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.


Future Treasures: Dragon Heart by Cecelia Holland

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

Dragon Heart Cecelia Holland-smallCecelia Holland has written over thirty novels, ranging from historical fiction to science fiction to historical fantasy. Her novels include the space opera Floating Worlds, the Viking saga trilogy The Soul Thief, Byzantine Empire tale Varanger, and The King’s Witch. Her latest is a tale of new-born empires, ancient kingdoms, deadly court intrigue…. and a mysterious dragon of the sea.

Where the Cape of the Winds juts into the endless sea, there is Castle Ocean, and therein dwells the royal family that has ruled it from time immemorial. But there is an Empire growing in the east, and its forces have reached the castle. King Reymarro is dead in battle, and by the new treaty, Queen Marioza must marry one of the Emperor’s brothers. She loathes the idea, and has already killed the first brother, but a second arrives, escorted by more soldiers. While Marioza delays, her youngest son, Jeon, goes on a journey in search of his mute twin, Tirza, who needs to be present for the wedding.

As Jeon and Tirza return by sea, their ship is attacked by a shocking and powerful dragon, red as blood and big as the ship. Thrown into the water, Tirza clings to the dragon, and after an underwater journey, finds herself alone with the creature in an inland sea pool. Surprisingly, she is able to talk to the beast, and understand it.

So begins a saga of violence, destruction, and death, of love and monsters, human and otherwise.

Dragon Heart will be published by Tor Books on September 1, 2015. It is 286 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Lucas Graciano.


The Great Serialization Experiment: Attack on Multiple Fronts!

Friday, August 21st, 2015 | Posted by mariebilodeau

As mentioned last time, serializing has its challenges and potential successes, JUST LIKE ANY WORTHWHILE BATTLE!

Plus: Strike a Pose.

Plus: Strike a Pose.

Different Attack Plans:

  • POWER RANGERS MORPHING TIME: You can serialize a novel in several chunks, which can then be put together into one giant destructo-omnibus, like I did with Nigh.
  • D&D MIGHTY PARTY: You can serialize a universe in several stand-alone projects that are all linked to one another.
  • FRANKENSTEINING: You can also serialize a book one chapter at a time, with or without a subscription service or a social media platform such as Wattpad.

My first serialization was done à la Frankenstein with an existing book, Destiny’s Blood, on Wattpad. There are two other books in the series, so the hope was that readers would either get impatient and buy Destiny’s Blood before I was done posting it, or they’d at least buy the other two novels.  Linda Poitevin, author of the Grigori Legacy series, had lots of success on Wattpad. Check out her details on the subject.

Nigh was serialized differently, à la Power Rangers Morphing Time, with the whole novel published in five parts (you don’t *need* five parts to morph together, but if it worked for the Power Rangers and Voltron, you obviously can’t go wrong).

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New Treasures: Pathfinder Tales: Liar’s Island by Tim Pratt

Friday, August 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Pathfinder Tales Liar's Island-smallTim Pratt, who also writes the Marla Mason fantasy series under the name T A Pratt, is one of the most popular authors in the Pathfinder Tales stable. His previous Pathfinder books include Reign of Stars and City of the Fallen Sky, and his last tale of Rodrick the thief, Liar’s Blade, was called “Fafhrd-and-Grey-Mouser-style sword and sorcery adventure” by SF Signal. His latest, Liar’s Island, on sale next week from Tor, sees Rodrick and his magical sword Hrym called to the court of the exotic southern island, Jalmeray, where they become pawns in a dangerous game of political intrigue… and the only way to escape is to find a legendary artifact.

A Thief and His Sword

Rodrick is a con man as charming as he is cunning. Hrym is a talking sword of magical ice, with the soul and spells of an ancient dragon. Together, the two travel the world, parting the gullible from their gold and freezing their enemies in their tracks. But when the two get summoned to the mysterious island of Jalmeray by a king with genies and elementals at his command, they’ll need all their wits and charm if they’re going to escape with the greatest prize of all — their lives.

From Hugo Award winner Tim Pratt comes a tale of magic, assassination, monsters, and cheerful larceny, in Pathfinder Tales: Liar’s Island, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Our most recent Pathfinder coverage includes Howard Andrew Jones’ upcoming Beyond the Pool of Stars, Dave Gross’ Lord of Runes, and The Emerald Spire Superdungeon.

Pathfinder Tales: Liar’s Island will be published by Tor Books on August 25, 2015. It is 295 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Michael Ivan.


Goth Chick News: New (Horror) Treasures – Star Wars Screenwriter Gives Us an Abomination

Thursday, August 20th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Abomination by Gary Whitta-smallBy anyone’s standards, writer Gary Whitta is having one heck of a good time.

Whitta was best known (at least until now) for his original screenplay for The Book of Eli, the post-apocalyptic thriller starring Denzel Washington and as the co-writer for the Will Smith sci-fi movie After Earth.

Clearly no one held him personally responsible for the outcome of that last bit, which is why he went on to spend a year knocking out a draft screenplay for the upcoming Star Wars standalone film Rogue One, which will be released in December, 2016; a project with which he amicably parted ways in January to move onto the movie adaptation of the Mark Millar comic Starlight for 20th Century Fox.

Somewhere along the line, Whitta had the time and creative energy to finish his first novel, Abomination – released on July 30th. And though his screen work has been straight up fantasy/science fiction, Whitta did significant historical research for his freshman literary outing, with pretty spectacular results.

Abomination takes us back in time as King Alfred the Great desperately tries to bulwark his kingdom from invading Viking forces. Desperate for a solution, he turns to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has uncovered an ancient secret in the form of a dark magic that could help turn the tide in England’s favor. Nothing comes without a price, though, and soon the Archbishop is driven mad with power, corrupted by the very forces intended to save the kingdom. With an insane priest on the loose, Alfred must turn to his bravest warrior, the knight Sir Wulfric, in order to put an end to the Archbishop’s insanity before it’s too late.

The period in which the book is set, 888 A.D., actually saw a significant drop in written recordings of events. It is that gap in history that lends itself to much speculation, which Whitta takes full advantage of in his story; claiming that those who witnessed its inconceivable horrors purposely concealed the truth from future generations.

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Vintage Treasures: The Man of Gold by M.A.R. Barker

Thursday, August 20th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Man of Gold-smallI remember exactly where I was when I learned M.A.R. Barker had died. I was at the games auction at Gary Con IV on Saturday, March 24th, 2012, when Luke Gygax solemnly paid tribute to the industry giants we’d lost that last year — and he announced that M.A.R. Barker, the brilliant creator of the world of Tékumel, had passed away at the age of 82. When I got home that night, the first thing I did was write an obituary for Black Gate, honoring the man who’d done so much for the hobby.

Tékumel was a unique creation in fantasy gaming. It was home to one of the earliest RPGs ever written, Empire of the Petal Throne, published by TSR in 1975, and later a series of well-received fantasy novels by Barker, beginning with The Man of Gold, published by DAW with a marvelous cover by Michael Whelan in 1984.

Tékumel is a distant world populated by both humans and aliens, who have built a vast and intricate civilization over thousands of years. Ruled by the upper clans of the land, the planet’s culture is based upon the teachings of gods and demons, upon the ways and wiles of alien races, and upon the layered traditions of monarchs ancient and current. Tékumel is an exquisitely detailed world where surprise and adventure are as natural as night and day.

The Man of Gold is the first novel based on the Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne RPG. Follow the quest of Harsan, acolyte of the temple of Thumis, as he ventures forth to seek a forgotten empire’s super weapon known only as the Man of Gold.

Tékumel has been revisited many times by talented game creators over the decades, and is now the setting for multiple game systems.

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Sample All Ten of Tor.com‘s Upcoming Novellas With Their Fall 2015 Sampler

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Tor 2015 Fall SamplerI’m very excited to see that Tor.com has made an impressive commitment to a distinctive new line of premium novellas coming out this fall. It’s not just that I love novellas — these books really look terrific.

These are short novels, ranging in size from 96 to 224 pages, and all are available in trade paperback for around $12.99, or in digital format for just $2.99 each. The line includes a great mix of established authors — including folks we’ve discussed enthusiastically here at Black Gate, like Daniel Polansky (Low Town), Michael R. Underwood (Shield and Crocus), Paul Cornell (London Falling), and Nnedi Okorafor (Who Fears Death) — and some exciting new discoveries. Tor.com has just released a free sample of all ten books in their Fall 2015 Sampler. It’s available now through multiple outlets. Check it out!

You can now download a free ebook sampler that will give you an exclusive sneak peek at all ten of our Fall novellas. Featuring authors such as Kai Ashante Wilson, Nnedi Okorafor, K. J. Parker, Daniel Polansky, and many more, this sampler contains exciting new fantasy worlds, harrowing science fiction adventures, stolen memories, edible angels, and talking salamanders. Download the sampler now from Amazon or iBooks. (A Barnes & Noble link will be available soon!)

We’ve previously covered two upcoming titles in the Tor.com fall catalog, Alter S. Reiss’s Sunset Mantle and Kai Ashante Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, and we’ll be covering more in the coming weeks. All ten will be available globally in ebook for $2.99 US/CAN, trade paperback, and audio format. See the complete catalog of upcoming novellas at Tor.com.


New Treasures: Professor Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places, edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Professor Challenger New Worlds, Lost Places-smallProfessor Challenger is one of the great explorer-heroes of the genre. Created by Arthur Conan Doyle in his 1912 novel The Lost World, Challenger also appeared in The Poison Belt and The Land of Mist, and a pair of short stories. Now editors J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec have assembled a brand new collection of exciting tales featuring the irrepressible Professor Challenger, with contributions from Mark Morris, Stephen Volk, Guy Adams and James Goss, Black Gate blogger Josh Reynolds, and many others.

Brilliant, belligerent and bearded in equal measure, incapable of suffering fools, or journalists, gladly, the greatest scientific mind of his generation — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor George Edward Challenger — returns in ten all-new tales of scientific adventure and wonder. He is the discoverer of The Lost World, the prophet of The Poison Belt, the destroyer of The Disintegration Machine, and the man who made the World Scream! Who can deliver mankind from the shackles of ignorance? Who else but that great self-proclaimed champion of science? We give you, ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, the one, the only, Professor George Edward Challenger!

This original anthology, from the authors and editors who brought you the Gaslight Sherlock Holmes series, sees Challenger and his stalwart company including the reporter Malone, big game hunter Lord John Roxton and the skeptical colleague Professor Summerlee, travel across space and witness the ravages of time, narrowly eluding a dinosaur’s bite only to battle against the invasive red bloom of alien foliage, then plunge deep into the mysteries hidden within the Earth and reach out to the moon and into the heart of the unknown. Strap yourself in for chills, thrills and challenges to the unknown in exciting new worlds and lost places with literature’s foremost scientific adventurer.

Professor Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places was edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec and published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing on August 15, 2015. It is 250 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback, and $5.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Dave Elsey.


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