Friday, June 29, 2012

Marvel & Susan G. Komen

Still catching up on all my emails after the Virus Ate My Computer, but I came across this and thought it was pretty cool and worthy of being shared on here.

Marvel Entertainment will be going Pink this October, with a month-long campaign in support of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, to run during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Marvel will have all new covers on select October titles and educational material on Throughout the month, many of the publisher’s most popular super hero titles – including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Wolverine – will feature all-new variant covers with special pink-colored costumes.


Excuse the Silence…

… but I’ve been (very) busy graduating. It’s been a hectic week, but it’s all now done, so reviews and more will be posted over the next few days as I catch up.


Upcoming: The Angel of Fire by William King, Shift by Kim Curran, 12.21 by Dustin Thomason, The Ultimates Vols.1 & 2 by Mark Millar, and more!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

And We’re Back!

Got computer re-booted from scratch, which means I’ll hopefully be able to get back to normal soon. I’ve got a bunch of reviews backed-up, so I’ll hopefully get them written and posted over the course of next week and beyond.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

“Fables” Deluxe Vol.5 (Vertigo)

Fables-Deluxe-05Writer: Bill Willingham | Artist: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leioloha, David Hahn, Lan Medina, Andrew Pepoy, Dan Green | Colours: Daniel Vozzo

In these tales from FABLES #34-45, Boy Blue undertakes a mission of revenge as he uncovers the Adversary’s true identity! Plus, Jack’s adventures in Hollywood and Mowgli's return to Fabletown!

This is another very strong addition to the series, and I really enjoyed “Homelands” and “Arabian Nights & Days”. “Jack Be Nimble” was also very good, but as the seed of a new spin-off series, and despite featuring one of my favourite characters, it didn’t have quite as much punch. Of course, “not as much punch” when talking about Bill Willingham is still very high quality, so this is nevertheless probably one of my favourite collections.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Interview with SARAH CAWKWELL


Sarah Cawkwell is one of Black Library’s new stable of writers, and one with a penchant for writing great stories about the most Chaotic of characters. With a few short stories and a couple of very-well-received novels (The Gildar Rift and Valkia the Bloody) now under her belt for Black Library, I thought it was high-time I pestered her with some questions about her writing and future plans…

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Guest Post: “On Mind Control” by David Nickle

Nickle-RasputinsBastardsNo question about it. Mind control is more than a trope. It’s a bona fide kink.

You can verify this with a simple Google search (that you should probably do from home, when the kids are asleep or your parents are out), or you can take my word for it: The idea of bending another’s will to one’s own, for whatever purpose, is something that a great many people find fascinating, in that way.

It shouldn’t be surprising: mind control, like the most popular kinks, is all about power differentials – the savant who can exercise said control being the “top”, and the poor, usually uncommonly attractive and unattainable shlub on the receiving end being the “bottom”.

My novel Rasputin’s Bastards is all about mind control. The story covers decades in the lives of specially-selected and trained psychic powerhouses, working on behalf of the old Soviet KGB against their counterparts at Langley, in an Amazing-Kreskin variation of the Great Game. The psychics in this book engage in astral projection, and are able to enter the minds and bodies of properly-conditioned sleeper agents.

Monday, June 18, 2012

“House Blood” by Mike Lawson (Grove/Atlantic)

Lawson-HouseBloodThe latest Joe DeMarco thriller

Orson Mulray, CEO of Mulray Pharma, a cold and calculating man obsessed with profit and prestige. Mulray believes he has discovered a drug that could prevent a previously incurable disease. It could be the salvation of millions of people and make him billions of dollars. But the drug needs to be tested on human subjects and Mulray needs more than blood samples – he needs autopsy results.

Lizzie Warwick, a naive philanthropist who provides relief to third-world victims of wars and natural disasters, is the ideal tool. But then her D.C. lobbyist uncovers the plan, so Mulray has him killed and frames his partner, Brian Kincaid, for the murder.

Two years later, DeMarco is asked to look into the seemingly hopeless case but he has other things on his mind: his powerful boss, John Mahoney, has been ousted from his position as Speaker of the House; his girlfriend has left him; and his friend Emma may be dying. DeMarco has no expectation of freeing Kincaid – and he certainly doesn’t expect to become the target of two of the most ruthless killers he and Emma have ever encountered.

House Blood, the seventh novel in the Joe DeMarco series, is another great thriller from Lawson. Filled with political and international intrigue, and populated by three-dimensional and engaging characters, it fulfilled and even exceeded my expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

“Fables” Deluxe Vol.4 (Vertigo)


Another superb collection

Writer: Bill Willingham | Artist: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leioloha, Tony Akins, Jimmy Palmiotti, John Bolton, Charles Vess, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Jill Thompson, Esao Andrews, Tara McPherson, Mark Wheatley, James Jean, Derek Kirk Kim & Brian Bolland | Colours: Daniel Vozzo

Bill Willingham’s hit series FABLES continues here, as issues #28-33 are collected for the first time in hardcover, along with the original graphic novel FABLES: 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL.

As Fables moves into its fourth deluxe hardcover collection, it just keeps going from strength-to-strength. While the book didn’t quite have as much impact on me as books one to three did, it nevertheless continues the story of these characters in very fine form, and maintains a quality way above that of many other comics – of the same genre and otherwise. This is easily one of my favourite comic series, and this book further confirms why it has been so successful and popular.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Comics Round-Up (June 13)


Bit of a mixed bag, this week. Also rather delayed – sorry about that, but I was moving and packing up all my stuff in NYC, so things got a little delayed and pushed back. This week’s there’s a massive (though predictable) disappointment, but also a couple of interesting and well-done comics. Also, one of my favourite series comes to an end.

Reviewed: Action Comics #10, Batman: Detective Comics #10, Cobra #14, Incorruptible #30, Star Wars: Knight Errant – Escape #1, Valen the Outcast #7

“Malediction” by C.Z. Dunn (Black Library)


Narrated by: Sean Barret | Performed by: Rupert Degas & Saul Reichlin

On the world of Amadis, veteran Imperial Guard officer Regan Antigone is being honoured for his role in the planet’s liberation from the forces of Chaos, some twenty-five years earlier. But when his old comrade, Master Tigrane of the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter, arrives to join the festivities and asks to hear the glorious tale told once more, Antigone falters. With the details of his account cast under close scrutiny and with the judgement of the Imperium hanging over him, will his noble reputation remain intact?

In this story, we get a slightly different take on the Imperial never-ending war against the Archenemy. As the story begins, Antigone (performed with an Irish accent, which I rather liked), is suffering through a post-campaign ceremony – he is sickened by the propaganda spouted by the MCs, uncomfortable with the exaggeration of his feats of arms and heroism.

A Dark Angel Captain joins, and publicly toasts and salutes Antigone, and they fall into recollection and war stories. They’ve met before, the Dark Angel had saved Antigone’s life along with a couple of his other comrades. We’re transported back to the battlefront, as a squad of less-than-zealous Guardsmen try to survive in the mud and grinding horror of the battlefront.

But, is Antigone telling the truth? And who is the mysterious, hooded Astartes warrior (acted just a tad melodramatically), who initially comes to their aid? The Dark Angels officer at the dinner grills the hero, attempting to get to the truth. But what are the consequences for keeping or breaking a battlefield oath, and the secret he’s harboured since that fateful day?

Overall, this is a very good audio-drama. I loved the lack of melodrama, the calm and steady narrative and performances. Malediction also benefits from multiple actors working on it, bringing some nice variation of voices and accents. I particularly liked the original type of story that Dunn’s written (I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s not at all what I was expecting, while totally in keeping with the Warhammer 40,000 setting and Imperial mores, customs and penal code).  The story, especially the tragic end, the overall atmosphere and mood, are excellent.

Easily among the best of Black Library’s short audio-dramas.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Crime Imprint: Seventh Street Books


A new crime imprint coming from Prometheus Books, who also brought us Pyr! Also, Seventh Street Books has announced their inaugural line of fiction. I’ve been really impressed by Pyr’s novels (I have a slew of reviews coming up for them, so watch this space!), so I’ll certainly be interested to see what Prometheus’s crime imprint comes up with.

Continue reading for information on their first nine releases. Hopefully I’ll be able to feature more about them on the site closer to release date, and I’ll try to get some interviews with at least a couple of the authors.

Interview with JEFF SALYARDS


Scourge of the Betrayer is one of the best new fantasies I’ve read in the past two years. It takes a different approach to fantasy warfare, more in line with embedded journalists of the Iraq War than out-and-out mayhem and bloodshed. That’s not to say the story is action-less, for there is some pretty good combat, too. Nevertheless, I decided to get in touch with Jeff, to see if he could answer a few questions.

Monday, June 11, 2012

I Ask You: “Should You Read What You Write?” by Matthew Griffiths

Griffiths-WeatherOnVersimmonAn extra instalment to last week’s “Should You Read What You Write?” survey-post.

Full disclosure: Matthew and I attended Durham University at the same time. He is a marvellous fellow, and extremely gifted, so if you’re a fan of Dr Who, I would certainly recommend you read his work.

Should you read what you write? You can’t not; but you can’t read that alone. I’ve published poems, short stories and, somewhat to my surprise, a novel, and I hope this diversity of genres means I can bring something fresh to one from another. Although it could also mean (to paraphrase Margaret Atwood) feeling the need to tell novelists you’re really a poet, and poets you’re really a novelist. It might even be better if I tell both parties that I’m really a PhD student.

“King of Thorns” by Mark Lawrence (Ace Books / Voyager)

Lawrence-KingOfThornsUKJorg’s quest for power continues

The Broken Empire burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings battle for the all-throne. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them.

A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg’s gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king.

Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan.

This is a tricky novel to review. I really want to steer clear of spoilers (some are unavoidable, though), so I’m going to keep this relatively short. I’ve been looking forward to King of Thorns ever since I finished Prince of Thorns. It’s an ambitious novel, one that works very well, despite a couple of concerns I had about the beginning. If you enjoyed Prince of Thorns, then you should enjoy this, but expect a story of considerably greater scope and complexity.

[Warning: there are some minor, unavoidable spoilers for Prince of Thorns in this review.]

“Batman: Prey” (DC)


Batman vs. Dr Strange

Writer: Doug Moench | Artists: Paul Gulacy, Terry Austin & Jimmy Palmiotti | Colours: Steve Oliff & James Sinclair

Batman must confront the sinister Dr. Hugo Strange, a man with a deadly secret who is determined to kill the Dark Knight. Who is the fearsome Night Scourge, and what is his link to the GCPD? And how does Catwoman fit into all this?

Collecting two storylines from Batman’s early years, this is a pretty good introduction to the character and his relationships with not-yet-Commissioner Gordon and also Catwoman. There are two distinct art-styles used, as the two stories within were first published quite far apart (they were first published as Legends of the Dark Knight #11-15 and #137-141). It’s a very good collection, not to mention substantial in length, and I enjoyed both halves.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The State of the Genre?

An editorial cartoon from Clay Jones, which I thought was rather amusing, as well as speaking volumes:


Thoughts, comments?

Friday, June 08, 2012

Reviewer Request

So, post-BEA, I’m exhausted but also swamped with books. I also want to start expanding the blog. Therefore, I would like to offer an invitation to be a guest reviewer on Civilian Reader. There’s just no way I can read and review all these books in a timely manner, and keep up to date with other new and old titles that come my way.

Therefore, there are four books I would like to offer to potential reviewers (I will post you the book). For this round, this is open to US only, but I will do another round when I get back to Britain open to the UK and Europe.

Here are the four titles:


Michael Koryta’s The Prophet (thriller); Chris Roberson’s Further Beyond the Threshold (sci-fi/space opera); B.V. Larson’s Technomancer (sci-fi/cyberpunk); and Rachel Aaron’s The Spirit War (fantasy, #4 in series)

Note: This does not mean I won’t read and review these four books myself in the near future. For example, the only reason I’m not reviewing The Spirit War is because I have to catch up with the rest of the series first, which could take a while.

Please only offer if you’re serious about reading and reviewing one of these books. If you’re interested, please email me which book you’d like to review. I would also ask that you ‘prove’ writing ability and knowledge of the genre. This is not just a chance to nab a free book and write “I liked it a lot. It was nice.”

If this works out, I will probably make it a frequent thing. If you’re interested, please let me know by Sunday night. I’ll be posting books on Monday morning.

Also, if you would like to guest-review or -write on Civilian Reader in general, feel free to email me a sample review, and I’ll consider posting it and/or offering you a writing & reviewing gig.

Genre fiction and blogging is, after all, a community thing, so it would be nice to feature more writers and reviewers on here.



Guest Post: “The Not So Secret Origins of the Multiverse” by Ira Nayman

A little while back, I was contacted by Canadian author Ira Nayman about a possible review. As you may know, I am usually wary of self-published works, but Ira amused me, so I asked if he would like to write a little piece to introduce his series.

Nayman-LunaForTheLuniesAs I write this, I have published three collections of Alternate Reality News Service (ARNS) stories (Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be, What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys, and Luna for the Lunies!). In addition, I have produced the pilot for a radio series based on stories out of the first two books: “The Weight of Information, Episode One” can be heard, in two parts, on YouTube. Most weeks, at least one new ARNS article appears on my Web site, Les Pages aux Folles; as I tell people at science fiction conventions, if they check my Web site regularly, they can watch the fourth and the fifth ARNS books take shape (they should be finished and collected in print some time next year). I am also have another novel, Welcome to the Multiverse – Sorry for the Inconvenience, which builds on some of the ideas introduced in the Alternate Reality News Service books; fingers crossed, that will also be available next year.

Readers new to my fictional multiverse – which, let’s be honest, will be pretty much all of you – come to a fully formed fictional reality. But, of course, when I originally conceived of the Alternate Reality News Service around six years ago, I had no idea that this was where it would lead.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

“King Of Thorns” by Mark Lawrence (Ace Books / Voyager) - The MLA* Review

Lawrence-KingOfThornsUKThe sequel to one of 2011’s most-talked-about fantasy novels

I thoroughly enjoyed Prince of Thorns, and I would certainly hold it up as one of the best debut novels I’ve read in the last five years – not only was the story gripping, but Lawrence’s prose were some of the best I’ve read (this is a huge factor for me, when deciding on how much I love a book). So, I’ve been impatiently awaiting its sequel. Which I have now read! As a preview for the full, proper review, I thought I’d offer a brief MLA review, first. Because they’re fun. And slightly silly.

* MLA = “Mark Lawrence Approach” – Mark suggested something unorthodox for my review of John Scalzi’s Redshirts, and because the resultant review was quite popular, and because many of you asked for more reviews like it, here we go with King of Thorns

BEA Days the Second & Third

So BEA is now DONE! Three days of insane book-related madness, hustle and bustle. Overall, as my first con/expo, I would say it was an interesting and “fun” experience, but also one that I think is a very acquired taste… Will I go again? If I’m in New York next year at the same time (please-oh-please let me be here), then certainly – the chances to meet authors, publicists and editors who I know only via email or Twitter has been great, and it’s always nice to prove you are a real person.

So, without further ado, here’s the haul from the second and third day, with synopses, artwork, and some comments… [Day One Here]

I Ask You: “Should you read what you write?”

I’ve been wondering lately about whether or not it’s a good idea to read what you write. I don’t mean to suggest people shouldn’t edit or proof-read their own writing. What I mean is, should you read the same genre that you write in?

I’ll give you an example. I have a novel idea, which I am particularly excited about. It’s related to a specific sub-genre, which I have consciously been avoiding in order to avoid undue influenced by what is already out there. At the same time, I recognise that being familiar with the genre in which you wish to write is important. Reading widely outside of your genre could help bring outside influences into the novel, help you make something new.

There’s also the question of whether or not you should read your own work, an angle that a few authors addressed as well. How obsessively should you pay attention to your work once it’s out in the world?

So, my question to you is,

“Should you read what you write? And why?”

I sent out a general invite by email and Tweet, and received quite a bit of interest. I’ve included the responses, below, from Jennie Ivins, Sarah Cawkwell, Jon Courtenay-Grimwood, Myke Cole, Mhairi Simpson, Anne Lyle, Robert Jackson Bennett, Mark Lawrence, Gail Carriger, Paul S. Kemp, Lou Morgan, Helen Lowe, and Justin Landon.

Please feel free to contribute your own thoughts and responses (on both interpretations of the question), in the comments. There may also be more authors’ contributions coming in over the next couple of days, so I will either update this or post a second round.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Artwork: “Knife Sworn” by Mazarkis Williams (Jo Fletcher/Night Shade)

Near the end of last year, I read The Emperor’s Knife by debut author Mazarkis Williams. It was very good. It also had a very cool cover, and now the artwork to grace the sequel has been unveiled! And here it is:


Nicely in keeping with the style of book one (including the blades in the middle), but with different colour-tones (warmer reds and yellow, rather than the cooler blues and greys for The Emperor’s Knife). Readers in the UK can expect the novel in November 2012, published by Jo Fletcher Books, and December in the US from Night Shade Books.

I tried to find out who did the design, but came up empty – apologies to the artist. (Please share info in comments, if you know it.)

Interview with PAUL S. KEMP


Paul Kemp is a very busy author, writing in a number of franchised fantasy settings – including Star Wars, Forgotten Realms and Warhammer – as well as his own, new fantasy series featuring the rogues Egil & Nix. I’ve read a few of his novels, including the upcoming The Hammer & the Blade (which is great), and I wanted to find out more about his writing, so I fired over some questions…

Comics Round-Up (June 6)


A bit more of a targeted selection of comics. A lot of fun ones, too: a great reinterpretation of a classic villain; two “heroes” fighting in the face of an alien invasion; zombies want to eat the braaainz of geeks; clandestine military outfits; some weirdness; and the families of super-heroes deal with a post-battle situation. I’ve been pretty busy and distracted all week, so I’ve only written short reviews – this is probably advisable, actually, as some of these are now a good way into their runs, so I don’t want to spoil too much.

Reviewed: Batman Annual #1, Extermination #1, Fanboys vs. Zombies #3, G.I.Joe #14, Monocyte #4, Supurbia #4

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

BEA Day the First

This is a big event. Rather bigger than I could reasonably cope with on my own (I’m delicate in massive crowds…), but what a blast! Also, perhaps the most insanely generous place I’ve ever been to. I was there from just after 9am until 2:30pm, and people forced on me 14 books! Ok, “forced” is probably pushing it, but still – they were more than happy to give them to me, and in seven instances, also sign them! So, below is just a quick run-down of the day, and some info on the books I picked up – all of which should feature on the blog at some point in the near future, and obviously some sooner than others. It was also nice to bump into some friendly faces – Myke Cole, Joshua Bilmes, Michael “Mad Hatter” and Jennie from Fantasy Faction, and a handful of other drive-by hello-enjoy-goodbye moments.

Anyway, here’s the pile of awesome:


“Stormwatch, Vol.1: The Dark Side” (DC)

Stormwatch-Vol.01-DarkSide (New 52)Bold, brash, and ballsy – an intriguing sci-fi comic series

Writer: Paul Cornell | Artist: Miguel Sepulveda & Al Barrionuevo, | Colours: Allen Passalaqua, Alex Sinclair, Peter Pantazis & Chris Burnham

Jack Hawksmoor, Midnighter, Apollo, The Engineer and Martian Manhunter comprise a dangerous super human police force whose existence is kept secret from the world.

This covert team of sci-fi super heroes must battle the Earth’s moon itself and find a way to hide its monstrous metamorphosis from the rest of the Earth!

I only picked up these issues because I was enjoying Demon Knights so much, and this series is also written by Paul Cornell (who is now also writing the superb Saucer Country, published by Vertigo). I didn’t know anything about Stormwatch, except that it had connections with some of the other New 52 titles and who wrote it. As it turns out, it’s pretty good, and quite fun. However, I think I prefer the two aforementioned other series of Cornell’s over this one.

Monday, June 04, 2012

“Supreme Justice” by Phillip Margolin (Harper)

Margolin-W2-SupremeJusticeIntrigue & Corruption at the Supreme Court

Sarah Woodruff, on death row in Oregon for murdering her lover, John Finley, has appealed her case to the Supreme Court just when a prominent justice resigns, leaving a vacancy.

Then, for no apparent reason, another justice is mysteriously attacked. Dana Cutler – one of the heroes from Margolin’s bestselling Executive Privilege – is quietly called in to investigate. She looks for links between the Woodruff appeal and the ominous incidents in the justices' chambers, which eventually lead her to a shoot-out that took place years ago on a small freighter docked upriver in Shelby, Oregon, containing a dead crew and illegal drugs. The only survivor on board? John Finley.

With the help of Brad Miller and Keith Evans, Dana uncovers a plot by a rogue element in the American intelligence community involving the president's nominee to the Supreme Court, and soon the trio is thrown back into the grips of a deadly, executive danger.

This is the second novel in Margolin’s Washington Trilogy (the first was Executive Privilege), and it continues the series in very fine form. The novel reunites us with Brad Miller and Dana Cutler – the former is now a clerk at the Supreme Court, while Dana continues to work as a private investigator and also some-time reporter for Exposed, the supermarket tabloid our protagonists turned to in their previous novel. Supreme Justice has a couple of great twists and red herrings, as well as political and courtroom intrigue. This is a pretty solid, entertaining and gripping political/legal thriller.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

“American Vampire” Vol.1 (Vertigo)


Vampirism Comes to America. And Evolves…

Writer: Scott Snyder & Stephen King | Artist: Rafael Albuquerque | Colours: McCaig

Introducing a new strain of vampire – a more vicious species, this series traces the creatures’ bloodline through decades of American history.

This book follows two inter-linked stories: one written by Snyder and one written by King. The first tale follows Pearl, a young woman living in 1920s Los Angeles, who is brutally turned into a vampire and sets out on a path of vengeance against the European monsters who tortured and abused her. The second story, set in the days of America’s Wild West, tells of the origin of Skinner Sweet, the original American vampire – a stronger, faster creature than any vampire ever seen before, with unique powers all his own, which set him not only apart from his European forebears, but maybe above them in the food-chain as well... I really enjoyed this.

“Helion Rain” by George Mann (Black Library)


Performed by: Peter Longworth

The world of Idos is on the verge of destruction, wracked by catastrophic storms and plagued by ravening tyranids. Into this maelstrom come the Raven Guard 4th Company, the warzone perfectly suited to their lightning-strike methods of combat.

Led by Veteran Sergeant Grayvus, their mission is simple – to rescue the planet’s last survivors. But in the midst of this nightmare, they receive new orders to locate and destroy a power station. The station is built upon a fault line, and the resulting quake would swallow thousands of tyranids and turn the war in the Imperium’s favour. Grayvus and his company must fight their way through genestealers, acid spore mines and a deadly biomorph if they are to succeed and reclaim Idos for the Imperium.

Just a really quick review. I thought this was a pretty good audio-book. I enjoyed it, certainly, but I don’t know why I don’t rate it as highly as some others do. It’s not that it’s bad, by any stretch of the imagination – the story itself is pretty good. It just didn’t stick with me as much as some of the others have.

The story is packed with intense, brutal, and detailed warfare between the Raven Guard and the ravening hordes of Tyranids. I liked that Grayvus strategizes about how best to take out a lictor (at the beginning), and plenty of other beasties, giving this story a little more than just hack-and-slash, bolter-filled battles.

I would have preferred a little more character-building and character-development. While there was plenty of detail on how the Raven Guard prosecute a war, and a couple of their idiosyncratic customs, there were moments when I felt I hadn’t really got to know the characters themselves particularly well, or as well as I have in other audio-dramas from Black Library. Perhaps some battles were a tad over-described, as well.

The story is well performed, though – far less melodramatic, and with calmer expressions than in some other performances. On that score, it’s much better than the earlier offerings from Black Library.

So, in sum, Helion Rain is sure to please fans of Space Marine stories, who are after a short, action-packed fix. But, it is not quite as good as some of the other audio-dramas the publisher has released.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

“Batman: Death by Design” (DC)


An artistic, original graphic novel

Writer: Chip Kidd | Artist: Dave Taylor

Gotham City is undergoing one of the most expansive construction booms in its history. The most prestigious architects from across the globe have buildings in various phases of completion all over town. As chairman of the Gotham Landmarks Commission, Bruce Wayne has been a key part of this boom, which signals a golden age of architectural ingenuity for the city. And then, the explosions begin.All manner of design-related malfunctions – faulty crane calculations, sturdy materials suddenly collapsing, software glitches, walkways giving way and more – cause casualties across the city. This bizarre string of seemingly random catastrophes threatens to bring down the whole construction industry. Fingers are pointed as Batman must somehow solve the problem and find whoever is behind it all.

Before picking this up, I had only seen one preview page, and I was really intrigued by the style and story – it looked gloomy and atmospheric, which are two things I’ve always associated with Batman. As it turns out, my initial impressions wer right on the money, and I’m really glad I bought this – this is a great detective/investigative story, rendered in some truly wonderful artwork. Very impressive.

Week in Review (June 2)

It’s been another good week around the book-blogosphere, and here are a few of the articles, interviews and so forth that stood out for me. We have Robert Jackson Bennett writing about characters; a two-part interview with China Mieville; Myke Cole shares 18 rules learned from his first year writing; Michael J. Sullivan reminisces about the last week’s Balticon; Chuck Wendig re-addresses self-publishing; and The Nation publishes its Amazon-&-Publishing special issue, with three key articles of note.

Friday, June 01, 2012

“Fables” Deluxe Volume 3 (Vertigo)

Fables-Deluxe-03Writer: Bill Willingham | Artists: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Tony Atkins & Jimmy Palmiotti | Colours: Daniel Vozzo

When Little Red Riding Hood suddenly reappears, she’s welcomed as a miraculous survivor by nearly everyone except her old nemesis, Bigby Wolf, who smells espionage and subversion. But will he be able to prove his case before disaster strikes?

Coming back for a third Deluxe collection of Willingham’s Fables, and I am once again impressed, entertained and hooked throughout. The book wasn’t quite as good as the first or second collection, but it was still very strong. This series goes from strength to strength, and I really love the world Willingham et al have created. Another great addition to the series.

“Redshirts” by John Scalzi (Tor/Gollancz)

Scalzi-Red ShirtsYou’re an Extra. You are not long for this universe… [Or: “All your lives are belong to us…”]

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better… until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

I really have no idea how to review this novel… The potential for spoilers is just too great. Which is a pity, as the novel is filled with quotable passages. I’d been really looking forward to this ever since it was first announced – it sounded like an endearing parody of the tropes of old sci-fi movies and fiction. As it turned out, that is exactly what a lot of this novel is. I certainly enjoyed it, and read it at near-record speed (for me), but I do have mixed feelings about the book as a whole.