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Win a Copy of Peter Watts’ Echopraxia

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Echopraxia-smallPeter Watts is a fellow Canadian and that makes him cool.

Well, that and the fact that he writes intensely cool SF novels, like the Hugo-nominated Blindsight, which Charles Stross described as “a first contact with aliens story from the point of view of a zombie posthuman crewman aboard a starship captained by a vampire.” Any time you can get Charles Stross on record saying “zombie posthuman crewman,” you know you’re cool. Plus, Ken Levine, the Creative Director for the hit video game BioShock, credits Watts as a significant influence on his game. That’s coolness right there.

Watts’s latest novel Echopraxia, described as a “sidequel” relating events on Earth during Blindsight, arrives at the end of the month, and Tor Books has been kind enough to offer us a copy to use as a giveaway (Thanks, Tor! You guys are super-cool.)

How do you enter? Just send an e-mail to with the title “Echopraxia” and a one-sentence review of your favorite Tor science fiction novel. One winner will be drawn at random at the end of the month from all qualifying entries and we’ll publish the best reviews here on the Black Gate blog.

All entries become the property of New Epoch Press. No purchase necessary. Must be 12 or older. Decisions of the judges (capricious as they may be) are final. Not valid where prohibited by law, or outside the US and Canada.

Here’s the book description.

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New Treasures: Downfall by Rob Thurman

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Downfall Rob Thurman-smallI first met Rob (Robyn) Thurman at Dragon*Con back in 2010, when she had a booth right next to the chaotic and busy Black Gate booth in the Dealer’s Room. As Howard put it in his con report, hanging out with Rob was one of the highlights of the con for us — she was charming and funny, and told hilarious tales of cosplay misadventures in a knockout Deadpool costume.

Turns out Rob is also a terrific writer, as I discovered when I finally had a chance to pick up one of her popular Cal Leandros dark urban fantasy novels. The series began with Nightlife in 2006; since then she’s published one per year. The ninth and most recent, Downfall, arrived earlier this month. It’s not too late to discover this New York Times bestselling series — if you haven’t already.

I let it go — all of it. Everything I’d been saving up all my life, building and growing inside me, too much to hold in one half-human body. It pushed and fought to be free with a force that turned me into a bomb with a timer vibrating on zero. I was free.

But so was everything I’d fought so hard not to be….

Brothers Cal and Niko Leandros know trouble when they see it — and then proceed to wipe the floor with it. But now it seems their whole world is falling to pieces. Cal’s nightmarish monster side is growing ever stronger, changing Cal physically as well as mentally. Which is exactly what Grimm — Cal’s savage doppelgänger — wants. And when a covert supernatural organization decides that it’s time to put Cal down before he threatens pretty much everything else in existence, the brothers find themselves in a fight they actually might lose. But the dark temptations Cal has denied all his life may prove to be exactly what can save them.

Even if he must fall forever…

Downfall was published on August 5, 2014 by Roc Books. It is 338 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Chris McGrath.

Win a Copy of Patrick Swenson’s The Ultra Thin Man

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ultra Thin Man-smallPatrick Swenson may be the coolest guy in the genre.

He started doing what all the cool people do, of course: editing a magazine. Patrick founded Talebones in 1995, a small press magazine of SF and dark fantasy, and he produced 39 issues over the next 14 years, discovering writers like Patrick O’Leary, Ken Scholes, Carrie Vaughn, and many others in the process. I called the magazine “a thoroughly impressive piece of work” when I reviewed issue #17 in 1999 for SF Site. Patrick then turned to small press publishing with Fairwood Press, where he’s published over 50 books from folks like James Van Pelt, Mary Rosenblum, Ken Rand, Jay Lake, Michael Bishop, Devon Monk, Alexei Panshin, William F. Nolan, and dozens of others. Most recently he has turned his hand to writing, producing short stories for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine and other outlets.

Last year, Patrick announced that he’d sold his first novel, The Ultra Thin Man, to Tor, cementing his creative conquest of the entire genre. Not content with merely conquering science fiction, Patrick has also sent stories out to other genres, especially noir and detective fiction. Here’s a snippet from his recent interview with Forces of Geek on the inspiration behind The Ultra Thin Man.

It probably goes without saying that Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Thin Man was an influence, as was the 1934 film. Not so much for that particular plot, but the detective story in general. The witty dialogue. The one-liners. The back and forth repartee between the lead and other characters. Besides Hammett, I’d single out some of my favorite mystery writers, all of whom are masterful writing dialogue: Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, John D. Macdonald, and James W. Hall, to name a few.

To celebrate Patrick’s deep contributions to fantasy over the decades — and the fact that one human being can attain this level of coolness — we’re giving away a copy of The Ultra Thin Man, compliments of Tor Books.

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New Treasures: Dust and Light by Carol Berg

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Dust and Light-smallCarol Berg’s first novel was Transformation, a Roc midlist paperback, in August 2000. It was a success and it became the first novel of the Rai-Kirah trilogy.

Some fourteen epic fantasy novels followed, including four in The Bridge of D’Arnath series and the Collegia Magica trilogy. There were a couple standalone titles in there as well, including Song of the Beast (2003), and the story “Unmasking,” in the 2007 Elemental Magic collection.

The two novels in The Lighthouse Duet, Flesh and Spirit (2007) and Breath and Bone (2008), were set in the world of Sanctuary. Now Berg returns to Sanctuary with her latest novel, the first installment of a new duology.

How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of “unseemly involvement with ordinaries,” which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her… After that one mistake, Lucian’s grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries — beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets.

But sketching the truth of dead men’s souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe. The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad — and mad sorcerers are very dangerous…

Dust and Light was published by Roc Books on August 5. It is 445 pages, priced at $16 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Gene Mollica.

New Treasures: Assail by Ian C. Esslemont

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Assail Ian C Esslemont-smallSteven Erikson made a name for himself with his 10-volume Malazan Book of the Fallen series, acclaimed by many as the finest heroic fantasy series of the last few decades. He co-created the world of Malaz with a member of his gaming group, Manitoba author Ian C. Esslemont, who for the past four years has been writing his own novels in the same setting, starting with Night of Knives (2010).

Esslemont has built his own fan base over the years, and the sixth and final novel in his Malazan series, Assail, arrived in hardcover and trade paperback last week.

Tens of thousands of years of ice is melting, and the land of Assail, long a byword for menace and inaccessibility, is at last yielding its secrets. Tales of gold discovered in the region’s north circulate in every waterfront dive and sailor’s tavern, and now countless adventurers and fortune-seekers have set sail in search of riches. All these adventurers have to guide them are legends and garbled tales of the dangers that lie in wait — hostile coasts, fields of ice, impassable barriers and strange, terrifying creatures. But all accounts concur that the people of the north meet all trespassers with the sword. And beyond are rumoured to lurk Elder monsters out of history’s very beginnings.

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New Treasures: Lightspeed Magazine: Women Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue

Monday, August 11th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Lightspeed Women Destroy Science Fiction-smallBack in February, John Joseph Adams’s Lightspeed magazine held one of the most successful genre Kickstarter campaigns of the year, raising money for a special Women Destroy Science Fiction! issue. With a modest $5,000 goal, the magazine ended up raising $53,136 before the campaign ended on February 15.

Ambitious Kickstarter projects frequently have a reputation for being late — and I’m not sure I’ve seen many as ambitious as this one. But the issue shipped right on time in early June, and we reported here on the details back on June 5th. Lightspeed is a digital magazine and, as you’d expect, this groundbreaking issue was first made available in digital format. I’m not much of a digital magazine reader, truth be told — I like to read magazines curled up in my big green chair — but I thought I’d eventually make an exception for this one.

But about a week later, on June 14th, I saw a Facebook post from contributor (and occasional Black Gate blogger) Amal El-Mohtar, showing off the print version of the magazine.

Wait, what? There’s a print version? I want it. How do I get it? Amal’s description was tantalizingly cryptic:

My physical copy of Lightspeed Magazine’s Women Destroy Science Fiction arrived! It’s gorgeous, and huge, and I love it so much and can’t seem to stop petting it. It contains “The Lonely Sea in the Sky,” my first (and hopefully not last) piece of science fiction… The print copy contains everything — the interviews, essays, editorials, reprints, flash fiction, and originals. You can’t quite tell from the photo but the book is about 2 inches thick. It really is more of an anthology at this point than it is an issue of a magazine. To reiterate: TWO INCHES THICK.

I knew that I had to have a copy. And as it turned out, it wasn’t very hard to get one: Amazon has them in stock, discounted to $12.77 — less than the cost of an average trade paperback. I ordered a copy on July 3rd and it arrived a week later.

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Future Treasures: The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Midnight Queen-smallIn these post Harry Potter days, it takes a certain authorial courage to set a fantasy novel in a wizarding school. Sylvia Izzo Hunter has done exactly that with her first novel The Midnight Queen, the opening book in the Noctis Magicae series, released next month. I’m intrigued by the book blurb, which hints at an older target audience than Rowling’s series, as well as a hint of romance.

In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented — and highest born — sons of the Kingdom of Britain are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover…

Gray’s deep talent for magick has won him a place at Merlin College. But when he accompanies four fellow students on a mysterious midnight errand that ends in disaster and death, he is sent away in disgrace — and without a trace of his power. He must spend the summer under the watchful eye of his domineering professor, Appius Callender, working in the gardens of Callender’s country estate and hoping to recover his abilities. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.

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New Treasures: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, Volume One, Adapted by P. Craig Russell

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Graveyard Book Volume One-smallI’ve been a fan of P. Craig Russell’s comic work since his adaptation of Michael Morcock’s Elric: The Dreaming City first appeared in Epic magazine way back in 1979.

Russell did a lot of attention-getting work for Marvel, including Doctor Strange Annual #1 (1976) and a lengthy run on Killraven (1974–1976), before branching out as an independent artist. He returned to Elric several times, first with While the Gods Laugh (Epic, 1981), and Elric of Melniboné (1982–84), a limited series scripted by Roy Thomas from Pacific Comics.

He brought the character to First Comics with Elric: Weird of the White Wolf, and in 1993-95 he worked directly with scripter Michael Moorcock on Elric: Stormbringer (Dark Horse Comics). He also worked with my friend Mark Shainblum on The Chronicles of Corum, an ongoing series from First Comics, in the late 80s.

Russell’s first collaborations with Neil Gaiman were the famous “Ramadan” issue of Sandman (issue #50, 1992), which helped inspire Howard Andrew Jones to create Dabir & Asim, and a story in the Sandman graphic novel Endless Nights. That led to Russell’s first graphic adaptation for Gaiman, his novel Coraline (2008).

Now he’s produced his most ambitious collaboration with Gaiman yet: a two-volume graphic adaptation of The Graveyard Book, the tale of a boy who’s raised by ghosts in a graveyard. The first volume, just released, contains Chapter One through the Interlude, while the upcoming Volume Two contains Chapter Six through to the end.

Here’s the book description.

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New Treasures: The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Science Fiction 31-smallIt’s that time of year again. I’ve been reporting here on the annual crop of Year’s Best SF and Fantasy anthologies as they’ve arrived over the summer — including Rich Horton’s sixth (published in June), the eighth volume from Jonathan Strahan (May), and David Hartwell’s eighteenth volume (December 2013).

And now at last the great granddaddy of them all arrives: Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection. Arguably the most essential of the lot, it is certainly the most comprehensive and the most irreplaceable. Gardner, the Hugo Award-winning editor of Asimov’s SF for two decades, has been compiling and editing this volume every year without fail since 1984, and his richly detailed annual summation is required reading for anyone who expects to really understand science fiction.

In the new millennium, what secrets lay beyond the far reaches of the universe? What mysteries belie the truths we once held to be self evident? The world of science fiction has long been a porthole into the realities of tomorrow, blurring the line between life and art. Now, in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection the very best SF authors explore ideas of a new world in the year’s best short stories.

This venerable collection brings together award winning authors and masters of the field such as Robert Reed, Alastair Reynolds, Damien Broderick, Elizabeth Bear, Paul McAuley and John Barnes. And with an extensive recommended reading guide and a summation of the year in science fiction, this annual compilation has become the definitive must-read anthology for all science fiction fans and readers interested in breaking into the genre.

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection was published by St. Martin’s Press on July 15. It is 750 pages, priced at $40 in hardcover, $22.99 in trade paperback, and $10.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Jim Burns.

New Treasures: One Night in Sixes by Arianne ‘Tex’ Thompson

Monday, August 4th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

One Night in Sixes-smallWe get a lot of review copies every month here at the Chicago rooftop headquarters of the Black Gate global publishing empire. You know what else we get? Press releases, pre-release galleys, PDFs, free Kindle books, stuff like that. We could never leave the office, and still keep you decently posted on the newest fantasy every month.

But we don’t aim for decent. We aim to keep you completely informed on the very best in the genre. And that means putting feet on the street, talking to folks in the industry, and visiting to bookstores. Lots and lots of bookstores. Like yesterday, where I found a copy of a fascinating “rural fantasy” from new writer Arianne ‘Tex’ Thompson. I would never have discovered her first novel if I hadn’t been wandering the aisles at B&N, and believe me, it deserves your attention.

The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day. Still, Appaloosa Elim has heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient animal gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight.

And the daylight is running out. Elim’s so-called ‘partner’ — that lily-white lordling Sil Halfwick –- has disappeared inside the old adobe walls, hell-bent on making a name for himself among Sixes’ notorious black-market traders. Elim, whose worldly station is written in the bastard browns and whites of his cow-spotted face, doesn’t dare show up home without him.

If he ever wants to go home again, he’d better find his missing partner fast. But if he’s caught out after dark, Elim risks succumbing to the old and sinister truth in his own flesh – and discovering just how far he’ll go to survive the night.

One word of warning: One Night in Sixes is the kind of novel that has a 10-page glossary and 11-page “People and Place” reference in the back. If that scares you, go back to reading E. Nesbit and the Ranger’s Apprentice books. Lightweight.

One Night in Sixes was published on July 29, 2014 by Solaris Books. It is 439 pages (plus all those glossaries and stuff), priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The moody and effective cover is by Tomasz Jedruszek.

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