Saturday, March 31, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Mar.28) the Second


A great collection this week, as more of the DC New 52 move into their seventh month – Batman throws down with Bane, more 19th Century Gotham adventures, the rise of the Vampires, and Superman squares off against a new villain and troubles in his ‘day job’. A handful of Zenescope titles continue in fine form. Zombies in London. And Marvel’s series-spanning mega-event finally kicks off.

I’m going to be adding more images from the previews available for many of these issues, in order to give people a better idea of what the artwork is like – I’m starting to wonder if the limited vocabulary I have to accurately and appropriately describe some of the artists’ styles isn’t broad enough. So, a bit more of a work-in-progress, but I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do these round-ups.


Reviewed Herein: All-Star Western #7, Avengers vs. X-Men #0, Batman: Dark Knight #7, Grimm Fairy Tales #70, Grimm Fairy Tales: Myths & Legends #14, I Vampire #7, Jurassic Strike Force 5 #3, Justice League Dark #7, New Deadwardians #1, Superman #7

Week in Review (Mar.24-)

A nice, mixed bag this week. There were a lot of great articles posted this past week. Enjoy!

Jezebel: “Racist Hunger Games fans are disappointed” by Dodai Stewart [Article]

Frankly, I’m stunned there are people like this out there still. Especially people willing to air their racism in public! One fan of the series said the casting of a black actor for a character described in the books as having “dark brown skin” “ruined” the movie?! Unbelievable!

A Dribble of Ink: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins [Review]

Related to the above post, but on the fiction side. As can be expected from Aidan, this is a great, in-depth review of the mega-selling YA novel.

A Dribble of Ink: “We All Love a Good Show” by Robert Jackson Bennett [Article]

Another good post from ADoI, but earlier in the week. I’m a big fan of Bennett’s novels and writing-style, and I thought this was a great article. [Also, while I’m at it, I really like ADoI’s new design.] If I could just carve out enough time to read The Troupe…

Fantasy Literature: “Marion Chats with Jon Courtenay-Grimwood” [Interview]

Rather self-explanatory what this is, but I loved Jon’s previous novel, The Fallen Blade, and am just waiting for the right time to read and review The Outcast Blade (the sequel). Want more from Jon? Check out his interview for Civilian Reader.

John Scalzi’s The Big Idea: “Alternative Histories” by Anne Lyle [Article]

“What if European explorers hadn’t succeeded in conquering the New World? What if they, not the Native Americans, were the ones facing an enemy they didn’t understand, an enemy they were ill-equipped to fight? That, in a nutshell, is the Big Idea behind The Alchemist of Souls, the first volume in my fantasy trilogy Night’s Masque. The roots lie farther back, however.” Really interesting article. Also made me even more eager to get to The Alchemist of Souls…

Bastard Books: Interview with Tim Marquitz

Tim Marquitz has been on my radar for a little while, now, but given how many other books I have and have received, I just haven’t managed to read anything just yet. After reading this interview, though, my interest has been piqued. Nicely done.

The Speculative Scotsman: “Becoming a New Type of Reader” by Amanda Rutter [Article]

Which type of reader are you? I’ve been many of these types. A nice article, and it’s always nice to see Amanda back on the blogosphere.

Bookworm Blues: “Author Interview – Alex Bledsoe”

As I wrote in the comments on the interview, I’ve never seen an Alex Bledsoe book on any shelf in any bookstore I’ve been in… Why?! Is he just selling out immediately, or are there just not enough people ordering his novels in? A literary mystery!

Oh, and it’s an interesting interview.

Foreign Affairs: Game of Thrones as History” by Kelly DeVries & “Game of Thrones as Theory” by Charli Carpenter [Articles]

These two articles were an interesting surprise, and I stumbled across them only while checking for to see if there was a new FA issue…

DeVries, a medieval military historian, opens his article with a paragraph guaranteed to make some fantasy fans irritated, so just be aware before clicking through to the article that he isn’t as up on the modern Fantasy genre as he is on Military History. Moving on. The author examines the assertion that Martin’s world is a realistic and accurate representation of Medieval Europe, and comes to the conclusion that it actually isn’t very realistic, and that this is actually a very good thing: “As a historian of the period, I can assure you that the real Middle Ages were very boring – and if Martin’s epic were truly historically accurate, it would be very boring too.”

For those with a little understanding of International Relations theory, I’d also recommend Carpenter’s piece, which tries to look at the novel and HBO series through a Realist lens – while the two media “are laced with Hobbesian metaphors, Machiavellian intrigues, and Carr-like calculations of power”, the author nevertheless finds that “the deeper message is that realism alone is unsatisfying and unsuccessful”.

I should warn you that there are a few spoilers in these two articles.


On Civilian Reader this week, things have been very busy as well. Along with the two comics reviews (#1 & #2), I’ve reviewed Stuart Woods’s Capital Crimes, James Swallow’s Garro: Legion of One, V.M. Zito’s The Return Man and James Lovegrove’s Age of Anansi. If you liked the Age of Anansi review, then have a read of this week’s interview with Lovegrove.

Next week is shaping up quite nicely, too: already lined up are interviews with both Helen Lowe (Monday) and Lyndsay Faye (Wednesday), reviews of Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Void Stalker (Tuesday – it was awesome) and Faye’s Gods of Gotham (Thursday or Friday). I’m also aiming to get a few more graphic novel reviews up there, a couple of bumper comics round-ups, and hopefully an audio-book review (Graham McNeill’s Eye of Vengeance). So a good, strong start to April.

Feel free to share more interesting links in the comments, if you think there are any that I’ve missed that readers will find interesting.

Friday, March 30, 2012

“Witchblade, Volume 1: Witch Hunt” (Top Cow/Image)


A great place to start with Witchblade

Writer: Ron Marz | Artist: Mike Choi

Witchblade bearer and New York City Police Detective Sara Pezzini is found unconscious, having been beaten by an unknown attacker. The only clues as to what happened are the cryptic offerings of an antique shop owner who has a surprising knowledge of the Witchblade. Now Sara must uncover the mystery in order to defend the city, and the world, she was chosen to protect.

This book is the beginning of a new take on the Witchblade series and character. Sara Pezzini remains the bearer of the eponymous weapon, and Witch Hunt kicks off a whole new story, with a couple of new characters thrown into the mix. It’s a brilliant starting point to this great series. I really enjoyed this book – it ticks off a number of fictional elements that I always seem to like (thriller, supernatural, action, and so forth). It’s also stunning to look at.

New “PROMETHEUS” Trailer

Still don’t know too much about the movie, but if this trailer doesn’t whet your appetite, I don’t know what will:

Written by Damon Lindelof and John Spaihts, Prometheus is directed by master-director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner and many other superb movies).

The movie also has a pretty awesome cast: Noomi Rapace (original Swedish versions of the Millennium Trilogy), Charlize Theron (many great things), Michael Fassbender (X-Men First Class, Inglorious Basterds, and many more), Guy Pearce (LA Confidential and many more), Idris Elba (TV’s Luthor), and Logan Marshall-Green (The O.C., 24, and more).

For more information, visit the Official Facebook Site.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Artwork: “Blackwood” by Gwenda Bond (Strange Chemistry)

A bit late, but I only just saw this cover artwork  - for Gwenda Bond’s upcoming novel, Blackwood – for the first time today:


I really like this – atmospheric, “clean gothic”, and the snake’s pretty cool, too. The piece is by Steven Wood. The final cover was revealed today, and is below.

Bond-BlackwoodHere’s the synopsis for the novel:

On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

“The Return Man” by V.M. Zito (Orbit/Hodder)

Zito-ReturnManA great zombie apocalypse tale with an interesting twist

The outbreak tore the US in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness, known by survivors as the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again. But in the wastelands of America, you never know who — or what — is watching you.

This novel caught my eye a while ago, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting it ever since. I’ve not read much zombie fiction, because I’ve always had an uninformed prejudice against it, believing it might be rather limited as a genre. After reading Chuck Wendig’s Double Dead, watching The Walking Dead and reading The Return Man, however, I am certainly re-evaluating that position. This novel is engaging, tense, gripping and very well written. I was hooked from the get-go.

Comics Round-Up (Mar.28)


A smaller selection of comics all ’round this week (in this and the upcoming second round-up), with just four that caught my attention. They are, however, from three series I am particularly fond of, so that’s a good thing. I’ve also started writing shorter reviews, now that the series are becoming more established and I don’t want to offer up too many spoilers.

Reviewed Herein: G.I.Joe: Cobra #11, Magic: The Gathering #3, The Portent #2-3

Wow. New Black Library Artwork

A couple of new pieces of Black Library artwork has made its way onto the internets these past couple of days, and they’re both awesome, so I’m sharing them here. Naturally.

First up, the atmospheric and moody art for Nick Kyme’s Scorched Earth, an upcoming Horus Heresy novella (I don’t think it’s going to be a limited edition one…), by Neil Roberts:


Second, the cover for Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Betrayer (also Horus Heresy, I believe – although I’m not sure if it’s a novel, novella, or another limited edition), which he shared today on his blog. The art is also by Neil Roberts:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

“Age of Anansi” by James Lovegrove (Solaris)


A Pantheon short story

A journey into a dark heart of deceit, lies and ancient gods.

Dion Yeboah leads an orderly life... until the day the spider appears. What this ordinary-looking arachnid turns out to be is Anansi, the trickster god of African legend, and its arrival throws Dion’s life into chaos.

Lawyer Dion’s already impressive legal brain is sharpened. He becomes nimbler-witted and more ruthless than ever before, both in and out of court. Then he discovers the price he has to pay for these newfound skills. He must travel to America and take part in a contest between the avatars of all the trickster gods. In a life-or-death battle of wits, at the end only one person will be left standing.

This was my first Pantheon story – I keep getting distracted from the others, and for a while I laboured under the misconception that they were chronologically linked, when they are actually all stand-alones. I’m really glad I read this, though, as it’s a great introduction to Lovegrove’s writing and also the conceit of the series: what would life be like if these ancient myths, legends and deities were real? In Age of Anansi, the trickster gods are real, and eager as ever to mess with the humans. I enjoyed this.

An Interview with JAMES LOVEGROVE


James Lovegrove is a prolific speculative fiction author, and one who I really need to read. I’ve got three of his books lined up for review in the very near future, but in advance of that, I thought I’d get in touch with him to find out a little more about his various on-going fiction projects. Reading his answers only made me more eager to read his work, so expect a review in the very near future (if I haven’t managed to get one done already…)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

“For the Fallen” by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Black Library)

BlackLibrary15-08-ForTheFallen (ADB)

A poignant micro-eBook

A historian visiting the ruins of Rynn’s World has an unexpected encounter with Crimson Fists Space Marines that will change the way he looks at history forever.

Seems to be connected to the story of Steve Parker’s Rynn’s World (part of Black Library’s Space Marine Battles series), as well as Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s own One Hate, a short-story that appeared in the Heroes of the Space Marines anthology.

For the Fallen is a pretty good glimpse into the WH40k setting, away from the battlefront. Unlike Abnett’s Kill Hill, this story looks at the emotional nobility of the Astartes, rather than their potential for savagery. The small contingent of Crimson Fists are on Rynn’s World to remember their fallen comrades, and we get a glimpse of one of their rituals of remembrance. It’s quite a touching, poignant scene. Dembski-Bowden gives the short story a reverential, sombre-yet-martial atmosphere. It’s a very short example of what Aaron’s best at: making these post-human, giant warriors feel human, more easy to relate to. It’s quite superb.

I’m not familiar with any other fiction featuring the Crimson Fists, so I may just have to give Rynn’s World and One Hate a try.

In the meantime, however, there’s going to be a fair bit more of Aaron D-B’s work featured on Civilian Reader: I’ve started Void Stalker, the last in his Night Lords trilogy, today; I will also listen to Butcher’s Nails at the gym this week, and soon after that read The Emperor’s Gift, all three of which I’ve managed through to acquire early. Given how much of I enjoy Aaron D-B’s work, I’m absolutely stoked to have more to read. (I also have Helsreach, Aaron’s Space Marine Battles novel to read at some point.)

“Garro: Legion of One” by James Swallow (Black Library)


The second Nathaniel Garro Audio Drama

Read by Toby Longworth

Nathaniel Garro, loyalist Death Guard, and hero of the Eisenstein, has found a new calling in his service to the Emperor. Surrounded by a cloak of secrecy, Garro travels the galaxy in pursuit of his new goal. His quest will lead him to heart of the most destructive warzones, and reveal a secret that will change the course of the Horus Heresy itself...

This is the second audio drama featuring Nathaniel Garro, loyalist Death Guard, hero of Flight of the Eisenstein, and special agent of Malcador the Sigilite, the Regent of Earth. Garro and his pair of comrades are on Isstvan III, long after the treachery and a year after Oath of Moment. I enjoyed this audiobook, and it manages to improve on its predecessor quite well.

Paperback Release: “Stands A Shadow” by Col Buchanan (Tor)

Buchanan-2-StandsAShadowJust wanted to give a quick heads up about the paperback release of Col Buchanan’s Stands A Shadow, the second in his Heart of the World series.

I really enjoyed both of Buchanan’s novels, and wanted to take this opportunity give it another shout-out on here, in case anyone missed it the first time around. I think I’m right in saying both of the novels have received pretty good press across the board.

Here are a handful of snippets from my review of July 2011, just to give you an idea of just how much I enjoyed it (with hindsight, I still stand by my review 100%):

“With Stands a Shadow, Buchanan has done everything to build and improve on the first novel.”

“One of Buchanan’s greatest strengths is his gift for characterisation – even peripheral, single-scene characters are well-defined and realistic. His main cast are unique characters with recognisable voices and styles of their own, and there is a sense of getting to know them as the novel progresses. This makes the whole book a very enjoyable read as, even if a character is only fleeting, they never feel pointless or overtly a narrative device.”

“On the strength of both Farlander and Stands a Shadow, I can only see Buchanan getting better with each new novel. If you like your fantasy grand in scope but intimate in detail and character-driven, then the Heart of the World series is perfect for you.”

“Engaging and addictive, Stands a Shadow is one of the best novels I’ve read this year, and therefore very highly recommended.”

To celebrate the paperback release, Buchanan’s also got a newly re-vamped website with extra content and features. Check it (and the series!) out if you want to learn more.

Both Farlander and Stands A Shadow are available now in the UK, and Stands A Shadow will be published in paperback on July 31st in the United States.

Also on CR: Farlander & Stands A Shadow [Reviews], Interview with Col Buchanan

Artwork: BLOOD & FEATHERS by Lou Morgan (Solaris)

Just saw the (possibly) final artwork for Lou Morgan’s eagerly-anticipated debut novel, Blood & Feathers:


I really like this cover – it takes what was a very cool preliminary design (which I included in the interview post) and has just made it even more awesome. I can’t wait to read the novel!

Blood & Feathers will be published by Solaris in August 2012, and is definitely on my Most Anticipated list. Here’s the synopsis to whet your appetites:

“'What’s the first thing you think of when I say ‘angel’?” asked Mallory. Alice shrugged. “I don’t know... guns?”

Alice isn’t having the best of days: she got rained on, missed her bus, was late for work. When two angels arrive, claiming her life so far is a lie, it turns epic, grand-scale worse. The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating; an age-old balance is tipping, and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. The angels must act to restore the balance – or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever.

Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory – a disgraced angel with a drinking problem – Alice will learn the truth about her own history... and why the angels want to send her to hell.

What do the Fallen want from her? How does Mallory know so much about her past? What is it the angels are hiding and can she trust either side? Caught between the power plays of the angels and Lucifer himself, it isn’t just hell’s demons that Alice will have to defeat...

Also on CR: Interview with Lou Morgan

Catching Up With the Book Haul

It’s been a loooong time since I did one of these, but because the past few weeks have been amazing for books, I thought I’d use this opportunity for a quick round-up of what you can expect to appear on the blog in the next few weeks and months – some of these have arrived quite early, so I’ll hold back on them until closer to their publication dates.

This is not exhaustive (some very exciting books came in the mail after I took the photo below), so there is actually going to be even more awesome stuff up here as well. This post also doesn’t talk about the comics and graphic novels that will feature on the blog, but I’ll do a separate post for those.


Monday, March 26, 2012

“Capital Crimes” by Stuart Woods (Signet/Penguin)

Woods-CapitalCrimesA ideologically-motivated serial killer in DC?

When a prominent conservative politician is killed inside his lakeside cabin, authorities have no suspect in sight. And two more seemingly different deaths might be linked to the same murderer. From a quiet D.C. suburb to the corridors of power to a deserted island hideaway in Maine, Will, his CIA director wife, Kate, and the FBI will track their man, set a trap-and await the most dangerous kind of quarry, a killer with a cause to die for...

This is the second novel in Stuart Woods’s Will Lee series that I’ve read, and I blitzed through it quicker than my first, The Run. It’s tightly plotted, engaging and extremely fast-paced. Despite not focusing on politics quite as much as I would have liked, this novel is very enjoyable, and I was hooked from the very beginning.

Preview: “AVX: VS #1” (Marvel)

To go alongside Marvel’s upcoming mega-event, Avengers vs. X-Men, the publisher will be releasing an “explosive, high-octane action packed tie-in”, simply called “AVX: VS”. A six-issue mini-series, it features “cover to cover battles” that won’t appear in Marvel’s other title. The mini-series will be handled by the creative teams of Jason Aaron & Adam Kubert and Kathryn & Stuart Immonen. I’m not really sure which series I’ll be reading in this big event – having not read many of the titles that will feature Avengers vs. X-Men content and story, I worry I may be a little lost… Ah well. Regardless, this looks like it could be a lot of fun.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Mar.21) the Second


This is a very good week for comics – not only did I really like a couple of the new IDW issues (particularly Smoke & Mirrors), but the crop of DC titles is stellar, as were the others I picked up. Two debut issues, five seventh innings, two second outings, and a final chapter.

There’s one other comic that I picked up this week, but have not included here, and that’s Freedom #1 – it’s a bumper issue (more a graphic-novelette, really) and so I’m going to give it a separate, more in-depth review of its own.

In the meantime, here are mini-reviews of ten pretty great comics.


Reviewed: Avengers X-Sanction #4, Batman #7, Catwoman #7, Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1, Justice League #7, Nightwing #7, No Place Like Home #2, Red Hood & the Outlaws #7, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi #2, Super Crooks #1

Cool “Alchemist of Souls” Wallpaper

Just a quick artwork post, this time taking a look at the computer wallpaper now available for Anne Lyle’s debut, Alchemist of Souls:

Bit difficult to see it here, but it should embiggen if you click on it. Or, head on over to Anne’s blog to get it in two different sizes.

I should be reading Alchemist of Souls in the next week or so, time permitting. It’s a novel I keep “saving for later” – I’ve had it a while, and have a habit of doing this with books I’m really eager to read, especially if I receive them quite early. I do the same with long articles in magazines. And, apparently, graphic novels, now… I don’t really know why I do this, though. One of the many mysteries of Stef…

Anyway, if you haven’t checked out The Alchemist of Souls, I suggest you do – it’s been receiving rave reviews from all over the blogosphere. While you’re about it, check out the interview Anne did for Civilian Reader.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Week in Review (Mar.19-23)

I’m afraid I wasn’t paying too much attention to what was going on around the internets this week, and spent a lot more time away from my computer (some would say this is a blessing…). I did, however, catch a couple of interesting articles:

A Dribble of Ink: “So Long, New York Times Review of Books (With Apologies to Dad)” by Myke Cole [Article]

Myke visits Aidan’s Dribble of Ink to talk about blogs and their value. The flatterer even included a mention of Civilian Reader. There are some very endearing comments about his dad, too.

Mark Lawrence’s Blog: “Turning the Tables #6: Jane Johnson” [Interview]

Ok, this was actually last week, but I missed it somehow, so thought I’d share it again here. Mark interviews his editor. In case anyone’s interested, Mark also interviewed me a while back, which was a rather surreal experience.

Ranting Dragon: “Geekery Grab Bag #1: ALL THE THINGS, or: Let’s Kickstart This Sucker!” by Garrett [Article]

This was a fun article that took a look at a number of interesting “geekery” around the ’net. It includes Chuck Wendig, C.E. Murphy, Kickstarter and more. Check it out.

 Orbit Books: “The Origin of the (Undead) Species” by V.M. Zito [Article]

“I wonder if Charles Darwin was a zombie fan.”

I’m currently reading Zito’s novel, The Return Man, at the moment (I should finish it in about an hour, actually), and thought this was a fun little article about zombies as a species: “while biologists haggle over birds, many zombie fans are divided over what constitutes a ‘real’ zombie. Is the zombie slow or fast? Alive or dead? Mute or able to talk your ear off, right before it bites your ear off?”

Los Angeles Times: What The Hunger Games really means” by Steven Zeitchik [Article]

“Where some see support for the Occupy Wall Street Movement, others see a warning about Big Government. Or a religious message, or ...”

The novel and movie have become, Zeitchik writer, that “rare piece of Hollywood entertainment: a canvas onto which disparate and even opposing ideologies are enthusiastically projected.”

I’ve neither read the novel nor seen the movie, but I have bought the book for my Kindle. I doubt I’ll get a chance to read it before I see it, but I do intend to read the trilogy at some point in the near future. Especially since I seem to have a taste for certain YA titles. [Thief’s Covenant and Fair Coin, in case you’re wondering.]

My Awful Reviews: “Thoughts on Scott” by Sam Sykes [Article]

In which author Sam Sykes ponders about Scott Lynch. It’s a short ode to one of Sykes’s favourite authors, and I’m sure many people can appreciate that Mr Lynch is, indeed, the bee’s knees when it comes to fantasy. He’s the author who rekindled my love for the genre back in 2008, and I’ve not looked back since. Sykes writes with his trademark wit, too, so it’s a fun read.

“Like most predators, Scott Lynch came into my life at a very opportune moment…”


The blog’s been semi-busy this week, with a few reviews: Kill Hill  by Dan Abnett, Kingdoms of Dust by Amanda Downum, Garro: Oath of Moment by James Swallow, and also a guest review by Shevaun for Brandon Sanderson’s The Final Empire. There have been a few non-review posts, too, but most notable are the interview with debut novelist Aiden Harte and a piece about why zombies need brains – which had contributions from Sam Sykes, Myke Cole, Justin Landon and Bastard Books.

This last article has given me an idea for an on-going series of posts, which will fall under the banner of “I Ask You”, in which I’ll seek out comments from around the literary community (authors, bloggers, publishers, etc.) on any topic that happens to grab my fancy at some point. I’ll try for a couple each month, maybe. If you’re interested, the next topic will be:

“I Ask You: Does the Sword make the (Wo)Man?”


Update: I forgot to mention this fantastic site/Tumblr thing, too, for some reason: T-Rex Trying… [It’s a topic I think about a lot, myself, so was delighted when Alyssa informed me of its existence!]

Friday, March 23, 2012

I Ask You: Why do Zombies need BRAAAINZZZZ?


So, I’m reading a novel about zombies at the moment (The Return Man by V.M. Zito – very good so far). I find that I have a bit of a problem in general with the shambling fellows. What are their motivations? They’re dead. Why do they have to eat brains? Unlike vampires, the eating of the brains does not have a rejuvenating effect, so… why? Being entirely unqualified to answer this myself, I decided I would seek some answers from around the speculative fiction community. Here’s what people were able to come up with. I’ll add more if and when people send them in.

[Feel free add your own thoughts in the comments.]

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Artwork: “BLOODSWORN” (Black Library)

Think this is a great piece, by Winona Nelson, for the third book in Nathan Long’s Ulrika the Vampire series (a spin-off from the awesome Gotrek & Felix series):


A particularly aggressive pose for Ulrika, I really like this cover. I really enjoyed the first two novels in the series – Bloodborn and Bloodforgedso I can’t wait to get my hands on this novel! Here’s the synopsis:

Returning to Nuln after her adventures in Praag, Ulrika finds the Lahmian vampires preparing for war. Across the Old World, their rivals, the sinister von Carsteins, attack their strongholds and lead the witch hunters to their hidden lairs. Spurned by her sisters, Ulrika forms an uneasy alliance with the von Carsteins in a plot to destabilise the Empire by striking at its very heart – they plan nothing less than the assassination of Emperor Karl Franz. With enemies on all sides and the Empire in flames, Ulrika must decide whether her future will see her living among the humans, or as their enemy.

Bloodsworn is published in June 2012, a particularly excellent and exciting month for Black Library books, with the release of two other most-anticipated novels of the year (indicated by *):

The Emperor’s Gift* and Butcher’s Nails (Horus Heresy audiobook) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, The Primarchs* edited by Christian Dunn (Horus Heresy anthology), and the second Ultramarines Omnibus by Graham McNeill.


Artwork: “Twilight Robbery”/“Fly Trap” by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan/HarperCollins)

Here’s a UK-vs.-US artwork post. Personally, I am firmly on the side of the UK artwork, which I think is stunning – the US one is… meh. Which do you prefer?


I haven’t read the novel, or the first in the series (“Fly By Night”), but I spotted the cover when browsing Macmillan’s website (for Adrian Tchaikovsky’s new covers, in case you’re interested…). Here’s the novel’s synopsis:

As dusk approaches, the good people of Toll-by-day slam shut their doors and tremble. New openings appear in the shadows, a black carriage rumbles through the streets and a wicked underworld emerges. It is time to discover Toll-by-Night – and it’s a very different place.

Black-eyed orphan Mosca Mye and conman Eponymous Clent are down on their luck. Again. So when they find themselves embroiled in a daring kidnap plot, the whiff of money is too tempting to resist. Before she knows it, Mosca is trapped in Toll’s deadly night city on a mission to rescue a girl she can't stand with only a midwife, a murderous goose and a war-crazed dandy knight to help her…

Walking Dead Videogame Trailer

Pinched directly from Tor UK’s blog, here’s the first trailer for the videogame of Walking Dead:

I’ve only seen season one of the TV series (which I thought was excellent), and have not yet read any of Rob Kirkman’s original comic series. I have a pretty low tolerance for zombie fiction, so I don’t know if/when I’ll get around to reading the graphic novels – I’m reading a zombie novel at the moment, and I tend to like a fairly long time between zombie-related media. The Walking Dead setting, however, is pretty great. I’ll have to get around to watching season two of the series, too…

KirkmanBonansinga-WalkingDead-RiseOfTheGovernorIf you click through the link to Tor’s blog, you’ll find another link to read the first three chapters of the Walking Dead novel, Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga.

Based on The Walking Dead graphic novels/comic books and the series starring Andrew Lincoln (Teachers, This Life and Love, Actually) and written/produced by Frank Darabont whose previous credits include The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, this is a new trilogy of books written by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, author of Perfect Victim and Shattered. Set in the world created by Robert Kirkman this standalone trilogy is fast-paced, action-packed storytelling about the lengths some men will go to survive. With new characters, new storylines and with the same in-depth character-based plotting that has made the television series such an immediate hit, this trilogy of novels is sure to be a hit with those who love zombies and those who have loved the TV series and comic books.

Not the most helpful synopsis, I must say – what’s it actually about?! Anyway, if I get the chance, I may give this a read.

“Garro: Oath of Moment” by James Swallow (Black Library)


A Horus Heresy Audiobook

In surviving the horrors on board the Eisenstein, Nathaniel Garro proved his courage and absolute loyalty to the Emperor.

On his return to Terra, Garro is despatched on a mission of even greater importance – a mission given to him by Malcador the Sigillite himself. He soon finds himself back amongst the stars and on the fields of battle, thrust into a warzone where the Ultramarines are purported to be battling a greenskin invasion.

Once again Garro must fight for survival, but now he also fights to achieve a higher purpose...

Read by Toby Longworth, this is the first of three audiobooks focusing on former Death Guard Nathaniel Garro, who we last saw in Flight of the Eisenstein. I must admit that I’ve not been the biggest fan of the medium (I struggled to get into audiobooks in the past), so I came in without too high expectations. Given the chronology of this story – the battle of Calth, roughly the same time (or near enough) as Know No Fear – I was interested to finally get around to it. And it’s actually a pretty good audiobook, and perfect for those times when you aren’t able to read, but want some sci-fi fiction.

American/Washington Political Thrillers

Hi everyone – just a quick post to ask for recommendations. I’m interested in reading more thrillers, and I particularly like American political thrillers with a focus on Washington. In the past few weeks, I’ve really been in the mood for this type of novel, so I’d really like some suggestions.

Here are the authors I already know and like:

- Vince Flynn

- Brad Thor

- Kyle Mills

- Stuart Woods

- David Baldacci

- Mike Lawson

- Alex Berenson

- Andrew Britton (R.I.P.)

Can anybody recommend any others?

I’ve tried one of Steve Martini’s, but I found it quite slow – anybody know if they improve? Also, I’m going to check out Philip Margolin, Richard Hawke and Margaret Truman.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Mar.21)


Another mixed bag, though this time rather Marvel- and IDW-heavy. (The week’s second round-up will be a lot more diverse.) I enjoyed most of these comics, but for some reason a couple didn’t really ignite my usual level of interest. I’m not sure if this is a result of lingering Man Flu symptoms, or if a couple of these issues just didn’t stack up to past experience. Regardless, let us get on with the reviews in this first (slightly late) Comics Round-Up…


Reviewed Herein: Avengers Assemble #1, Defenders #4, Infestation: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2, Memorial #4, Monocyte #3, Road Rage #2, Smoke & Mirrors #1, Snake Eyes #11, Amazing Spider-Man #680-1

Interview with AIDAN HARTE


Described as “Pavane meets The Sopranos, with a hefty dose of Rimbaldi artefacts from Alias”, I was really intrigued when I first heard of this novel. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy, too, which I’ll be reading and reviewing soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d get in touch with Aidan for an interview, to learn more about him, the book and his writing practices. And his answers just made me want to read it even more!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

“Kingdoms of Dust” by Amanda Downum (Orbit)


The Third Necromancer Chronicle

With her master dead and her oaths foresworn, necromancer and spy Isyllt Iskaldur finds herself in exile.

Hounded by assassins, she seeks asylum in Assar, the empire she so recently worked to undermine. There, warlords threaten the Empire’s fragile peace, and the empress is beset by enemies within the court. Even worse, darkness stirs in the deep desert. Ancient spirits are waking that could destroy Assar faster than any army.

Isyllt must travel into the heart of the desert to lay the darkness there to rest once more. But first she must stop an order of mages that will do anything to keep the Empire safe – even raze it to dust.

I really enjoyed Downum’s first two Necromancer Chronicles novels, so I had high hopes for this third instalment. It mostly met my expectations, and despite one niggle, was a very strong novel – exhibiting the same strengths that helped elevate the author’s first two novels above the herd. Gothic and mysterious, this is a series to savour.

“Kill Hill” by Dan Abnett (Black Library)

BlackLibrary15-01-KillHill (Abnett)

A Warhammer 40,000 Micro-story

A brand new Iron Snakes short story: Priad of Damocles, of the Iron Snakes of Ithaka, reaches the end of a long and gruelling campaign against orks. All he has to do is survive to reach Kill Hill…

To celebrate their 15th birthday, Black Library have lined up fifteen short story eBooks to go on sale from today until April 2nd. Priced at £0.79/€1/$1.25, they could be great introductions to Black Library authors’ work, both new and old. And I think Kill Hill will do a great job of introducing new readers to this character.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Upcoming: “Avenging Spider-Man: The Omega Effect Part 1” (Marvel)

A long time ago, I read a Spider-Man comic. It was connected to the Operation: Zero Tolerance Marvel event, and I quite liked it. Since then, I haven’t read a single Spider-Man comic. This will, this week, change – now that I’ve actually figured out which one I’d like to read, I’ll be trying out Amazing Spider-Man and Avenging Spider-Man. In the meantime, here’s a first-look at the cover of Avenging Spider-Man #6, which sees the beginning of The Omega Effect:

Spider-Man, Daredevil and the Punisher? Awesome! (Speaking of Daredevil, I’ll be reading and reviewing the first volume of Mark Waid’s run on the series in the next couple of weeks.) Here are three previews of internal pages – look at all the ninjas!

Guest Review: “The Final Empire” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor/Gollancz)

Reviewed by Shevaun


The first novel in Sanderson’s popular Mistborn series

What if the Dark Lord won?

A thousand years ago, evil came to the land and has ruled with an iron hand ever since. The sun shines fitfully under clouds of ash that float down endlessly from the constant eruption of volcanoes. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk are condemned to lives of servitude, sold as goods, labouring in the ash fields. But now a troublemaker has arrived and there is rumour of revolt. A revolt that depends on a criminal that no-one can trust and a young girl who must master Allomancy – the magic that lies in all metals.

A well imagined story-verse, with well-realised and rounded characters. I like my heroes to be a little bit more human, and Sanderson’s protagonists are nicely ambiguous, their motives and desires pleasantly (for the reader) unclear. Sanderson has created a new mythology that is rich in detail without being overly confusing, a common problem in fantasy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Artwork: “Etiquette & Espionage: The Finishing School Book the First” by Gail Carriger (Orbit)

Gail Carriger today unveiled the preliminary artwork for her next novel, Etiquette & Espionage: The Finishing School Book the First. And I think it’s really nice:


I couldn’t find out who designed it, but I must say, this is quite striking. I think I may prefer these to the Parasol Protectorate covers, too. It’s only going to feature on the novel’s ARCs, however (boo!), but the final version will only be “slightly different” (hurray!). Etiquette & Espionage will also be Carriger’s first hardback release, which is great news for readers and author alike!

More on CR: Reviews of Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, and Heartless (review of Timeless coming soon); and also a recent interview with Gail Carriger.


UPDATE: CORRECTION (19/03) – Etiquette & Espionage will actually be published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (LBYR).

Comics Round-Up (Mar.14) the Third


Now that I’ve caught up with DC’s New 52, a few of them will start popping up in these post-release round-ups again. I should, therefore, be able to start offering more diverse and less DC-heavy round-ups and reviews in the future. That being said, they still release a lot of great titles and some of my favourites. And this week’s releases – DC and otherwise – were pretty awesome on the whole. A very happy reader, here.


Reviewed Herein: Batgirl #7, Batman & Robin #7, Batwoman #7, Demon Knights #7, Grifter #7, The Ray #4, Resurrection Man #7, Saga #1, Saucer Country #1, Star Wars: Agent of the Empire #4, Suicide Squad #7, Thief of Thieves #2

[Demon Knights & The Ray were last-minute additions to the round-up.]

Week in Review (Mar.11-17)

A more varied selection of links this week, as I venture outside of the speculative genre blogosphere (a pilgrim in a foreign, unknowable wilderness: one that featured only token mentions of Game of Thrones, Hunger Games and lots of literary fiction…). I was able to find some very interesting articles this week.

Bastard Books: Interview with Myke Cole

Does this really need an explanation? Needless to say, Myke’s debut novel is a favourite of mine, so I’d recommend you read it if you haven’t yet. Here’s my review, another interview, and a guest post Myke wrote about Peter V. Brett’s novels.

Slate: “Leave Penguin Alone: Who cares if book publishers are colluding with Apple to raise e-book prices?” by Matthew Yglesias [Article]

Yglesias (an MSNBC political analyst and contributor) takes a look at the pending DoJ case that has been brought against Apple and a number of big-name publishing houses. A couple of interesting comments (of which there are many):

- “If there’s a case against the government’s actions it’s that the forces of disruption buffeting traditional publishing are much too large to be blocked by any cartel. The good news is that literary culture should survive either way.”

- “In bookstores,” Turow writes, “readers are open to trying new genres and new authors: It’s by far the best way for new works to be discovered.” – This I agree with, although it’s also possible that an eBook store could offer a similar function.

- “the Justice Department’s notion that we should fear a book publishers’ cartel is borderline absurd, on par with worrying about price-fixing in the horse-and-buggy market.”

- “the only way for these firms to stay viable is to publish books people like and to sell them at a price readers want to pay”

Yglesias’s article also has a link to… “Don’t Support Your Local Bookstore: Buying Books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you” by Farhad Manjoo [Article]

This is a very well-written, thought-provoking article. That I imagine a lot of readers of this blog might take issue with. That being said, I think he makes a lot of good points, despite how much we may wish he was wrong. [Please come back and leave comments here, if you have any! Same goes for any of these linked-articles.]

The author takes an alternative stance on the indie bookstores-vs.-Amazon debate to what you might expect from most (if not all) book-related blogs and news-sites. He is also even-handed in his position. For one, Manjoo is not blind to Amazon’s “wantonly callous” tactics that end up “destroying its competitors”. Nor, however, is he blind to Amazon’s strengths and positive aspects of its existence:

- “As much as I despise some of its recent tactics, no company in recent years has done more than Amazon to ignite a national passion for buying, reading, and even writing new books.”

- An interesting factoid (one that my own book-buying practices support): “Amazon has said that after people buy a Kindle reader, they begin purchasing e-books at twice the rate they’d previously purchased print titles. (And they keep buying print titles.)”

This article also has a number of interesting links embedded within. I spent a pleasant while clicking through the links in this and Yglesias’s article. It also reminded me of a conversation I had with Myke Cole and Peter V. Brett back in December (and it actually was a dark and stormy night, too, which added a pleasant pathetic fallacy to proceedings…).

Orbit Books: “R. Scott Bakker on A Game of Thrones and deconstructing the epic fantasy genre” by James Long, Adam Whitehead & R. Scott Bakker [Interview]

An author I’ve never had a chance to read, but a lot of people seem to think he’s the bee’s knees. An interesting interview with some good commentary.

American Prospect: “Hell’s Bells” by Abby McGanney Nolan [Article]

An interesting look at the rise of teen heroines in dystopian future fiction (Hunger Games, Divergent, Legend, Blood Red Road). In each of the novels looked at, Nolan explains and examines a common theme: “the teenage-girl narrator has grown up sheltered in a zone of relative comfort. Her troubles multiply as society’s flaws are revealed to her and she must fight for survival and the safety of her family.” The author also goes on about the presence of an “ideal young man” in each novel, all of whom seem perfect in every way (I haven’t read any of the novels, but do hope to read Hunger Games in the very near future, in my new-found interest in YA).

“In this recession-battered age, these four authors (including two in their mid-20s) present the wild possibility of love and social change amid the ruins. If there’s hope in dystopias, what’s impossible in our world?”

Staffer’s Musings: Interview with Anne Lyle

Again, pretty self-explanatory what this is. If you want more from Anne Lyle, check out my interview with her for this site, too. I hope to get to her debut, Alchemist of Souls, within the next week or so, depending on whether or not I get better and can start reading at a decent pace again.

LA Times, Hero Complex: “WonderCon 2012 – Mark Waid buys into digital, sells off his comics” by Noelene Clark [Article]

I’m a huge fan of Waid’s work, as can be seen from the amount of coverage I’ve given Irredeemable and Incorruptible, not to mention a couple of his other series. I recently also bought the first volume of his run on Daredevil (volume two is released in a couple months), which I hope to read and review in the next week or so.

“Waid announced [at WorldCon] that he is selling his extensive comic book collection to fund a weekly online comic series, which will launch in May.”

Quite a surprising move, but one that sort-of makes sense in a market that is slowly coming around to embracing the digital medium (see, for example, Marvel’s decision to start packaging a free digital copy with their $3.99 comics).

Waid said: “They don’t want to undercut the 1,800 Diamond retailers out there in the world, and I get it… I don’t want to undercut them either. But we’re playing a different game. The more of us that know how to do this for the Web, the better off the medium is.”

I also learned that both Incorruptible and Irredeemable will come to an end in May! Even though I had a feeling it was bound to happen, this still makes me a little sad.


On Civilian Reader this week, in case you’ve not been reading, we’ve had two interviews – with Gail Carriger and Gaie Sebold; a wealth of comic reviews (I’ve been rather under the weather this week, and they are easier to read and review), including my New 52 Catch-Ups (Batman and Bat-Family); and a review of a fun political thriller, The Run by Stuart Woods (first published in 2000). Sadly, as I was struck down in the “pribe ob libe” (as I seem to be writing everywhere)* by man-flu, my review of Kingdoms of Dust, the gothic third novel in Amanda Downum’s Necromancer Chronicles, will be postponed until Monday afternoon.

Next week, I hope to bring you more fiction reviews: a short guest review for Brandon Sanderson’s first Mistborn novel, Final Empire (on Monday morning), as well as a couple of short-story and audio-drama reviews. And maybe another thriller. Oh, and an interview with Aidan Harte, a debut author whose novel Irenicon will be published later this year by Jo Fletcher Books (and I’ll be reading and reviewing it at some point soon, too. I’m sure there will be more, but if I told you all of it, then it wouldn’t be a surprise.

* Sometimes I’m like a terrier with a joke – I keep using it and worrying at it until I think of some better quip to inflict on people across my various social media.