too similar (only, watered down considerably for the intended audience’s age). The rhinotaurs, I thought, were an interesting new fantasy creature:


As the above image will help support, the book’s best selling-point are the illustrations by Sean Eddingfield and Bill Maus, which are quite superb (I particularly like the Neebels, which are quite clearly inspired by Warhammer Squigs – below).


If you have very young kids, and want to start introducing them to fantasy, and think it’s maybe still a little early to give them Terry Pratchett’s Carpet People or Brian Jacques’s Redwall series, then Nimpentoad could be an interesting starting point.

Publishing Industry Needs Longer School Holidays…?

According to the title of a Bookseller article:

“Printed books fall £2.8m as kids go back to school.”

Sales dropped 11%, apparently with children returning to school and adults getting back to work after the spring break (we get spring breaks?). Sadly, I can’t read any more of the article than that, because I’m not a Bookseller subscriber, but I would like to think this is a good sign – if people are reading more during their holidays, this must be a good thing for the publishing industry, with the Easter and Summer holidays coming up.

Upcoming: THE UNTAMED #4 (Stranger)

Just a quick artwork post, this time for the eye-catching and gothic cover art for The Untamed #4, by Peter Bergting:


This is a series I’ve been enjoying quite a bit (reviews of previous issues here and here). You can check out a brief preview of the fourth issue here.

Speaking of Stranger Comics, one of their imprints looks to have some really interesting titles coming up in the future: Foundry. I’ll do my best to bring reviews as and when possible.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Feb.29)


Before I get to the reviews, I wanted to write a quick comment about The Road Ahead in terms of comic reviews on Civilian Reader: The weekly round-ups are probably going to become shorter. There are fewer on-going series I want to read in short chunks, so I’m going to start focusing on just a handful of my favourites, but also some single first issues, maybe mini-series, and a few Three Issue Tests – this means I’m going to be a lot more discerning and brutal when it comes to deciding on whether or not to keep buying monthly issues.

[Titles I receive for review from the publishers will, of course, still feature, but will still be addressed and reviewed as if I’d bought them myself – same standards, same potential vis-a-vis Three Issue Tests, and so forth.]

This week, I bring you an unhinged, super-powered loser, a team of super-powered protectors, the hunt for a rogue paramilitary terrorist outfit, some transdimensional magic, and some KGB agents belatedly activated after the war is over.

Reviewed Herein: The Cape #4, The Defenders #2-3, G.I.Joe: Real American Hero Annual, Magic: The Gathering #2, Pigs Vol.01

Guest Post: On “Nimpentoad” by Henry L. Herz

A few days ago, Henry Herz got in touch with me about Nimpentoad, an illustrated book he’d written with his two sons. I was intrigued by the sample of artwork he sent, as well as the story of him writing the book with his kids. So, I asked if he would like to write a guest post about the process.

– Stefan


Nimpentoad is the fantasy story of a courageous and resourceful little Nibling who leads his tribe through the perilous Grunwald forest, overcoming obstacles and encountering strange creatures along the way. This post is about the creative journey of Nimpentoad by a man and his two young sons.

Monday, February 27, 2012

“Thief’s Covenant” by Ari Marmell (Pyr)


A great new heroine in a great new world

Once she was Adrienne Satti. An orphan of Davillon, she had somehow escaped destitution and climbed to the ranks of the city’s aristocracy in a rags-to-riches story straight from an ancient fairy tale. Until one horrid night, when a conspiracy of forces — human and other — stole it all away in a flurry of blood and murder.

Today she is Widdershins, a thief making her way through Davillon’s underbelly with a sharp blade, a sharper wit, and the mystical aid of Olgun, a foreign god with no other worshippers but Widdershins herself. It’s not a great life, certainly nothing compared to the one she once had, but it’s hers.

But now, in the midst of Davillon’s political turmoil, an array of hands are once again rising up against her, prepared to tear down all that she’s built. The City Guard wants her in prison. Members of her own Guild want her dead. And something horrid, something dark, something ancient is reaching out for her, a past that refuses to let her go. Widdershins and Olgun are going to find answers, and justice, for what happened to her — but only if those who almost destroyed her in those years gone by don’t finish the job first.

This is the start of what promises to be a great new YA fantasy series. I’d only read one other novel by Ari Marmell before reading Thief’s Covenant, The Conqueror’s Shadow, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was intrigued by the idea of Marmell writing YA fiction, so came into this with high expectations. Luckily, my expectations were exceeded: this novel is a fun, action-packed and sneaky adventure. Thief’s Covenant features engaging characters and a great story, and kept me reading well into the night on more than one occasion.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

25yrs (& a Day) of Warhammer 40,000

Ok, so this probably should have gone out yesterday, but I had something planned for the site already, and just never got around to posting this until now.

Warhammer 40,000 – Games Workshop’s science-fiction table-top wargame – became 25 years old yesterday. There were in-store events with exclusive products available. In terms of stuff related to this blog, and my own tastes, GW’s publishing arm Black Library also released a “25 for 25” eBook:


Upcoming: Concept Sketch for NIGHT OF THE OWLS Batman Event

Over at DC’s blog they are releasing a number of character sketches for the upcoming Batman event, Night of the Owls, and I just wanted to share the latest, because I think it looks great. First, though, here’s a quick blurb for the event:

The “Night of the Owls” is coming this May, pitting the extended Bat-family against the deadly Court of Owls. A shadowy secret society with roots that date back to Gotham City’s earliest history, the Court employs a cadre of timeless, sinister assassins known as Talons to execute its malevolent will.

The sketch below is actually from the “back-up features” (basically, extra stories tagged on to the main issues), and is by Rafael Albuquerque (American Vampire):


The fact that DC’s going to tie all of the Batman-related titles together really make me want to continue reading them all… It’s going to be tough to not follow this event (which has basically already started in the Scott Snyder-penned Batman series).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Week In Review

Trying something new this week: a collection of links to the most interesting posts I spotted from around the blogosphere – ranging from reviews, commentary, interviews, and more. I’ll probably keep the number of links down to about five, but sometimes there will be more, sometimes less.

They’ll be pretty basic posts – just text and the links, probably – but hopefully they’ll help generate more interest in the blogs I follow and like. So, in no particular order, here are a few links to things I found particularly interesting…

Stomping on Yeti: “Fact: Internet Polls Suck” [Comment]

The abominable blogger takes a look at possibly the dodgiest reader poll ever compiled by man.

Staffer’s Musings: “Pillars of Hercules” by David Constantine [Review]

No secret I’m a fan of Justin’s site, and especially when he reviews books that didn’t really work for him. Cheryl and ‘Fizzy’ are great creations, and this approach to negative reviews is one of the best out there. While you’re there, check out… well, pretty much everything else he’s posted. Great blog, deserves to be read by way more people than read this one.

A Dribble of Ink: “Prince of Thorns” by Mark Lawrence [Review]

Probably the best review I’ve read of the book (which I thought was fantastic), and more proof of why Aidan’s A Dribble of Ink is one of the best blogs out there (and not just taking into account book-related blogs).

Jim C. Hines: “Who Controls Your Amazon E-book Price?” [Article]

An author (whose work I really want to read) gives some thoughts on a recent pricing issue he’s experienced on Amazon, while also pulling back the curtain on Amazon’s policies regarding self-published authors’ work and how much control the company demands. “Warhammer 40k: 25 Years of Orks in Space” by Robert Lamb

This article was originally published on, but Tor kindly shared it, and that’s how I stumbled across it. It’s a great, fun look at “five sciencey reasons to be thankful for the Warhammer 4oK universe”.

There are special 25th Anniversary events taking place in (I believe) all Games Workshop stores today, in case you’re a fan and want to join in the celebrations.

Michael Sullivan: “A Digital Feast” [Article]

This is actually from January, but I really liked the post, and wanted to link to it again. Michael takes a look at writer communities, past and present, and how the internet has changed things. Really liked this one.

*   *   *

Also, because I think this week’s been pretty good as blog-content goes, I would like to draw your attention to the Robert Jackson Bennett Interview & Giveaway, my review of Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, and yesterday’s guest post by Jon Sprunk.

That’s all for this week. Anything else you’ve seen out there you think people should read?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Guest Post: “Lessons I Learned While Stumbling Through the Looking Glass” by Jon Sprunk


US Covers (Pyr)

Writing a novel is a mammoth undertaking. It seems pretty easy at the beginning: just string together some interesting scenes involving remarkable characters and keep that process rolling along until you reach The End. Yet somewhere along the line you start to realize that all these “interesting” scenes will have to add up to something important, something bigger than They All Lived Happily Ever After. This is especially difficult when you dream that this novel will someday be published and read by people whom you’ve never met, who will judge your work against the entire history of literature. It’s enough to give a writer the shakes, and that’s before he or she starts hitting the bottle at increasingly-early times of the day.

Fortunately for me, I stumbled onto my first rule of writing: Don’t Sweat It, Just Write It.

Comics Round-Up (Feb.22)


Another varied, bumper comics round-up this week. Early on, it seemed to be leaning a bit Wolverine-heavy, but as Wednesday rolled around, I realised there was plenty of other stuff available that was of interest. This round-up manages to tick off most of the comic genres: sci-fi, superheroes, fantasy, action heroes and villains, humorous espionage, and even a geek-fantasy. So, without further ado, let us move right on to the reviews…


Reviewed Herein: Brilliant #1-2, Danger Girl: Revolver #2, GIJoe: Cobra #10, Incorruptible #27, Infestation: Dungeons & Dragons #2, The Ray #2-3, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – War #1-2, Witchblade/Red Sonja #1, Wolverine #20 & #300, Wolverine & The X-Men #5, X-Club #2-3, X-Sanction #3

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Upcoming: “Spider-Man: The Ends of the Earth” (Marvel)

Thought I’d share some teasers for the next, big Spider-Man story arc from Marvel:

The next big Spider-Man epic begins in Amazing Spider-Man #682, part one of Ends Of The Earth, by Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli! The Sinister Six, led by the vengeful Doctor Octopus, is back and they’re looking for revenge! Can Spider-Man & Earth’s Mightiest save the world before Doc Ock’s explosive endgame is revealed?

I haven’t read a Spider-Man comic since Marvel was running their Operation: Zero Tolerance event (15 years ago), but I’ve been told this is a good place to jump back in. So, I think I may just give this a try. Here are some teaser images for the series:


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Subterrene War Interviews…

McCarthy-ExogeneYesterday I stumbled across the Subterrene War website, dedicated to the science fiction series by T.C. McCarthy. The series begins with Germline, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and is followed by Exogene (available now) and Chimera (out later this year).

If you like your sci-fi gritty, grim, and with a brutalist aesthetic, then this series is definitely for you. As I say in my review, it also reminded me a little of Hunter S. Thompson in tone.

I’ll be reading and reviewing Exogene in the very near future, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share the character interviews McCarthy scripted. So, without further ado…

Colonel Martin:

Lieutenant Chopiak:

Dr. Parsons:

Private Matthews:

Also on CR: An Interview with T.C. McCarthy

An Interview with ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT (& Giveaway!)


A purveyor of fine dark genre fiction, a new Robert Jackson Bennett novel is always eagerly anticipated (or should be, if you’re new to his work). Therefore, with his third novel now out in the wilds and receiving good buzz, I thought it would be a good time to learn a little bit more about the author’s writing and thoughts on genre fiction.

In addition, I am able to offer a giveaway for FIVE copies of Robert’s latest novel, The Troupe. So, have a read of the interview, then follow the instructions at the end for your chance to win.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

“Goblintown Justice” by Matt Forbeck


A Shotguns & Sorcery short story

Ex-adventurer Max Gibson knows he’s found trouble when he stumbles out of his favourite tavern and into a murder scene, but when he realizes that both the victim and the blood-spattered orc kneeling over her are old friends of his, it gets far worse.

Arrested as an accomplice to the crime, Gibson must work fast to find out what really happened and clear his name before his still-living friend pays the ultimate price.

Set in one of Forbeck’s new fantasy settings, this is a short, sharp, fun blast of fantasy intrigue, and a drive-by introduction to Dragon City, its denizens and society.

The Shotguns & Sorcery setting is a melange of fantasy standards. Dragon City is a real melting pot of fantasy creatures – Elves seem to be the top of the food chain, then humans, then orcs. The city is surrounded by a curtain wall, built to keep out the horde of zombies that are attempting to get in and eat the population (one assumes).

The story has a bit of a sudden ending, but one that speaks volumes about Dragon City’s social and judicial reality. Life in this city is tough, dirty, and potentially deadly. And I really enjoyed reading about it. The story’s not long enough to properly flesh it out, but there are the beginnings of a playful, entertaining fantasy world here, and I would definitely be interested in reading more fiction – short stories or novel-length – set in and around Dragon City.

Max is a good character, morally ambiguous and rather cynical, and a potentially interesting past. The interactions between the characters feels natural and we get a good sense of the social strata of the population, as well as the tensions between the races. It’s a pity this wasn’t longer.

Goblintown Justice is good fun and well-written, and is available from Amazon UK & US.

The setting will be used in a trilogy of novels Forbeck’s writing as part of his ambitious “12 for ’12” project. You can learn more about his Shotguns & Sorcery Kickstarter, here.


The series’ rather cool logo

Monday, February 20, 2012

“Throne of the Crescent Moon” by Saladin Ahmed (DAW)

Ahmed-ThroneOfTheCrescentMoonAn intriguing debut, from a great new voice in fantasy

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings: Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, Raseed bas Raseed, Zamia Badawi.

Together with a handful of allies, they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected. The companions must race against time – and struggle against their own misgivings – to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.

The buzz surrounding Throne of the Cresent Moon has been going on for quite some time. I had planned on reading and reviewing the novel much sooner than now, but I accidentally forgot it at home when I went on holiday. Needless to say, it was the first book I read upon my return, and I found it to be quite satisfying. It’s a different type of fantasy, with a different focus and style to what you might be used to. It remains, however, very well-written and engaging throughout.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Feb.15): Star Wars (Dark Horse)


While I was away, Dark Horse comics started a new Star Wars series – Agent of the Empire – which received a lot of good reviews. Being the semi-rabid fan of Star Wars–related books that I am, I decided I had to check it out, along with the other new series that started this week, Dawn of the Jedi. And both of these new series are pretty great. So good, in fact, that I am strongly considering trying out some others (especially the other new series, War).

Reviewed herein: Agent of the Empire #1-3, Dawn of the Jedi #1

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Guest Post: “Trauma” by Adam Baker

Adam Baker is the author of Outpost and Juggernaut – both available now, published by Headline.

AdamBakerI have a bad tooth.

Earlier this afternoon, the pain from a broken molar became intolerable, so I flicked open my Leatherman multitool, clamped the offending sliver of tooth, and wrenched it from my jaw.

I probably ought to see a dentist.

Battlefield medicine is one of the reoccurring tropes of zombie fiction. Characters are often forced to treat bullet wounds and broken limbs. Sometimes they have to hack off an infected leg, or a zombie-chewed arm. They frequently battle flesh-eating hoards as they liberate painkillers and antibiotics from abandoned hospitals.

Do these scenes subtly increase the zeitgeisty appeal of zombie fiction?

TV medical dramas have always been popular. But most of these shows pre-suppose access to health insurance, an assumption that many of viewers, in the US at least, cannot take for granted. Plenty of American viewers watching the deductive brilliance of House could not afford his care. Those with coverage pay a big chunk of their income for the privilege. Health care is a costly and precarious thing.

As Barbara Ehrenreich pointed out in her excellent Nickel and Dimed: Undercover in Low-Wage USA, most of the service class have no health cover or sick pay. They self-diagnose, tough-out jobs as waitresses, telesales and cleaners, while enduring back pain, poor eyesight and crumbling teeth.

The working poor form a massive constituency who rarely see their lives reflected in movies, TV shows or books. They are ignored by media determined to pretend consumers still revel in the complacent affluence of the Clinton/Blair nineties. Their anxieties surface indirectly in the survivalist struggles of apocalyptic fiction.

Zombie narratives might be classified as sci-fi/fantasy, but it is their ability to portray the anxieties of contemporary life that gives them bite.


Friday, February 17, 2012

“Know No Fear” by Dan Abnett (Black Library)


The Heresy arrives on Calth

Unaware of the wider Heresy and following the Warmaster’s increasingly cryptic orders, Roboute Guilliman returns to Ultramar to muster his Legion for war against the orks massing in the Veridian system.

Without warning, their supposed allies in the Word Bearers Legion launch a devastating invasion of Calth, scattering the Ultramarines fleet and slaughtering all who stand in their way. This confirms the worst scenario Guilliman can imagine – Lorgar means to settle their bitter rivalry once and for all. As the traitors summon foul daemonic hosts and all the forces of Chaos, the Ultramarines are drawn into a grim and deadly struggle in which neither side can prevail.

The Battle for Calth is a huge event in the canon of the Horus Heresy – it’s when the Word Bearers’ corruption was laid bare on a Legion-wide scale, and it’s also when the Ultramarines entered the conflict. Know No Fear is a different kind of Heresy novel, but I think Abnett makes it work very well, and this is sure to please fans of the franchise. No matter how many novels Abnett writes, he always manages to surprise.

Comics Round-Up & Catch-Up (Feb.15)


As I’m back in NYC, I’ve been able to get hold of DC and Marvel titles again, so some will be reviewed in the round-ups again, but there are going to be some changes. I’ve decided to only review up to issue six of the New 52 (or, at least until the end of the first story-arc in each), as this is the end of their first volumes. There are just too many that I like, which means it’s becoming financially impossible (not to mention irresponsible) for me to keep on top of them all. I’ve already cut six titles since I got back to New York. Now, whether or not I am able to stick to this decision is another matter entirely, and if I become gainfully employed, this could change. (Please let me get gainfully employed! For more reasons than feeding my comics addiction, of course…)


So, what does this mean for the Comics Round-Ups and New 52 reviews? I’m going to wait for the collected editions. Some of the money that I save will instead go to other collected series, which offer a lot more bang for your buck. I will post three catch-up posts, dealing with New 52 Batman, Superman and the Dark/Edge titles. I will, of course, still be reviewing Boom!, Zenescope, IDW and a few Image titles, as well as some other DC, Marvel, Dynamite and Dark Horse series. (If I get review copies, on the other hand, I’ll definitely feature anything and everything.) I’ll also post a special Star Wars-related comics review this week.

So, back to the reviews – here we go with a big, bumper edition…

Reviewed Herein: Infestation 2: Dungeons & Dragons #1, Ninjettes #1, The Occultist #2-3, The Ray #1, Road Rage #1, The Shade #3, Thief of Thieves #1, Winter Soldier #1-2, Wolverine & the X-Men #3-4, X-Sanction #1-2

Thursday, February 16, 2012

“Beneath the Flesh” by Andy Smillie (Black Library)

Smillie-BeneathTheFleshA brutal Flesh Tearers novella

The Flesh Tearers descend upon an Imperial world to retrieve gene-seed from fallen brothers. Death haunts the shadows, as does the spectre of the Chapter’s curse, the Black Rage.

This novella was originally collected across two issues of Black Library’s monthly Hammer & Bolter eBooks. As someone who much prefers getting the whole story whenever possible, I decided to wait for the complete version, and I’m rather glad that I did. This is a brisk, brutal slice of Warhammer 40,000 fiction, sure to please fans of the franchise and also conflict-heavy military sci-fi. This is a very good, well-constructed and well-written novella, and I really enjoyed reading it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Introducing: LOU MORGAN


Lou Morgan is one of this year’s Debut Authors To Watch. Blood and Feathers, Lou’s upcoming debut, is about the war between Heaven and Hell, and a young woman who gets caught in the middle – which sounds kind of awesome. So, in the spirit of drawing attention to some of 2012’s most anticipated debuts, read on for more about Lou, her writing, and her upcoming novel.

Upcoming: March 2012 Previews from Vertigo

DCVertigo-2012PreviewSamplerIf you’ve been in a comic store this past week, you may have either seen or received a new preview sampler issue that includes tastes of four new titles coming from Vertigo next month.

All four titles sound pretty cool, so I thought I’d just share some information on the blog to help generate some interest. I’m quite familiar with two of the series’ writers already, aware of a third, and one of them is an entirely new name to me.

So, read on for some information and quick thoughts on Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child, Fairest, New Deadwardians and Saucer Country.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teresa Frohock Reviews “The Blade Itself” by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz/Orbit)

Abercrombie-FL1-BladeItselfI have to be brutally honest here: I quit reading genre fiction for about ten years, then I wrote and published a fantasy novel. There’s a certain irony to all of this that I appreciate, because I have strange sense of humor, and you would do well to keep that odd humor in the back of your mind as you read this review. The only reason I mention it is because I think it’s important that you understand that I don’t know Joe Abercrombie. I have never met the man or even heard of him until I was bumping around online and came across an article by Leo Grin, who described Abercrombie’s novels like this:

“Think of a Lord of the Rings where, after stringing you along for thousands of pages, all of the hobbits end up dying of cancer contracted by their proximity to the Ring, Aragorn is revealed to be a buffoonish puppet-king of no honor and false might, and Gandalf no sooner celebrates the defeat of Sauron than he executes a long-held plot to become the new Dark Lord of Middle-earth, and you have some idea of what to expect should you descend into Abercrombie’s jaded literary sewer.”

Well, I thought. I would certainly read that.

“The Untamed” & “The Portent” (Stranger Comics)


I reviewed the first issue of The Untamed a little while ago, and have been looking forward to reading more in the series. I think they went on a short hiatus, but finally the next two issues are available! The first is still available as a free read over on Graphicly, and I would certainly recommend it. This week, I got my hands on the next two issues of the series, as well as the first issue in another new title from Stranger: The Portent.

Monday, February 13, 2012

“Hexed” by Kevin Hearne (Orbit)

Hearne-2-HexedAtticus O’Sullivan returns for more supernatural shenanigans

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty — when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of World War II.

With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbour’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

In this second novel in Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, we get more magical and mythological shenanigans in Arizona. This definitely lived up to my expectations, and this is fast shaping up to be my favourite Urban Fantasy series. Hexed is a great addition to the series, but one that doesn’t work as a standalone, as Hounded did.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Artwork: “vN” by Madeline Ashby (Angry Robot)

Robots from Angry Robot! Below is the stunning artwork that will grace Madeline Ashby’s debut novel, the mysteriously-titled vN:


The artist is Martin Bland. Here’s the synopsis for the novel, which will be published in August 2012:

Amy Peterson is a self-replicating humanoid robot.

For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.

This is perhaps one of my favourite covers this year, and only heightens my already-considerable interest in the novel.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

“Brimstone” #1-7 (Zenescope)


Wild Western Horror

Writers: Michael Lent & Brian McCarthy | Artist: Hyunsang Michael Cho

With his dying breath, an Indian Shaman unleashes an ancient curse upon his murderers, the miners of Brimstone, and the richest gold stake ever found in the High Sierras. A week later, the town is overrun and its communication lines cut. With all the honest men fighting the Civil War, the desperate mining investors put together a collection of outlaws, killers and thieves to re-take Brimstone... by any means necessary. Led by “The Viper”, a brooding gunslinger whose brutal exploits are the stuff of Western legend, the vicious posse finds the bullet-ridden town littered with dismembered corpses but its gold stores untouched. In Brimstone, the most feared men in the West have finally found the very heart of fear.

In Brimstone, we get a blend of Western gun-slinging action and a zombie siege. It’s a nice, new and interesting gothic mash-up of the two sub-genres. Brimstone is an action-packed, tense and surprising series. Not only that, the artwork is superb.


Friday, February 10, 2012

“The Darkness: Origins” Volume 1 (Top Cow)


The beginning of the dark…

Writer: Garth Ennis | Artist: Marc Silvestri

Mafia hitman Jackie Estacado was both blessed and cursed on his 21st birthday when he inherited the power of The Darkness, an elemental force that allows those who wield it access to an otherworldly dimension and control over the demons who dwell there. Forces for good in the world rise up to oppose Jackie and what his gift represents, but in this story, they are the bad guys.

Another title I tried thanks to Comixology’s free sampler of the first issue. I’d been aware of the series for a little while – it has connections to another of Top Cow’s titles, Witchblade (which you can also try for free) – but had never got around to trying it out. In summary, it’s a great title: twisted, dark (of course), and with plenty of moral ambiguity. It’s also visually impressive and sometimes arresting. I really enjoyed this. I am slowly developing a real taste for Top Cow’s titles.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

“Edie Investigates” by Nick Harkaway

Harkaway-EdieInvestigatesAn introduction to the protagonist of Angelmaker

There has been a strange death in the quiet village of Shrewton: old Donny Caspian has lost his head. In the Copper Kettle tea rooms, Tom Rice, a junior nobody from the Treasury, puzzles over the details of the case. He has been sent by his superiors to oversee the investigation, but is he supposed to help or hinder? At the next table, octogenarian superspy Edie Banister nibbles a slice of cake and struggles not to become Miss Marple. But what is the connection between the two? Who killed Donny Caspian, and why? Taking in Rice’s present and Edie’s daring past, from duels on shipboard to death in back alleys, we are introduced to a character from Harkaway’s upcoming novel, Angelmaker.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this short story. As an introduction to Angelmaker, I can’t imagine it’s very necessary. As an introduction to Harkaway’s writing style, it is a story that you will probably find the words “endearing” and “delightful” used to describe it, and its content full of “whimsy”. While they are accurate, I think it would also be necessary to add “frustrating” and even “irritating” to the description. I have extremely mixed feelings about this. Part of this may be because of my mood when I read it – I was having quite the bout of book-indecision – and yet, even with hindsight, I still find myself less-than-satisfied with this short story.

Comics Round-Up (Feb.8): Zenescope


I’ve only recently started reading Zenescope titles and so far have been impressed with everything they have to offer. This is a big week, so I wanted to look at as many of the new releases as possible. This meant catching up with some of the shorter series (such hardship…!).

Reviewed herein: Alice #2, Grimm Fairy Tales: Myths & Legends #12, Grimm Fairy Tales: The Library #1-4, Jurassic Strike Force 5 #0-2, Neverland: Hook #1-3

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Awesome NECROPOLIS Competition, Elsewhere

Dempsey-NecropolisI don’t really know if I want to advertise this, as I have entered the competition myself, but it’s such an awesome competition, I thought I would share the details here.

Author Michael Dempsey [interview] is so excited about the excellent critical and reader responses to his sci-fi crime thriller, NECROPOLIS (published by Night Shade Books), that he’s decided to celebrate by giving away some pretty awesome prizes (US only, I’m afraid). The competition runs until March 18, 2012.

An Interview with ADAM CHRISTOPHER


The third interview in my quest to interview as many of 2012’s more exciting debut authors (see also: Myke Cole and Anne Lyle), I bring you Adam Christopher – New Zealand transplant to the UK, blogger and now published author of noir-flavoured post-super-hero Empire State. I’ve been intrigued by the premise of Adam’s novel ever since I first read about it on his website. With the novel now available, and receiving very good buzz and reviews around the genre interweb community, it seemed a perfect time to get to know a little bit more about Adam himself, his novels, and his writing process.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Exclusive First Sneak Peek: “Songs of the Earth” by Elspeth Cooper MMP (Gollancz)

Here is an exclusive(!) first-look at the mass-market paperback edition of Elspeth Cooper’s Songs of the Earth. An entirely new design from Dominic Harman. The novel is already available in the UK in hardcover and trade paperback, and out in the US February 28th).

The smaller paperback edition will be released in the UK in late February. Take a look:


I really like this design – in fact, I much prefer it to the original artwork. This is more arresting and intriguing, whereas the previous artwork just didn’t much stand out, if I’m honest.

What do you think of the new design?

Also on CR: Interview with Elspeth Cooper, & Songs of the Earth review

Comics Round-Up (Feb.8)


Along with these new issues (all of which are pretty great), this week I’ve been reading some older material for a series of reviews looking at series beginnings. Those will start cropping up on the blog over the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes open for them. Anyway, without further ado, I give you a great evil-superhero collection, another fairy tale-inspired weird journey, and some ninja beat-downs.

A second round-up will go live later today, taking a look at the Zenescope releases.

Reviewed Herein: Irredeemable Vol.8, Memorial #3, Snake Eyes #10

Monday, February 06, 2012

Book Indecision: March 2012

Ok, I feel like reading something a little “older” than usual. CR has focused predominantly on newer titles – partly because I am myself relatively new to reading genre fiction – but there are hundreds of novels that were released before I really started paying attention to the fantasy and sci-fi genres at large. There are a few in particular that have caught my eye, and while they are not necessarily old by, say, Tolkien or even Gemmell standards, they’ve nevertheless been around for a fair while. (Actually, speaking of Gemmell, I should try Legend at some point, too…)

I’ve narrowed the choices for the next round of Latecomer reviews down to three titles, and I’d like you to help me choose which to read and review first. Here are the choices:


Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice (Book One in the Farseer Trilogy)

James Barclay’s Dawnthief (Book One in The Chronicles of the Raven)

Neal Asher’s Gridlinked (the first Agent Cormac novel)

Which one should I read first, and why? I’ll probably go with the one that gets the most recommendations, unless someone writes a particularly compelling reason to read another.

“Cadian Blood”, by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Black Library)

Dembski-Bowdeb-CadianBlood_thumbThe Imperial Guard attempt to purge a horde of plague zombies!

When the Imperial shrine world of Kathur is blighted by Chaos, the brave Guardsmen of Cadia are sent to reclaim it. The plague of Nurgle has set in deeply on the planet, forcing the Cadians into battle with an innumerable legion of the infected. In the midst of battle, Captain Parmenion Thade is thrust into an unlikely commanding role. Yet, he cannot imagine what lies ahead on Kathur, and just how important it will be to ensure victory there…

I’m a big fan of Aaron DB’s novels – his Night Lords series and his Horus Heresy contribution The First Heretic are among the best novels Black Library has ever published. I completely missed Cadian Blood, his debut novel when it was available in print, and have been meaning to read it ever since it was made available as an eBook. While it does not quite match his others, it is still a really good novel, and one that shows the promise he would later build on.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

A Quick Chat with SAM HUMPHRIES


In April, Boom Studios will release Fanboys vs. Zombies, a comic series about zombies crashing San Diego Comic Con, written by Sam Humphries. Humphries is a star of the self-publishing comic scene, who created Our Love Is Real, as well as helping to adapt and working on the series John Carter: Gods of Mars for Marvel, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’s characters.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

“Grimm Fairy Tales” Volume 1 (Zenescope)


Our favourite fairy tales, reimagined

Writer: Ralph Tedesco, Joe Tyler | Artist: H.G. Young

Red Riding Hood is forced to confront the insatiable hunger of a terrifying beast; Cinderella seeks a shocking vengeance for the years of torture she’s endured; Hansel and Gretel realise that the problems they left behind at home are nothing compared to the horror that awaits them on their ill-advised journey; a desperate girl makes a deal with the hideous Rumplestiltskin only to find she may lose much more than she ever imagined; Sleeping Beauty learns that narcissism can be a very gruesome trait to possess; and an envious sister finds her extreme measures to capture the man of her dreams may lead to much worse than just heartbreak from the Robber Bridegroom.

This is the first review in what I hope to be an on-going series, in which I take a look at the first collected volumes of established comic series (I’ve already reviewed Irredeemable and Incorruptible). This volume collects the first six issues in Zenescope’s ground-breaking series of alternative fables. The series has just hit its 59th issue, but it has also spawned a number of short spin-offs and parallel series (Wonderland being perhaps the most popular). I’m only slowly becoming familiar with the Grimm Fairy Tales line of comics, having read just the 2011 Holiday Special and the inaugural issue of their latest spin-off series, Alice.

Like the original fairy tales, each story has a message, and in this series the writers have altered them slightly to look at modern day, as well as classic issues – some of them were surprising and not at all what I’d been expecting. It’s an interesting series and, while flawed, it has a lot going for it and it’s not hard to see why it has managed to establish itself so well.

Friday, February 03, 2012

“The Secret History of Fantasy” edited by Peter S Beagle (Tachyon)

Beagle-SecretHistoryOfFantasyReviewed by Alyssa

A whole new (old) fantasy?

Step right up and buy your ticket to the impossible marvels of the Barnum Museum. Take a highly caffeinated ride through the Empire of Ice Cream. If you dare, hunt feral archetypes deep within a haunted English forest. Or conquer the New World with a band of geographically-challenged Norsemen.

Tired of the same old fantasy? Here are the stories that you’ve never imagined possible. Nineteen extraordinary writers offer much-needed antidotes to clichéd tales of sword and sorcery. Combining the best of the old and the new, these instant classics will inspire even the most jaded of readers. Beloved author and anthologist Peter S. Beagle reveals the secret: fantasy is back and it’s better than ever.

The Secret History of Fantasy comes with a lot of big names attached to it: notably Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, but also Gregory Maguire, Francesca Lia Block, Octavia E. Butler, Patricia A. McKillip, Jonathan Lethem, Yann Martel, and Susanna Clarke, to name but a few. Add to that Peter S. Beagle (whose The Last Unicorn I read only recently and loved) as both editor and contributor, and expectations are pretty high. As it turns out, it is every bit as good as it should be: Beagle has performed his task thoughtfully and with dedication, and the stories are original, varied, and distinctive. This collection is a very good read.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

“Broken Blade” by Kelly McCullough (Ace)


A good, if flawed start to a new series

Once a fabled Blade of Namara, Aral Kingslayer fought for justice and his goddess alongside his familiar, a living shadow called Triss. Now with their goddess murdered and her temple destroyed, they are among the last of their kind. Surviving on the fringes of society, Aral becomes a drunken, broken, and wanted man, working whatever shadowy deal comes his way. Until a mysterious woman hires him to deliver a secret message-one that can either redeem him or doom him.

I’d been looking forward to reading Broken Blade for a while, ever since I stumbled across it through Twitter. It falls squarely within the new wave of assassin- and thief-related fantasy, which I’ve been rather enjoying, but at the same time offers some interesting twists on what have become the tropes in that sub-genre. The novel is a good beginning to a new series, with plenty going for it, but it nevertheless did not meet all my expectations. It is, however, probably perfect for fans of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series.

Upcoming: DC Announces Watchmen Prequels…


… and I really don’t understand why so many people are getting into such a tizzy over it. Most of my initial impression was drawn from the blizzard of tweets that have been cropping up throughout the day, so bear with me. They have been described as in DC’s own announcement “As highly anticipated as they are controversial.”

“It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. “After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original.”

Right off the bat, I should state that I’ve seen the movie (which I thought was brilliant), but have not read the graphic novel – only because I just never got around to buying it. Therefore, I do not have the connection or emotional attachment to the original material that I know some people do. I was also unaware of the long history of friction between Alan Moore and DC Publishing.

Nevertheless, I really don’t see why a lot of people are getting themselves so worked up about this. An NPR article claims that “Comic-book nerds are outraged today” resulting in much “teeth-gnashing” and the internet “hit[ing] Defcon.2”, but all I’ve noticed is some mild grumbling referring to much anger on the part of comic fans. The author of the NPR piece, Marc Hirsh, nevertheless then goes on to call DC “stupid” for making the decision to commission and release these comics, and proceeds to write an article filled with derision and far more adverbs than necessary. In fact, it’s the only piece I’ve read that includes the outrage many others have mentioned.

However. If there has been outrage, I don’t really understand it. If you don’t think there should be prequels or anything else Watchmen-related, then… don’t read them.

Or am I missing something fundamental here?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Artwork: “Le Baiser du Rasoir” by Daniel Polansky (Bragelonne)

I should start this with a hat-tip to Justin over at Staffer’s Musings for showcasing this cover earlier today. (While I’m at it, his is a blog you should all be reading, so go check it out if you haven’t already.)

I offer it with but one word of comment: Wow…


Ok, maybe not just one word – you didn’t really think I’d be able to do that, did you? I really like this. I haven’t read Low Town/Straight-Razor Cure yet (soon, though), so I can’t comment on whether or not it suits the tone and content of the novel, but I really do love everything about it: the colours, composition and atmosphere are really great, and it makes me think of Sherlock Holmes and From Hell all at the same time. This is one of the best covers I’ve seen in a while.

Also on CR: Interview with Daniel Polansky


Update: Just for completion’s sake, here are the US and UK covers for Polansky’s novel: