An Epic Steampunk Firefly: The Scorched Continent Trilogy by Megan E. O’Keefe

Sunday, May 28th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Steal the Sky-small Break the Chains-small Inherit the Flame-small

Megan E. O’Keefe’s debut novel Steal the Sky launched an ambitious fantasy series set in an oasis city, featuring a noble conman on the run from some very powerful people who stumbles onto a complicated conspiracy… and a chance to pull off a heist of epic proportions. It was nominated for the 2017 David Gemmell Morningstar award for Best Debut novel, and author Beth Cato (The Clockwork Dagger) summarized it thusly: “Two lovable rogues, a magical doppelganger, and a nasty empire… it’s like an epic steampunk Firefly.” And NPR called it “A buddy tale, a heist caper, a socioeconomic thriller and a steampunk-seasoned fantasia all at once…. And it fires beautifully on all cylinders.”

Still, even a great steampunk adventure isn’t worth much if you have to wait too long between installments, no matter how rollicking the open volume is. But fortunately O’Keefe has kept up the pace with the Scorched Continent novels — the second volume arrived right on time last October, and the concluding novel, Inherit the Flame, was published last month. Now that’s what I like to see. Here’s the complete details on the whole trilogy.

Steal the Sky (448 pages, $7.99 paperback/$2.99 digital, January 5, 2016) — excerpt
Break the Chains (400 pages, $7.99 paperback/$6.99 digital, October 4, 2016) — excerpt
Inherit the Flame (448 pages, $7.99 paperback/$2.99 digital, April 4, 2017) — excerpt

All three volumes are published by Angry Robot, with cover art by Kim Sokol. Check out the links above to sample excerpts from each book.

Military Androids, Space Zombies, and the Business of Time Travel: A Review of the March/April 2017 Analog

Sunday, May 28th, 2017 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Analog Science Fiction and Fact March April 2017-smallThe cover story this issue is “Nexus,” by Michael Flynn, with cover art by Tomislav Tikulin. A series of coincidences brings a time-traveler, an immortal, a group of aliens mostly passing as humans, a secret military android, a telepathic private-eye, and an alien invader all together. It has a lot of plates spinning, and looks a little silly packed into that last sentence, but Flynn pulls it off.

The nonfiction article this issue is “Sustainability Lab 101, Cuba as a Simulation of Possible Futures,” by Stanley Schmidt. Condense Cuba’s history, pick a couple of outlandish internet comments and go! Dr. Schmidt presents a good case, and opens up some interesting discussions. Still… for a sci-fi guy, I find his lack of imagination about the future to be a bit alarming.

“Europa’s Survivors” by Marianne Dyson. This has a great illustration by Vincent DiFate, but the story doesn’t quite measure up to it. The tale demands a bit too much of the reader — rockets landing on Europa have to actually smash through the ice (a “thin layer”) and go down the same shaft where the pumps that keep the ice from being a “thick layer” are housed; robo-stress relief pets and a convenient lack of qualified personnel. I liked the basic set-up with the cancer patient going one-way due to the radiation exposure in space and, although it was a bit much, the problems faced and the solutions found were quite good.

“Eli’s Coming,” by Catherine Wells. One of seven (eight if you count “Nexus”) time travel stories in this issue. An owner of a time-traveling business tries it out for himself, ends up at the wrong place and time, instead of the Herod’s Palace at the top of Masada in 10 BCE, he ends up at Herod’s Palace at the top of Masada as the Roman 10th Legion is just finishing up their siege ramp. This one I liked quite a bit. The rebels under Eleazar are desperate, the situation is dire, and Eli (the MC) is trying his best to keep calm and survive until his retrieval chip activates.

“Time Heals,” by James C. Glass. Another time travel story. I’m going to admit that at this point I wasn’t in much of a mood for another one, so after the first attempt to change the past and discovering one couldn’t change the past, I skipped it.

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New Treasures: The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel

Sunday, May 28th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Sleeping Giants-small Waking Gods-small

Sylvain Neuvel’s debut Sleeping Giants was nominated for the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. It was the tale of Rose Franklin, who made an incredible discovery as a child: a huge metal hand buried deep underground in South Dakota. As an adult, she’s a celebrated physicist leading the team tasked with uncovering the strange artifact’s secrets — starting with its impossible age and strange composition. When additional pieces are located around the world, hinting at a titanic whole, the mystery only deepens. Chicago Review of Books called it “A complex tapestry with ancient machinery buried in the Earth, shadow governments, and geopolitical conflicts,” and Jason Heller at NPR labeled it “A thriller through and through… one of the most promising series kickoffs in recent memory, [and] a smart demonstration of how science fiction can honor its traditions and reverse-engineer them at the same time.”

Now the second volume, Waking Gods, has arrived in hardcover and significantly raised the stakes, as mankind faces a deadly invasion of colossal machines touching down across the globe. It arrived in hardcover from Del Rey last month.

Sleeping Giants (320 pages, $26 hardcover/$16 paperback/$7.99 digital, April 26, 2016)
Waking Gods (336 pages, $28 hardcover/$13.99 digital, April 4, 2017)

Read an excerpt from Sleeping Gods at the Del Rey/Penguin Random House website here.

The Great Savage Sword Re-Read: Vol 5

Saturday, May 27th, 2017 | Posted by John R. Fultz

-SSoC-Vol5This series explores the Savage Sword of Conan collections from Dark Horse reprinting Marvel Comics’ premiere black-and-white fantasy mag launched in the mid-70s. Previous installments: Vol 1 / Vol 2 / Vol 3 / Vol 4

Volume 5 collects issues #49 – 60 (1980 -’81), and it begins with the proverbial bang. Reigning art champs John Buscema and Tony DeZuniga return for a 4-issue adaptation of the L. Sprague DeCamp/Lin Carter novel CONAN THE LIBERATOR. These four issues are gorgeous–the Buscema/DeZuniga team is firing on all cylinders.

Story-wise this adaptation succeeds far better than the previous DeCamp/Carter adaptation, CONAN THE BUCCANEER (collected in Volume 4). Whereas BUCCANEER tended to meander and lack proper pacing, LIBERATOR moves at a brisk pace and gives us more classic Conan time.

LIBERATOR is basically a military fantasy with bit of sorcery thrown in to complicate the saga of Conan’s revolt against a mad tyrant. We have a beautiful spy, a scheming wizard, and a truly insane king who butchers his own subjects in a futile quest for immortality. Here is the story untold by Conan creator Robert E. Howard: The story of exactly how Conan became King of Aquilonia.

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A Grab-Bag of Comic Reviews: Southern Bastards, Jaegir, Deep End

Saturday, May 27th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Southern Bastards-small

My comic reading has jumped all over the place this month, but I’ve been finding lots of good stuff.

Southern Bastards: I picked up Southern Bastards as part of a massive Image Humble Bundle last year. I finally got to Volume 1 this 2014 series by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour.

It was scary amazing.

I know nothing about the deep south, but both Jasons come from there. Their mission is: to write about the place they grew up in in all the ways it is peaceful, primal, timeless, haunted, hateful, spiritual, beautiful and scarred.

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The Story of Your Life: Arrival

Saturday, May 27th, 2017 | Posted by markrigney

arrival-markerboard-600x337Having taken in Arrival at my basement Cineplex, I proceeded at once to my local library, to dig up a copy of Ted Chiang’s “The Story Of Your Life,” on which Denis Villeneuve’s film is based. I suspected I would discover that the adaptation took broad liberties with Chiang’s original story, and I was not disappointed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This notion of being ahead of oneself, as you’ll soon discover –– or know already, if you’re familiar with either Arrival or “The Story Of Your Life” –– might be considered a joke. A wry joke, at best. Sad, perhaps. Devastating.

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Peplum Populist: Maciste in Hell (The Witch’s Curse)

Saturday, May 27th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

maciste-in-hell-Italian-movie-poster-1962Among the canon of Italian peplum (sword-and-sandal) films made from 1958 to 1965, there are three special horror-fantasia entries. I’ve already written about Mario Bava’s classic Hercules in the Haunted World (1961). In the future I’ll look at the same year’s Goliath and the Vampires, which was co-directed by famed Italian Western director Sergio Corbucci, the man who helmed the original Django (1966).

Today I’m spending my peplum-time with the third dark fantasy, Maciste in Hell (1962), yet another movie featuring Italian homegrown hero Maciste. (Oh, wait. Goliath and the Vampires is also a Maciste film. Damn these U.S. title changes!) Although Maciste in Hell isn’t as fantastic as Hercules in the Haunted World — it’s hard to best Mario Bava when it comes to doing weird horror on the cheap — it’s on the top of the pile as far a sword-and-sandal movies go. And its Amazon VOD presentation is relatively high quality. The picture has the vertical squeeze problem of Perseus the Invincible, but at least you have the entire image and a decent print.

The idea of Maciste journeying to the underworld like Dante or Aeneas wasn’t new: Maciste in Hell (Maciste all’inferno) is also the title of one of the silent Maciste films that were hits in Italy in the 1910s and ‘20s. The two movies don’t have any story connection aside from the hero in an infernal setting, and the silent Maciste is a different character and phenomenon from the 1960s version. But Maciste in Hell ‘62 is also different from other peplum films of its time, and not just in its overt supernatural horror elements. Where Maciste’s standard stomping grounds are the ancient/mythic Mediterranean, here he pops up in seventeenth-century Scotland. Maciste has a reputation for shifting about in time and place: I dealt with him in prehistory in Colossus of the Stone Age, and recently watched him battle Mongols in China in Maciste at the Court of the Great Khan (retitled Samson and the 7 Miracles of the World in the U.S.). Even so, Scotland in the Early Modern Era is pushing against the sword-and-sandal barriers.

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Future Treasures: The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

Friday, May 26th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Prey of Gods-smallThere aren’t enough good robot adventure stories out there. At least Nicky Drayden is doing her part… her debut novel The Prey of Gods, featuring robots, genetic engineering, a Zulu heroine, and an ancient and bloodthirstily demigoddess, arrives in trade paperback from Harper next month. Drayden has published more than a dozen short stories in Daily Science Fiction, as well as Shimmer, Space and Time, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and other fine venues. Publishers Weekly calls her novel “A science fantasy set in 2064, [where] newly awakened demigods and artificial intelligences battle for the fate of South Africa… fascinating.”

In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes — the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:

A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country…

An emerging AI uprising…

And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.

It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about.

Fun and fantastic, Nicky Drayden takes her brilliance as a short story writer and weaves together an elaborate tale that will capture your heart . . . even as one particular demigoddess threatens to rip it out.

The Prey of Gods will be published by Harper Voyager on June 13, 2017. It is 400 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $10.99 for the digital edition. The dynamite cover is by Brenoch Adams. Read a generous excerpt at

The Late May Fantasy Magazine Rack

Friday, May 26th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimovs-Science-Fiction-May-June-2017-rack Beneath-Ceaseless-Skies-225-rack Clarkesworld-May-2017-rack The-Dark-Issue-25-May-2017-rack
Swords and Sorcery magazine-rack Lightspeed-May-2017-rack Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Q32-rack Shoreline of Infinity Magazine-rack

In his report on Edinburgh’s Monthly Mini-Convention, Event Horizon, M Harold Page alerted me to the existence of the Scottish SF magazine Shoreline of Infinity, which somehow managed to produce 7 issues and still fly below my radar. Not to worry! I’ve added it to the list, making it the 48th genre magazine we track. Whew! That’s a lot of reading every month.

In other news, Fletcher Vredenburgh reviewed issue 63 of Swords and Sorcery and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #32 in his April Short Story Roundup. For our vintage digest fans, Rich Horton reviewed the February 1962 issue of Fantastic, and Matthew Wuertz continued his issue-by-issue journey through Galaxy magazine with October 1953, containing the first installment of Isaac Asimov’s classic The Caves of Steel.

Check out all the details on the magazines above by clicking on the each of the images. Our early May Fantasy Magazine Rack is here.

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Are You Listening?

Friday, May 26th, 2017 | Posted by Violette Malan

Halls for BGAnyone who’s read the bio that comes at the end of my posts knows that I’m also V.M. Escalada, and that very shortly, in August in fact, Halls of Law (Book One of The Faraman Prophecy) will be coming out from DAW. That news is exciting enough in itself, but a week ago I learned that the audio rights for both of the Faraman Prophecy books had been picked up by Brilliance Audio.

I was doing my happy dance when I read further down in my publisher’s email and said to myself “Questionnaire?” At first I thought “oh gods, someone else wants a bio.” But on glancing at the questionnaire in question, I realized they wanted to know stuff about my book, not about me.

How refreshing.

Nor did they want the usual one-sentence summing-up of the plot (if I could have written it in one sentence . . . ) No, they wanted to know how the book should be read aloud. By someone else.

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