Sunday, September 30, 2012

AIR, Volume 1: “Letters From Lost Countries” (Vertigo)

Air-Vol.1Writer: G. Willow Wilson | Artist: M.K. Perker | Colours: Chris Chuckry

Blythe knew it was a risky time to be an airline stewardess, but the skies might be much more dangerous than anyone imagines. She's just learned of the Etesian Front – vigilantes dedicated to take the skies back from terrorism. They're after a mysterious man she's just met. And whether he's an average frequent flier or a terrorist, finding out will lead Blythe to discover the weird science of hyperpraxis – an innovation that will change the way we see technology forever.

I first became aware of this series when I interviewed G. Willow Wilson a few months back. I was mainly interested in finding out more about Alif the Unseen, Wilson’s latest novel, but she mentioned Air in one of the questions, and I decided to hunt down the first collection for review. My feelings about the book are mixed – there are some great flashes of inspiration and excellence, but I found the narrative and dialogue somewhat disappointing in places.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

One for Horus Heresy Fans…

Forge World, part of Games Workshop, has finally released their first Primarch model: Angron, the psychotic gladiator-lord of the World Eaters. And it’s a damn fine model. I just wanted to take this opportunity to share a pic of it on the site:

It would always be a tricky proposition, releasing Primarch models – in the lore and the novels, they have become such mythical beings that for some they’ll never be captured appropriately in miniature form. With this model, though, I think Simon Egan (and whoever did the paint-job) has done a fantastic job.

For more great pictures (and details of Betrayal, Forge World’s first Heresy book), check out the their website.


The Horus Heresy Novel Series: Horus Rising, False Gods, Galaxy in Flames, Flight of the Eisenstein, Fulgrim, Descent of Angels, Legion, Battle for the Abyss, Mechanicum, Tales of Heresy, Fallen Angels, A Thousand Sons, Nemesis, The First Heretic, Prospero Burns, Age of Darkness, The Outcast Dead, Deliverance Lost, Know No Fear, The Primarchs, Fear to Tread, Shadows of Treachery, Angel Exterminatus (01/2013), Betrayer (04/2013)

Friday, September 28, 2012

DC Comics New 52 #0s…


There’s been much discussion in the comics community about the New 52 “#0” issues, and so I decided I’d try to get a few of them read and reviewed for the website. I thought of them as another chance to get started with a new series and also some extra information and back-story for series I’ve already read a good deal of and enjoyed. I wasn’t able to get as many as I was interested in, but I’ll keep trying to find more (I just don’t have as much time as I used to, when the New 52 were first launched). I’ll certainly attempt to get the #0 issues for some of the series I never tried, but always wanted to (the Green Lantern series, for example, of which I’ve tried none; and also Flash; and a selection of others).


What I would say, though, is that these issues don’t all appear to work as proper introductions – a few of them lay out future storylines, or make allusion to events that have already happened in the main series chronology. In addition, there are some more revelations about how the New 52 is meant to be interpreted – especially on the Batman side of things, which appears to have been rather messed up by these zero issues… (which Newsarama has compiled in a handy post).


Reviewed: Action Comics, Batgirl, Batman, Batman & Robin, Batwoman, Catwoman, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, Justice League, Nightwing, Phantom Stranger, Superboy, Supergirl, Wonder Woman

Thursday, September 27, 2012

News: More Riyria on the Horizon from Michael J. Sullivan (Orbit)

Readers should know by now that I’m quite the fan of Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations series, which was published by Orbit Books last year (after a successful self-publishing run). Orbit collected the six novels into three omnibus editions – Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire and Heir of Novron – of which I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two.


Orbit US Artwork

They are fantasy novels that, I think, tap into some of the classic elements of what made early fantasy so popular, but with a more-modern twist and sensibility. They don’t take themselves too seriously, while also not shying away from serious topics or ‘adult’ content. There was some internet squabbling over the novels, as one reviewer produced what many thought was a hatchet job, while others thought was an exemplary polemic about perceived weaknesses of the novels. Regardless, I rather enjoyed these (except for the long sea voyage, but that’s more a personal aversion to ship-based fiction than anything wrong the author did).

I’m not sure what’s kept me from diving right into the third book, but I expect I will do so pretty soon (I’m feeling in the mood for that sort of fantasy novel at the moment).

Anyway, this brings me on to what was unveiled today, while I was at work (and therefore unable to blog about). From Orbit’s website:

“We are excited to announce the next book by Michael Sullivan, THE CROWN TOWER! Orbit will be publishing worldwide in August 2013! It is the first book in the Riyria Chronicles and it will be a two book series, with the second novel, THE ROSE AND THORN, following soon after.”

crowntower-2-5This makes me both excited but also a little wary. Prequels are always tricky, but given that the Riyria Revelations are filled with mentions of early adventures and exploits, I think two novels to give Royce and Hadrian a little more backstory could be a good thing.

Two men who hate each other. One impossible mission. A legend in the making.

Hadrian, a warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with a thieving assassin, Royce, with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most prized possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels that the old wizard is after, and if he can just keep them from killing each other, they just might do it.

For more on the announcement, I’d recommend heading over to Sullivan’s website, where he talks about the duology and his thoughts on returning to Hadrian and Royce’s past.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Interview with LEE BATTERSBY


A few months ago, I caught sight of the cover artwork for The Corpse-Rat King, Lee Battersby’s debut for Angry Robot Books. It looked dark and weird, so I was naturally intrigued. With the book now available, I thought I’d get in touch with Lee and grill him about his thoughts on writing, reading and much more besides.

Monday, September 24, 2012

“Sandman Slim” by Richard Kadrey (Voyager)


Urban Fantasy the way it was always meant to be…

Life sucks and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles.

Now Stark’s back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you’d expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.

Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.

This is the first in Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series, and it’s taken me long enough to get to it. But I’m very glad that I have: it’s awesome. Brutal and grim, this is a very different UF novel, that shies away from the current trajectory of the genre while embracing some of its best tropes. I really enjoyed reading this novel.

Friday, September 21, 2012

My Favourite Novel by Brian McClellan

This is the first installment of a new series of guest posts. It’s pretty self-explanatory what it’s all about. Brian McClellan, the author of the upcoming Promise of Blood (book one in The Powder Mage Trilogy) coming in April 2013 from Orbit Books. Over to Brian…

BrianMcClellanI often tell people that I don’t have a single favorite novel. I have dozens of favorite novels. Books I’ve read and loved and re-read; with engaging characters and nasty villains and a compelling plot. If I’ve read a 150,000 word novel in less than twenty-four hours, how can I not list it among my favorite books? And of all those, how can I choose which one is my favorite?

If I tell you that I don’t have a favorite novel, I’m lying.

My favorite novel, without question, is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012



Dungeons & Dragons is one of fantasy and gaming’s mainstays. Like a number of larger intellectual properties, there are also plentiful novel spin-offs based on the games and worlds. These franchise novels are, in my opinion, gateway drugs to the wider wonders of fantasy and science fiction, and will always have a special place in my heart. To that end, I’ve tried to feature a number of authors who work in the shared worlds (especially Black Library’s). Today, I bring you an interview with Marsheila Rockwell, who writes in the D&D setting that most intrigues me (Eberron).

Boom Studios Catch-Up (September)


This is just a nice, short catch-up. Boom Studios are still one of my favourite of the smaller comics publishers, and here are two of their best on-going series – they’re very different from each other, but both are also quite fun.

Reviewed: Extermination #4 & Fanboys vs. Zombies #6

“I Steve Rogers… Do Solemnly Swear…”

UC-Ultimates-16Wait, what? Here’s the email subject line that greeted me when I got in to work this morning:

Captain America Elected President Of The United States of America!

Given a glitch with my work computer, I wasn’t able to look at the preview pages that were attached to the email, but I thought I’d share a couple of them here. Because this is… an interesting development. I’d been watching some of the Ultimate Comics Ultimates previews and story comments for a while, and particularly the “Divided We Stand” story-arc that seems to be bridging a handful of the UC line (Spider-Man and X-Men at least). However, I’m not really sure what I make of it, now…


Here’s what Marvel Entertainment’s Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso had to say of the development:

“This is one of those stories that could only be told in the Ultimate Comics Universe, where the only rule is simple – there are no rules… We’ve seen Captain America fight wars and battle super villains, but running a country is a whole new challenge – but don’t worry, this isn’t about political speeches and closed door meetings. This is exactly the kind of high-octane, super powered thrill ride you’d expect from a book called The Ultimates!”

Hm… Colour me skeptical.

Sam Humphries, who scripted the issue (and also works on Fanboys vs. Zombies for Boom Studios) said:

“Captain America was created in 1941, but this is the first time he’s been made Commander in Chief. It’s an honor to write a landmark milestone for such an iconic character… We’ve made a commitment in Ultimates to show how epic events have significant consequences. President Cap is no different. This will have a lasting impact on Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and the whole team.”




On a happier note, the cover for issue 15 is pretty badass:


Ok, I vote Thor for President!

(Putting the “God” in “In God We Trust”? Too far…?)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

“My Fear of Blueberries, or Why I Write Fantasy” by Evie Manieri (Guest Post)

Today I bring you a short piece by Evie Manieri, the author of Blood’s Pride – the start to an epic fantasy series with some really great twists on fantasy tropes and a lot of originality. So without further ado…

My Fear of Blueberries, or Why I Write Fantasy

by Evie Manieri

Manieri-BloodsPrideUKI’ve never given much thought to why I write fantasy. I’ve never felt like I had much choice in the matter; everything I write just comes out that way. Still, I’ve noticed that people who haven’t read much (or any) genre fiction assume that it’s a form of juvenile escapism, and I take exception to that. Speaking for myself, nothing could be further from the truth, and to explain, I’d like to talk about my blueberry problem.

Every few weeks, my self–esteem rises to the point where I believe myself capable of dealing with a carton of blueberries. I buy them, bring them home and stuff them into the produce version of the Green Mile that is my vegetable drawer. A week later, when they’re nestled in a snowy cushion of mold, I throw them away. I keep buying them because they’re good for me and I like the way they taste. I throw them away because you never know until you bite down on a blueberry if it will be sweet or sour and to what degree, and I can’t cope with the lack of predictability.

Predictability offers only the illusion of control. I know that. I know that I’m fine as long as my predictions match up to reality, and that when they do not, I lose trust in all of my assumptions and the most mundane things become a source of anxiety. I know that I have to make a concerted effort not to avoid situations with too many variables – just like I avoid blueberries.

Manieri-BloodsPrideYou might think, then, that I write fantasy so that I can construct every aspect of the universe to my liking – but that’s not it at all. I don’t look to fantasy to escape my worst nightmares; I go there to let them out of the closet and poke at them with a stick. A story isn’t something static and lifeless; it’s not a doll’s house or a jigsaw puzzle. Anything can happen in a story, and in no genre is that more true than in fantasy. The most fundamental truths can be turned upside–down in a moment without straining credulity. How would I survive if something came along and smashed every one of my assumptions to bits? How would I cope if I discovered that I’d based my understanding of the world on misconceptions and lies? No, fantasy isn’t my playground – it’s my war room.


Blood’s Pride is published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books (out now), and in the US by Tor Books (February 19th 2013).

Also on CR: Review of Blood’s Pride and Interview with Evie Manieri

Monday, September 17, 2012

“The Coldest War” by Ian Tregillis (Tor)

Tregillis-2-TheColdestWarUSThe second book in the Milkweed Triptych

A precarious balance of power maintains the peace between Britain and the USSR. For decades, Britain’s warlocks have been all that stands between the British Empire and the Soviet Union – a vast domain stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the English Channel. Now, someone is killing the warlocks, and Britain’s national security is threatened.

Meanwhile, a brother and sister escape from a top-secret facility deep behind the Iron Curtain. Once subjects of a twisted Nazi experiment to imbue ordinary people with superhuman abilities, then prisoners of war in the immense Soviet research effort to reverse-engineer the Nazi technology, they head for England.

Because that’s where former spy Raybould Marsh lives. And Gretel, the mad seer, has plans for him.

As Marsh is once again drawn into the world of Milkweed, he discovers that Britain’s darkest acts didn’t end with the war. And while he strives to protect queen and country, he is forced to confront his own willingness to accept victory at any cost.

A few months ago, I finally got around to reading Ian Tregillis’s superb debut novel, Bitter Seeds. Luckily, the sequel was already out in the US, and I was very happy to get my hands on it so soon after finishing the first book. The Coldest War builds brilliantly on Bitter Seeds – it’s darker, tighter, and utterly engrossing. Easily a contender for best novel of 2012.

[Warning: Some spoilers, though I have kept this review short to avoid too many. Proceed with caution.]

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New ZENESCOPE Titles (September)


As part of my new approach to individual issues, here’s my round-up of recent Zenescope titles of note. It’s a pretty busy season for the publisher and the Grimm Universe, with a lot of connected stories unfolding (the various Wonderland-related titles, the Grimm Fairy Tale titles) and also some stand-alone series continuing, nearing conclusion, or coming to their ends.

Overall, this is a decent selection of issues, with only a couple of them suffering from Zenescope’s usual pitfalls (cliché or canned dialogue, telegraphing issues, and of course artwork that makes even Catwoman look demure and realistic… – and yes, I have a lot of comments like this throughout this post). That being said, three of them are certainly among the best I’ve read from Zenescope. As a whole, though, I find myself becoming more frustrated with the increased rate of cross-over that doesn’t align chronologically and actually offers up spoilers. I think the publisher will need to take a look at this in the future, in order to not annoy their readers.

Reviewed: Bad Girls #2, Godstorm #0, Grimm Fairy Tales #76 & 77, Irresistible #2 & 3, Jungle Book #5, Myths & Legends #19 & 20, Waking: Dreams End #4, Wonderland #2, Call of Wonderland #3 & 4

Friday, September 14, 2012

Guest Post: “The Fantastical 18th and 19th Centuries, or, Dragons Dancing at Almack’s” by Daniel A. Rabuzzi

Today I bring you a guest post by author Daniel Rabuzzi, who read my post on the Jo Fletcher Books Blog and had some more to add to the topic. So, naturally, I let him guest on the blog…

Rabuzzi-LfY2-IndigoPheasantThank you Stefan for inviting me to guest-post at Civilian Reader, on the occasion of Chizine/CZP publishing my fantasy novel, The Indigo Pheasant (sequel to 2009’s The Choir Boats).

I want to start by quoting you (if I may), when you guest-posted at Jo Fletcher Books in July this year:

“Is it just me, or are 18th/19th Century-style worlds absent from the fantasy genre? I don’t profess to have read every fantasy novel, so it could well be that I’ve missed a swathe of series and novels set in time periods inspired by the 18th and 19th Centuries. But, from my reading, I think their absence is a considerable oversight, and also an area for exploration and exploitation.”

Given that my novels are set in the early 19th century (the action starts in London, and involves characters whose origins are British, West African, Chinese, Indian, German – ­and from elsewhere altogether), you will not be surprised that I agree with you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Guest Post: “Big Versus Small” by Graham McNeill

This October, Canada will host its first Black Library Expo! Long only a UK or US event, it’s a pretty big deal that Canadian fans of Black Library’s many authors and series will get a chance to meet some of their favourite writers. To celebrate the upcoming event, Graham McNeill – the first Black Library author to get on the New York Times Bestseller list, and a Civilian Reader favourite – has written us a short guest post on conventions…


by Graham McNeill

graham-mcneillI’ve been to quite a few Conventions, Expos, Games Days, Signings and the like in my twelve years with Games Workshop and the Black Library. Actually, scratch that, I’ve been to a lot of these kinds of events. Each one has its own character and feel. Some are manic, blink-and-the-day’s-over events where I meet, talk to and sign for so many people that my head’s spinning by the end of it. Some, like my first Horus Heresy signing (for False Gods) are very quiet affairs, where only a few folk turn up. For a few, read: two.

(To be fair, that last one was in London, on a scorching hot day, on the first day of the 2006 World Cup, where England where playing the first match... what chance did I have...?)

Monday, September 10, 2012

“The Bookseller” by Mark Pryor (Seventh Street)

Pryor-BooksellerThe first in hopefully an ongoing thriller series

Who is killing the celebrated bouquinistes of Paris?

Max, an elderly Paris bookstall owner, is abducted at gunpoint in front of his friend, Hugo Marston, head of security at the US embassy. Marston launches a search for Max, enlisting the help of semiretired CIA agent Tom Green when he is confronted with multiple barriers. Together, they investigate not only Max’s past, but also the life and world of Paris bouquinistes. Is Max’s disappearance related to his work or his past? And will Hugo’s investigation threaten his life, too?

This is a pretty good opening salvo from Seventh Street Books. Pryor offers a new, fresh voice in thrillers, while working very much within the genre’s boundaries. It’ll be interesting to see what else the author can come up with, and is certainly now on my to-watch list.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

DMZ: “Free States Rising” & “The Five Nations of New York” Vols. 11 & 12 (Vertigo)


Finally, the end of the series. Ever since I picked up the first book in Brian Wood’s DMZ, I’ve been hooked, eagerly trying to get hold of the next book, and the next. Wood and Burchielli bring the series to a superb, satisfying and emotional close, doing the long series justice. I was sad to have the series end, but I think the team chose to end it at the right point. Some parts of the story could, maybe, have been expanded on or fleshed out, but I think the fact that the story has ended properly, without spin-offs and extra issues, allows it to maintain a considerable impact. It’s a serious, thought-provoking piece of work. DMZ is a must-read for anyone with an interest in politics, media and modern warfare.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Exclusive Excerpt: THE WRONG GOODBYE by Chris F. Holm


Following hot on the heels of our interview with Chris F Holm yesterday (which was very well received), I’m very happy to share an exclusive excerpt from The Wrong Goodbye [after the break]. This is Chris’s second novel in his Collector series (coming very soon from Angry Robot Books). Here’s the synopsis:

Meet Sam Thornton, Collector of Souls.

Because of his efforts to avert the Apocalypse, Sam Thornton has been given a second chance – provided he can stick to the straight-and-narrow.

Which sounds all well and good, but when the soul Sam’s sent to collect goes missing, Sam finds himself off the straight-and-narrow pretty quick.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Missing | Soul Provider | Call Collect | Demon Child ]

[Also, before you move on to the extract – how cool is that cover?]

Thirty Years Old & Still Kicking: MAGICIAN by Raymond E. Feist (Voyager)

This classic of the genre (which I’ve sadly not yet read) was first published 30 years ago, and remains one of the author’s – and the genre’s – most popular books. To celebrate 30 years of Feist, the series is getting a facelift, and it’s a very fine one, too. Here’s the new cover for Magician (to be published in September):


Here’s the synopsis for the book:

The world had changed even before I discovered the foreign ship wrecked on the shore below Crydee Castle, but it was the harbinger of the chaos and death that was coming to our door.

War had come to the Kingdom of the Isles, and in the years that followed it would scatter my friends across the world. I longed o train as a warrior and fight alongside our duke like my foster-brother, but when the time came, I was not offered that choice. My fate would be shaped by other forces.

My name is Pug. I was once an orphaned kitchen boy, with no family and no prospects, but I am destined to become a master magician…

I’ve been reading a lot about this novel, the series and the author’s work as a whole recently, and I’m definitely thinking I should read this very soon.

The eBook will be released in the UK, for the first time, on September 13th 2012.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

An Interview with CHRIS F. HOLM


Chris F. Holm is one of Angry Robot’s best finds, and with his Collector series has amassed an ever-growing number of fans. With the imminent release of The Wrong Goodbye (25th September in the US, 4th October in the UK and rest of the world), I thought it was a perfect time to ask him about his writing and novels.

Monday, September 03, 2012

“Blackwood” by Gwenda Bond (Strange Chemistry)


A historical horror mystery

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

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

I blitzed through this novel. Bond’s writing is tight and her plotting fluid. Taking a North Carolina historical mystery and twisting it for a supernatural, horror flavour, Blackwood is a pretty solid YA novel. If you like your fiction with a dollop of suspense and an understated romance, then Blackwood is for you. This is a solid debut that has put Gwenda Bond onto my “Authors to Watch” List.

A Musical Diversion… ESO

Discovering ESO was an absolute accident – a Facebook ad had been appearing in my timeline for a while, and I finally decided to click through to it. And I’ve now listened/watched this video countless times. I really like the band’s sound, and can’t wait for the album – Nothing Left To Lose, which is out on October 1st in the UK and (hopefully) MP3 retailers in the US.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Comics Catch-Up: BOOM STUDIOS


As many of you will know, I’m a big fan of many Boom Studios series. In this review, I bring you four of their best: Extermination (#3), Higher Earth (#4), Hypernaturals (#3), and the final issue of Valen the Outcast (#8).