Friday, May 31, 2013

Art: Dream & Death, from the SANDMAN


Art by Eduardo Risso. Only just tried Sandman, and I rather liked it. Expect more coverage to appear on the blog as-and-when I can get more books in the series read. I’ll also be checking out the spin-off series, if possible.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Vampire Dog Humour… (Who knew?)

What started out as a rather distressing page in DC’s New 52 I, Vampire grew into something rather amusing. [Warning, there are some spoilers for the series, so don’t read ahead if you don’t want anything ruined…]

First, Andrew Bennett (who at this point is a badass, evil-as-hell uber-vampire) had a snack…


Poor Mishkin.

Luckily, we learn later that the dog has been turned! (Vampire dogs – something I’ve been seeing a bit more, lately… Amusing memories of Blade: Trinity: the cross-bred vampire Pomeranian. Heh.) Good ol’ Mishkin gives the good guys a hand.


Of course, in true apocalyptic-horror-fun, Bennett is no longer a bad-guy, and is fighting for the light side again.

Finally: “Goood vampire-doggy…”


I, Vampire ended with issue #19, sadly. It was written by Joshua Fialkov, with art by Andrea Sorrentino and Fernando Blanco. I think it was a pretty good comic: the artwork was perfectly suited to the horror and atmospheric storylines, and Fialkov’s writing was top-notch. I’ve read all 19 issues, and none of them were bad. There were moments that were a little cheesy, but I get the feeling Fialkov was aiming for Buffy-esque humour (especially towards the end).

Here’s Andrew and Cain, the first vampire…


R.I.P. I, Vampire. I’ll miss your nuttiness.

First Rule of Beard Club

This is just a funny… episode(?) of BEARDO, one of my favourite daily comic strips:


Beardo is by Dan Dougherty. I only discovered the strip a little while ago, but I’m loving the gentle sense of humour. There have also been some great sequences – the series from April 15th-28th was really great (a little bit about the creative process, and the value of, well, taking a walk home…).

‘I’ve Never Read…’ & New Jackets for GARY GIBSON (Tor)


A new series for the blog (although, I may have done some similar, occasional posts way back when), in which I take a look at an author I’ve never read but really want to. And perhaps should have read by now…

GARY GIBSON, author of many well-received sci-fi novels, published by Tor in the UK. And definitely an author I should have read by now… I’ve always been drawn more to fantasy than science fiction (with the exception of Star Wars and Warhammer 40k, but that’s through long years of familiarity), which probably goes some way to explaining the oversight.

I was reminded of his work today, because Gibson’s Angel Station is Tor’s eBook of the month (DRM free, don’t forget). The author’s novels have received some rather nice new covers for the earlier books (The Shoal series, and his first two stand-alones), to match the style of his latest novel, another stand-alone, Marauder (the full artwork for which graces the top of this post).

Over on the Tor blog, you can read a quick Five Question Interview with the author, which is quite interesting.

Here are the new covers and the novels’ synopses, in chronological order…

GibsonG-AngelStations2013ANGEL STATIONS

Aeons ago, a super-scientific culture known as ‘Angels’ had left incomprehensible relics all over the galaxy. Among these phenomena were the Stations, whereby human spacecraft could jump instantly from one part of the galaxy to another. And from them the brilliant Angel technology could be explored and exploited.

One of these stations orbits the planet Kaspar, where the only other known sentient species outside Earth has been meticulously allowed to continue evolving in its own world of primitive ignorance. But suddenly Kaspar's mysterious 'Citadel' has become the vital key to repelling the fast-approaching threat of the stellar burster.

At what cost, though, to its native inhabitants... and to the human residents of the orbiting Angel station?



GibsonG-AgainstGravity2013AGAINST GRAVITY

It’s the late twenty-first century, and Kendrick Gallmon, survivor of an infamous research facility called the Maze, is trying to pick up the pieces of his life, even though he knows the Labrat augments inside his body are slowly killing him.

Then one day his heart stops beating, forever, and a ghost urges him to return to the source of all his nightmares, a long-abandoned military complex filled with entirely real voices of the dead.

I really like this cover. Reminds me a little of the artwork for Chris Wooding’s Fade, actually.



The Shoal Sequence:



In the 25th century, only the Shoal possess the secret of faster-than-light travel, giving them absolute control over all trade and exploration throughout the galaxy.  This gives the Shoal absolute control over all trade and exploration throughout the galaxy.

Mankind has meanwhile operated within their influence for two centuries, establishing a dozen human colony worlds scattered along Shoal trade routes. Dakota Merrick, while serving as a military pilot, has witnessed atrocities for which this alien race is responsible.

But the Shoal are not yet ready to relinquish their monopoly over a technology they acquired through ancient genocide.

Marauder, below, is also set in the Shoal universe, but is a stand-alone…



Final Days Series:



It’s 2235 and through the advent of wormhole technology more than a dozen interstellar colonies have been linked to Earth. But this new mode of transportation comes at a price and there are risks. Saul Dumont knows this better than anyone. He’s still trying to cope with the loss of the wormhole link to the Galileo system, which has stranded him on Earth far from his wife and child for the past several years.

Only weeks away from the link with Galileo finally being re-established, he stumbles across a conspiracy to suppress the discovery of a second, alien network of wormholes which lead billions of years in the future. A covert expedition is sent to what is named Site 17 to investigate, but when an accident occurs and one of the expedition, Mitchell Stone, disappears – they realise that they are dealing with something far beyond their understanding.

When a second expedition travels via the wormholes to Earth in the near future of 2245 they discover a devastated, lifeless solar system - all except for one man, Mitchell Stone, recovered from an experimental cryogenics facility in the ruins of a lunar city. Stone may be the only surviving witness to the coming destruction of the Earth. But why is he the only survivor – and once he’s brought back to the present, is there any way he and Saul can prevent the destruction that’s coming?




Megan Jacinth has three goals, and they all seem unattainable.

First, she needs to find her oldest friend Bash, who she’d left for dead to save her own life. Then she needs Bash’s unique skill-set to locate an ancient space-faring entity. Lastly she must use this Wanderer’s knowledge to save human-occupied worlds from an alien incursion.

The odds seem impossible, but the threat is terrifyingly real. Megan finds Bash, but the person she’d known and loved is a husk of his former self. Bash is also held captive by her greatest enemy: Gregor Tarrant. Tarrant wants the Wanderer too, even more than he wants her life, with motives less pure than her own. And he’s close to finding Megan’s most closely-guarded secret. A race across space to reach the Wanderer seems Megan’s best option. But this entity is also known as the Marauder, and is far from benign. The price for its secrets may be just too high. Megan should know, as she still bears the scars from their last encounter…

I actually have a copy of Final Days, somewhere, so I think I’ll try to get that read. But I may start with Angel Stations. We’ll see.

[If you’re in the UK, Amazon are selling the eBook for less than £4, which is less than Tor, but obviously locked to your device with DRM… The same goes for Nova War and Final Days; Stealing Light and Empire of Light are under £5.]

Anyone read Gibson’s work? What did you think?

Excerpt: GEMSIGNS by Stephanie Saulter (Jo Fletcher Books)


Today, I get to share with you an excerpt (the first chapter) from Stephanie Saulter’s excellent debut, GEMSIGNS. The first novel in the ®Evolution series, I’ve almost finished reading it, and have thoroughly enjoyed it (review next week). Read on…

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

(Ultimate) Spider-Man Meets Jean Grey – Art by Mark Bagley

This was funny, and a good example of what Brian Michael Bendis can do, when he’s aiming for amusing. (The Miles Morales issues of Ultimate Spider-Man have a fair amount of humour, too, so I’ll try to find some amusing pages/panels from that to share, too.)


Art: Will Eisner’s “The Best of Yesterday”

This was a limited edition print, available in 1988. I found it over on Brian Michael Bendis’ Tumblr. Just really liked it, so I thought I’d share it on here. I’ll probably be sharing a lot more pieces of art/images, just because.


An Interview with DEBORAH HARKNESS


Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches and it’s sequel, Shadow of Night, seem to have taken readers by storm (the former debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list at #2). The series features a mysterious, magical text, vampires and witches. It actually sounds pretty intriguing, and I should really get around to reading it at some point. (Emma already reviewed the first novel for CR, in February 2011.)

In celebration of the paperback release for the second novel (of three, in the All Souls trilogy), Harkness’s US publisher organised a Q&A. Below are some of her answers.

NB: I have tweaked the wording of the questions, but none of the author’s answers were changed, altered or truncated.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Guest Post: “On Writing Fiction vs. Writing Games” by Richard Dansky

A 14 year veteran of the video game industry, Richard Dansky is the Central Clancy Writer for Ubisoft/Red Storm. Named by Gamasutra as one of the top 20 game writers in 2009, he has written for games ranging from OUTLAND to the upcoming SPLINTER CELL: BLACKLIST (which I’m rather looking forward to). Richard is also the author of six novels, including the critically praised Firefly Rain. He lives and works in North Carolina with his wife and their statistically improbable collections of books, scotch and cats. His latest novel is Vaporware.



RichardDansky-DinosaurPicThe big difference between writing games and writing fiction is whose story you’re actually telling. When you’re writing fiction, you’re writing a singular, defined narrative. The characters do what you want them to do. They say what you want them to say, when you want them to say it, and the plot moves, one page at a time, toward the conclusion. The reader receives the narrative; the story’s told in linear fashion, and while the reader can adjust the way they receive it by reading out of order – or by skipping the bits with Tom Bombadil and getting straight to the barrow-wights – the text is set on the page. It’s the writer’s story, not the reader’s.

In games, it’s not your story, it’s the player’s. Every piece of writing you do, every word you put on the page isn’t there to advance your story to a singular conclusion. It’s there for the player to pick up and put on and experience, and then to make their own. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Without the player actually playing, those story elements sit there inert. They’re pure potential, waiting to be actualized by the player engaging with them. Until then, they just sit in memory, waiting to be triggered by the player’s actions.

What this produces is a very different kind of story. For all the classical genre tropes that so heavily infest game writing, classical storytelling techniques need to be adjusted to allow the player room to play. It’s what I called “the player-shaped hole” at my Game Developers Conference talk a few years ago, the possibility space around what the player might do at any given moment. And even in the most straightforward game, the list of things the player can do at any given moment is surprisingly large. Shoot? Maybe, but even with that there are innumerable choices to be made (weapon, rate of fire, choice of target, etc.). Move? Duck? Jump? Check inventory? Use a healthpack? Fiddle with the controller? All of these things the player can do, things that might be incorporated into their personal story of playing have to be accounted for so that when the player looks back on their experience, it feels like all the choices they made were the right ones at the time. Before it happens, it has to be open; in hindsight, it has to be seamless.


That’s not to say that the gap between writing fiction and writing games is insurmountable, though I confess, as someone who’s done both, it’s often easier to go from the ultimately interactive scenario of game writing to the ultimately dictated scenario of fiction than the other way around. And a look at the writers working both sides of the fence these days – Austin Grossman, Erin Hoffman, Lucien Soulban, Jay Posey, and many more – might even suggest that there’s some potential benefit to laboring in the vineyards of games and learning the hard way to tell stories not your own.


If you want to learn more about Richard Dansky and his work, be sure to check out his website and follow him on Twitter.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Quick Review: “Poison” by Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz)

Pinborough-FTN1-PoisonAn intriguing tweaking of the classic Snow White Fairy Tale

A beautiful, sexy, contemporary retelling of the classic Snow White fairy tale, illustrated by Les Edwards.

POISON is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Snow White story which takes all the elements of the classic fairytale that we love (the handsome prince, the jealous queen, the beautiful girl and, of course, the poisoning) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires. It's fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of ONCE UPON A TIME, GRIMM, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and more

This book isn’t very long, so it’s a little tricky to review at any great length without ruining the whole story. Pinborough has taken this classic story and approached it with a modern sensibility, tweaking the tale here and there to make it a little more edgy and fresh. I must admit that I’m not the greatest fan of fairy tales to begin with, which probably makes you wonder why you should care about my opinion on this book. My lack of familiarity with the source material will also have had an impact on how much I got from this novella. I can see why people will enjoy this, though. I liked it a fair bit, too.

Poison is basically a story about two young women: one an evil step-mother (Lilith) and the other a princess (Snow). They are the same age, more or less, with the King having decided on a younger model after the death of Snow’s mother. They are also, of course, very different. Snow is carefree, confident, and quite fun (she can often be found drinking and hanging out with the dwarfs, pulling practical jokes), and she’s a bit of a tomboy. Lilith, on the other hand, is cold, calculating, self-conscious, surprisingly insecure, and highly resentful of the male-dominated world in which she lives (understandably – she seems to be better suited to ruling than her warmonger, imperialist husband). She yearns for power and the ability to wield it, and takes her husband’s latest campaign abroad as an opportunity to wield it in his name.

Pinborough’s characters are interesting – they are clearly identifiable as those in the original, but updated and a little more modern. At times, the dialogue and writing felt a little archaic, which was at odds with the contemporary feel I think the author was going for. Nevertheless, they’re all pretty interesting. Lilith controls a psycho-Aladdin, for example! That was a very cool development, I thought. That’s also all I’m going to say about it, lest I ruin that darkly delightful character for you. Lilith’s grandmother, the old crone of the story, is as wicked and devious as the Queen. She’s also a bit dotty, which added some extra levity (she mothers Lilith a bit, and her first scene made me chuckle). The Huntsman seems to be the typical manly-man of fairy tales (who seems to have some magical stud-powers…).

Despite not being the biggest fan of fairy tales, I thought this was a pretty interesting, quick read. I didn’t love it, unfortunately, and there were a couple of fleeting lulls in the narrative, but it was still a good read. If you’re looking for a new, fresh and modern take on this classic fairy tale, and enjoy the swathe of fairy-tale-related reinterpretations (Grimm and Once Upon a Time in particular, I think), then Sarah Pinborough’s Poison will be right for you.

A quick, fun, diversion; an intriguing contemporary take on one of the all-time classic stories. I’m looking forward to seeing what the author’s done with Beauty and Charm, the other two novellas in the ‘series’ (also published this year by Gollancz).


The Complete Covers for Sarah’s three Fairy Tale reinterpretations

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Upcoming: “The Language of Dying” by Sarah Pinborough (Jo Fletcher)


I wrote an earlier “Upcoming” round-up for the talented, unstoppable Sarah Pinborough. Since then, though, I’ve learned that she has another novel coming out this year. Here’s some info and details about The Language of Dying

Tonight is a special, terrible night.

A woman sits at her father’s bedside watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life.

Her brothers and sisters – all broken, their bonds fragile – have been there for the past week, but now she is alone.

And that’s always when it comes.

The clock ticks, the darkness beckons.

If it comes at all.

The Language of Dying will be published by Jo Fletcher Books in December 2013.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Upcoming: “Your Brother’s Blood” by David Towsey (Jo Fletcher)


I kind of stumbled across this by accident, but it sounds pretty great. So, here’s some information about David Towsey’s debut novel, Your Brother’s Blood, coming from Jo Fletcher Books in September 2013… The publisher’s blog included the following comment, “Think The Road – but also think Warm Bodies, this book is going to stir up a storm.” This sounds right up my alley, then. Here’s the synopsis…

Thomas is thirty-two. He comes from the small town of Barkley. He has a wife there, Sarah, and a child, Mary; good solid names from the Good Book. And he is on his way home from the war, where he has been serving as a conscripted soldier. Thomas is also dead – he is one of the Walkin’. And Barkley does not suffer the wicked to live.

Book Trailer: “The Bone Season” by Samantha Shannon (Bloomsbury)

I mentioned a few days back that a copy of The Bone Season had arrived unexpectedly. I’m looking forward to reading the novel, and may also host an interview with the author, closer to the release date. Check out the trailer (above), and the synopsis (below)…

Welcome to Scion, no safer place.

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing. It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, kidnapped and drugged, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite creature with dark honey skin and heavy-lidded yellow eyes. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

The Bone Season will be published in the UK by Bloomsbury, on August 20th 2013.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book Trailer: “A Delicate Truth” by John le Carré (Viking)

I’ve never actually read a le Carre novel, much to my shame. I’ve always wanted to, but with an ever-growing TBR pile of ARCs and other novels, short stories, comics, etc., they always seem to get missed. (And they’ve been re-issued a few times, so I don’t have an excuse of them not being prominent…)

I’m hoping to get to this one some time soon. It’s out now. Here’s the synopsis…

A British civil servant is dispatched to Gibraltar where a top secret counter-terror operation (codename: Wildlife) is being mounted. He has been assigned by a Minister of Her Majesty’s Foreign Office to be his eyes and ears on the ground. The mission is so delicate that not even the Minister’s private secretary, Toby Bell, is admitted to the plan. The operation goes off without a hitch. Or does it?

Three years on, Sir Christopher “Kit” Probyn, a former British diplomat, is enjoying his well-earned retirement. Brought face to face with a living ghost from his past, he desperately appeals to Toby for enlightenment. With the surreptitious help of Kit’s daughter Emily, two men a generation apart, both loyal servants of the Crown, will separately discover whether Wildlife was the triumph it was made out to be, or a tragedy ruthlessly suppressed by the Foreign Office to which they owe their allegiance.


US / UK Covers

GIVEAWAY! Brandon Sanderson’s THE RITHMATIST (UK Only)


I have an extra copy of the UK edition of Brandon Sanderson’s first YA novel to hit shelves, THE RITHMATIST. Being the sharing fellow that I am, I’ve decided to give it away!

Usual rules/guidelines apply – leave a comment (with some form of contact detail), or email me at civilian[dot]reader[at]

I’ll pick the winner on Monday (27th May), in the evening.

Here’s the synopsis for the novel…

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist.

Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings—merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery, one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

Sandman, Vol.1 – “Preludes & Nocturnes” (Vertigo)

Sandman-Vol.1The Start of the Classic, Hugely Popular Comic Series

Writer: Neil Gaiman | Artists: Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg & Malcolm Jones III | Colorist: Daniel Vozzo

An occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70 year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman.

This book also includes the story “The Sound of Her Wings” which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl, Death.

Collects: Sandman #1-8

This book starts with a great, century-spanning first chapter/issue, as Morpheus is summoned, trapped, and held captive for generations. The atmosphere and writing is superb, and it’s not difficult to see why this series grabbed so much attention when it first started. I was absolutely sucked into Gaiman’s story.

The first storyline is, effectively, a quest tale. After the first chapter, Morpheus is freed (that’s not really a spoiler), and sets out to reclaim three precious, powerful items that were taken from him. These are the items that make him who he is, allow him to perform the role of the Sandman. Gaiman has, however, populated his story with so many weird-and-wonderful creations and characters from mythology, literature and fable. At first, he must relocate his pouch of sand (in this chapter he meets Constantine – a very dark story towards its end, and very cool); then his helm (which requires a trip to a very twisted Hell to see Lucifer), and finally his ruby amulet (a really twisted story about a serial-killer with mind-control powers).


The series was re-coloured, recently.
Here are two examples of the re-done pages (above and below): new on the left.


I was surprised to see some other DC characters appearing: John Constantine, Etrigan (that most garish of DC demons), and some members of the Justice League. I had always been under the impression that Sandman was a wholly original title and character, taking place in a new setting. The book and story don’t suffer for these cameos, though. I was just surprised. Maybe I should have investigated it a little more beforehand…?


Enter, Constantine [#3]

The story is, as I’ve mentioned, quite superb to begin with, and I found myself almost immediately hooked. “One more chapter” became three, and then all eight. I lingered over so many pages and panels, and got completely sucked in. Things change mid-way through, a bit, and got much weirder. Not bad-weird, just… weird. (Minus one for Eloquence…) The artwork also shifts to something often less clear and inconsistent. There's a rawness to it, though, that I can certainly see appealing to many people. Would I have preferred something a bit more conventional? Certainly, but it can’t be denied that the artwork packs a good amount of punch as well.


The Sandman prepares to go to Hell… [#4]

Not bad, but not as amazing as I had expected. This shouldn’t be a surprise, though, given just how popular this series has become. I really like Death (quite looking forward to getting around to reading her mini-series). Despite the couple of minor niggles, I’m really interested in reading the rest of the series, as well as its various spin-offs.

A classic of the genre and medium, this is certainly recommended.


Enter, Death [#8]

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An Interview with BEN KANE


Despite my genuine love for historical fiction (I have read so many, but all before I started this blog, really), the genre hasn’t featured much on the site. Well, I’m hoping to address this in the coming months. First up, though, is this interview with Ben Kane, an author of awesome historical fiction.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fall Out Boy went away, got better, then came back…

FallOutBoy-SaveRockAndRollI was never really exposed to my of Fall Out Boy’s back-catalogue. I think I only heard the two main singles from Infinity on High (2007) – “This Ain’t A Love Scene, It’s An Arms Race” and “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs”. Anything else I heard by them was accidental or unacknowledged. They always struck me as a curiosity, and nothing really more than that, despite so many of the music magazines I read devoting pages and pages of space to writing about them.

Then again, I’ve never been someone who listened to the radio, so I often missed things. At the same time, I never really got tired of songs, either. (Maybe that’s why I’m one of the few people who will admit to liking Nickelback songs…?)*

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent… I have periodic Music Videos on YouTube Binges, and I stumbled across Fall Out Boy’s latest single. And it’s actually rather good. So here’s the video for your enjoyment…

The song is taken from Save Rock and Roll, the band’s latest album – out now.

Here’s a bonus video, from another Save Rock and Roll single, the brilliantly named “My Song Knows What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)”…

* I say “admit”, because despite the fact that everyone I know readily, gleefully mocking the band, they are consistently one of the highest selling bands on either side of the Atlantic. And that’s not including illegal downloads. Millions of people are actually buying their albums. Who are these seemingly-mythical buyers…?

Upcoming: “Felix & Gotrek: City of the Damned” by David Guymer (Black Library)

Guymer-G&F-CityOfTheDamnedI’ve been reading the Felix & Gotrek series ever since the very early Games Workshop Warhammer anthologies (the first I bought was Wolf Riders). When Black Library was formed, and William King started releasing regular novels, I was very happy. Then Nathan Long took over the series, and he maintained the quality very well, taking it to the next level. Now the series seems to be more of a team-effort, with multiple short stories by different authors, and now novels by different people – this latest one by David Guymer, and also Josh Reynold’s Road of Skulls (which I really need to read… Maybe I’ll read it this coming week).

It’ll be interesting to see how these new installments add to the expanding Gotrek & Felix canon. Especially as they seem to be diverging from the timeline set out by King and Long…

Gotrek and Felix: unsung heroes of the Empire, or nothing more than common thieves and murderers? The truth perhaps lies somewhere in between, and depends entirely upon whom you ask... Legend tells of the City of the Damned - a dark and forbidding place destroyed in a previous age by the wrath of Sigmar. Long have its fallen towers remained undisturbed by the people of Ostermark, but now an ancient evil stirs in the depths, gathering its strength once more. Gotrek and Felix are swept up in the crusade of Baron Gotz von Kiel to cleanse the city, and as the ruins are torn from the passage of time itself, the Slayer’s doom appears to be approaching more quickly than either of them would like.

City of the Damned will be published in September 2013.

Upcoming: “The Warmaster” by Dan Abnett (Black Library)

Abnett-WarmasterDan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts is one of the best sci-fi series, in my opinion. Not only has it been running for so long, but it has (with but one wobble) maintained a very high quality. Each novel has built on the last, the characters develop naturally. A good number of them have died. I just love it.

Alongside the Horus Heresy and the Gotrek & Felix series, Abnett’s was one of the only Black Library series I rushed out to buy on day one (or read ASAP, if I got a review copy).

Anyway, it’s been a couple of years since Abnett’s last Ghosts-related fiction (the novel Salvation’s Reach and a short-story), so I am very much looking forward to getting reacquainted with the characters.

Here’s the synopsis for the 14th book in the series, The Warmaster

After the success of their desperate mission to Salvation's Reach, Colonel-Commisar Gaunt and the Tanith First race to the strategically vital forge world of Urdesh, besieged by the brutal armies of Anarch Sek. However, there may be more at stake than just a planet. The Imperial forces have made an attempt to divide and conquer their enemy, but with Warmaster Macaroth himself commanding the Urdesh campaign, it is possible that the Archenemy assault has a different purpose - to decapitate the Imperial command structure with a single blow. Has the Warmaster allowed himself to become an unwitting target? And can Gaunt's Ghosts possibly defend him against the assembled killers and war machines of Chaos?

The Warmaster will be published by Black Library in December 2013.

Monday, May 20, 2013

HOODS! MOAR HOODS! (Upcoming Books)


Ok, keeping with the Angry Robot theme, here are two more covers for upcoming books, both of which share a feature with each other and so many other fantasy and sci-fi books of late: the Hooded Man on the cover. Personally, I find the conformity rather amusing, and some of the covers are pretty great. These two are two of the better examples of Hooded Men Covers. Here are the synopses and details for the novels…

Jay Posey’s THREE, book one in the Legends of the Duskwalker, published in August 2013 (cover by Steven Meyer-Rassow):

The world has collapsed, and there are no heroes any more.

But when a lone gunman reluctantly accepts the mantle of protector to a young boy and his dying mother against the forces that pursue them, a hero may yet arise.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Three For All | Apocalyptic Wasteland | A Journey Home | Fear the Weir ]

I like the rain-effects on this one.

James A. Moore’s SEVEN FORGES, published in October 2013 (cover by Alejandro Colucci):

The people of Fellein have lived with legends for many centuries. To their far north, the Blasted Lands, a legacy of an ancient time of cataclysm, are vast, desolate and impassable, but that doesn’t stop the occasional expedition into their fringes in search of any trace of the ancients who once lived there… and oft-rumoured riches.

Captain Merros Dulver is the first in many lifetimes to find a path beyond the great mountains known as the Seven Forges and encounter, at last, the half‐forgotten race who live there. And it would appear that they were expecting him.

As he returns home, bringing an entourage of the strangers with him, he starts to wonder whether his discovery has been such a good thing. For the gods of this lost race are the gods of war, and their memories of that far-off cataclysm have not faded.

File Under: Fantasy [Savage Lands | Vengeful Gods | An Expected Journey | Battalions at War]

A brighter cover, less brooding. There’s something about it that reminds me of the cover for Gail Z. Martin’s Ice Forged. Maybe it’s just a connection made by the cold climate and snowy mountains in the background portrayed… Colucci also did the cover for The Red Knight by Miles Cameron (Orbit US).

Upcoming: “The Prince of Lies” by Anne Lyle (Angry Robot)

This was unveiled earlier today on Fantasy Faction (curses for beating me to the scoop! Curses, I say!!). But, as a fan of Anne Lyle’s writing, I wanted to share it here again. The new, very green cover for the author’s third Night’s Masque novel…


I have been remiss, to be honest, as I have not yet read the second novel in the series, The Merchant of Venice. BUT I WILL! (Oh, those fateful words of mine…) Here’s the synopsis for book three, to be published in October (US) and November (UK) 2013…

Elizabethan spy Mal Catlyn has everything he ever wanted – his twin brother Sandy restored to health, his family estate reclaimed and a son to inherit it – but his work is far from over. The renegade skraylings, the guisers, are still plotting – their leader, Jathekkil, has reincarnated as the young Prince Henry Tudor. But while he is still young, Mal has a slim chance of eliminating his enemies whilst they are at their weakest.

With Sandy’s help, Mal learns to harness his own magic in the fight against the guisers, but it may be too late to save England. Schemes set in motion decades ago are at last coming to fruition, and the barrier between the dreamlands and the waking world is wearing thin…

File Under: Fantasy [ Princes in the Tower | Revenger's Tragedy | Much Ado | Boys Will Be Boys ]

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Sixth Gun, Vol.3 – “Bound” & Vol.4 – “A Town Call Penance” (Oni Press)


Volume Three. Still awesome.

Writer: Cullen Bunn | Artist: Brian Hurtt (#12-13, 15-17) & Tyler Crook (#14, #23) | Colors: Bill Crabtree

Traveling by secret railroad, Becky and Drake accompany an order of mysterious monks on a quest to bury General Hume’s body on holy ground. But malevolent forces spurred by a sinister necromancer stage a terrifying attack on the train. Drake vanishes without a trace. Alone, Becky continues her journey to a secluded mountain fortress where she discovers how deeply her fate is entwined with that of The Sixth Gun. Meanwhile, Gord revisits a haunted mansion from his past hoping to discover a means to destroy the Six, but the ghosts he stirs have no intention of letting his quest continue.

Vol.3 Collects: The Sixth Gun #12-17
Vol.4 Collects: The Sixth Gun #18-23

Ah, The Sixth Gun. Without a doubt, this is one of my favourite comics series. It blends Wild Western adventure with some supernatural shenanigans. There’s action, humour, spooky stuff, and a plot that will hook you from the very start. I loved both of these books.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A quick Q&A with RICHARD FORD


A while back, I posted a quick “Upcoming” blog about Richard Ford’s new gritty fantasy, Herald of the Storm. It sounded pretty cool. So, naturally, I wanted to interview Richard. He was kind enough to say yes, and so, in advance of my review of the novel (coming soon), here are Richard’s answers…

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Some Books Received… (May 2013)


A nice selection of books have arrived, recently (also some non-fiction books, but I’ll feature them over on the other website in the near future). So, here’s the latest selection of delectable and intriguing ARCs, etc., that have arrived…

Monday, May 13, 2013

DC Comics Axes Four More Titles

So DC Comics has decided to cancel four more of its New 52 titles – two from the original 52, one slightly new and one very new… Legion of Super-Heroes (#23), Demon Knights (#23), Dial H (#15) and Threshold (#8) will all come to an end in August 2013.


Apparently Legion and Dial H are as head-grabbingly-angsty about their cancellations…

iFanboy (a great site, FYI) had this to say about the cancellation: “It sucks that just about every book that DC tried to publish that was outside of the traditional superhero vein was met with abject indifference from the buying public.” Also, as Mark Waid pointed out, this is the first time in about 40 years that DC will not be publishing a Legion title. Having never read that series (New 52 or pre-52), I can’t say that it means anything to me…

Of these four series, I’ve read the first volume of Demon Knights (written by Paul Cornell, and which I rather enjoyed, but couldn’t afford to keep reading on a monthly basis), and some of Dial H (which I thought was rather weird, and continues to prove that just because China Miéville wrote it, doesn’t mean I’ll love it…). I had been waiting for the first volume of Threshold to be available on ComiXology before trying it (though was a little wary of the talking rabbit character, I must admit…). And I was never interested in Legion of Super-Heroes. I’m not sure why…

There are some new series on the horizon, too: Pandora, Superman Unchained (by the awesome Scott Snyder – #3 cover art, by Jim Lee and Scott Williams, below), Batman/Superman, Larfleeze, The Movement, and The Green Team


“Red Moon” by Benjamin Percy (Hodder/Grand Central)

PercyB-RedMoonA superb literary horror novel

Every teenage girl thinks she’s different. When government agents kick down Claire Forrester’s front door and murder her parents, Claire realises just how different she is.

Patrick Gamble was nothing special until the day he got on a plane and, hours later, stepped off it, the only passenger left alive. A hero.

President Chase Williams has sworn to eradicate the menace. Unknown to the electorate, however, he is becoming the very thing he has sworn to destroy.

Each of them is caught up in a war that so far has been controlled with laws and violence and drugs. But an uprising is about to leave them damaged, lost, and tied to one another for ever.

The night of the red moon is coming, when an unrecognizable world will emerge, and the battle for humanity will begin.

Red Moon is one of the best novels I’ve read this year. It’s long, but never felt like it dragged. I savoured every chapter. A near-perfect literary horror novel.

There’s so much to this novel, too: it’s part coming-of-age, part tale of prejudice and segregation (mirroring some of the Civil Rights movement, more recent prejudice against Muslims, and then creates another violent thread of anti-lycan prejudice). It’s also partly a love story (new love and old), and a story of redemption. All of this is overlaid with politics, secrets, and certain characters’ pasts catching up with them. The third part of the book feels more dystopian, too (won’t spoil why or how…). It’s a story about family, too, and how even those of us who might grow up with none of our own, or lose our loved ones, can create a new family.

The events move pretty fast, but the story is epic in scope, so the characters’ situations are forever changing and developing. It makes it a little tricky to delve too deeply into the plot or story, without ruining any number of twists and turns Percy takes us through. The author has great narrative discipline, never deviating for too long from the main thrust of the novel, unveiling revelations and important information in a steady, natural way. There is a dark humour running through the story, too, which was certainly welcome and prevented the novel from becoming too dour. The allegory and allusion is great, though some people might find it a but blunt and unsubtle at times. Nevertheless, I think Percy’s done a great job of taking real-world issues of persecution and alienation, and blending them with character-focused anxieties and personal struggles.

The novel is character-driven, so we don’t often get the perspective pulling back for a wider, macro-view; but Percy still manages to keep us up-to-date and well-informed on the subtle historical differences, the lycan history, the societal changes and differences, and so forth.

The novel features werewolves, as a substitute for every persecuted group in America (with added teeth and sometimes violent tendencies, of course). In many ways, though, the real horror in the novel comes from what people are willing to do to each other, and especially those who are considered different (in both big and small ways). For example, what the “patriotic” anti-Lycan group “The Americans” do, fulfilling the role of this reality’s white supremacist skinhead-analog. In these situations and environments, as one character states, it’s not just people who die, but also our humanity.

Percy’s prose style is immersive and engrossing, filled with great turns of phrase, sometimes portraying the mundane in almost poetic or lyrical ways. It never felt over-written, which was a nice surprise from such a long novel. From the start, I was hooked and drawn into the narrative, always eager to get back to it when real life would intrude on my reading-time. His characters are realistic, engaging, each reacting and developing in realistic ways to the sometimes brutal, soul-destroying, fantastical situations and people they encounter.

With a superb ending that is neither a disappointment, nor a Bruckheimer/Bay action extravaganza (in fact, it’s almost understated), I found this to be an absolutely satisfying read. Red Moon is an engrossing, nuanced novel, and I highly recommend it.


Red Moon is published by Hodder in the UK and Grand Central Publishing in the US.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Upcoming: “The Detainee” by Peter Liney (Jo Fletcher)


MOAR upcoming Jo Fletcher Books titles?! Why yes. And it looks like a doozy. (No, I do not work for them, I just really like what they publish.) This time, it’s a sci-fi debut I only learned about today – not sure how it slipped by, actually, as it sounds really interesting – Peter Liney’s The Detainee. Here’s the synopsis…

When the fog comes down and the drums start to beat, the inhabitants of the island tremble: for the punishment satellites – which keep the tyrannical Wastelords at bay – are blind in the darkness, and the islanders become prey.

The inhabitants are the old, the sick, the poor: the detritus of Society, dumped on the island with the rest of Society’s waste. There is no point trying to escape, for the satellites – the invisible eyes of the law – mete out instant judgement from the sky.

The island is the end of all hope – until ‘Big Guy’ Clancy finds a blind woman living in a secret underground warren, and discovers a reason to fight.

Colour me intrigued. The Detainee will be published on July 4th 2013 in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books. Expect more about The Detainee and Peter Liney on the blog in the near future…

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Upcoming: “The Tower Broken” by Mazarkis Williams (Jo Fletcher)

I just caught this over on BookSworn, and thought I’d share it on here as well. I’ve only read the first novel in Williams’ series, The Emperor’s Knife, and do intend to get to the second, Knife Sworn, as soon as time permits.


Is it just me, or does the fellow on the cover have a bit of a cheeky smile on his face…?

The only synopsis I could find of the novel was this single-sentence from Rising Shadow:

“Cerana faces down its historical enemy while a greater threat creeps through the desert towards the capitol city of Nooria.”

And over at the above-linked BookSworn page, Mazarkis Williams had this to say about the plot:

“Govnan gets a point of view in this final book, and the Tower is the focus of the story. When faced with the prospect of its utter ruin and the destruction of Nooria, Govnan must make some tough choices.”

I’ll keep my eyes open for a proper synopsis, and update this post as-and-when something more concrete becomes available.

UPDATE! [May 10] Here is the publisher’s synopsis for the book:

Nooria is at breaking point. The nothing bleeds out the very essence of all, of stone, silk – and souls. Sarmin thought he had stopped it, but it is spreading towards Cerana – and he is powerless to halt the destruction.

Even as Cerana fills with refugees, the Yrkmen armies arrive, offering to spare Sarmin’s people if they will convert to the Mogyrk faith.

Time is running out for Sarmin and Mesema: the Mage’s Tower is cracked; the last mage, sent to find a mysterious pattern-worker in the desert, has vanished; and Sarmin believes his kidnapped brother Daveed still has a part to play.

The walls are crumbling around them...

The Tower Broken will be available in “Late 2013”, published by Jo Fletcher books in the UK on November 7th 2013. (US details still pending confirmation.)

Upcoming: “Swords of Good Men” by Snorri Kristjansson (Jo Fletcher)


Another book that turned up without any foreknowledge, Snorri Kristjansson’s Swords of Good Men sounds pretty awesome:

To Ulfar Thormodsson, the Viking town of Stenvik is the penultimate stop on a long journey in his riveting adventure of clashing Viking powers. Tasked with looking after his cousin after disgracing his father, he has traveled the world and now only wants to go home.

Stenvik is different: it contains the beautiful and tragic Lilja, who immediately captures Ulfar’s heart – but Stenvik is also home to some very deadly men, who could break Ulfar in an instant.

King Olav is marching on Stenvik from the East, determined to bring the White Christ to the masses at the point of his sword, and a host of bloodthirsty raiders led by a mysterious woman are sailing from the north.

But Ulfar is about to learn that his enemies are not all outside the walls.

I’ve been bad about keeping up-to-date with Jo Fletcher Books releases (Bad Stef!). I’m hoping to get to this ASAP. Swords of Good Men will be published in the UK and the US(?) in August 2013.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Upcoming: “The Cambodian Book of the Dead” by Tom Vater (Exhibit A)

Exhibit A, the crime/thriller imprint under the Angry Robot banner, is still relative new (only three titles published so far, I believe). They seem to have a pretty good eye for stories, though. I haven’t had a chance to read any of the new novels, but I think that lapse is going to change, and soon. Today, I nabbed an eARC for Tom Vater’s intriguing-looking novel, The Cambodian Book of the Dead, which has the pitch, “where Apocalypse Now meets The Beach”…


Was I swayed by the cover? Well… yes, I admit I was a little bit. It certainly helped grab my attention. Then I read the synopsis, and my interest was well-and-truly piqued. I been meaning to read more thrillers, too… Here’s the synopsis:

Private eye and former war reporter, Maier is sent to Cambodia to track down the missing heir to a Hamburg coffee empire.

His search leads him into the darkest corners of the country’s history, through the Killing Fields of the communist revolution, to the White Spider, a Nazi war criminal who reigns over an ancient Khmer temple deep in the jungle.

But the terrifying tale of mass murder that Maier uncovers is far from over. And soon Maier realises that, if he is to prevent more innocent lives from being destroyed, he will have to write the last horrific chapter himself.

The Cambodian Book of the Dead will be published by Exhibit A at the end of June (North America & eBook) and the beginning of July (UK).

Upcoming: “Playing Tyler” by T.L. Costa (Strange Chemistry)

I haven’t been very good at keeping up on upcoming releases of late. At least, I haven’t been as investigative about it, waiting instead for information to filter its way to me. (Bit lazy, but there we go.) Anyway, I first saw the cover for T.L. Costa’s upcoming novel in a press release from Strange Chemistry, and it’s really stuck in my mind ever since. It’s a pair of powerful images in a simple composition, that really grabs the attention…


I just really like that. Will I like the novel? Not a clue. But, I will be giving it a try pretty soon (I was lucky enough to get an eARC). Strange Chemistry has managed to hire some pretty great artists of late. Here’s hoping they keep up this string of strong cover images. (It’ll make all of our shelves look nicer…)

Here’s the synopsis…

When is a game not a game?

Tyler MacCandless can’t focus, even when he takes his medication. He can’t focus on school, on his future, on a book, on much of anything other than taking care of his older brother, Brandon, who’s in rehab for heroin abuse… again.

Tyler’s dad is dead and his mom has mentally checked out. The only person he can really count on is his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. The one thing in life it seems he doesn’t suck at is playing video games and, well, that’s probably not going to get him into college.

Just when it seems like his future is on a collision course with a life sentence at McDonald’s, Rick asks him to test a video game. If his score’s high enough, it could earn him a place in flight school and win him the future he was certain that he could never have. And when he falls in love with the game’s designer, the legendary gamer Ani, Tyler thinks his life might finally be turning around.

That is, until Brandon goes MIA from rehab and Tyler and Ani discover that the game is more than it seems. Now Tyler will have to figure out what’s really going on in time to save his brother… and prevent his own future from going down in flames.

Playing Tyler will be published by Strange Chemistry in the UK, US and as an eBook at the beginning of July 2013. For more, be sure to check out Costa’s Facebook page and follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

“NOS4R2”/“NOS4A2” by Joe Hill (Gollancz/William Morrow)

HillJ-NOS4R2A slow-burning suspense

Summer. Massachusetts.

An old Silver Wraith with a frightening history. A story about one serial killer and his lingering, unfinished business.

Anyone could be next.

We’re going to Christmasland...

I’m not a big reader of horror. I’m not really sure why, though, as I tend to be attracted to darker and more twisted tales. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed some of Hill’s previous writing, and after reading a little bit about NOS4R2, I eagerly awaited its arrival.

Despite that, and perhaps inevitably, I was not really in the mood for horror when I first started to read NOS4R2. Rather than letting this ruin it for me, I decided to put it aside and got back to it recently. I’m glad I did this, too: this is a pretty solid suspense/horror novel, sure to appeal to his existing fans and also new readers (with caveats). The novel is also, frustratingly, very difficult to review – and doubly so if I want to avoid any form of spoiler.

Once again, therefore, I find myself at a loss for how to review something by Joe Hill. Seriously. I’m completely stumped. His other work that I struggle to review is his Locke & Key comic series, a story that shares some similar sensibilities and aesthetics as NOS4R2. Both are heavily character-focused, with a slow-burning plot that allows for great tension and suspense to build brilliantly. It’s not action-packed (though there is some conflict), there are a fair few surprises, and some really creepy scenes.

I must admit that I did find the start a little slower than I would normally like, and this maybe influenced my decision to put it aside for a short while. Given how long the book is (the ARC is 700 pages, or there about), I think some people may not have the patience for Hill’s pacing. When I was about a third of the way through, even I couldn’t help but think, “When are things going to kick off?” However, when I allowed myself to just sit and read (recently, life has been very disruptive and stop-start), I found myself swept up by Hill’s prose and story, drawn on through the novel.

HillJ-NOS4A2The author manages to make the mundane fascinating – the little details of these characters’ lives, their thoughts and every-day concerns… In many authors’ hands, this attention to detail would be suffocating and perhaps tedious, giving the novel a bloated feel. Not so for Hill; when added to the creepy goings-on related to Christmasland and its master, Charles Manx, he spins a fascinating, engrossing, suspenseful tale.

I found his characters all too realistic, in a way. This is, in my opinion, Hill’s greatest talent: despite writing creepy, weird, oft-supernatural stories, his characters have a vividly real feel to them. Victoria McQueen, the protagonist, feels complete, fully realised and familiar, and in some ways we grow up with her over the course of the novel: first meeting her as a child, when she first gets her special bike and stumbles across her strange ability. Then time jumps ahead to her rebellious adolescence and onwards, as her childhood brush with information of the Silver Wraith and Manx, and her confrontations with him later.

As I said at the start, I have no real idea of how to review Hill’s work. Nothing I try seems to convey the atmosphere and feel of the author’s work appropriately.

Needless to say, if you have any interest in classic, literary horror fiction, then NOS4R2 is for you. Recommended.

Also by Joe Hill: Horns, Heart-Shaped Box, 20th Century Ghosts, Locke & Key Vols.1-5

Also Try: Benjamin Percy, Justin Cronin, Stephen King, Adam Neville