Friday, August 29, 2014

“Created: The Destroyer” by Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir (Sphere)

MurphyW-D01-CreatedTheDestroyerUKLong-running, mega-selling pulp thriller series makes it over to the UK

One legendary hero. One epic series.

Sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit, ex-cop Remo Williams is rescued from the electric chair at the eleventh hour and recruited by a secret government organisation named CURE. From this moment, he ceases to officially exist.

From now on, he will be an assassin, targeting criminals who are beyond the law. Remo’s trainer is a grouchy old Korean named Chiun, whose mastery of the terrifyingly powerful martial art of Sinanju makes him the deadliest man alive.

Together Remo and Chiun set forth on their epic, impossible mission to vanquish every enemy of democracy – every bad guy who thinks they can escape justice.

This is a new era in man’s fight against the forces of evil.

This is the time of the Destroyer.

According to the press release, this series (which clocks in at 50 books!) has sold more than 50 million copies. That’s pretty impressive. First published in 1971, Created: The Destroyer is an interesting first book in an early government assassin thriller series. A literary ancestor of Vince Flynn et al, the novel was interesting and, sadly, disappointing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mini-Review: “Dear Committee Members” by Julie Schumacher (/Friday Project)

SchumacherJ-DearCommitteeMembersUSAn amusing, epistolary novel of academia, modern life and literature

Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can’t catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work “Accountant in a Bordello”, based on Melville’s Bartleby. In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies.

A very quick review, here. I’d heard about this novel a fair bit in the lead-up to publication, and as someone who has spent an awful lot of time at academic institutions, I was intrigued by the premise: a story told through a series of Letters of Recommendation. I was not disappointed.

SchumacherJ-DearCommitteeMembersUKI read Dear Committee Members very quickly, blitzing through the chapters. Each one is excellent – the letters are curmudgeonly, acerbic, pleading, petty, and even moving at times (especially at the end). One letter contained quite the gut-punch, after a series of more-amusing, lighthearted letters. The protagonist is a difficult bastard, and doesn’t come across as the nicest or easiest person to know or work with. He’s belittling, but also observant. He skewers his colleagues, his exes, and also the modern trends of academia (from teaching to bureaucracy). Certainly, for the latter, I agreed with him almost wholeheartedly.

The novel is filled with great comments and quotable moments, but I won’t include any here – just do yourself a favour and go read the book.

I laughed a lot, reading this. I was also somewhat moved at times. If you’re looking for something a little different, something intelligent and funny, then I would strongly recommend Dear Committee Members.


Dear Committee Members is published by Doubleday in the US, and the Friday Project in the UK.

Batman, Vols. 4-5: Zero Year “Secret City” & “Dark City” (DC Comics)


Writer: Scott Snyder | Art: Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, FCO Pascencia, Rafael Albuquerque

The New 52 origin of The Dark Knight delves into Bruce Wayne’s past with the Red Hood Gang and his run-ins with aspiring District Attorney Harvey Dent!

Before the Batcave and Robin, The Joker and the Batmobile, there was ZERO YEAR. The Riddler has plunged Gotham City into darkness. How will a young Dark Knight bring his beloved hometown from the brink of chaos and madness and back into the light?

Collects: Batman #21-24 (Vol.4); #25-27, 29-33 (Vol.5)

I’ve always had a soft-spot for origin stories, as I’m sure many fans do. In Zero Year, Snyder et al, have created a very good, more extensive and explanatory take on the origins of Gotham’s Dark Knight. Other stories and collections have touched up this period of Bruce’s development from spoiled rich kid to crime-fighting genius, but none have done it this well. If you haven’t been reading the New 52 Batman, then I’d strongly recommend you start – either here or at the beginning of Snyder’s run. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Two New In Flames Music Videos

In Flames have long been one of my favourite metal bands (ever since Reroute to Remain came out), and I’ve been enjoying the band’s evolution over the years. For the most part, anyway – there have been some albums that past me by without leaving much of a footprint (Sounds of a Playground Fading, for example – an album that I have found utterly forgettable). In September, the band will release their latest album, Siren Charms. Two music videos have already surfaced for the first two singles: “Rusted Nail” and “Through Oblivion”. They’re both good songs, as well as being surprising. They’re more rock than metal, and are more melodic offerings than I’ve come to expect from early-for-an-album In Flames singles. Check them out…



Monday, August 25, 2014

Upcoming: THE RETURN OF NAGASH by Joshua Reynolds (Black Library)

ReynoldsJ-TheReturnOfNagashAnnounced rather quietly (well, more like suddenly) and coinciding with the tabletop game’s related releases, Josh Reynolds’s THE RETURN OF NAGASH details the story of the baddest-of-the-undead-bad in the Warhammer world. Here’s the synopsis:

The End Times are coming. As the forces of Chaos threaten to drown the world in madness, Mannfred von Carstein and Arkhan the Black put aside their difference and plot to resurrect the one being with the power to stand against the servants of the Ruinous Powers and restore order to the world – the Great Necromancer himself. As they set about gathering artefacts to use in their dark ritual, armies converge on Sylvania, intent on stopping them. But Arkhan and Mannfred are determined to complete their task. No matter the cost, Nagash must rise again.

I haven’t read any of the Undead novels published by Black Library (yet), and I’m not sure how this will connect with Mike Lee’s and Josh Reynold’s other undead/vampire novels. This one, though, I am most interested in. Partly because I do like good vampire/undead fiction. But also, and perhaps more keenly, because the cover story for the first issue of White Dwarf magazine I ever bought was all about the first version of the Nagash model. The magazine included a background section for the character, a short piece of fiction, as well as rules, etc. The background was, I thought at the time, very well-written and gripping – I became hooked on reading the background sections of the Warhammer Armies and Codex books. However, Nagash’s story stuck in my mind. And so, I am very interested in reading this novel. I’ll see what I can do about getting it read and reviewed A.S.A.P.

Saturday, August 23, 2014



This movie looks really interesting – an examination of what it means to be alive, human. I haven’t looked into it too much (I don’t want to spoil the movie for when I inevitably go and see it), but with the mentions of the “laws” of robotics, I wonder if it’s based on Asimov’s fiction, or if it’s just offering an homage to the author’s pioneering writing? Anyway, here’s the trailer (shared from IGN’s YouTube channel)*…


* Millennium Films’ own “share” option on their website is… Not generous…

Friday, August 22, 2014

Upcoming: Gwen Stacy is Spider-Woman…

… this time, without gratuitous, ridiculous butt-graphics on the cover. In Edge of Spider-Verse #2, an alternative Marvel universe’s Gwen Stacy is New York’s spider-bitten protector. I don’t have a huge amount of interest in what is becoming an ever-more-complex web of Spider-Man-related series,* but the artwork by Robbi Rodriguez caught my eye. First, here’s the cover…


And second, a pair of interior pages. I rather like the hoody-outfit Stacy wears, and Rodriguez’s overall aesthetic and style is really interesting and eye-catching (I have no idea if there’s a proper term for this approach, so I won’t attempt to make one up)…


Edge of Spider-Verse #2 is due to be published September 17th, 2014.

* Seriously, Marvel – not everything has to be cross-pollinated and crossed-over. It’s really damned annoying. Not to mention expensive. (OH! Of course! That’s why you do it…)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Upcoming: BELZHAR by Meg Wolitzer (Dutton)

WolitzerM-BelzharUSI’ve only read a little bit of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings. While I thought it was very well written, it just wasn’t for me. Then I spotted this novel, which I thought sounded interesting. Here’s the synopsis:

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

Belzhar is due to be published in the US by Dutton (Penguin), on September 30th, 2014; and in the UK by Simon & Schuster, on October 9th (for some reason, I could not find a UK cover for the novel – given how close it is to publication, this is rather baffling).

US Cover: THE SKULL THRONE by Peter V. Brett (Del Rey)


Holy crap I’m excited about this novel’s release! Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle novels are easily among my all-time favourites, and knowing that the release of THE SKULL THRONE is inching ever-closer has me positively giddy with excitement and anticipation.* I found the cover over on SF Signal, but there does not appear to be a detailed synopsis available just yet. The novel will be published in the US by Del Rey, and in the UK by Voyager. No doubt, it will not take long for it to appear in translation in so very many countries.

Brett-MessengersLegacyOh, and let’s not forget Brett’s latest novella, Messenger’s Legacy, will also be out soon! Here’s the cover and synopsis…

Humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction. Each night, the world is overrun by demons — bloodthirsty creatures of nightmare that have been hunting the surface for over 300 years. A scant few hamlets and half-starved city-states are all that remain of a once proud civilization, and it is only by hiding behind wards, ancient symbols with the power to repel the demons, that they survive. A handful of Messengers brave the night to keep the lines of communication open between the increasingly isolated populace.

Briar Damaj is a boy of six in the small village of Bogton. Half Krasian, the village children call him Mudboy for his dark skin. When tragedy strikes, Briar decides the town is better off without him, fleeing into the bog with nothing but his wits and a bit of herb lore to protect him.

After twenty years, Ragen Messenger has agreed to retire and pass on his route to his protégé, Arlen Bales. But for all that he’s earned the rest, he has no idea what to do with the rest of his life. When he learns Briar, the son of an old friend, is missing, Ragen is willing to risk any danger to bring him safely home.

I wonder what the UK cover is going to look like – or if they’re going to use the same one. Larry Rostant has done a great job again.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Painted Man, The Desert Spear, The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold, The Daylight War

* Was that too much excitement? Perhaps… But, seriously: I can’t wait.


Upcoming: THE MYSTERIES by Lisa Tuttle (Jo Fletcher Books)

I’ve never read anything by Lisa Tuttle, but I receive a press release a few days ago for The Mysteries, and I was quite taken by the cover. It’s really quite excellent:


The novel is due to be published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books, on September 4th, 2014. Here’s the synopsis:

Laura Lensky’s daughter, Peri, has been missing for two years. For the police it’s a closed case – she wanted to run away – but for her mother and boyfriend, Hugh, it’s a different story.

When Laura hires private investigator Ian Kennedy, it is a last-ditch attempt to find her daughter before she leaves for America.

Drawn in by strange parallels to an obscure Celtic myth and his first, almost unexplainable case, Ian takes the job. But his beliefs are about to be stretched to their limit – there are darker and more devious forces at work here than any of them imagined.

JFB have done a great job with the design for the novel (something the publisher is invariably good at, actually). And, while it’s got a larger palette than her previous books, it fits rather nicely with her other works, many of which will be released as eBooks in the coming weeks/months.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Upcoming SFF Movies… (Trailers)

I was browsing on IMDb and watched a few trailers for upcoming movies that I think will appeal to readers of CR. Here they are…






Upcoming: PRINCE LESTAT by Anne Rice (Chatto & Windus)

RiceA-PrinceLestatUK2Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles remain some of my favourite novels – as I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times already on CR, I consider The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned among my top five favourite novels (as one selection – they have to be read together). It was with much excitement, therefore, that I saw that Rice was returning to the series after 11 years away – 2003’s Blood Canticle was the last novel until now. As with any long-running series, it had its ups and downs, and while certain elements of the later novels didn’t work for me, I nevertheless eagerly purchased and read them on their publication days. Prince Lestat will be no different, I’m sure (unless I can get a review copy…). Here’s the synopsis:

The vampire world is in crisis – their kind have been proliferating out of control and, thanks to technologies undreamed of in previous centuries, they can communicate as never before. Roused from their earth-bound slumber, ancient ones are in thrall to the Voice: which commands that they burn fledgling vampires in cities from Paris to Mumbai, Hong Kong to Kyoto and San Francisco. Immolations, huge massacres, have commenced all over the world.

Who – or what – is the Voice? What does it desire, and why?

There is only one vampire, only one blood drinker, truly known to the entire world of the Undead. Will the dazzling hero-wanderer, the dangerous rebel-outlaw Lestat heed the call to unite the Children of Darkness as they face this new twilight?

Anne Rice’s epic, luxuriant, fiercely ambitious new novel brings together all the worlds and beings of the legendary Vampire Chronicles, from present-day New York and Ancient Egypt to fourth-century Carthage and Renaissance Venice; from Louis de Pointe du Lac; Armand the eternally young; Mekare and Maharet; to Pandora and Flavius; David Talbot, vampire and ultimate fixer from the Secret Talamasca; and Marius, the true child of the Millennia. It also introduces many other seductive supernatural creatures, and heralds significant new blood.

Prince Lestat is due to be published in the UK by Chatto & Windus, on October 30, 2014; and in the US by Knopf, on October 28th, 2014. Below are the US and earlier UK covers (according to the author’s Facebook page, the latter has been replaced by the image at the top of this post):


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Quick Reviews: Megan Abbott, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kaufman

I’m falling quite behind on my reviews, so I thought I would put together a quick, three-novel round-up. As you will see, this is not a reflection on how much I enjoyed the books, but rather a reflection of a lack of time. So, without further ado, here are the reviews…

Abbott-DareMeMegan Abbott, Dare Me (Picador)

Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy’s best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they’re seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls – until the young new coach arrives.

Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach’s golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as “top girl” – both with the team and with Addy herself.

Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death – and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain.

This is the first novel by Abbott that I’ve read, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a slow-burn, psychological thriller told from Addy’s perspective. Through her teenage eyes, we see her mentor-crush on Coach develop, and her friendship with Beth become strained. Told solely from Addy’s POV, we get a rather limited – but no less interesting – glimpse into the lives of these characters and the unfolding events. We see second hand the ambitions and insecurities of the cheerleaders; their narrow hopes and dreams, their petty rivalries and also close friendships. Coach’s addition into the squad’s dynamic is immediate, with Addy drawn to her charisma and apparent experience and poise, while Beth is repelled by this interloper who could very well (and does) usurp her control over the other cheerleaders.

Overall, Abbott has written a very good, engaging novel about youth and its strengths and weaknesses. Excellent prose, great observations and characterisation. Definitely recommended. I’ll be reading the author’s latest, The Fever, very soon.


GuggenheimM-OverwatchMarc Guggenheim, Overwatch (Mulholland)

A young CIA lawyer uncovers a dangerous worldwide conspiracy, masterminded by forces within the US intelligence community.

Alex Garnett has spent his life in the shadow of his father, a former Chief of Staff and Solicitor General to two presidents who’s been responsible for getting Alex every job he ever had, including his latest: attorney for the CIA. However, a seemingly routine litigation leads to a series of unexpected events, including poison, kidnapping, torture and murder. As casualties pile up, it becomes clear Alex is the final target in someone's blood-soaked attempts to cover their tracks.

With the help of a neurotic hacker, Alex unravels a conspiracy older than the CIA itself. The trail of clues reveals the presence of unseen forces that are bringing this nation to the brink of war – and Alex’s life is only one of many in danger.

From one of the writer-creators of Arrow, this is a highly entertaining political thriller. Focused on telling a great, fast-paced story, Overwatch is rather classic in feel: a shadowy organisation pulling strings behind the metaphorical curtain, manipulating global events in service to their twisted agenda. Our protagonist stumbles across the conspiracy rather fortuitously, and finds himself in a race against time to stop a war. Guggenheim writes well, and his characters are interesting, pretty varied, and interesting to read about. There were a couple of moments that raised an eyebrow – incredible near-misses, surprising coincidences – but none of them derailed my enjoyment of the story. Things move almost too fast for readers to notice the small leaps.

Interestingly, the main relationship side-narrative is not about Garnett and his fiancée, but rather his relationship with his father. This made a very nice change to the more common love interest. It was presented rather nicely, especially at the end.

I’d certainly be interested in reading more novels featuring Alex Garnett. Recommended for fans of quick-paced thrillers, in the vein of James Patterson and Kyle Mills.


Kaufman-AllMyFriendsAreSuperheroesAndrew Kaufman, All My Friends are Superheroes (Coach House)

All Tom’s friends really are superheroes. There’s the Ear, the Spooner, the Impossible Man. Tom even married a superhero, the Perfectionist. But at their wedding, the Perfectionist was hypnotized (by ex-boyfriend Hypno, of course) to believe that Tom is invisible. Nothing he does can make her see him. Six months later, she’s sure that Tom has abandoned her. So she’s moving to Vancouver. She’ll use her superpower to make Vancouver perfect and leave all the heartbreak in Toronto. With no idea Tom’s beside her, she boards an airplane in Toronto. Tom has until the wheels touch the ground in Vancouver to convince her he's visible, or he loses her forever.

This novella was a bit of a disappointment. I’d had very high hopes, so that might account for some of my disappointment. That being said, it’s still an enjoyable, oft-amusing diversion. At just over 100 pages, it doesn’t take long to read, and Kaufman has populated his story with some interesting and tongue-in-cheek “superheroes”. The story moves surprisingly slowly, though, given its length. Perhaps this impatience was a result of knowing how short it is, and wanting it to get a move on. It’s an interesting premise, successfully executed; and one with a nice, heart-warming ending.

You really feel Tom’s aggravation and despair, as he tries everything he can think of to get his wife’s attention, and genuinely feel for them both. At the same time, it felt a little bit like Kaufman wanted to devise as many silly superheroes as possible, many of which derive their powers from aspects of early-twenties ennui, hipsterism, and somewhat-student-lifestyles. They are, for the main, amusing, but after half of those presented here, the idea becomes a little tired. Thankfully, the story ends before it becomes tiresome.

Recommended if you’re looking for something quick and speculative.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Upcoming: FALLOUT (Capstone) and GIRL ON A WIRE (Skyscape) by Gwenda Bond

BondG-FalloutI stumbled across Gwenda Bond’s Fallout on NetGalley, and was very much intrigued by the premise:

Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all over--and seen all kinds of things. (Some of them defy explanation, like the near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.) But now her family is putting down roots in the big city, and Lois is determined to fit in. Stay quiet. Fly straight. As soon as she steps into her new high school, though, she can see it won't be that easy. A group known as the Warheads is making life miserable for another girl at school. They’re messing with her mind, somehow, via the high-tech immersive videogame they all play. Not cool. Armed with her wit and her new snazzy job as a reporter, Lois has her sights set on solving this mystery. But sometimes it’s all a bit much. Thank goodness for her maybe-more-than-a friend, a guy she knows only by his screenname, SmallvilleGuy.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bond interprets the Lois Lane character. I’m not sure if/how this ties in at all with the DC Comics character, though (Capstone do publish other DC Comics-related books). Fallout is due to be published in the US in January 2015.

Note: I couldn’t find any mention of this novel on Bond’s website, but as far as I can tell, there isn’t another author of the same name.

BondG-GirlOnAWireNext up, Skyscape will be publishing Bond’s other upcoming novel, Girl On A Wire, in October 2014. Here’s the premise:

A ballerina, twirling on a wire high above the crowd. Horses, prancing like salsa dancers. Trapeze artists, flying like somersaulting falcons. And magic crackling through the air. Welcome to the Cirque American!

Sixteen-year-old Jules Maroni’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps as a high-wire walker. When her family is offered a prestigious role in the new Cirque American, it seems that Jules and the Amazing Maronis will finally get the spotlight they deserve. But the presence of the Flying Garcias may derail her plans. For decades, the two rival families have avoided each other as sworn enemies.

Jules ignores the drama and focuses on the wire, skyrocketing to fame as the girl in a red tutu who dances across the wire at death-defying heights. But when she discovers a peacock feather—an infamous object of bad luck—planted on her costume, Jules nearly loses her footing. She has no choice but to seek help from the unlikeliest of people: Remy Garcia, son of the Garcia clan matriarch and the best trapeze artist in the Cirque.

As more mysterious talismans believed to possess unlucky magic appear, Jules and Remy unite to find the culprit. And if they don’t figure out what’s going on soon, Jules may be the first Maroni to do the unthinkable: fall.

Gwenda Bond is also the author of Blackwood and The Woken Gods, which were published by Strange Chemistry.

Also on CR: Interview with Gwenda Bond; Review of Blackwood

Upcoming: STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel (Picador/Knopf)

I’m a bit late to the party, mentioning this on the site – there has been a lot of advance excitement surrounding the publication next month of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. I haven’t read the novel (trying to track down a review copy), but I’ve heard from a couple of people who have and they sing its praises. One of those people is someone who is very difficult to please. The novel will be published on September 9th in the US (Knopf) and 10th in the UK (Picador). The two publishers have taken very different cover approaches, too:


Station Eleven Covers: UK (Picador), US (Knopf)

Which do you prefer? Personally, I like them both, but I may be leaning towards liking the UK cover just a little bit more. I like the overall composition, use of negative space, and the framing is all very nicely done. The US cover, also very nice, is a little more subtle, I think – it doesn’t speak as much to the premise as the Picador cover.

Here’s the (UK) synopsis:


The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.

News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.


Civilization has crumbled.


A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe.

But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.


Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan – warned about the flu just in time; Arthur's first wife Miranda; Arthur’s oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed ‘prophet’.

Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything – even the end of the world

Friday, August 15, 2014

New Books (August #1)


Featuring: David Annandale, Anne Blankman, Christopher Fowler, Felix Gilman, Emmi Itäranta, Philip Kerr, M.A. Lawson, Peter Liney, Caitlin Moran, Haruki Murakami, Lauren Owen, Greg Rucka, Brian Ruckley, Adelle Waldman, Will Wiles, Tad Williams

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Guest Post: “Setting as a Character” by Patty Templeton

PattyTempleton-AuthorPicI have a great many tattoos. Entire appendages are coated in ink. One of my favorites is a small arsenic bottle and a sprig of blackberries on my left arm. It was inspired by the book We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

Shirley Jackson. Geez. That woman. Though We Have Always Lived in the Castle is my favorite novel of hers – and the novel that inspired the tattoo, The Haunting of Hill House is what Jackson is most known for. Made famous by two movie adaptations and lauded by Stephen King as one of only two “great novels of the supernatural in the last hundred years,”[1] The Haunting of Hill House was the first novel that made me aware of Setting as a Character.

If you are unfamiliar with The Haunting of Hill House, the main story thread is thus: four psychically-inclined characters (two women and two men) visit an 80-year-old mansion named Hill House to study the supernatural activity that may or may not be happening there. Strange. Events. Occur. Is it all in the minds of the slightly terrified inhabitants, do ghosts roam the halls, or can a place actually be alive and evil?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Star-Studded D&D Audiobook Free for 40 Days! (Audible)


Caught this offer via Twitter, but thought it was pretty amazing and had to share. I have extremely little experience or familiarity with Dungeons & Dragons (which might seem weird, considering my obvious fondness for SFF). Nevertheless, this caught my attention because of the cast. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Dungeon & Dragons, Audible are offering The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories for free for forty (40) days, starting August 12th, and ending September 20th, 2014. Here is the cast list and also the synopsis for the audiobook:

The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories expands upon the epic legend of the dark elf with 12 tales performed by the all-star cast of Felicia Day, Dan Harmon, Greg Grunberg, Tom Felton, Danny Pudi, Sean Astin, Melissa Rauch, Ice-T, Wil Wheaton, Al Yankovic, Michael Chiklis, and David Duchovny!

For years, the Legend of Drizzt has included short stories published in Forgotten Realms anthologies and Dragon magazine. Available here for the first time in audio are all the classic stories by the New York Times best-selling author R. A. Salvatore!

From the startling origin of Drizzt’s panther companion, to the tale of Jarlaxle and Entreri’s first encounter with the dragon sisters, the tales in The Collected Stories enrich this vividly-imagined series by building the world around Drizzt through exploring the backstories of side characters and magical locations.

Excerpt: ASSAIL by Ian C. Esslemont (Transworld)


A Novel of the Malazan Empire


North territory of a new land

Of the Jaghut wars:

Seventh century of the 12th Lamatath campaign

33,421 years before Burn’s Sleep

The woman ran at a steady unhurried pace. her breath came as long level inhalations through the mouth and out through her wide nostrils. Sweat darkened the front and back of her buckskin shirt. Her moccasins padded silently over stones and pockets of exposed sandy soil. That she was running up a wide rocky mountain slope, and had been for most of the day, attested to iron strength and endurance. She dodged round slim poles of young pine, white spruce and birch. She jumped rocks and slid and scrambled up steep gravel talus fans. She knew she could outpace her pursuers, but that she would never shake them from her trail. Yet still she ran on.

She knew that once they tired of the chase, they would take her. She judged it ironic that the same desperate urge to continued existence that drove her also lay behind their relentless pursuit – though they had relinquished their claim to it long ago.

Still she scrambled on up the slope, for one hope remained. One slim unlikely chance. Not for her survival; she had given that up the moment she glimpsed the hoary eldritch silhouettes of her pursuers. The one slim chance lay for vengeance.

Another Cool CONSTANTINE Cover (DC New 52)

The New 52 Constantine series has been getting some really cool cover, lately. The piece that will grace the 17th issue – by Juan Ferreyra – is particularly cool, too, because it ties in with the centennial commemoration of World War I…


The issue – published on this week – is written by Ray Fawkes, with art by Edgar Salazar and Jay Leisten, and colours by Richard and Tanya Horie. Here’s the synopsis:

John Constantine is no stranger to death, but he’s never seen it on this scale – a spell gone terribly wrong has sent him back through time to World War I! Unfortunately, he’s not the only mage in the trenches… and where death has this much power, black magic couldn’t be more dangerous!

You can check out a preview of the issue here.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Mini-Review: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” by David Shafer (Mulholland)

ShaferD-WhiskeyTangoFoxtrotA peculiar, but well-written novel

The Committee, an international cabal of industrialists and media barons, is on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary, an idealistic online Underground, stands in the way of that takeover, using radical politics, classic spycraft, and technology that makes Big Data look like dial-up. Into this secret battle stumbles an unlikely trio: Leila Majnoun, a disillusioned non-profit worker; Leo Crane, an unhinged trustafarian; and Mark Deveraux, a phony self-betterment guru who works for the Committee.

Leo and Mark were best friends in college, but early adulthood has set them on diverging paths. Growing increasingly disdainful of Mark's platitudes, Leo publishes a withering takedown of his ideas online. But the Committee is reading – and erasing – Leo’s words. On the other side of the world, Leila’s discoveries about the Committee’s far-reaching ambitions threaten to ruin those who are closest to her.

This novel was on my radar for quite some time before I managed to get my mitts on a review copy. When I did, it shot to the top of my TBR pile, and I eagerly dove in. What I found was not what I’d expected – in both good and odd ways (not bad, though). Did I enjoy it? Absolutely. Is it well written? Absolutely. Is the story expertly crafted and gripping? Well, sort of.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

A Pair of Upcoming Black Library Novels

It feels like quite some time since I read a Black Library novel. Nevertheless, they keep publishing (or announcing) more that I would like to read. There’s more Gotrek & Felix on the way and also plenty more Horus Heresy fiction coming. Below are new novels in two other series that maybe don’t get as much attention as they deserve…


FrenchJ-A4-AhrimanSorcerorI recently read and reviewed the second Ahriman short story, The Dead Oracle. This despite still not having read the first novel, Ahriman: Exile. Nevertheless, I think French has done a great job of bringing this character to life on the page – at least, this post-Horus Heresy iteration of this character.*

Ahriman, greatest sorcerer of the Thousand Sons and architect of the Rubric that laid his Legion low, continues to walk the path towards salvation, or damnation. Searching for a cure for his Legion, he is forced to consider – was the great ritual somehow flawed from the very beginning? The answer may lie within the mysterious artefact known as the Athenaeum of Kallimakus, a grimoire of forgotten lore which is reputed to contain the exact words of the lost Book of Magnus… or, perhaps, even a transcription of the primarch’s deepest and most secret thoughts.

Ahriman: Sorceror is due to be published in early 2015.

* He first appeared in Graham McNeill’s excellent, New York Times-bestselling A Thousand Sons.



WernerCL-D-DeathbladeMalus Darkblade made his first appearance in the pages of Inferno!, Black Library’s once-bi-monthly magazine of short fiction and comic strips. It was a comic series written by Dan Abnett. Abnett later adapted the comic into prose, which was later taken on by Mike Lee. Now, C.L. Werner, one of BL’s best writers of horror-tinged Warhammer fantasy fiction, has stepped up to the plate. I’m quite looking forward to this novel, despite not reading many of the Darkblade novels. Maybe this is a good excuse to catch up with them…?

Darkblade must decide where his loyalties lie – will he follow Malekith to the death, or will he finally rise up and try to claim the throne of Naggaroth for himself? And either way, will he survive?

It has taken decades, but Malus Darkblade has finally plotted, schemed and murdered his way to power, as the ruler of the city of Hag Graef and general of the Witch King Malekith’s armies. But his position is imperilled when Malekith orders an all-out assault on Ulthuan – with Darkblade in the vanguard. As he wages war on the high elves, Darkblade must decide where his loyalties lie – will he follow Malekith to the death, or will he finally rise up and try to claim the throne of Naggaroth for himself? And either way, will he survive?

Deathblade is due to be published in February 2015.

Upcoming: THE MECHANICAL by Ian Tregillis (Orbit)


I am so excited to read this novel. And how cool is that cover? I like that it really pops off the screen, and imagine it will do the same off the shelves. Ian Tregillis’s Milkweed TriptychBitter Seeds, The Coldest War, and Necessary Evil – is one of my favourite trilogies of all time. His writing is superb, his story-telling near-peerless. Now, we have THE MECHANICAL to look forward to.

Orbit are publishing in March 2015, which feels too far away! I wonder who I can bribe for a review copy…? *Ahem* Of course, I would never do that…

Anyway, here’s the synopsis:

My name is Jax. That is the name granted to me by my human masters.

I am a clakker: a mechanical man, powered by alchemy. Armies of my kind have conquered the world – and made the Brasswork Throne the sole superpower.

I am a faithful servant. I am the ultimate fighting machine. I am endowed with great strength and boundless stamina.

But I am beholden to the wishes of my human masters.

I am a slave. But I shall be free.

Also on CR: Guest Post by Ian Tregillis; Reviews of Bitter Seeds, The Coldest War and Necessary Evil

“The Magician King” by Lev Grossman (Plume/Arrow)

Grossman-MagicianKingUSA superb follow-up to The Magicians

Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. After a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom.

Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent’s house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them.

In an effort to catch up for the third volume in Lev Grossman’s Magicians series, here’s my very quick review of The Magician King: it’s an excellent follow-up to a brilliant first installment. If you haven’t read this series yet, I strongly urge you do so. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Guest Post: “Saying Goodbye” by Tom Pollock


So that’s it then, it’s done.

It’s a strange thing, finishing a trilogy. It comes with a sense of dislocation. I’ve spent the last five years – a sixth of my life – in a dream world: a London where the streets are lit by glass-skinned dancers with phosphorescent blood, and where the statues conceal a priesthood entombed by their Goddess in stone and bronze as a punishment, a London where the scaffolding can slide from the face of a building, rearticulate itself into a snapping, snarling steel wolf, and pounce.

It’s not letting go of the world that’s the strangest thing, though it’s letting go of the people. Because I’ve also spent the last five years in the heads of two teenaged girls. I’ve done my best to feel what they felt as they fell in love, and fought with their friends and were kidnapped by sentient barbed-wire parasites and took on the powers of urban gods. I’ve pretzel-twisted my thoughts into the shapes of theirs. To put it simply, within the bone enclosure of my skull, I’ve been them. And it’s been a trip.

Upcoming: “Legacies of Betrayal” (Black Library)

Various-HH-LegaciesOfBetrayalThe 31st book in the formerly-New York Times-bestselling Horus Heresy series!* An anthology, Legacies of Betrayal is due to be published in April 2015. It looks like it’s going to be quite a substantial tome, too…

Only from out of great conflict can true heroes arise. With the galaxy aflame and war on an unimaginable scale tearing the Imperium apart, champions of light and darkness venture onto countless fields of battle in service to their masters. They ask not for remembrance or reward – simply to meet their destiny head-on, and only by embracing that destiny will they come to learn what the unseen future may yet hold for them…

This Horus Heresy anthology contains eighteen short stories by authors such as Graham McNeill, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Nick Kyme and many more. Also, Chris Wraight’s acclaimed novella Brotherhood of the Storm delves into the nature of the elusive White Scars Legion, and their questionable sense of duty to the Emperor.

Eighteen short stories, huh? Plus Wraight’s Brotherhood of the Storm? I wonder if it will include some of the other formerly-limited-edition novellas? Hope so, as I rather liked the ones I’ve read (including Wraight’s story). Rather looking forward to this. But first, I’ll have to read Graham McNeill’s Vengeful Spirit and David Annandale’s The Damnation of Pythos, both of which I have already.

* It’s been quite some time since they last had one in the NYT charts. I believe McNeill’s A Thousand Suns was the first to land on the list?

Upcoming: “Slayer” by David Guymer (Black Library)

Guymer-G&F-Slayer2015(Kind of) Hot on the heels of my recent post with the details for Guymer’s Kinslayer, I’m able to share with you the details for the next Gotrek & Felix novel! I am now very behind on the series, after following it eagerly from the publication of Trollslayer (I’m not including the three anthologies that included G&F stories, as I read those quite a bit after publication). In May 2015, Black Library will publish SLAYER!* This pleases me mightily. Although, I can’t help but think it’s a little like they ran out of things to identify as the slayed, and decided to go very to-the-point with the title. Check out that big daemon in the background…

Here’s the synopsis…

With enemies on all sides and destiny calling, Felix must make a choice: to follow Gotrek into the darkness that awaits him, or to abandon his oldest friend once and for all.

For many long years, Felix Jaeger has followed the dwarf Slayer Gotrek Gurnisson across the world. Their adventures have been extraordinary, their heroic partnership the stuff of legends. Now it ends. With their friendship in tatters after a series of betrayals, the pair march south at the head of a ragtag army, intent upon driving the forces of Chaos out of the Empire and returning Felix to his wife. But Gotrek’s doom is at hand, and great powers are at work to ensure that he meets it. With enemies on all sides and destiny calling, Felix must make a choice: to follow Gotrek into the darkness that awaits him, or to abandon his oldest friend once and for all.

* This is the date listed by Simon & Schuster (Canada), at any rate. Black Library may release it sooner as an eBook or directly through their website/online store. Simon & Schuster have been a real boon for information and artwork for upcoming Black Library titles – they’re BL’s distributor in Canada, and share the information in their online catalogue way before BL shares it on their own website. I think this is something to do with North American conventions for publishing. (But that could be a load of rubbish… I just remember hearing something to that effect recently.)