Vintage Treasures: The Torin Trilogy by Cherry Wilder

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Cherry Wilder The Luck of Brin's Five-small Cherry Wilder The Nearest Fire-small Cherry Wilder The Tapestry Warriors-small

Cherry Wilder had a relatively short career as fantasy writers go. Her first novel was The Luck of Brin’s Five (1977), which won the 1978 Ditmar Award for Best Australian Science Fiction Novel, and was the first novel in The Torin Trilogy. She produced two other series, The Rulers of Hylor (four novels, published between 1984 and 2004) and two novels in the Rhomary Land series (in 1986 and 1996), several short stores, and that was it. She died in 2002.

Still, she is very fondly remembered as one of the shining lights of 80s fantasy. Although The Torin Trilogy has all the trappings of fantasy — including sorcerers, far-flung kingdoms, and mystical powers — at heart it’s actually science fiction. It’s the tale of Scott Gale, a space traveler from Earth who finds himself shipwrecked on the world of Torin, where he’s accepted as a family member by Brin’s Five. Before long he finds himself embroiled in a desperate battle against the feared man who rules much of the land, Strangler Tiath Pentroy.

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The Future of Fantasy: The Best New Releases in July

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Bone-Swans-CSE-Cooney-small Last First Snow-small The-Great-Bazaar-and-Brayans-Gold-small

We’re more than three quarters of the way through July, and I’ve barely scratched the surface on the 30 new books we covered in The Best New Releases in June. If I want to get caught up, I’ll have to cut back on late-night superhero movie marathons with my kids (and probably sleeping, and eating.)

July’s crop of new fantasy releases includes some terrific work from C.S.E. Cooney. Peter V. Brett, Max Gladstone, Wesley Chu, Lou Anders, Melinda Snodgrass, Victor Milan, Chris Willrich, Elizabeth Bear, Nnedi Okorafor, D.B. Jackson, and many others. There are 33 in the list this month, so let’s get started.

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Future Treasures: Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Chasing the Phoenix Michael Swanwick-smallMichael Swanwick’s Darger and Surplus stories, featuring a con-man and a genetically engineering talking dog, began with the Hugo-award winning short story “The Dog Said Bow-Wow” in 2002. Since then there have been many additional tales of adventure featuring the two, including the 2002 Hugo nominee “The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport,” and the 2011 novel Dancing with Bears (which finished sixth in the 2012 Locus Poll for Best SF Novel).

Swanwick’s latest novel, Chasing the Phoenix, finds our two con-men/heroes in post-collapse China, in the middle of a brand new con… one that quickly spirals beyond their control, and soon attracts the kind of attention they’d much rather avoid.

In the distant future, Surplus arrives in China dressed as a Mongolian shaman, leading a yak which carries the corpse of his friend, Darger. The old high-tech world has long since collapsed, and the artificial intelligences that ran it are outlawed and destroyed. Or so it seems.

Darger and Surplus, a human and a genetically engineered dog with human intelligence who walks upright, are a pair of con men and the heroes of a series of prior Swanwick stories. They travel to what was was once China and invent a scam to become rich and powerful. Pretending to have limited super-powers, they aid an ambitious local warlord who dreams of conquest and once again reuniting China under one ruler. And, against all odds, it begins to work, but it seems as if there are other forces at work behind the scenes…

Chasing the Phoenix will be published by Tor Books on August 11, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital version.


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: By Crom – Are Conan Pastiches Official?

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

ConaPas_Ace2Today’s post is actually about Robert E. Howard’s Conan, but (in a stunning surprise) it’s got some Sherlock Holmes at the foundation. No, Conan never met the great detective…

Hopefully you’ve been checking in on our summer series, Discovering Robert E. Howard. There are plenty more posts coming, so stay tuned. While I very much like Howard and his works, I came late to his stories and I’m certainly no expert.

There is one area I’ve found…curious, which relates to the “official” status that seems to be accorded to the authorized pastiches written since Howard’s death. It’s quite different in the Holmes world.

There are sixty official Sherlock Holmes tales. Period. Fifty-six short stories and four novels (more novellas, really), all penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and published during his lifetime. There are two Holmes short-shorts, “How Watson Learned the Trick” and “The Field Bazaar” and there is no disputing that they were written by Doyle. But they are not included (by anyone, I believe) in the official count.

You, oh enlightened one, know that the Doyle Estate tried to include a sixty-first story, found among ACD’s papers by a researcher, but it turned out to have been written by Arthur Whitaker.

To quote myself, from my first Solar Pons post here at Black Gate:

Parodies are stories that poke fun at Holmes. But the more serious Holmes tales, those that attempt to portray Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective to varying levels, are called pastiches. Just about the earliest ‘serious’ attempt at a Holmes copy was by Vincent Starrett, who wrote “The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet” in 1920.

Doyle’s son Adrian, sitting at his father’s very desk, produced The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (half of the stories were co-written with John Dickson Carr, who would quit mid-project).

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Fantasy Literature: The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth edited by S. M. Stirling

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 | Posted by Edward Carmien

The Change Tales of Downfall and Rebirth-smallIn The Change, the author of the Emberverse novels opens the doors to his post-apocalyptic universe wide. A substantial text at more than 600 pages, it contains 16 stories and an introduction by S.M. Stirling, who also contributes “Hot Night at the Hopping Toad,” featuring the most contemporary protagonist of the Emberverse series, Orlaith.

Sterling’s series has seen extensive attention here in the Fantasy Literature column at Black Gate. Those entries were less reviews than low brow scholarly chatter about the many interesting features, issues, and aspects of the Emberverse. This, however, is a review. But what is this Emberverse?

In short, the Emberverse begins with something commonly called the Change (some tales here call it other things, of course). In 1997 all high-energy technologies cease to function — something tweaked the rules of physics. Guns won’t fire. Electricity doesn’t electricit. Even steam engines won’t steam — at least not usefully. While the sun burns on, here on Earth, the technological culture we take for granted grinds to a halt. Billions die by violence, through hunger, and from disease.

Some small number survive; Stirling’s early novels in the series describe the events of the Change and the first ten or so years; 2014′s novel, The Golden Princess, features the granddaughter of various key players of the recovery from the Change in the Pacific northwest: Orlaith Mackenzie. A lot of war and politics lies behind the cutting edge of the series, but these stories take place at various points in the chronology of the Emberverse.

The first question: can a reader new to the Emberverse read and enjoy this anthology? Yes.

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New Treasures: Storm and Steel by Jon Sprunk

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

Storm and Steel-smallStorm and Steel, the long-awaited sequel to Blood and Iron, was published last month by Pyr. In her feature review of the first volume, Sarah Avery wrote:

Of all the wild re-envisionings of the Crusades I’ve seen lately, Jon Sprunk’s Blood and Iron may be the wildest. His alternate-universe Europeans are recognizably European, but the opposing culture they face is that of a Babylonian Empire that never fell. And why has this Babylon-by-another-name persisted for thousands of years, so powerful that only its own internal strife can shake it? Because its royals actually have the supernatural powers and demi-god ancestry that the ruling class of our world’s Fertile Crescent claimed…

Jon Sprunk’s book takes the prize for strange worldbuilding. The Akeshian Empire is approximately what the Akkadian Empire might have looked like, had each of its major cities lasted as long and urbanized as complexly as Rome did. When monotheism comes to Akeshia, it arrives as a local heresy run amok, rather than as a foreign faith attracting converts. Akeshia’s gods are not kind gods; its semi-divine ruling caste are not nice people. However, when our hero comes to understand them from something closer to their own perspective, he finds much to admire and many people worth trying to save from the civil war that is beginning to take shape around him…

Blood and Iron is overall a strong book, full of powerful imagery and a vivid sense of place, with intriguing historical what-ifs and a sense of moral urgency to match its sense of moral complexity.

Jon Sprunk is also the author of the popular Shadow Saga (Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure, Shadow’s Master), and expectations are running high for the second volume of his new trilogy, The Book of the Black Earth.

Storm and Steel was published by Pyr on June 2, 2015. It is 479 pages, priced at $18 in trade paperback and $11.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Jason Chan. Learn more at Pyr Books or read our exclusive excerpt of the first novel here.


Future Treasures: Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

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

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai wraparound cover-small

I first met Brad Beaulieu when he submitted the novella “From the Spices of Sanandira” to Black Gate magazine. It was a terrific tale, filled with magic, intrigue, and a desert filled with long-buried secrets. Alas, Black Gate was nearly defunct by that point, and we’d largely stopped buying fiction. He eventually found a home for it at Scott H. Andrew’s excellent Beneath Ceaseless Skies, where it was published in two parts (you can read it free here).

I followed Brad’s career closely after that. He published The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy through Night Shade Books (2011-2013), and late last year I heard he’d signed a contract for a major new Arabian Nights-inspired series with DAW: The Song of Shattered Sands. The first volume, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, is scheduled to be released next month, and you can read all the details — and get a peek at the absolutely gorgeous cover art — in the wraparound image above (click for bigger version.)

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai will be published by DAW on September 1, 2015. It is 592 pages, priced at $24.95 in hardcover, and $9.99 for the digital version. The cover art is by Adam Paquette. Get more details at Brad’s website.


The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series: The Young Magicians edited by Lin Carter

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 | Posted by westkeith

Young MagiciansThe Young Magicians
Lin Carter, ed.
Ballantine Books
October 1969, 280p. $0.95
Cover art by Sheryl Slavitt

I apologize for having taken so long to get this post done. I’ve been on the road for over half the weekends since the end of April, mostly family trips for graduations or dive meets my son was competing in. I thought I would have a little more time when the second summer session started since I would be teaching, but that hasn’t exactly been the case. (No, I have no idea why I would have thought that.)

But I’m back, and I would like to thank John for his patience. I’m tanned; I’m rested; I’m ready. Well, I’m tanned at any rate. And I’ve got a pretty darned good anthology to tell you about.

A number of people, myself included, have said that Lin Carter’s legacy will ultimately not be his writing or his Conan pastiches, but the work he did on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. It’s hard in this day and age of ebooks and specialty presses to remember how hard fantasy was to find on bookstore shelves in the late 1960s. The commercial fantasy boom wasn’t far off, but it hadn’t gotten there. It was possible to read just about all of the titles that were easily available at the time.

The Young Magicians was a companion volume to Dragons, Elves, and Heroes with both of them being published in October 1969. That volume contained examples of imaginary world fantasy beginning with folktales and sagas and ending with William Morris. In The Young Magicians, Carter starts with Morris and provides samples of fantasy from more contemporary writers, ending with Lin Carter himself.

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The Omnibus Volumes of Andre Norton, Part One

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

Darkness and Dawn-small

If you’re like me, you enjoy vintage science fiction and fantasy, and tracking down old paperbacks to add to your collection. But nothing beats the convenience of having those fragile old books available in a modern reprint. Unless it’s having multiple books in a single omnibus volume, under a great new cover, for the price of a single paperback. When that happens, we like to make some noise about it here — especially when the books involved are true classics of the genre.

That’s why we end up talking about Baen so much. Last week it was the trio of Baen’s Murray Leinster omnibus volumes; before that it was their seven volumes featuring James H. Schmitz. Today, I’d like to take a look at three of the many omnibus volumes collecting some of the best work of Andre Norton, published by Baen last decade.

First up is Darkness and Dawn, which collects perhaps the first Andre Norton book I ever laid eyes on, in my elementary school library in Kentville, Nova Scotia: Daybreak—2250 A.D.

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Future Treasures: Covenant of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

Monday, July 20th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Banished of Muirwood-small The Ciphers of Muirwood-small The Void of Muirwood-small

Jeff Wheeler’s Muirwood trilogy is one of the success stories of self-publishing. All three volumes were released in 2011, and they did so well they were picked up by 47North, Amazon’s new fantasy and SF publishing arm, and republished in handsome new editions in January 2013.

Those of you who hate waiting for the next installment of your favorite fantasy series are in luck. It looks like 47North will release the entire sequel trilogy, Covenant of Muirwood, in a tight schedule over the next three months: The Banished of Muirwood on August 15, followed by The Ciphers of Muirwood (September 15), and The Void of Muirwood (October 27, 2015). The sequels tell a standalone story, and need no knowledge of the earlier trilogy.

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