The first half of this year alone sees a high number of highly anticipated titles coming out, and February is a particularly bumper month for the genre fan. So, here’s my top eight for this month. I doubt I’ll be able to read even half of them in February (the best laid plans, etc.), but I thought I’d offer at least a hat-tip for those I may not be able to get around to.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
February 2012 Top Picks
“Cobra: Season 2” (IDW)
Continuing my newfound addiction to G.I.Joe-related comics… The Story of Cobra
In the second season of Cobra, readers get a deeper look inside the Cobra organisation than ever before, as Tomax, Xamot, and Erika continue to feel the effects of the previous miniseries, and more important and powerful players are introduced into the mix. Several Cobra operatives of old are also reintroduced to this new continuity.
So, in order to catch up with the new IDW-published G.I.Joe and Cobra timeline, I decided to buy the back issues. Thankfully, they were all going for quite cheap on comiXology (a site/service I am coming to feel extremely fond of), so I snapped up all of the issues. This series has three main acts, and the cover images have been split up accordingly.
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed these.
Reviewed herein: Cobra Special #1, Cobra II #1-13, Cobra Special #2
Monday, January 30, 2012
“Strata” by Brad Beaulieu & Stephen Gaskell
It’s the middle of the twenty-second century. Earth’s oil and gas reserves have been spent, but humankind’s thirst for energy remains unquenched. Vast solar mining platforms circle the upper atmosphere of the sun, drawing power lines up from the stellar interior and tight-beaming the energy back to Earth. For most of the platforms’ teeming masses, life is hard, cramped — and hot. Most dream of a return Earthside, but a two-way ticket wasn’t part of the benefits package, and a Sun-Earth trip doesn’t come cheap.
Kawe Ndechi is luckier than most. He’s a gifted rider — a skimmer pilot who races the surface of the sun’s convection zone — and he needs only two more wins before he lands a ticket home. The only trouble is, Kawe’s spent most of his life on the platforms. He’s seen the misery, and he’s not sure he’s the only one who deserves a chance at returning home.
That makes Smith Pouslon nervous. Smith once raced the tunnels of fire himself, but now he’s a handler, and his rider, Kawe, is proving anything but easy to handle. Kawe’s slipping deeper and deeper into the Movement, but Smith knows that’s a fool’s game. His own foray into the Movement cost him his racing career — and nearly his life — and he doesn’t want Kawe to throw everything away for a revolt that will never succeed.
One sun. Two men. The fate of a million souls.
In this novella, Beaulieu and Gaskell introduce us to a dystopian, corporate-dominated far future, in which workers struggle for their rights while slaving away on the energy harvesting platforms that orbit the Sun. With echoes of many of today’s political issues, Strata is an intelligent, well-written, and character-driven story of personal and political struggle.
Guest Post: On Co-Authoring STRATA, by Brad Beaulieu & Steve Gaskell
First of all, thanks to Stefan for inviting us to stop by and talk a bit about Strata, our new dystopian sci-fi thriller. When Stefan first asked us over, we thought a bit about what would make for a good post, and it seemed as though discussing the characters we initially developed and how they changed would make for some interesting reading, especially for those that have wondered how collaborations work.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
“Marksmen” #1-5 (Image)
Writer: David Baxter & Dave Elliott | Artist: Javier Aranda, Garry Leach & Jessica Kholine
Sixty years ago the oil ran out and debts were called in. Civil war followed that splintered America into warring fiefdoms. New San Diego is a technocratic utopia that offers the last bastion of peace and prosperity, provided you live within its walls. Drake McCoy is its best protector. McCoy, an expert marksman, defends the city from the numerous threats in the wasteland outside the walls. But when the oil rich Lone Star state sends a powerful army to steal New San Diego's energy technology, even Drake’s leadership and skill may not be enough to fend off the siege.
Marksmen is a post-economic-apocalypse mini-series. It takes the current dire economic state of America and extrapolates a worst-case scenario. Blending a number of post-apocalyptic tropes (feral gangs living in the wilds and cannibals, for example) with some original elements, this is a pretty good series. It has a few more flaws than I would ordinarily like, but it should still appeal to fans of the genre who want a short series to read.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Editor Amanda Rutter talks Strange Chemistry
Earlier this year, Angry Robot Books announced their new Young Adult fiction imprint, Strange Chemistry (they have also announced a new crime fiction imprint). To find out a little more about the new imprint, I got in touch with Amanda Rutter, Strange Chemistry editor and former blogger on Floor to Ceiling Books.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Guest Post: “Influences & Inspirations” by Claire McGowan
Claire McGowan grew up in a small village in Northern Ireland. After a gaining a degree from Oxford University and “spells in exciting places” including France, Oxford, and China, McGowan moved to London, where she lives with a very cute beagle (check out her website for more on that) and is the Director of the Crime Writers’ Association. The Fall is her first novel, and to celebrate its release I asked her if she’d be interested to write a short piece about some inspirations and influences.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Upcoming: “Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane” (Solaris)
Forthcoming anthology draws big name authors
Following in the wake of two other critically-acclaimed Solaris themed anthologies, The End of the Line (set on the London Underground) and House of Fear (haunted house stories), Solaris Books will be publishing Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane in November 2012 in both the US and UK.
Before I get into who’s contributing pieces for the anthology (it’s a great line up, so just bear with me) – how cool is that cover? Really like it.
Anyway, back to the content. There are a couple of genre-fiction big-name authors taking part in the anthology – for example, Civilian Reader favourite (and New York Times bestseller) Dan Abnett, and also Sophia McDougall and Will Hill. There will also be contributions by some newcomers, such as Lou Morgan, who had this to say about working on the anthology:
“I’m thrilled to be part of a line-up which includes so many authors I respect and admire, as well as to be working with Solaris again. There’s such a great mix that I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with! My own story revolves around a man who can never quite get away from his past – and for whom magic is far more of a curse than it is a blessing...”
Lou is on my list of Authors To Watch in 2012, and her debut novel – Blood & Feathers – will be published this year in July. I will also be posting and interview with Lou on February 15th, so be sure to check back for that.
Sophia McDougall, author of the Romanitas trilogy (Romanitas, Rome Burning, Savage City), says:
“Surely everyone has at some point tried to do magic. Wishing on birthday cake candles, or willing an exam hall clock to turn back, or quietly trying to levitate a pencil with your brain – if you have not, I suggest you give it a go right now – 0r how are we to know you are not the wizard we have been waiting for? The concept of a source of incredible power that humans might be able to access, is deeply seductive.
“Magic makes the world amenable to human patterns – willing to bargain, tameable. Yet magic is frightening, because it also does the opposite. Even before you give up your soul or your firstborn, the price of magic is accepting we might have fundamentally misunderstood the way the universe works. Magic means you don’t know what’s going on under your nose: it means threats could lurk in the seemingly harmless and you might not be able to make yourself safe. And while, outside fiction, we can probably be pretty sure that magic does not exist, it remains a good lens for looking at our relationship with the unknown and with our limits. Magic works in the overlap between our strongest desires to control the world and our worst fears it will control us. ”
But, the name that has topped every press release and other blog post about the coming book, is Audrey Niffenegger – mega-selling author of The Time-Traveller’s Wife, who is writing her first short story for a commercial trade anthology. Here’s what she had to say about the anthology:
“I'm delighted to be involved in this project… My story is called The Wrong Fairie and is about Charles Altamont Doyle. He was a Victorian artist who was institutionalized for alcoholism. He was also the father of Arthur Conan Doyle, and he believed in fairies.”
As far as I can tell, the full line-up has not been finalised, but here are the names already announced: Alison Littlewood, Dan Abnett, Christopher Fowler, Storm Constantine, Robert Shearman, Paul Meloy, Sophia McDougall, Will Hill, Gemma Files, Sarah Lotz, Lou Morgan, Thana Niveau, and more.
“Goliath” by Scott Westerfeld (Simon & Schuster)
The exciting conclusion to the Leviathan Trilogy
Alek and Deryn are aboard the Leviathan when the ship is ordered to pick up an unusual passenger. This brilliant/maniacal inventor claims to have a weapon called Goliath that can end the war. But whose side is he really on?
While on their top-secret mission, Alek finally discovers Deryn’s deeply kept secret. Two, actually. Not only is Deryn a girl disguised as a guy... she has feelings for Alek.
The crown, true love with a commoner, and the destruction of a great city all hang on Alek’s next-and final-move.
I am a big fan of Scott Westerfeld, and have particularly enjoyed the Leviathan Trilogy (see my review of Behemoth, the second book in the trilogy, here). Goliath delivers on all of the promise of the first two books. It is a fast-paced adventure that takes us around the globe, filled with fantastic creatures and machines. The rest of the review will contain minor spoilers for the first two books, so if you haven’t already started this series, stop reading now, track down Leviathan and start there – the Leviathan Trilogy is well worth your time.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Upcoming: SUPERBIA (Boom Studios)
What goes down when the capes come off?
There is a new series debuting this March from BOOM! Studios (easily one of my favourite comic publishers), which has piqued my interest, because it sounds like it could be a lot of fun: SUPURBIA.
Written by Grace Randolph (Marvel’s Nation X, HER-OES) and drawn by Russell Dauterman, the new series focuses on the secret lives of the world’s greatest heroes’ spouses. After all, behind every great hero is the woman or man who makes their world run. The series is only going to run for four issues, but it will give readers a Desperate Housewives-esque look at the private lives of superheroes and the drama, conflict and outrageous behaviour of their everyday lives.
Introducing JOHN R. FULTZ
John Fultz and Seven Princes, his debut fantasy, were all over the Orbit Books blog a few weeks ago (articles, wallpapers, and the like). Naturally, this publicity push made me even more curious about the novel. So, as I am wont to do, I got in touch with the author and asked if he’d be interested in an interview. Luckily, he was, so here we go…
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Guest Post: “The Lure of the Stacks”
by Mieneke van der Salm
As some of you may know, I'm an academic librarian. This actually doesn't mean I spend my day surrounded by books, even though the building I work at is assuredly filled with books, since the focus of my work is mainly on Information Services and Information Literacy instruction. However, it does mean that whenever I read an interesting historical fiction or non-fiction book, it's very easy for me to find further information on the subject of said books. And this is a terrible, terrible trap I can tell you.
Comics Round-Up (Jan.25)
Another varied selection, with a couple of continuing series as well as the starts of a few more. I must admit that I’m really starting to miss my DC and Marvel fixes every week. I’ll make sure to do a couple of catch-up reviews when I get back to New York, but in lieu of being able to review any DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image and Dynamite titles that might have caught my eye, this week also sees a new section to these Comics Round-Ups, and that’s a simple addendum that’s going to appear at the end, “Also Released This Week”.
Reviewed Herein: Incorruptible #26, Incorruptible Volume 5 (TPB), Infestation: G.I.Joe #1.1-2, Infestation #2.1, Cobra Volume 1, Key of Z #4, Witchblade #1
Monday, January 23, 2012
“Babylon Steel” by Gaie Sebold (Solaris)
The debut of a different kind of heroine
Babylon Steel, ex-sword-for-hire, ex-other things, runs the best brothel in Scalentine; city of many portals, two moons, and a wide variety of races, were-creatures, and religions, not to mention the occasional insane warlock.
She’s not having a good week. The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, women in the trade are being attacked, it’s tax time, and there’s not enough money to pay the bill. So when the mysterious Darask Fain offers her a job finding a missing girl, Babylon decides to take it. But the missing girl is not what she seems, and neither is Darask Fain. In the meantime, twomoon is approaching, and more than just a few night’s takings are at risk when Babylon’s hidden past reaches out to grab her by the throat.
Babylon Steel: a heroine who gets really up close and personal.
I had no idea what to expect from Babylon Steel. I’d read the synopsis and thought the premise sounded interesting. What I found was a novel that has a strong central character, and a fun and well-constructed plot, which was a blend of fantasy and thriller with a dash of humour. There’s also some pretty good social commentary. This is a very good debut, and I really hope we see more of Babylon Steel, and certainly more from Gaie Sebold.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Music Review: “Post Mortem” by Black Tide
Black Tide are a band I missed completely when they released their debut album, Light From Above (2008). At the time, I wasn’t following the scene as much as I had before, and tended to focus on the bands I already knew, who have released a slew of amazing albums in recent years. I only learned of them when YouTube threw up “That Fire” as a recommendation for a video playlist I’d been putting together. And I quite liked it. So off I went to get the album.
I’m not entirely sure which genre or sub-genre of rock they belong in, if I’m perfectly honest. I suppose the best place to put them would be “neo-thrash”, seeing as they blend some of the best elements of thrash, while also bringing a more modern pop-sheen. Really, this is pretty light metal, and purists will sneer at it (as they are wont to do at almost anything), but I think it’s a pretty great album. And it’s criminal how young the band members are…
Saturday, January 21, 2012
“The Traveler” Vol.1 (Boom)
Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Chad Hardin | Grand Poobah: Stan Lee
A mysterious band of super-powered assassins, the Split-Second Men, have begun terrorizing seemingly random victims. The only one powerful enough to stop them is THE TRAVELER, an equally unknown masked crusader who knows just when they will strike. But where did THE TRAVELER come from? Whose agenda does he serve? And will his actions cause an even greater cataclysm of time and space?
In my quest to read everything I can by Mark Waid, I stumbled across this title (co-created with Stan Lee, the man behind many of Marvel’s greatest heroes). It’s an interesting title, certainly, with plenty going for it (Hardin’s excellent artwork, for example) but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
Friday, January 20, 2012
Guest Post: Inspiration – by Brad Griffith
A few days ago, I got an email from author and small-press owner Brad Griffith, asking me if I might be interested in having a look at his latest novel, Blue Fall. It sounded pretty interesting, with a premise that ticked a few boxes in the ‘Of Interest’ column: it draws on the historical notion of wars or international conflict being fought between chosen champions; only in this time, it is underground and probably illegal (I’ll have to report back after I’ve read the novel). I hope to get to it in the near future, but in the meantime, I asked Brad if he’s be interested in writing a short piece on the nature of inspiration. He agreed, so here it is…
“G.I.Joe” Season 2, #1-8 (IDW)
Writer: Chuck Dixon | Artist: Javier Saltares & Will Rosado
COBRA has lost its Commander. Fallen in battle to a G.I. JOE operative. Now, COBRA is out for blood. For JOE blood. Seven COBRA agents are now competing for the Commander spot by doing the most damage to G.I. JOE.
A COBRA agent infiltrated The Pit – G.I. JOE’s headquarters – disguised as General Hawk. A second COBRA agent – Storm Shadow – also infiltrated the The Pit. As the Joes tumbled to the infiltration, Zartan finished his mission, killing a captured Cobra Viper, but was caught himself during his escape. Storm Shadow remains on the loose, being tracked by Flint.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., General Hawk and Dial-Tone are caught off from their G.I. JOE teammates and are on the run from a Cobra hit squad out to get them. Who ordered the hit is not yet known...
Here I review the third G.I. Joe series of comics that covered the Cobra Civil War. As far as I can tell, the story rotated through the three titles, but I was only just able to get hold of all of these issues. To summarise, this is another great title! It was also great to get the final pieces of the contest to become the new Cobra Commander. Really enjoyable.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
“Irredeemable” Vol.7 (Boom)
Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Peter Krause & Diego Barreto
Plutonian has been banished by the Paradigm to an off-world insane asylum… but it’s proving too weak to hold him. Meanwhile, upon seeing a darker side of Survivor, Qubit has entered into an uneasy alliance with Modeus, the Plutonian’s arch-nemesis and one of Earth’s most feared supervillains to figure out how to stop the Plutonian once and for all. But what will happen when the Mad God returns to Earth?
This collection brings me up to date on the Irredeemable trade paperback volumes currently available. It’s another great addition to the series, but it was not the strongest of the bunch.
[As with all of my recent Irredeemable reviews, here is your Minor Spoiler Alert.]
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Introducing ANNE LYLE
The first in what I hope to be a string of interviews with 2012 Debut authors, today Anne Lyle tells us a little bit about her highly anticipated upcoming Elizabethan fantasy, The Alchemist of Souls, her writing practices, and confesses to a history of impersonating a snowflake…
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Two Awesome Upcoming DC New 52 Covers
A simple artwork post, this, but many of the great covers for the eighth issues of DC’s New 52 titles were unveiled today on DC’s blog. There were two in particular that stood out for me (not just because they’re series I’ve been enjoying), so I thought I’d share them on here.
First up, Batwoman:
Cover: Amy Reeder | Writers: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman | Artist: Amy Reeder & Rob Hunter
Second, Resurrection Man:
Cover: Rafael Albuquerque | Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning | Artist: Fernando Dagnino
“Dracula: Company of Monsters” Volumes 1-3 (Boom)
If you resurrect a Vampire King, you should expect to get bitten…
Writer: Daryl Gregory & Kurt Busiek | Artists: Scott Godlewski & Damian Couceiro
A powerful, predatory corporation acquires a valuable asset – Dracula! They think they own him, but no one can own the Son of the Dragon. There’s a monster in their midst that puts Hannibal Lecter to shame – and he plans to gain his freedom in blood.
Evan, a scion of the corporation finds himself caught in between his crazy uncle and his schemes, and Dracula’s calculating cruelty. As the forces of the corporation and Dracula draw battle-lines and face off against each other, Evan must enter into an unlikely alliance. Can Evan work to rally a rebellion that will be able to withstand the onslaught…?
It’s bloodsuckers vs. bloodsucker.
Just a quick review of this series, which I stumbled across by accident. Regular readers will know I’m a fan of vampire fiction, and the premise for this series just really appealed to me. The books bring the Dracula myth kicking, screaming and biting into the modern day. It blends activist corporate agendas with the supernatural and undead, and examines man’s obsession with power, our tendency to greed, and the age-old quest for immortality.
Comics Round-Up (Jan.18)
A very nice and varied selection of new titles again this week. International terrorist syndicates, thrill-seeking female agents, a lost young lady in a bizarre world, frightfully British spies, and robots in disguise. I also catch up this week with a review I’ve keep forgetting to include – Josh Fialkov’s excellent Last of the Greats (issues one and two).
Reviewed Herein: Cobra #9, Danger Girl:Revolver #1, Last of the Greats #1-2, Memorial #2, Steed & Mrs Peel #1, Transformers: Autocracy #1, Y The Last Man #1
[Warning: There are some minor spoilers for G.I.Joe & Cobra readers.]
Music Video for Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fans
Is this a band who like their genre or what?
“Warriors of Time” by Black Tide
I’ve actually got an album review for the band’s second album, Post Mortem, in the works at the moment. It was while checking out their other work that I stumbled across this, and thought it was (somewhat) relevant to the rest of the content of the blog. The album review will go live in the next couple of days.
Monday, January 16, 2012
“Age of Legends” edited by Christian Dunn (Black Library)
A collection of dark fantasy fiction
The dark origins of the Warhammer World are soaked in blood. Epic wars between kindred races reshaped continents, vast civilisations rose and fell, the dead walked the earth in legions. This is an age of mighty heroes whose like will never be seen again, such as the mangod Sigmar and Caledor, the Phoenix King of the elves. It is also an era of dread villains like the Witch-King Malekith and Nagash, the Lord of the undead. In these troubled times, dragons still flock the skies and magic exists that can doom or save the world.
It used to be that all Warhammer fiction came in the form of short stories, so it’s nice that Black Library are maintaining output of shorter slices of Warhammer (and WH40k) action and adventure. In Age of Legends, we have ten stories from a number of established masters of the world, as well as some new blood. Overall, this is another great anthology of dark, engaging fantasy fiction, with some particularly enjoyable contributions from newer authors.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
“Incorruptible” Vol.4 (Boom)
Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Marcio Takara
The Plutonian has been defeated, leaving the world’s most notorious supervillain-turned-superhero, Max Damage, adrift. But Max's work is never done, and being a superhero in a post-Plutonian world is far more difficult than he imagined... especially with a mentally unstable new sidekick and a new team of reluctant allies... the superhero team the Paradigm!
Tying in with the events of Irredeemable Volume Six, these Chapters in Max Damage’s story take a look at how the former villain takes the news of the Plutonian’s incarceration, and where he’ll go and what he’ll do next.
In quick summary, I’m enjoying Incorruptible almost as much as Irredeemable, and I really think people should read them both. Waid shows us how comics can be at their absolute best: enjoyable, entertaining, brilliantly written, and thought-provoking.
[Be warned: Minor Spoilers after the break…]
G.I.Joe: Cobra Civil War (IDW)
IDW’s line of G.I.Joe comics went through quite an important ‘event’ last year – the Cobra Civil War – and after reading the Cobra Annual 2012, I had catch up with the story.
I seem to have a knack for joining the continuity when something big happens involving Cobra Commander (my first comic was G.I.Joe Real American Hero #100, when he comes back from the dead).
Reviewed Herein: Death of Cobra Commander, Cobra Civil War #0-8, Snake Eyes #1-9, G.I. Joe #9
[Huge thank you to Lorelei at IDW for providing me with the issues I was missing!]
Saturday, January 14, 2012
“Irredeemable” Vol.6 (Boom)
Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Peter Krause & Diego Barreto
The Plutonian, once Earth’s most powerful hero, now Earth's most feared villain, has finally been captured. A ruthless alien race now holds Plutonian as their captive in a distant galaxy. But are they prepared to hold one of the universe's most dangerous men? And now that Plutonian is off-world, how will his former teammates, the Paradigm, deal with the worldwide clean-up?
Regular readers will know how much I’ve been loving the Irredeemable collections – it’s a great comic series, with a superb premise, that sets a very high standard. This volume finishes with Chapter 23, and even after two years, Irredeemable maintains a very high quality and remains gripping. If you’ve been following the series, you won’t be disappointed. Check out my review of the Definitive Collection (collecting volumes one to three) for more on the start of the series.
[Before I get on with the review – which contains minor spoilers: how cool is that cover? Well done Scott Clark & Dave Beaty!]
Friday, January 13, 2012
DC Comics New 52 Shake-Up
Announced today in a USA Today exclusive, DC Comics will be releasing six new titles this May. (I’ve borrowed some quotes and information from DC’s own announcement and the USA Today piece.) In order to make room for these new comics, six of the New 52 titles will be cancelled. Thankfully, and rather selfishly, I’m happy to report that none of the six titles to be cancelled were on my preferred list of comics.
Long-time readers will know that I’ve developed a bit of a passion for the DC New 52, having read, reviewed and loved rather a lot of them. For a full list, as well as links to my reviews, scroll down to the lower part of the blog’s Review Index.
The six new series will replace Blackhawks, Hawk & Dove, Men Of War, Mister Terrific, O.M.A.C. and Static Shock, all of which will conclude with their eighth issues, to be published in April. Of these, I’ve only read the first issue of Blackhawks (didn’t love it), and have read the first four issues of Men of War (again, didn’t love it). Apparently some of the characters from these cancelled titles will apparently make appearances in other, continuing New 52.
Here’s information and some thoughts on the second wave titles that will be starting in May:
“The Buntline Special” by Mike Resnick (Pyr)
The OK Corral! Gunfights! Zombies!
The year is 1881. The United States of America ends at the Mississippi River. Beyond lies the Indian nations, where the magic of powerful Medicine Men has halted the advance of the Americans east of the river.
An American government desperate to expand its territory sends Thomas Alva Edison out West to the town of Tombstone, Arizona, on a mission to discover a scientific means of counteracting magic. Hired to protect this great genius, Wyatt Earp and his brothers.
But there are plenty who would like to see the Earps and Edison dead. Riding to their aid are old friends Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson. Against them stand the Apache wizard Geronimo and the Clanton gang. Battle lines are drawn, and the Clanton gang, which has its own reasons for wanting Edison dead, sends for Johnny Ringo, the one man who might be Doc Holliday's equal in a gunfight. But what shows up instead is The Thing That Was Once Johnny Ringo, returned from the dead and come to Tombstone looking for a fight.
This is the Wild West like you’ve never read before. The undead drink in saloons, electric lights shine on the streets of Tombstone, and horseless stagecoaches protect passengers from the angry natives. It took me quite a while to get to this novel, for some reason. I’m a big fan of westerns, and Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp are particular favourites. A Steampunk reimagining of the US Western Expansion era and the gunfight at the OK Corral? This was great fun.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
“Incorruptible” Vol.3 (Boom)
Max & Jailbait search for the Plutonian’s ex-girlfriend
Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Horatio Domingues & Marcio Takara
Reformed supervillain Max Damage, and his sidekick Jailbait, travel to the ruins of Sky City. A vicious gang of Plutonian-worshipping white supremacists are wreaking havoc on the survivors and ruling with no mercy. But there’s one thing they didn't count on... Max Damage. The key to victory may lie in the hands of Alana Patel, Plutonian’s ex-girlfriend. But how will Max ally himself with Alana when she hasn’t come close to forgetting about Max kidnapping and torturing her in his days as a villain?
This collection delves a little more into Max’s past as a villain, and some of the evil stuff he did in his fight against the Plutonian. In this story, that past comes back to bite him, as his action unintentionally revealed his weaknesses, which have made their way into the wrong hands. Another great book in the series, I can’t recommend it – or anything by Mark Waid, actually – enough.
[NB: A few minor spoilers feature after the break, but if you want to know more about the book, then keep reading.]
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
An Interview with LINDA POITEVIN
Canadian author Linda Poitevin has only recently come onto my radar, but after looking some more at her work, I think she has something new and interesting to offer Urban Fantasy readers. Self-described as a “wife, mother, friend, gardener, coffee snob, freelance writer, and zookeeper of too many pets”, I was most interested in the writing aspect (although, I could get on board with the “coffee snob”, too), and so got in touch with Linda and asked her some questions about her work.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Comics Round-Up (Jan.11)
Another varied selection of titles this week – a retelling of a classic story, the history of an iconic villain, three beginnings revisited, World War II action, 6th Century Amazons, and sentient robots!
As an aside, before I get into the reviews themselves; when I was a kid, my two favourite toys were G.I.Joe figures and Transformers, so two of this week’s titles have a pretty strong nostalgic draw.
Reviewed Herein: Alice #1, Cobra Annual 2012: Origin of Cobra Commander, Dungeons & Dragons 100-Page Special, Operation: Broken Wings 1936 #3, Seven Warriors #3, Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #1
Upcoming: WOMANTHOLOGY (IDW)
I don’t know a huge amount about this project, but I’ve seen it mentioned a couple of times, recently, so thought I’d give it a shout-out here. According to The Hathor Legacy, the project is a 300-page, full-colour, hardcover graphic novel written, drawn and designed solely by female comics creators. According to their Kickstarter page, the pitch is:
The purpose of the book is to show support for female creators in comics and media. There will be multiple short stories, “how to”s & interviews with professionals, and features showcasing iconic female comic creators that have passed, such as Nell Brinkley and Tarpe Mills. A Kids & Teens section will also be included, showcasing their work, and offering tips & tricks to help them prepare themselves for their future careers in comics. Overall, this is pretty much a huge book showcasing what women in comics have accomplished, and what we are capable of. :) We are also hoping that by doing this book, it will encourage a new generation of women to pick up the pencil and create!
Monday, January 09, 2012
“Cross Fire” by James Patterson (Century)
Snipers, Killers, and the Cop stuck in the middle
Detective Alex Cross is planning his wedding to the woman he loves, Brianna Stone. But this blissful existence begins to unravel when Cross is called to the scene of the perfectly executed assassination of two of Washington DC’s most corrupt and publically hated political figures. As more crooked politicians are picked off with similar long-range shots, public opinion is divided – is the marksman a vigilante or a hero?
Media coverage of the case explodes, and the FBI assigns agent Max Siegel to the investigation. As Cross and Siegel battle over jurisdiction, Alex receives a call from his deadliest adversary, Kyle Craig. The Mastermind is in DC and will not stop until he has eliminated Cross, and his family, for good.
James Patterson’s Violets Are Blue was the first thriller I read and devoured. I was living in Japan at the time, so getting more of his novels was a little difficult, but I managed to find a couple of them. In some ways, Patterson deserves the blame for getting me back into reading in a big way (him and Bernard Cornwell, actually, as I was also working through all the Sharpe book at the time). After getting back to the UK, I read everything by Patterson that was available at the time, and for the most part loved them (there were a couple of duffs). Then he started farming titles out to other authors, and the quality took a dive. The main Alex Cross series, however, remains his and his alone and is still his best. There have been wobbles along the way, and not every instalment has gripped me, but they all – Cross Fire included – give me exactly what I’m expecting and want: a quick, entertaining thriller fix.
Sunday, January 08, 2012
“Irredeemable” Vol.5 (Boom)
A desperate gamble, an old debt, the possibility of victory…?
Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Peter Krause
The secret history of Hornet, who died at the hands of Plutonian, is finally revealed. The fallen Paradigm member had a plan – a fail safe – that puts all of Earth and the Plutonian in danger. And when Modeus’ plans reach critical mass, the few remaining heroes of Earth are the only thing standing between civilization and ultimate chaos. There’s a mad God backed up against a wall, and nobody is safe.
As the Paradigm get to grips with their ever-worsening situation, the Plutonian’s rage only intensifies. It’s strange for the synopsis to focus on the history of Hornet, as that doesn’t feature for the first half of this book. Instead, we see more cracks forming between the remaining members of the Paradigm, and we learn that yet another teammate has been keeping secrets.
Continuing the story in fine form, this collection upped the ante and added yet more backstory to one of the best comics available today. The artwork is great, the writing is gripping, and the characters are engaging and three-dimensional. Is there much more you can ask for from a comic?
[NB: As always, there are some spoilers after the break. The series has now been going on long enough that to review it is to offer some spoilers. Apologies for this.]
Saturday, January 07, 2012
“Incorruptible” Vol.2 (Boom)
Max Damage’s journey towards redemption continues
Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Horatio Domingues
Meet Max Damage, the world’s most notorious super-powered criminal and enemy #1 on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Known for everything from manslaughter to terrorism, no one could match Max’s appetite for chaos. But that was before the Plutonian, the world’s most beloved superhero, turned his back on humanity and slaughtered millions in front of Max’s eyes, leaving Max a changed man. Now, as the world spirals into chaos, Max continues his inflexible quest toward enforcing absolute law. But when so many need him, can he be there to protect the few who depend on him… or will he be forced to learn the deadly cost of justice?
In the second volume of this series, Max Damage continues to prove to others that he’s reformed – he must convince those he saves that he’s not working some other angle; he must convince the cops that he’s working for the greater good. He is not, however, above taking advantage of his bad reputation, and in the chaos that has followed in the wake of the Plutonian’s personality flip, works towards shutting down some of the city’s worst criminal operations. This series is a perfect companion to Irredeemable, and is a great series in its own right, and one that keeps getting better.
[NB: Some spoilers follow, as it’s sadly unavoidable.]
Friday, January 06, 2012
Upcoming: “Jane Carver of Waar” by Nathan Long (Night Shade)
Just a quick artwork post. This time, I want to cast the spotlight on Nathan Long’s next novel, Jane Carver of Waar (one of my 2012 Most Anticipated). Here’s the finished cover:
Out Now: BABYLON STEEL by Gaie Sebold (Solaris)
Ex-sword-for-hire Babylon Steel runs the best brothel in the city. She’s got elves using sex magic upstairs, S&M in the basement, a green troll cooking breakfast in the kitchen, and she’d love you to visit, except…
She’s not having a good week. The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, her girls are disappearing, and if she can’t pay her taxes she’s going to lose her business. Despite giving up the mercenary life, when the mysterious Darask Fain pays her to find a missing heiress, she has to take the job. And then her past starts to catch up with her in other, more dangerous ways.
I’ve been looking forward to this for a while, now, ever since I saw it mentioned on Solaris’s website. It sounds like something a little different, which is always welcome. Hopefully I’ll get to it in the next couple of weeks.
Babylon Steel is out now in paperback and eBook.
“Rise of Empire” by Michael Sullivan (Orbit)
Fortune favours the thief, in the second Riyria Revelations omnibus
The birth of the Nyphron Empire has brought war to Melengar. To save her kingdom, Princess Arista runs a desperate gamble when she defies her brother and hires Royce and Hadrian to perform a dangerous mission behind the enemy’s lines. As the power of the Nyphron Empire grows, so does Royce’s suspicion that the wizard Esrahaddon is using the thieves as pawns in his own shadowy struggle for power. To find the truth, he must unravel the secret of Hadrian’s past. What he discovers leads the thieves to the ends of the world on a journey amid treachery and betrayals, forcing Hadrian to face a past he hoped never to see again.
The adventures of Hadrian and Royce continue, and Sullivan ups the ante across the board. The Empire is flexing its muscles more, and have sent out an agent to spread dissent and discord in areas of resistance. In Rise of Empire, which contains Nyphron Rising and The Emerald Storm, this series just gets better and better. It met my high expectations and, despite the shift in tone, maintains Sullivan’s position as one of my favourite new authors. This is definitely a must-read series.
“American Capitalist” by Five Finger Death Punch
I started my reviewing ‘career’ (for want of a better word) with music – rock and metal, to be exact. It is my other passion alongside reading, but after a few years of reviewing albums that progressively started sounding ever-more like cookie-cutter bands, one day I just decided to shut it all down. Record labels were informed that I would no longer accept review copies, and after catching up on what I’d already received, I would simply stop.
Roll on a couple years, and I find myself toying with the idea of getting back into it a little bit. There are fewer bands who come close to exciting my musical tastes, but 2011 proved to be a pretty stellar year for rock and metal music. Sure, the trend remains “heavier is better and hang the melody”, but there are a few bands still waving the standard for blending technical skill, melody, heaviness and originality.
So, I offer a rare, short music review, if you’ll indulge me…
Five Finger Death Punch (5FDP) are an American hard rock-metal band, and with their third album, American Capitalist, they have hit their stride. The album’s an absolute beast! The band’s sound is muscular, polished, confident, and has a superb mix of melody and brutality.
Thursday, January 05, 2012
“Irredeemable” Vol.4 (Boom)
The fourth collected edition of Mark Waid’s awesome series
Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Diego Barreto
The world’s most powerful hero, Plutonian, has levelled entire countries and continues to systemically destroy the allies he once called friends. How can the world defend itself against a vengeful god? The Plutonian’s former teammates, the Paradigm, have been forced to turn toward a savage former enemy and a slim chance for survival. When the dust settles on the climactic battle to destroy the Plutonian and save the world, these struggling superheroes will never be the same. Volume 4 presents the stunning resolution to the series' explosive first year.
After reading the Irredeemable Definitive Collection, I had to find out more, so quickly got my hands on the rest of the series. After reading this fourth collection, I can tell you that Irredeemable just keeps getting better, as the Paradigm continue to search for a way to put down the Plutonian’s new reign of terror and destruction.
[NB: There are some minor spoilers in this review. They were inevitable and unavoidable.]
Comics Round-Up (Jan.4)
For the first week of 2012, we get quite a nice mix of new comics. I’ve gone for some superheroes, an undead king, a British Cold War spy, a creepy theatre, and some horror. All in all, a pretty good selection.
While I have your attention: expect lots more comic and graphic novel reviews to appear on the blog in 2012 – I keep finding more and more titles that are interesting and worth mentioning, so I’ll try to feature as many as I possibly can. Especially after I get back to New York, when I’m going to have a lot of DC titles to catch up on as well.
Reviewed Herein: Cold War #4, Irredeemable #33, Monocyte #1-2, The Theatre #4, Valen the Outcast #2 [For some reason, I seem to have reviewed them in reverse alphabetical order…]
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Interview with ROB SANDERS
Rob Sanders has been writing Black Library fiction for a little while, from short stories to novels. I particularly liked his debut novel, Redemption Corps, and have since been reading everything by him that I can find. With the upcoming release of his anticipated Legion of the Damned novel, I thought it would be a great time to ask him some questions about his latest novels, his writing practices, background and more.
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
“Control Point” by Myke Cole (AceRoc)
Guns ‘n’ Sorcery is born…
Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.
Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.
Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.
The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down – and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is 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.
There are occasions when you hear of a novel long before you get the chance to read it. Based on interviews with the author, endorsements from other authors, any synopsis you might read, your expectation builds. Then, when you finally have the book in your hands, you start reading it and it just blows your expectations out of the water. Those are rare books that come along maybe once or twice a year, if you’re lucky, and rarely from debut authors. Whatever the cause, the book will just work for you on every level – plot, pacing, prose, and characters. For me, Control Point is one of those books. It sees the beginning of something new and awesome: guns ‘n’ sorcery. Blending military fiction with Urban Fantasy, this novel was an absolute blast to read – action-packed, tightly written and plotted, intense and utterly gripping. I loved this.
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Happy New Year!
I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone who reads Civilian-Reader, as well as everyone who has contributed to the site and given me feedback, a very Happy New Year!
I hope all your hopes and dreams for 2012 are realised. Especially if they involve books…
Thank you all for reading!