New Books (March)

Featuring: Ben Aaronovitch, Joe Abercrombie, Jay Allan, Chiara Barzini, Clifford Beal, Christopher Brown, Laura Dave, Curtis Dawson, Joshua Ferris, David Goodrich, Daryl Gregory, Randy Henderson, Greg Iles, Nicole Krauss, Laura Lam, Barry Lancet, Mark Lawrence, Peter McLean, Dan Moren, Daniel Riley, Doree Shafrir, Jonathan Skariton, C.J. Skuse, Chris Vola, Sam Wiebe, Max Wirestone

Continue reading

Quick Reviews: Two Black Library Audiodramas

David Annandale, THE BINARY SUCCESSION

Even as the Imperium faces the renegade Legions of the Warmaster, the ruling Council of Terra is becoming paralysed from within by increasingly petty bureaucracy. Fabricator General Kane has seen his fellow Mechanicum adepts dismissed again and again by the High Lords – with his traitorous predecessor Kelbor-Hal still at large on the Red Planet, the political status of the tech-priesthood remains ambiguous. New alliances must be forged from the old, if Mars and Terra are to survive the final battle.

Performed by: Gareth Armstrong, Steve Conlin, Penelope Rawlins, Toby Longworth, Ian Brooker, John Banks, Luis Soto, Antonia Beamish, Cliff Chapman.

This was pretty cool. I wasn’t sure what to expect, not usually going for titan-focused fiction. The first thing one notices is the quality of the production: an excellent, fairly large cast, all of whom deliver great performances; and the plentiful, good sound-effects and music do a great job of enhancing, not distracting from the story. (This is a real strength of BL’s audio-dramas in general.) I think the only things that took some getting used to were the voices of the members of the Mechanicum — a couple were so tech-distorted that they came across like irate Daleks. It does fit, though.

As for the story? Very good. I enjoyed seeing the politics behind the Mechanicum, as they maneuvered for better status among the High Lords. The characters are interesting, their interactions realistic even if they themselves are so (mechanically) alien. I’d certainly be interested in listening to more audio-dramas featuring them, or reading about them in ‘regular’ fiction formats.

If you’re a fan of the Horus Heresy series (especially the Mechanicum-related fiction), then I’d certainly recommend this. A very good Black Library audio-drama.

The Binary Succession is out now, published by Black Library.

Also on CR: Interview with David Annandale (2012); Guest Post on “My Favourite Novel”; Reviews of The Carrion AnthemThe Damnation of Pythos

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

*

Gav Thorpe, ASURMEN: THE DARKER ROAD

It is said the Phoenix Lords arrive on the eve of great moments… Guided by fate, Asurmen the Hand of Asuryan comes to the craftworld of Ulthwé. At the behest of the head of the seer council, he joins the warriors of Ulthwé and the young seer Eldrad on a quest to the Crone Worlds in search of the oracle Hiron-athela. It is believed that this being holds an artefact that could safeguard Ulthwé’s future, but in order to obtain it the eldar must travel a dark road…

[Performed by Gareth Armstrong, John Banks, Steve Conlin, Toby Longworth, Penelope Rawlins and Genevieve Swallow.]

I keep forgetting to read Asurmen: The Hand of Asuryan, which I’ve had for years. The Eldar were the first WH40k army I thought was interesting. I remember reading the Codex multiple times, back in the day, and the Phoenix Lords in particular caught my imagination and attention. The Darker Road is a really interesting short story, and I enjoyed seeing how the Elder “work” together. Thorpe’s done a great job of writing interesting, alien characters who are nevertheless relatable. He includes plenty of Eldar-traits, without info-dumping, as well as some good Chaos shenanigans.

As in The Binary Succession, though, there were times when the voices came across as a little too-techno-distorted (for my taste). Not a major issue, but I think it could have been toned down a bit without ruining the story.

If you’re a fan of the Elder, then I highly recommend you check out this audio-drama. Interesting, well-performed. It also reignited my interest in reading The Hand of Asuryan. The second novel in the Phoenix Lords series, Jain Zar: The Storm of Silence, is due out in May 2017.

Asurmen: The Darker Road is out now, published by Black Library.

Also on CR: Interviews with Gav Thorpe — 2011 and 2016; Reviews of The Curse of KhaineDeliverance LostAngels of Caliban

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Chat with JOSEPH HELMREICH

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Joseph Helmreich?

I’m a New York-based writer and this is my second book and first novel. I also play in a band called Honeybrick and I’m a ventriloquist, though I never mention that last part except at the start of interviews.

Your debut novel, The Return, will be published by this year by St. Martin’s Press. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

It’s a sci-fi thriller about a physicist who gets abducted by an alien ship during a live TV broadcast and then turns up years later and claims it never happened. It wasn’t planned to be part of a series, though I’d certainly be open to doing a sequel. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS by Jason Rekulak (Simon & Schuster/Faber)

An endearing tale of adolescent attraction and distraction

What happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.

Do you remember your first love?

The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine… The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys — Billy, Alf, and Clark — who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it.

The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan — they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.

I very much enjoyed this novel. The Impossible Fortress has a little bit of everything: young love, a daring heist, some mystery, and a fair amount of nostalgia. It is also very well written. If you’re looking for an amusing coming-of-age novel, then I’d recommend this. (Especially if you are in your 30s/40s…) Continue reading

New Books (February)

newbooks-20170303

Featuring: Dan Abnett, David Annandale, Col Buchanan, John Connolly, Kris D’Agostino, N.S. Dolkart, C.Z. Dunn, Ben Galley, Guy Haley, Joseph Helmreich, Darius Hinks, Gabe Hudson, Stephen Graham Jones, George Mann, Brian McClellan, David Mealing, Megan E. O’Keefe, Liza Palmer, M.L. Rio, Roslund & Hellström, Adam Sternbergh, Anthony Tambakis, Matt Wallace, Keith Yatsuhashi

Continue reading

Review: RIVER OF TEETH by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)

gaileys-riverofteethAn classic-style Western. Only, with killer hippos…

In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.

Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

River of Teeth has a fantastic premise: what if hippos were imported into the United States, to make up for the decline in buffalo stocks? This was a real proposal, way back when, and Gailey has done a great job of imaging an America in which hippos have spread and thrived — some are used as mounts, and there are thousands of deadly “ferals” populating the waterways. Now, throw in a group of mercenaries, drawn together on an operation (not a caper), and you have all the ingredients for a fun, original adventure. Continue reading

Interview with JON SKOVRON

SkovronJ-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Jon Skovron?

I’m originally from Ohio, where I was sentenced to an all boys Catholic Prep school. Eventually I escaped to Pittsburgh, where I studied acting in the conservatory program at Carnegie Mellon University. By the time I graduated, the one thing I was certain of was that I no longer wanted to be an actor. Instead, I took up the much more practical profession of author. Over the course of the next ten years, I wrote several failed novels, got married, had kids, got divorced, and had a couple of short stories published. My first Young Adult novel, Struts and Frets, was finally published in 2009. I had three more YA novels published before deciding to write my first fantasy novel for grown-ups, which ended up being Hope and Red, book one of the Empire of Storms. Continue reading