Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My New York Bookshelf (as of Oct.25th)


Things have been a bit quiet here at Civilian Reader, so I thought I’d write a quick post about some of the reviews readers can expect to see over the coming month or so. [This is by no means a definitive or exhaustive list, as things can always change and you can’t see the books I have on my Kindle – which is perched there on the top left.]

So, starting from the left and working across the photo, read on for some thoughts on these novels and non-fiction titles.

McNeill-HH-TheOutcastDeadThe Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

On the edges of the Heresy

The galaxy is burning. The Emperor’s loyal primarchs prepare to do battle with Warmaster Horus and his turncoat Legions on the black sand of Isstvan. Such dark times herald new and yet more terrible things still to come, and when Astropath Kai Zulane unwittingly learns a secret that threatens to tip the balance of the war, he is forced to flee for his life. Alongside a mysterious band of renegades, he plunges into the deadly underworld of Terra itself, hunted like a criminal by those he once trusted. In the face of betrayal, Kai must decide where his own loyalties lie and whether some truths should be buried forever.

This I’m reading at the moment and getting through at a pretty steady rate, so I won’t write very much about it (I’m hoping to have the review up this week). What I will say is that it’s very good, as can now be expected from the Horus Heresy series, although I think it’s going to receive a similar response to Prospero Burns, in that the events mentioned in the synopsis form only the second half of the book (which, to be fair, is more than was the case with PB). If you can look beyond that, though, this is a very interesting and engaging novel that delves a little deeper into events that occurred on Terra, at the sidelines of the Heresy. There are also moments that tie into the events of Graham’s previous Horus Heresy novel, A Thousand Sons. Another early observation – there are quite a few typos in the text…

One thing about this series, though, from a conversation with Alyssa today, is that the whole Horus Heresy series could form the basis of an interesting pedagogical discussion about history and the multiple perceptions that exist, rather than just that of the victor (who, as most of us know and accept, tend to write the histories).

Want to know more? Check out our interview with Graham.

Werner-RedDukeThe Red Duke by CL Werner (Black Library)

Marauding vampires from Black Library’s master of the macabre

Once a valorous and honourable knight of the realm, the Red Duke was betrayed and struck down in battle but rose again before death could truly claim him. As a bloodthirsty vampire lord he undertook a long campaign of butchery and terror before being defeated once more, and entombed for all time so that he could never again menace the Old World. But centuries later the witch Jacquetta resurrects this ancient evil, and the Red Duke stalks the night again – a new reign of terror plagues the lands of Bretonnia!

Ah, Mr Werner. One of the best writers of dark fantasy that I know, and certainly one whose work perfectly evokes the Warhammer world’s delightfully twisted and gothic nature. Really looking forward to this one, I’ll probably review this in a week, maybe just a little more than that (I want to give some other stuff a look first).

Gordon-GideonsWarGideon’s War by Howard Gordon (Simon & Schuster)

Political and Military action thriller from a producer of 24

Presidential Envoy Gideon Davis's behind-the-scenes negotiating skills have earned him the role of peacemaker in conflicts around the globe. But when he is called upon to bring in a rogue U.S. operative, Gideon finds himself embarking upon a dangerous new mission – one whose outcome could change the course of history.

Somewhere in the South China Sea sits the Obelisk, a state-of-the-art oil rig under seize from terrorists led by Gideon’s rogue agent himself. That rogue agent is Tillman Davis, and he has promised to turn himself in – but only to his brother, Gideon. Can Gideon rescue his brother, and put an end to a vast global conspiracy, or is it already too late?

I bought this on a whim, when I discovered that the new TV series Homeland was loosely based off this novel. Other than that, I just really felt like getting a few more thrillers read and reviewed, and I’ve liked a lot of the stuff Gordon’s worked on in the past (24), so figured this could be good as well.

McNeill-HE2-SonsOfEllyrionEllyrion by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

The High Elves march to war

Ulthuan is a land at the verge of destruction. At Lothern, a fell army marches against the elven defenders of Prince Imrik and Prince Tyrion. In Averlorn, two brothers fight for forgiveness and their right to defend their people. But at Tor Elyr, the conflict will be lost and won. The druchii army, led by Morathi and Issyk Kul, battles the gathered might of the high elves in a vast, destructive conflict. But Morathi has even grander plans than this – to destroy the vortex that holds Ulthuan together, plunging the island into a nightmare domain of Chaos. The noble elves must overcome their dark cousins, or else face the end of their race.

This is the second part of McNeill’s High Elf duology (I’ve already read part one, Defenders of Ulthuan). I hope to get to this soon, but I must admit that it’s not high on the to-be-read schedule. Nothing against the book, but there are just lots of other titles that are more enticing at the moment.

Cole-SO1-ControlPointShadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole (AceRoc/Penguin)

Highly anticipated Guns ‘n’ Sorcery novel from debut author

For a mil­len­nium, magic has been Latent in the world. Now, with the Great Reawak­ening, people are “coming up Latent,” man­i­festing dan­gerous mag­ical abil­i­ties they often cannot con­trol. In response, the mil­i­tary estab­lishes the Super­nat­ural Oper­a­tions Corps (SOC), a deadly band of sor­cerers ded­i­cated to hunting down “Selfers” who use magic out­side gov­ern­ment con­trol. When army officer Oscar Britton comes up Latent with a rare and pro­hib­ited power, his life turns upside down. Trans­formed overnight from gov­ern­ment agent to public enemy number one, his attempt to stay alive and evade his former friends drives him into a shadow world he never knew lurked just below the sur­face of the one he’s always lived in. He’s about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.

So, yeah… due to a postal snafu, I have three copies of this book (no database seems to believe that the building I’m staying in is a real place – it’s really here, I promise!). Control Point is one of my most-anticipated novels of 2012, in case anyone’s keeping score. I will be running a competition for two of them in the very near future. (Check back here on Monday…!)

Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to diving into this (although, the review won’t appear until early January).

If you want to read some more about Myke and his writing, check out his guest post and the interview he did here on CR.

Priest-BoneshakerBoneshaker & Ganymede by Cherie Priest (Tor)

Books 1 & 3 of Priest’s highly-praised Clockwork Century series

In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.

I’m still missing book two, I know, but I bought Boneshaker before going to The Strand in New York and seeing Ganymede for half-price, brand new. I picked up the first book because I’d dipped into it one day when I was in Barnes & Noble for a coffee and had forgotten to bring something with me to read. I ended up reading the first four chapters, which I thoroughly enjoyed. (See, having a coffee shop in a bookstore can help sales – though I admit that many people just read the books and magazines and don’t buy anything.) I’ll get Dreadnought (book two) after I finish Boneshaker.

It does bother me a little bit that I can’t get Clementine, which is the second story in the series – it was a limited print-run, but is available for US Kindle customers. I still don’t understand why this series doesn’t have a proper distributor/publisher/whatever in the UK. I think it would be really popular, if it was picked up and given the whole publicity shebang.

Johansen-BlackdogBlackdog by K.V. Johansen (Pyr)

A new voice in fantasy with potential

Long ago, in the days of the first kings in the north, there were seven devils...

And long ago, in the days of the first kings in the north, the seven devils, who had deceived and possessed seven of the greatest wizards of the world, were defeated and bound with the help of the Old Great Gods...

And perhaps some of the devils are free in the world, and perhaps some are working to free themselves still…

In a land where gods walk on the hills and goddesses rise from river, lake, and spring, the caravan-guard Holla-Sayan, escaping the bloody conquest of a lakeside town, stops to help an abandoned child and a dying dog. The girl, though, is the incarnation of Attalissa, goddess of Lissavakail, and the dog a shape-changing guardian spirit whose origins have been forgotten. Possessed and nearly driven mad by the Blackdog, Holla-Sayan flees to the desert road, taking the powerless avatar with him.

Necromancy, treachery, massacres, rebellions, and gods dead or lost or mad follow hard on their heels. But it is Attalissa herself who may be the Blackdog’s — and Holla-Sayan’s — doom.

I have Michael “Mad Hatter” to thank for this one – when we met last week he was kind enough to give me a copy of Blackdog, a book I had been eyeing in the stores all month, since arriving in the US. I wasn’t expecting it, so I’ll have to crowbar it into the review schedule soon – I’ve heard some very good and interesting things about it.

Griffith-VE-RiftWalkerVampire Earth: The Rift Walker by Clay & Susan Griffiths (Pyr)

Vampires rule the north and south in this Steampunk world

Princess Adele struggles with a life of marriage and obligation as her Equatorian Empire and their American Republic allies stand on the brink of war against the vampire clans of the north. However, the alliance's horrific strategy for total victory drives Adele to abandon her duty and embark on a desperate quest to keep her nation from staining its hands with genocide. Reunited with her great love, the mysterious adventurer known to the world as the Greyfriar, Adele is pursued by her own people as well as her vengeful husband, Senator Clark. With the human alliance in disarray, Prince Cesare, lord of the British vampire clan, seizes the initiative and strikes at the very heart of Equatoria.

As Adele labors to bring order to her world, she learns more about the strange powers she exhibited in the north. Her teacher, Mamoru, leads a secret cabal of geomancers who believe Adele is the one who can touch the vast power of the Earth that surges through ley lines and wells up at the rifts where the lines meet. These energies are the key to defeating the enemy of mankind, and if Princess Adele could ever bring this power under her command, she could be death to vampires. But such a victory will also cost the life of Adele's beloved Greyfriar.

The Rift Walker is the second book in a trilogy of high adventure and alternate history. Combining rousing pulp action with steampunk style, the Vampire Empire series brings epic political themes to life within a story of heartbreaking romance, sacrifice, and heroism.

I have mixed thoughts about this series – the first in the series, Greyfriar, has some great moments and the series as a whole has an interesting premise, but there was something a little off for me about the writing. Pyr were kind enough to ask me if I’d like to review the second book and send me a copy, and so I hope to get to it quite soon.

WilliamsM-EmperorsKnifeThe Emperor’s Knife by Mazarkis Williams (Jo Fletcher/Night Shade)

Highly anticipated fantasy debut

There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that attacks young and old, rich and poor alike. Geometric patterns spread across the skin, until you die in agony, or become a Carrier, doing the bidding of an evil intelligence, the Pattern Master. Anyone showing the tell-tale marks is put to death; that is Emperor Beyon’s law... but now the pattern is running over the Emperor's own arms.

His body servants have been executed, he ignores his wives, but he is doomed, for soon the pattern will reach his face. While Beyon’s agents scour the land for a cure, Sarmin, the Emperor's only surviving brother, awaits his bride, Mesema, a windreader from the northern plains. Unused to the Imperial Court's stifling protocols and deadly intrigues, Mesema has no one to turn to but an ageing imperial assassin, the Emperor’s Knife.

As long-planned conspiracies boil over into open violence, the invincible Pattern Master appears from the deep desert. Now only three people stand in his way: a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl from the steppes who saw a path in a pattern once, among the waving grasses - a path that just might save them all.

This is another novel on my most-anticipated list, and I’ve been saving it for longer than I expected (travelling, packing and finishing my PhD pushed it back a little). It’s going to be either the next or next-but-one read on my schedule, so expect the review within the next week or so. I believe it’s out this week in the UK, but not out until December 2011 in the US. I’ll be reviewing it next, after Outcast Dead.

Want to learn more about the book and author? Check out our interview with Mazarkis.

Jones-DesertOfSoulsThe Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones (Thomas Dunne)

A fantasy based in the Middle East

In 8th century Baghdad, a stranger pleads with the vizier to safeguard the bejeweled tablet he carries, but he is murdered before he can explain. Charged with solving the puzzle, the scholar Dabir soon realizes that the tablet may unlock secrets hidden within the lost city of Ubar, the Atlantis of the sands. When the tablet is stolen from his care, Dabir and Captain Asim are sent after it, and into a life and death chase through the ancient Middle East.

Stopping the thieves—a cunning Greek spy and a fire wizard of the Magi—requires a desperate journey into the desert, but first Dabir and Asim must find the lost ruins of Ubar and contend with a mythic, sorcerous being that has traded wisdom for the souls of men since the dawn of time.  But against all these hazards there is one more that may be too great even for Dabir to overcome…

This novel has been eluding me for some time – not directly published in the UK, I’ve had the devil of a time getting hold of it. Now that I’m in the US, though, I decided to order it (I’ve still not seen it in a single bookstore…). I intend to get to it very soon – although, another novel I might be receiving early would go nicely with this, so I may save it until December. We’ll see how things go and how my mood is over the next month or so. Really looking forward to it, nonetheless.

(On a slightly different note, the book itself is a slightly smaller hardback – I really approve of this size! It’s not as chunky as the normal hardback, which makes it easier to hold and read, I think.)

Echoes by Joshua Fialkov (Minotaur)

Brian Cohn was learning to deal with the schizophrenia inherited from his father. Supportive wife, new baby on the way, drugs to control the voices. But, when on his father's deathbed he learns that he also inherited the trophies of his father's career as a serial killer, will his madness send him further down into the crawlspace of his father's mind?

This is a graphic novel I got when I went to a signing at Meltdown Comics in LA. It looks interesting. I’ll get to it at some point soon, hopefully.

Untitled-1Echo City by Tim Lebbon (Orbit)

Dark and twisted fantasy?

Surrounded by a vast, toxic desert, the inhabitants of labyrinthine Echo City believe there is no other life in their world. Some like it that way, so when a stranger arrives he is anathema to powerful interest groups. But Peer Nadawa found the stranger and she is determined to keep him and the freedom he represents alive. A political exile herself, she calls on her ex-lover Gorham, now leader of their anti-establishment network. Then they recruit the Baker, whose macabre genetic experiments seem close to sorcery.

However, while factions prepare for war, an ancient peril is stirring. In the city’s depths something deadly is rising, and it will soon reach the levels where men dwell.

Another book that keeps getting bumped back for various reasons, I really do intend to get to this soon – it’s received some very positive reviews, and appeals to the darker side of my fantasy tastes.

Martinez-MonsterMonster by A. Lee Martinez (Orbit)

Quirky-looking urban fantasy

Meet Monster. Meet Judy. Two humans who don’t like each other much, but together must fight dragons, fire-breathing felines, trolls, Inuit walrus dogs, and a crazy cat lady – for the future of the universe.

Monster runs a pest control agency. He’s overworked and has domestic troubles - like having the girlfriend from hell. Judy works the night shift at the local Food Plus Mart. Not the most glamorous life, but Judy is happy. No one bothers her and if she has to spell things out for the night-manager every now and again, so be it.

But when Judy finds a Yeti in the freezer aisle eating all the Rocky Road, her life collides with Monster’s in a rather alarming fashion. Because Monster doesn't catch raccoons; he catches the things that go bump in the night. Things like ogres, trolls, and dragons.

Oh, and his girlfriend from Hell? She actually is from Hell.

This was another impulse-buy the other day. I read the synopsis and just thought it sounded like it could be good fun. (When I need cheering up, as I did on that day, I have a tendency to buy a book or two. It makes me feel better.)

*     *     *

The other books on the shelf are non-fiction titles that I’ve been wanting to get to and bought recently. I won’t go into detail, but in case anyone’s interested, here are the titles:

- My Father At 100 by Ron Reagan (autographed copy from the Reagan Presidential Library)

- The Whites of Their Eyes by Jill Lepore (the Tea Party and the “battle” over American history)

- The Lion and the Journalist by Chip Bishop (Teddy Roosevelt’s relationship with Joseph Bucklin Bishop)

- Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig (role of corporations, lobbying and money in US politics)

- A Contest for Supremacy by Aaron Friedberg (US-China relations)


  1. Stefan..I eagerly await to see the review for The Outcast Dead. I just recently, a few months ago, got into The Horus Heresy in particular and the Warhammer 40k books in general. I'm slowly working getting every single one of them. although for the Heresy books I already do..except for Outcast Dead.

  2. Boneshaker looks so, so good...

  3. I also picked up Boneshaker and The Rift Walker recently. Looking forward to your reviews.