Future Treasures: A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

A Red-Rose Chain-smallThere are times when I’m looking for a good standalone fantasy… and there are times when I want to sink my teeth into something a lot more substantial. I discovered Seanan McGuire’s urban fantasy October “Toby” Daye series with the eighth volume, The Winter Long, and now I’m impatiently waiting for the ninth installment, A Red-Rose Chain, to arrive next month. Carrie Cuinn at SF Signal tipped me to them saying “These books are like watching half a season of your favorite television series all at once,” and that was just the kind of engrossing read I was looking for.

Things are looking up.

For the first time in what feels like years, October “Toby” Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life — and she likes what she sees. She has friends. She has allies. She has a squire to train and a King of Cats to love, and maybe, just maybe, she can let her guard down for a change.

Or not. When Queen Windermere’s seneschal is elf-shot and thrown into an enchanted sleep by agents from the neighboring Kingdom of Silences, Toby finds herself in a role she never expected to play: that of a diplomat. She must travel to Portland, Oregon, to convince King Rhys of Silences not to go to war against the Mists. But nothing is that simple, and what October finds in Silences is worse than she would ever have imagined.

How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what’s past is never really gone.

It’s just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

A Red-Rose Chain will be published by DAW Books on September 1, 2015. It is 358 pages, priced at $7.99 for both the paperback and digital versions. The cover is by Chris McGrath.


New Treasures: Stairwell To Hell, and Other Fine Stories by Michael Canfield

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Stairwell to Hell and Nine Other Stories to Disturb You-small The Woods Wife and Other Tales of Mystery and Magic-small Bad People-small

Michael Canfield has been a very busy guy.

In the past few weeks he’s published a novel and two short story collections, and re-published two novellas that originally appeared exclusively in digital format. A pretty impressive accomplishment, no matter how you look at it.

Bad People (August 2)
Stairwell to Hell: and Nine Other Stories to Disturb You (August 9)
The Woods Wife & Other Tales of Mystery & Magic (August 10)
Scaffolds (August 17)
Super-Villains (August 18)

It’s like Michael Canfieldpaloza! But without all the headache over parking.

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Adventures In Benign Cults: Parable Of the Talents

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

Parable Of the Talents-smallIf a book vaults from mere printed text to a work of serious literature by virtue of posing a question, and then exploring it through the course of the story, then Octavia Butler’s The Parable Of the Talents fits the bill very neatly indeed.

Its primary question seems to be discovering meaning in what is for Butler a necessarily godless world, but it takes on secondary questions galore. Among these: what is the difference, if any, between a religion and a cult? How fine is the line between healthy determination and destructive obsession? And just how often do we reject others simply on the grounds that they challenge those (shaky) convictions on which we’ve built our lives? In other words, we blame and hold accountable people who represent our own failings.

Butler has a field day with all of these and more in charting the life of Lauren Oya Olamina, founder of Earthseed, a cult that locates God in change — the concept of change — and sets its sights on the stars when life on earth (or at least in the Disunited States of the 2030s) is nothing but chaos.

Formally, Butler’s Parable Of the Talents (the sequel to Parable Of the Sower) is epistolary work. The story is related through select journal entries, mostly Olamina’s, with other voices interspersed. These include her husband, her lost daughter, and her estranged younger brother.

First published in 1998, Parable Of the Talents won the Nebula Award in 1999. Like a good many other Nebula winners (such as The Speed Of Dark, which I wrote about here recently), this is not hard science. If you’re looking for the nuts and bolts engineering or chemistry found in Kim Stanley Robinson or Andy Weir, look elsewhere. Butler’s near-future tale focuses on social disintegration, and its rebirth via the benign (?) cult of Earthseed.

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Getting Closer to Home: A Review of Milton J. Davis’ Saga Changa’s Safari

Monday, August 24th, 2015 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Changa's Safari-small Changa's Safari 2-small Changa's Safari 3-small

I have been a fan of Milton J. Davis’ saga of Changa Diop ever since I read the first volume, Changa’s Safari, back in 2010. All three volumes are published by MVmedia, LLC. They are:

Changa’s Safari: A Sword and Soul Epic (2010)
Changa’s Safari, Volume Two (2012)
Changa’s Safari, Volume Three (2014)

[Click on any of the images in this article for bigger versions.]

It’s no secret that Davis has been influenced by the father of the Sword and Soul brand of Heroic Fantasy, introduced to the world in the 1970s by the eminent author, Charles R. Saunders, creator of the Imaro novels, the first black, Sword and Sorcery hero and star of his own series.

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Vintage Treasures: The Timescape Clark Ashton Smith

Monday, August 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The City of the Singing Flame-small The Last Incantation-small The Monster of the Prophecy-small

Clark Ashton Smith is one of the greatest pulp writers of all time, and certainly one of the greatest early fantasy writers. Over a century after his first collection appeared (The Star-Treader and Other Poems, in 1912) virtually all of his work is still in print. That’s an extraordinary statement.

Of course, when I say “in print,” I mean it’s available in an assortment of limited edition hardcovers and trade paperbacks from Night Shade Books, Prime Books, Penguin Classics, and others. Meaning the majority of volumes are priced chiefly for the collector. There hasn’t been a mass market edition of Clark Ashton Smith in over three decades, since Pocket Books’ Timescape imprint released a handsome three-volume paperback collection of his most popular stories between 1981 and 1983.

The City of the Singing Flame (1981)
The Last Incantation (1982)
The Monster of the Prophecy (1983)

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: What to Write About?

Monday, August 24th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

The itsy-bitsy spider, went up the water spout...

The itsy-bitsy spider, went up the water spout…

For the past 76 Monday mornings, The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes has appeared here at Black Gate. I’ve written a couple other posts, but this column is why they keep me around. Well, that and I work for free.

Most of my posts involve (a little or a lot of) re-reading. Which means that more often than I would like, what I want to post on a particular Monday isn’t ready to go. For example, I’ve read ten books and watched one tv pilot for a post on Erle Stanley Gardner’s ‘Cool and Lam’ private eye books (fantastic stuff). And I still need to read more.

And I’ve listened to at least six dozen radio shows for posts on Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, The Fat Man and Box 13: with more listening to go. So, for this week’s post, I thought I’d talk about some of the subjects that I have started digging into, but which I’m not ready to tackle yet:

Sherlock Holmes A to Z – A post that’s going to include at least one recommended author, movie or book title for every letter of the alphabet (this is a fun one).

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Future Treasures: The Desert and the Blade by S.M. Stirling

Monday, August 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Desert and the Blade-smallI didn’t really appreciate the ambition and complexity of S.M. Stirling’s massive saga of The Change, until Edward Carmien did a 15-part examination of the series here at Black Gate (check out the first installment here). This year sees two new releases in this epic fantasy series: The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth, a big anthology set in Stirling’s universe, with stories by Victor Milán, Walter Jon Williams, Harry Turtledove, Jane Lindskold, Emily Mah Tippetts, and many others (see Ed’s review here), and The Desert and the Blade, the sixteenth novel in the series. Continuing the quest that began in The Golden Princess, two future rulers of a world without technology risk their lives seeking a fabled blade…

Reiko, Empress of Japan, has allied herself with Princess Órlaith, heir to the High Kingdom of Montival, to find the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, the Grass-Cutting Sword, a legendary treasure of an ancient dynasty that confers valor and victory to its bearer. Órlaith understands all too well the power it signifies. Her own inherited blade, the Sword of the Lady, was both a burden and a danger to her father, Rudi Mackenzie, as it failed to save the king from being assassinated.

But the fabled sword lies deep with the Valley of Death, and the search will be far from easy. And war is building, in Montival and far beyond.

As Órlaith and Reiko encounter danger and wonder, Órlaith’s mother, Queen Matildha, believes her daughter’s alliance and quest has endangered the entire realm. There are factions both within and without Montival whose loyalty died with the king, and whispers of treachery and war grow ever louder.

And the Malevolence that underlies the enemy will bend all its forces to destroy them.

The Desert and the Blade will be published by Roc on September 1, 2015. It is 612 pages, priced at $27.95 in hardcover and $13.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Larry Rostant.


New Treasures: Age of X by Richelle Mead

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Gameboard of the Gods Age of X-small The Immortal Crown-small

No matter how closely I keep tabs on this industry, nothing beats a visit to a well-stocked bookstore to really get up-to-date on the latest. In my last trip, I picked up the first volume in a new science fantasy series by Richelle Mead, author of the bestselling Vampire Academy books: Gameboard of the Gods. The sequel, The Immortal Crown, has just been released in paperback and the series — featuring supersoldiers, supernatural mysteries, mysterious murders, and ancient gods — looks like a lot of fun.

The truth is, when you banish the gods from the world, they eventually come back — with a vengeance.

In the near future, Justin March lives in exile from the Republic of United North America. After failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims, Justin is surprised when he is sent back with a peculiar assignment — to solve a string of ritualistic murders steeped in seemingly unexplainable phenomena. Justin’s return comes with an even bigger shock: His new partner and bodyguard, Mae Koskinen, is a prætorian, one of the Republic’s technologically enhanced supersoldiers. Mae’s inexplicable beauty and aristocratic upbringing attract Justin’s curiosity and desire, but her true nature holds more danger than anyone realizes. As their investigation unfolds, Justin and Mae find themselves in the crosshairs of mysterious enemies. Powers greater than they can imagine have started to assemble in the shadows, preparing to reclaim a world that has renounced religion and where humans are merely gamepieces on their board.

Gameboard of the Gods: Age of X was published in hardcover by Dutton on June 4, 2013, and in mass market paperback by Signet on June 3, 2014. The sequel, The Immortal Crown, was published in hardcover on May 29, 2014, and in paperback on June 2, 2015.


Apprentice Zombie Hunters, Word Diseases, and Zombie Romances: The Top Five Zombie Lit Picks

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Brandon Engel

Fear-the-Walking-Dead-poster-smallTales of shambling, cannibal corpses have enthralled audiences for thousands of years. Acting under the power of a magic spell, a parasitic virus, or merely the compulsive urge to indulge in warm flesh, the zombie trope exposes our fascination with the concept of unholy, undead transformations.

In light of the late-August premier of Fear the Walking Dead (a prequel to the Walking Dead series, recounting the events leading up society’s downfall) it’s the perfect time to take a look back at some equally well-loved zombie books. For this piece we’ve blown the dust off some modern examples of the undead in literature — take a bite if you dare.

Let’s begin with Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, a book that will satisfy YA readers as well as fans of Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead. The plot skips over the gritty apocalyptic details and launches straight into the depiction of a society in the midst of modern zombie times.

Here the main character, Benny, is a fifteen-year-old who begrudgingly becomes an apprentice zombie hunter — Holden Caulfield with a hint of undead gore. In this story, the flesh-eater serves as a sort of anti-hero, against which we project our own questions as to what it means to be truly human.

Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess is compelling challenge, and a break away from the standard, straight-forward zombie narrative. In this tale, the undead virus isn’t one that resides in the body — it’s a disease spread through words, transferred via actual speech and language exchange.

As the residents of a small Canadian town lose their grip on reality and slip into aphasia, the novel itself devolves into almost complete absurdism. This plot device helps the storyline rise above conventional zombie fare, and Burgess’s writing style adds to the mesmerizing madness, but some readers might be put off by the lack of linguistic stability and minimal presence of actual zombie carnage. A polarizing zombie pick, this one might fall along the lines of “read at your own risk.”

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Vintage Treasures: Flamesong by M.A.R. Barker

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Flamesong back-small Flamesong spine-small Flamesong-small

In my last Vintage Treasures article, I talked about M.A.R. Barker’s first novel The Man of Gold, the first of five fantasy novels set in the famed world of Tékumel, one of the most celebrated fantasy settings ever created.

Barker followed The Man of Gold a year later with an even more ambitious sequel, Flamesong. Flamesong was highly acclaimed… but only by those few who read it. It’s a tough find today; unlike the first book, which was reprinted by DAW, had a British edition, and is currently in print in both trade paperback and digital formats, Flamesong vanished shortly after it appeared. It has never been reprinted, and is highly sought today by Tékumel fans.

Click on the image at left to read the back cover text (or any of the images above for bigger versions.)

Flamesong was published by DAW Books in September 1985. It is 412 pages, priced at $3.50. The wraparound cover is by Richard Hescox. It is currently out of print, and there is no digital edition.


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