Vintage Treasures: Vulcan’s Hammer by Philip K. Dick/ The Skynappers by John Brunner

Saturday, January 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Vulcan's Hammer-small The Skynappers-small

One of the things I love about the early Ace Doubles is that they frequently paired young writers who later became superstars. It’s like finding a movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Elijah Wood when they were both 10 years old (that move exists, by the way. It’s called North. Don’t see it.)

The 1960 Ace Double Vulcan’s Hammer/The Skynappers is a fine example. It paired the 32-year old Philip K. Dick — well established by that point, with seven novels under his belt — with an up-and coming British author, the 26-year old John Brunner, whose first novel Threshold of Eternity had appeared as an Ace Double the previous year. Both went on to stellar careers. Indeed, they’re two of the most highly regarded SF writers of the 20th Century.

Neither of these two books is particularly well remembered, however. In fact, if you’re a Brunner fan and interested in reading The Skynappers, this 55-year old paperback is pretty much the only way to get it.

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New Treasures: Ourselves by S.G. Redling

Saturday, January 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Ourselves S G Redling-smallS.G. Redling’s first novel Flowertown, a taunt conspiracy thriller set in a town quarantined by an experimental pesticide spill, appeared in 2012. Since then she’s dabbled in a variety of genres, including space adventure (Damocles, 2013), and industrial thrillers (The Widow File and its sequel Redemption Key, both 2014).

Now she turns her hand to the vampire novel with Ourselves, the first novel in The Nathan Series, which introduces readers to the mysterious Nathan, a secret society concealing a vampiric race hiding among us in plain sight.

Dangerous, deadly, invisible — and they have always been among us.

An ancient, enigmatic race, the Nahan have protected their secret world by cultivating the myths of fanged, bloodsucking monsters that haunt legends. Yet they walk through our world as our coworkers and our neighbors, hiding in plain sight and coexisting in peace. They survive… and they prosper.

A shy young dreamer, Tomas wanders through his life with help from his good friends and influential family on the ruling Council. Now, he’s decided his future lies with the Nahan’s most elite class: the mysterious Storytellers. But his family is troubled by his new choice — and by his new girlfriend, Stell, a wild, beautiful, and deadly outcast from a fanatical Nahan cult.

As Tomas descends into the dark wonders of the Nahan’s most powerful culture, Stell answers her own calling as an exceptional assassin. But when a lethal conspiracy threatens their destinies, Tomas and Stell must unite their remarkable talents against the strongest — and most sinister — of their kind.

Ourselves was published by 47North on January 27. It is 322 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback, and $4.99 in digital format. The cover was designed by Stewart A. Williams.

The World of New Publishing Models: Serialized Self-Published Novellas by Traditionally Published Authors: Nigh, by Marie Bilodeau

Saturday, January 31st, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Nigh Marie Bilodeau-smallI wanted to talk to Marie Bilodeau, a multi-Aurora-nominated Ottawa-area author about her new novel, Nigh. It is an apocalypse story, a magical one, which is an original twist, but it’s also taking an old-school/new-school leaf in that Marie decided to serialize the novel as several novellas and self-publish them. So I sat virtually with Marie and the disjointed conversation that follows is the best one out of twenty-six takes…

So what’s fun about Nigh?


Stop! That’s not even a real word! God, let’s start again. Take twenty-five….

No! Keep typing! It is a word! That’s what fun. I’ve taken all the old scary faerie stories and thought about what would happen if the veil between our world and theirs suddenly collapsed. It’s not pretty. It’s definitely dark fantasy that could also be considered horror.

Plus, since I’m a professional storyteller, I’m also going to be performing a set of traditional faerie stories, woven in with some bits of Nigh, as bonus-can’t-read-this-on-the-page material. No, but seriously: FAERIEPOCALYPSE!

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Drizzt Do’Urden Simply Won’t Stop Adventuring: Myke Cole on Learning to Love Serial Fantasy

Friday, January 30th, 2015 | Posted by Myke Cole

Gemini Cell-smallMy name is Myke Cole, and I have a hard time with serial fantasy.

Yes, that’s right, I’m admitting it right up front. I’m wading into the hornet’s nest and making my confession.

More than three books in a series and I start to nod off. At five, you’ve pretty much lost me. It’s happened to me again and again and again. In A Song of Ice and Fire, I honestly don’t really care what happens after Dance. I followed Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharp through twelve books before I finally decided that, no matter how awesome his further adventures might be, I couldn’t get excited about them. Daniel Abraham’s The Widow’s House is the fourth book in his absolutely stunning Dagger and Coin series, and I know I’ll get to it… eventually.

It’s happened to me time and again with comic book series. Fables, Hundred Bullets, Sandman and on and on and on. I reach a point 5 or 6 or 10 trades in where I just sort of throw up my hands.

And all of the above examples are for good books. The kind of books that resonate and transport, the kind of books that make you want to give up writing because you’ll never be in the same league as that author.

For years, I’ve hid my head in the company of other fans, bit my tongue and kept my opinions to myself. Because Brandon Sanderson wound up rounding out The Wheel of Time series at fourteen books. Because Drizzt Do’Urden simply won’t stop adventuring, because fans LOVE long serials.

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Fantasy Literature: A Meeting at Corvallis, Part 2 of 2

Friday, January 30th, 2015 | Posted by Edward Carmien

A Meeting at Corvallis-smallSpoilers throughout. Fair warning!

Welcome to Part 2 of my look at S. M. Stirling’s A Meeting at Corvallis. In Part 1, I took a look at some ninja-style action, at high-tech warfare (after the Change, that means “springs”), and suggested part of Stirling’s success with this Emberverse series is his ability to hybridize different literary elements. Here in Part 2 we start with a look at the movers and shakers in the series, with pithy observations attached….

Let’s take a look at the military (wo)men Stirling employs as major characters in the Emberverse. Mike Havel, for example, is a marine, force recon, a working-class guy who fought in the Gulf. Despite his long-held belief that unlike officers, NCO’s like him work for a living, he finds himself the boss of the Outfit, the Bearkillers.

Another faction leader is Abbot Dmwoski:

The abbot’s eyes were blue like those of his guest, but paler. They had a net of fine lines by their corners, and suddenly he was convinced that the man had come late to a cleric’s calling; those were marksman’s eyes. Nigel judged him to be around forty, or perhaps a little older if the tonsure in his coal-black hair was part-natural. A strong, close-shaved jowl was turned blue by a dense beard of the same color.

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Dave Duncan’s The Great Game

Friday, January 30th, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

duncan past Connor Gormley wrote a post not long ago in which he discussed the seeming sameness of the current state of Fantasy. That the genre which should be most imaginative showed a singular lack of imagination, or flexibility might be a better word, in its choice of settings and characters. The comments give you a pretty good idea of how people agreed or disagreed with his thesis, and the whole post is well worth looking at. I think what it did for a lot of people, however, is remind them of books they’ve read that aren’t cloyed down with the sameness of things.

In my case, I was reminded specifically of Dave Duncan’s work. I’ve mentioned his Alchemist Novels in discussing fantasy mysteries, and one day I’d like discuss the brilliant West of January in more detail, but at the moment I want to introduce you to the trilogy The Great Game, made up of Past Imperative, Present Tense, and Future Indefinite.

At first glance it seems we’re being dealt a typical stranger-in-a-strange land trope, but as is so often the case with Duncan, the first glance is all you get for free. I think it’s safe to say that whatever you think Duncan’s up to, it’s very seldom what’s going on.

Part Imperative begin with two apparently unconnected storylines, or rather, we assume they are connected – not being entirely new to this game ourselves – but we aren’t shown how until much farther into the narrative than we’d expect. An epigraph does give us a broad hint, but honestly, it’s very easy to overlook. I have a theory that fewer than half of all readers actually read epigraphs, even the ones at the beginning of chapters, but that’s neither here nor there – which, come to think of it, pretty much describes the position of Duncan’s characters.

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Goth Chick News: Eli Roth Goes from Hemlock Grove to South of Hell and Makes Bank with Knock Knock

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Eli Roth

Eli Roth

Goth Chick News fav, director Eli Roth, has been a very busy gent lately. And even if he didn’t look like that, we still wouldn’t be able to tear our eyes away from his latest lineup of projects.

First off, there the third and final season of the supernatural, hottie-monster-ridden joy ride that is Roth’s Netflix series Hemlock Grove. If you haven’t caught up with this yet, there is still time to binge watch Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgard and Landon Liboiron tear through a small, New England town that is home to everything from vampires and werewolves to witches and mad doctors – and still have time to pine away that the next ten episodes will be the last.

Says the man himself:

We are so grateful to the fans of Hemlock Grove who have championed the series so intensely over two seasons. We are looking forward to taking the last and final season into some dark and unexpected places, and to giving viewers the killer finale.

Oh Eli, you know just what to say to a girl.  But when exactly?

Season 1 premiered in April and season two showed up in July.  A January 1st post on the HG Twitter feed said only that season three was “so close you could almost feel it” which means who-knows-what, but could indicate another full season landing in the early spring.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1952: A Retro-Review

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction June 1952-smallThe June, 1952 issue of Galaxy is another good one. It included six pieces of fiction and a science article by Willy Ley.

“Gravy Planet” (Part 1) by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth — Mitch Courtenay works at Fowler Shocken, the top ad agency in the world. And now, the agency has its eyes on the possibility of colonizing Venus with governmental approval to exclusively profit from the venture. Fowler Shocken chooses Mitch as chairman of the Venus Section, leaving Mitch to all the details around drawing public interest to going to Venus and actually making it hospitable.

Besides his work duties, Mitch tries to revive his failing marriage. His wife is a talented surgeon, but she’s seen Mitch try to pull her away from her career to become a housewife. With the news of his advancement, she’s willing to date him again, albeit with boundaries.

As if the stress of the campaign and a sinking love life isn’t enough, Mitch becomes a target. He narrowly survives two attempts on his life, and the private sector detectives aren’t much help. He pursues the man likely responsible for the attempts (along with sabotages to the Venus campaign), tracking him to Antarctica. Unfortunately for Mitch, he’s heading straight into an ambush.

“Gravy Planet” was published as a novel under the title The Space Merchants in 1953. It moves very well, and the futuristic world the authors seems close to modern in 2015. It doesn’t try to turn Venus into an Earth-like planet, but it’s not quite as inhospitable to life as we know it presently. (The Mariner 2 probe sent to Venus in 1962 measured surface temperature among other data, so the authors didn’t have access to all of that information.) Letting the details about Venus go, this novel (so far) is a great ride.

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See the Teaser Trailer for the Fantastic Four Reboot

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

I’m a big fan of what Marvel has accomplished with their movie properties, but I didn’t enjoy the two Fantastic Four films. And I really wanted to — Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s FF was my favorite comic growing up, and I thrilled to the cosmic adventures of Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm as they explored the Negative Zone and uncovered countless ancient mysteries (not to mention giant robots, weird alien races, and noble heralds on surf boards.)

But love of the source material only goes so far, and I don’t think the two films were well cast, or captured the true spirit of the comic. As Matthew David Surridge wisely pointed out in his lengthy look at Stan and Jack’s amazing 104-issue run, “The FF are explorers, not crime-fighters or warriors.” So I was pleased to see that — from what little I can puzzle out from the Teaser trailer released yesterday for the new reboot — the new version seems to focus on the explorer aspect of the team. This is from Marvel’s description:

Fantastic Four, a contemporary re-imagining of Marvel’s original and longest-running superhero team, centers on four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways. Their lives irrevocably upended, the team must learn to harness their daunting new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.

And here’s peek at the trailer itself. See what you think. Worth looking forward to?

New Treasures: The Dark Defiles by Richard K. Morgan

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dark Defiles-smallI can’t read all the fantasy books out there. I can’t even read all the really great stuff. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by a superb team of reviewers who keep me on top of things.

When Richard K. Morgan published his highly acclaimed first fantasy novel back in 2009, I totally missed it. But John C. Hocking didn’t, and in his review in Black Gate 13 he called it:

One of the most unusual, powerful, and daring sword & sorcery novels to see print for decades… The Steel Remains follows a trio of characters, each of whom played a dramatic part in humanity’s grim battle with the Scaled Folk — reptilian invaders from the sea, defeated several years past… As the three heroes are slowly drawn back together, a threat older and even more alien than the Scaled Folk moves into the world. Ringil and his friends will meet it with steel.

A sequel, The Cold Commands, followed in 2011, introducing the dark prophecy of the Illwrack Changeling, a boy raised to manhood in a ghostly between-world realm, whose return would be catastrophic for the fragile land. And late last year the final novel in what’s now being called a trilogy finally arrived. As the world teeters towards another war with the dragon folk, Ringil and his companions find the prophecy of a dark lord may be coming true very close to home.

Here’s the publisher’s description for The Dark Defiles, the closing volume of Land Fit for Heroes.

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