Ari Marmell’s most recent novel from Pyr (at least for a few more weeks) is predicated on the notion of the ‘bad guys’ as heroes. This is not Joe Abercrombie’s morally gray characters, or Stephan R. Donaldson’s antihero. Instead, Marmell takes the stereotypical villains of D&D fantasy — liches, demons, orcs, goblins, trolls, and ogres — and makes them the heroes in a war against the righteous. The Goblin Corps ends up as a hilarious and subversive novel that struggles a bit to engage the reader beyond the absurd fun of well drawn set pieces.
Morthul, the dreaded Charnel King, has failed. Centuries of plotting from the heart of the Iron Keep was fiuked at the last by the bumbling efforts of a laughable band of heroes, led by the half-elven wizard Ananias DuMark. When news reaches Morthul that the Allied Kingdoms are assembling a counterattacking army unlike any seen before, he sets a plan in motion to secure his future. … Read the rest
Around these parts I commit myself to finishing everything I start. Why, you ask? Because I think it’s important for me to help my reader make decisions about what they should buy and what they should avoid. If I only read things that I enjoy, how will I ever fulfill the second half of that commitment? I’m also loathe to spend 800 words eviscerating someone’s baby. Thus, Cheryl was born. Cheryl is my imaginary personal assistent who helps me “review” novels I really did not like. Instead of just doggedly attacking a novel’s failures, I try to have some fun with it and get some laughs. Hopefully it’s taken the way I intend it.
What follows is the conversation I had with some figures of legend about John Fultz’s debut novel, Seven Princes. It’s a novel I really wanted to like, but didn’t. Cheryl urged me hold the post until after Christmas, I agreed. … Read the rest
Debut authors. My favorite thing to read because there’s nothing better than discovering something brilliant for the first time. This has been a very solid year for debuts, due in large part to Night Shade Books New Voices Program. While my nomination list is only five novels, I can’t stress enough how difficult it was getting down to five. I read 26 debuts this year and 20 of them were legitimately in consideration to be nominated. It should be noted that two debuts made my best book of 2011 list and thus are not included here in an effort to spread the love.
My nominees for Best SFF Debut of the Year (2011) are:
#5: Miserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock
This was hard. I had around six or seven different books in this spot at some point over the last week including Winds of Khalakovo (Beaulieu), The Emperor’s Knife (Williams), Among Thieves (Hulick), Seed (Ziegler), The Whitefire Crossing (Schafer), and The Quantum Thief (Rajaniemi). … Read the rest
I read something like 90 books this year (as of writing this) and somewhere around a third of those weren’t published this year. When it comes to end of the year awards I prefer to talk about what came out this year. To expand it would mean pitting classics against modern stuff and I find that doesn’t work that well. So every year I’ll be doing this — talking about the best book(s) I read published in prior years.
Here are my nominees for Best SFF Book I Read This Year Not Published in 2011:
#5: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Classic, right? Haldeman’s seminal novel about a futuristic war is, like all great science fiction, as much about the time it was written in as the time it’s written about. In this case, Haldeman’s future war was a commentary on Vietnam and what is was like for soldiers coming home. … Read the rest
One of the most highly anticipated titles of early 2012, Adam Christopher’s Empire State has been billed as superhero noir. Angry Robot, recognizing the broad appeal of such a pastiche, has marketed the novel along with their WorldBuilder project. WorldBuilder invites readers to create their own works based in the world of Empire State, which Angry Robot may publish (if they get anything good). That’s neither here nor there, but I thought it worth mentioning. As a novel, Christopher’s debut is wildly entertaining in a tradition Angry Robot fans have come to expect.
Set in New York City during prohibition, Empire State starts with a street tough named Rex witnessing the final battle of the superhero Skyguard and his nemesis the Science Pirate. Make note of this, because it’s the last real super-superhero action you’re going to get (mostly). The story quickly jumps out of New York and into the Empire State (don’t worry, you’ll be back) — a parallel-universe, where prohibition continues unfettered and a never ending war with an unknown enemy keeps the populace in constant fear.… Read the rest
Well, this is the one and only Juice Box Award you don’t want to win. Although I suppose it speaks to an author’s or publisher’s cache that I’m putting them on the list, meaning the selection bias is going to be toward novels that have high expectations. There either has to be a copious amount of buzz around a novel, and/or the author has produced high caliber work in the past. My nominations include five novels — three of which are decidedly the latter given that they were written by the three best selling authors in fantasy today. The other two were pushed heavily by their respective publishers, but failed to deliver on the promise in any meaningful way. Without further ado, here are my five most disappointing novels of 2011, with the winner (loser?) at the bottom.
#5: Den of Thieves by David Chandler
There’s two primary reasons why this novel made the list. … Read the rest
My response to a conversation on Twitter regarding heroism, its conceit, and Aragorn’s relationship to Strider (see Stina Leicht’s post.)
Heroism is one of the most unifying themes in fantasy literature. Even those stories that reject it do so in recognition of it. This tradition begins with Joseph W. Campbell’s monomyth, a term borrowed from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, that he expanded on in his 1949 treatise The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In this seminal text he sets out what the hero’s journey is:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
If this is the accepted definition of The Hero, and I would argue that it is, who then is The Hero of J.R.R.… Read the rest
Not a Juice Box Award, but nevertheless these are some of the most interesting posts I read this year. I wish I’d kept a better record of everything I enjoyed this year. This will have to suffice. You could do a lot worse than spending this weekend reading each of these and/or savoring them over the holiday season. Now, start reading!
My favorite post of the year, bar none:
I think Erikson’s series is the most significant work in mainstream fantasy since Tolkein. Ken over at Neth Space does a tremendous job of encapsulating why that is. Synopisis: Malazan is post-modern and that’s awesome.
Larry’s well put together take on William Morrow letter fiasco:
I largely agree with him. While publishers have the right to tell us all to go to hell to suggest there is a quid pro quo, or that we work for them, endangers the very model by which we blog.
… Read the rest
The Winner: The Magician King
Illustration by Kai and Sunny
Some people (cough A Dribble of Ink
cough) do frequent posts about cover art. It’s not really my bag, largely because I never get the news first. However, I too love covers. My short list for Cover of the Year is six books long (see below). There’s not really a connective thread between them except that none are photo realism — a trend I loathe. Additionally, you’ll see no hooded men because hooded men are lame and tired. For authors with hooded men on your cover, I apologize. If it’s any consolation, hooded men sell books. There’s no accounting for taste.
So what is my criteria? I’m so glad I asked. I have four basic tenets in evaluating cover art. First is relevancy. A cover must relate to the book. Second it has to evoke something — wonder, mystery, fear, awe, movement, whatever.… Read the rest
Heard of this one? Probably not. It’s been pretty under the radar for book due out in less than three weeks. Seriously, go Google it. Now try the author’s name. What’d you come up with? Not much, I bet. All I could find was an erudite i09 piece and the corresponding Amazon.com and Nightshadebooks.com pages. The Goodreads.com page doesn’t even have cover art for crying out loud. All of that goes to say, more people need to be talking about Faith. Jove Love’s debut is tremendous science fiction that blends literary traditions with space opera and all the various subgenres therein.
The basic premise is that 300 years ago an unidentified ship visited the Sakhran Empire and left it devastated. One Sakhran recognized the ship for what She was and wrote the Book of Srahr. When they read it, the Sakhran’s turned away from each other, sending their Empire into a slow but irreversible decline. … Read the rest