Sci-Fi’s Difficult Genius: The New Yorker on Gene Wolfe

Friday, April 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Soldier of the Mist-smallPeter Bebergal — who penned a thoughtful analysis of Michael Moorcock for The New Yorker back in January, “The Anti-Tolkien” — is at it again. This time, he takes a look at the often challenging work of Gene Wolfe.

He kicks off the article with some insightful comments on the 1986 fantasy Soldier of the Mist, the first novel in Wolfe’s Latro trilogy, centered on the adventures of a Roman mercenary with a perplexing ailment.

Having suffered an injury during the Battle of Plataea, a Greco-Persian War skirmish, Latro has no memory of his past. Each night, he writes the day’s events on a scroll; the next morning he reads the scroll to bring himself current. Latro has to carefully choose what he is going to write down: he is limited by time, because when he sleeps he loses his memory again, and by the medium, because there is only so much papyrus. It is hinted that Latro’s wound was caused by the meddling of the gods… It could be the case, however, that Latro’s wound causes him to hallucinate.

On the phone from his home in Peoria, Gene Wolfe explained to me recently that Latro’s memory loss does not make him an unreliable narrator, as many critics assume. Instead, Latro might reveal only the truth that matters. Latro must ask himself, Wolfe said, “What is worth writing, what is going to be of value to me when I read it in the future? What will I want to know?” These are questions that Wolfe has been asking himself, in one form or another, for decades. His stories and novels are rich with riddles, mysteries, and sleights of textual hand.

Read the complete article online here.

One Picture = One Thousand Words . . .?

Friday, April 24th, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

Huff price 1About a month ago Gabe Dybing wrote an excellent post in which he, among other things, praised my Dhulyn and Parno Novels (thanks again, Gabe). I obviously don’t quarrel with anything he had to say, but there was one observation that made me raise my eyebrows, and that was his take on the cover art. The whole post is worth reading (not just the part about my books) but what Dying has to say about my covers is important not just for me, but for any of us involved in the writing and reading of books. Looking at the art from the sales perspective, what it is about the cover that encourages a reader to buy a book, Dybing has two caveats. First, he feels the characters are too “posed,” in that they’re “battle-ready” when nothing is in fact happening. Second, he objects to the photo-realism, since it could restrain the readers in imagining the characters for themselves. As it happens, he feels the artist, Steve Stone, did capture Dhulyn pretty well, except for her skin colour, and her “wolf smile.”

Huff PriceInteresting bit about that. The artist chose his models from modeling/acting agency photos to match the physical descriptions I’d provided to my editor/publisher, Sheila Gilbert at DAW. It wasn’t until the models arrived for the session that Stone realized the woman was black. I know, it does make you wonder what the photos were like, but that’s not a question I can answer. The situation was explained to her, and apparently the model/actress didn’t mind being depicted as a woman from a race noted for the pallor of their skin and the redness of their hair.

As for the wolf’s smile, you don’t really want to see that. Ever. Trust me.

On the whole, I think I’ve been very lucky with my cover art, but before I go on I have to confess a couple of things. First, I have almost no visual memory (except for faces), and don’t really respond to visual cues. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t describe to you the cover of any book, not even the ones I’ve read over and over. Okay, I can recognize the Tenniel drawings from Alice in Wonderland, the original art from the Chronicles of Narnia, and the Dali illustrations from a recent edition of Don Quijote, but there I’m thinking about the artists, not the books. And even there I’m pretty sure I couldn’t tell you what was on the covers.

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Coode Street Podcast Reveals that K.J. Parker is Tom Holt

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Hammer K J Parker-smallBest selling fantasy author K.J. Parker appeared on the scene 17 years ago, when he published Colours in the Steel (1998), the first novel in The Fencer trilogy.

Since then he’s had a stellar career, producing The Scavenger trilogy and the popular The Engineer trilogy (Devices and Desires, Evil for Evil, and The Escapement), plus standalone novels such as The Company (2008), The Folding Knife (2010), and The Hammer (2011).

But Parker has never appeared in public, or even spoken on the phone — not even to accept the two World Fantasy Awards he’s won. It soon became public knowledge that the name was a pseudonym. But despite intense curiosity and conjecture, the identity behind the name remained a closely guarded secret, until Parker decided to reveal it to his long-time editor Jonathan Strahan and his partner Gary K. Wolfe yesterday, on their Coode Street Podcast.

K.J. Parker is actually humorous fantasy writer Tom Holt, whose popular novels include Expecting Someone Taller (1987), Who’s Afraid of Beowulf? (1988), Ye Gods! (1992), Blonde Bombshell (2010), and more than two dozen others.

Over the last 17 years Holt has continued his prolific output under his own name, while simultaneously writing over a dozen novels as K.J. Parker.

Listen to the complete interview here.

The Omnibus Volumes of H. Beam Piper

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Complete Fuzzy The Complete Paratime-small

H. Beam Piper is one of my favorite Twentieth Century writers. He died a few months after I was born, on November 4, 1964, but his books are still in print today in handsome omnibus collections from his long-time publisher, Ace Books.  And if you’re willing to hunt for a few vintage paperbacks (and why wouldn’t you?), you can also find some terrific collections of his earlier novels and stories.

Let’s start with the classic series for which Piper is most remembered today: The Fuzzy novels (also published as The Fuzzy Papers), collected in the omnibus volume The Complete Fuzzy. An enduring favorite among Golden Age SF fans, the series began with Little Fuzzy (1962) and The Other Human Race (1964; also called Fuzzy Sapiens), and continued in Fuzzies and Other People, which was found among Piper’s papers and published two decades after his death, in 1984.

The Fuzzy novels have inspired several writers to pen new adventures featuring the titular aliens, notably William Tuning, Ardath Mayhar, Wolfgang Diehr, and most recently John Scalzi, who published Fuzzy Nation in 2011.

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Vintage Treasures: The Monarchies of God by Paul Kearney

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Hawkwood's Voyage The Heretic Kings The Iron Wars

Paul Kearney’s first novel was The Way to Babylon (1992), followed quickly by A Different Kingdom (1993) and Riding the Unicorn (1994). With his fourth novel, Hawkwood’s Voyage (1995), he began an extremely ambitious story cycle that eventually ran to five volumes and over 1,600 pages: The Monarchies of God.

The Monarchies of God was originally published in the UK by Gollancz, with each volume released as it was written. In the US, however, publisher Ace Books tried an unusual experiment. They waited until the series was virtually complete, publishing the first volume here in the US in February 2002, and subsequent books one per month, in March, April, and May. The final volume was released in January 2003, virtually simultaneous with its UK release.

I have to assume the experiment was not a success, as the books went out of print rather quickly, and Ace has shown no particular appetite to repeat it since.

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New Treasures: Icefall by Gillian Philip

Friday, April 17th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Icefall Gillian Philip-smallTwo years ago we reported on the release of Gillian Philip’s Firebrand, the first novel in her popular Rebel Angels series. It was followed by Bloodstone (2013) and Wolfbane (2014).

Now Tor Books has released Icefall, the fourth and final book, which brings the tale to a climactic close. If (like me) you wait until all the books are available to binge on the series everyone is talking about, now’s your chance.

Death stalks Seth MacGregor’s clan in their otherworld exile. Kate NicNiven is close to ultimate victory, and she is determined that nothing will keep her from it. Not even the thing that took her soul: the horror that lurks in the sea caves. But Kate still needs Seth’s son Rory, and his power over the Veil. And she’ll go to any lengths to get him. Seth’s own soul is rotting from the wound inflicted by Kate, and survival for his loved ones seems all he can hope for. But might a mortal threat to his brother’s daughter force him to return to his own world to challenge Kate? And will Rory go with him? Because Rory suspects there’s a darkness trapped in the Veil, a darkness that wants to get out. But only one Sithe knows how near it is to getting its way: Seth’s bound lover, the witch Finn. Nobody gets forever. But some are willing to try…

Icefall was published by Tor Books on March 24, 2015. It is 445 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Steve Stone.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.

Future Treasures: Sword of the North by Luke Scull

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Sword of the North-smallSword of the North is the sequel to 2013′s The Grim Company, which called “Brilliant” and The Daily Mail called “A grisly, compelling read… hugely enjoyable.”

The second volume in the series returns to the hostile, decaying world where the gods are dead… a land desperately in need of heroes. But what it gets instead is a ragtag band of old warriors, a crippled Halfmage, two orphans and an oddly capable manservant: the Grim Company.

In The Grim Company, Luke Scull introduced a formidable and forbidding band of anti-heroes battling against ruthless Magelords and monstrous terrors. The adventure continues as the company — now broken — face new dangers on personal quests…

As Davarus Cole and his former companions were quick to discover, the White Lady’s victorious liberation of Dorminia has not resulted in the freedom they once imagined. Anyone perceived as a threat has been seized and imprisoned—or exiled to darker regions — leaving the White Lady’s rule unchallenged and absolute. But the White Lady would be wiser not to spurn her former supporters: Eremul the Halfmage has learned of a race of immortals known as the Fade, and if he cannot convince the White Lady of their existence, all of humanity will be in danger.

Far to the north, Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf continue their odyssey to the High Fangs only to find themselves caught in a war between a demon horde and their enemy of old, the Shaman. And in the wondrous city of Thelassa, Sasha must overcome demons of her own.

Because the Fade are coming…

Sword of the North will be published by Roc on May 5, 2015. It is 448 pages, priced at $26.95 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital edition.

Vintage Treasures: The Dubric Bryerly Mysteries by Tamara Siler Jones

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Ghosts in the Snow-small Threads of Malice-small Valley of the Soul-small

There’s really nothing quite like Tamara Siler Jones’ Dubric Bryerly Mysteries out there today.

They were a fascinating mix of fantasy, forensics, and crime thriller involving the head of security at Castle Faldorrah, Dubric Byerly, who is cursed to be haunted by the ghosts of those who deaths demand justice. Three volumes were published: Ghost in the Snow (2004), Threads of Malice (2005), and Valley of the Soul (2006), all by Bantam Spectra. Ghost won the Compton Crook Award, given out at Balticon every year for Best First Novel. All three have great covers by Les Edwards.

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The Parallel Worlds of Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

Operation Chaos Poul Anderson-smallI may have got ahead of myself by reporting on three novels of 1960. This is because, in opening Operation Otherworld, an omnibus edition of Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos and Operation Luna, I learned that Operation Chaos was not merely published in 1971 but also as four novellas or novelettes beginning in 1956. Their titles mark the four episodes that make up Operation Chaos: “Operation Afreet,” “Operation Salamander,” “Operation Incubus,” and “Operation Changeling.” All were published in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

This book in many ways is a return to or continuation of the ideas first presented in Three Hearts and Three Lions. Indeed, Sandra Miesel in Against Time’s Arrow spends most of her analysis of Anderson’s concepts of Chaos and Law in this book rather than in the former. I, however, found myself more interested in Anderson’s presentation of parallel worlds and his technique of introducing the concept. The very first words:

Hello, out there!

If you exist, hello!

We may never find out. This is a wild experiment, test of a wilder hypothesis. But it is also a duty.

I lie dream-bound, only half aware of my world. They are using me to call for them across the time streams because that which happened to me, so many years ago, has left its traces beneath my ordinariness; they believe a message thought by me has a better chance of finding a resonance in you than if it came from almost anyone else…

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New Treasures: The Horus Heresy Box Set

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Horus Hersey Box Set-smallOkay, this one was a bit of an indulgence.

Back in January, I wrote about how much I’ve been enjoying the delightful Horus Heresy audio books from Black Library. A sweeping dark fantasy featuring sorcery, magic, undead legions and ruinous Chaos powers secretly maneuvering to bring about the downfall of the Imperium of Man in the 31st Century, they’ve been something of an occasional guilty pleasure for me. But then I listened to Ben Counter’s riveting Galaxy in Flames – the third book in the sequence, and the one in which the Hersey is finally revealed in the brutal massacre of loyalist legions on Isstvan III — and I knew I was going to have to knuckle down and buy the entire set.

So I was delighted to discover that I could get the first twelve novels of the Horus Heresy – all 5,456 pages! — in a single deluxe box set. The series serves as background to the popular Warhammer 40K game, and is written by Dan Abnett, Graham McNeill, Ben Counter, James Swallow, and others. Several novels in the series have hit the New York Times bestseller list. In addition to the first dozen novels, this deluxe set also includes Whispers of Heresy, an exclusive anthology of novellas originally released exclusively as audio dramas.

A new Imperium is being forged across the galaxy. After millennia of isolation and localised conflict, the Emperor of Mankind has risen to rule holy Terra, and now commands his Space Marine Legions in reuniting all the lost colonies of humanity. At the forefront of his armies are the primarchs — post human warriors and leaders without equal, created from his own genetic template. This Great Crusade is all but over when Horus, the Emperor’s first primarch son and Warmaster of the Legions, becomes part of a wider plot by the primordial forces of Chaos to corrupt mankind and bring fresh ruin to the galaxy. Swaying some of his brothers to his cause and facing others openly upon the field of battle, Horus has set his eye upon the Throne of Terra itself, and will not hesitate to let the Imperium devour itself in the bloodiest civil war in the history of mankind…

The Horus Heresy Box Set was published by Black Library on October 14, 2014. It contains a dozen paperback novels (plus one anthology) totaling 5,456 pages, priced at $125. Several online outlets are selling it at a discount; I was able to buy my copy for around $80. Well worth it if you enjoy science fantasy, or good military SF of any kind.

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