Justin Landon is the Overlord of Staffer's Book Review. When he's not writing things of dubious value to the world, he's at the gym or being a dad. You can follow him on a multitude of social media, which is strongly suggested lest you miss out on vital information that could someday save your life.
I’m going to present these covers largely un-editorialized. Well, less that usual. The truth is these gorgeous covers are as simple as they are intricate. They seem to capture some of the power of their underlying content, without reaching too far into the esoteric. Gollancz has really done an amazing job with these Fantasy Masterworks rereleases.
Also, I’m really glad there’s a publisher out there actively keeping these works alive.
What say you?
… Read the rest
Will McIntosh wrote a book about love and I’m wondering whether I’ll ever read another that does it better. Love Minus Eighty isn’t a romance. In fact, it’s often antithetical to that idea. Instead it’s a charming, frightening, and all together confusing (as only love can be) treatise on the nature of relationships, their unpredictability and capability for crippling despair.
Based on McIntosh’s Hugo Award winning short story, Bridesicles, Love Minus Eighty is set years in the future where cryogenics and life extension technology have reached the point that the only thing standing in the way of death is money. For the particularly beautiful and female, dying young means ending up in cryogenic dating farms where the creepiest rich men briefly resurrect them to determine how depraved they’ll be in exchange for another chance at life. It’s a horrific idea driven home by the character of Mira, who throughout the novel is killed and awakened untold times by curious ‘Johns’ (for lack of a better words).… Read the rest
The Winds of Khalakovo, the first installment in Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Lay of Anuskaya series, was raved about on this blog in 2011. I acquired the follow-up, The Straits of Galahesh, several months before it was released in 2012. Unfortunately, the first fifty pages felt impenetrable even after reading them a dozen different times. When Beaulieu announced the upcoming release of the final volume, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, I committed myself to finishing the second novel in order to read the conclusion. Despite a long, arduous struggle through Straits of Galahesh that never really abated, I’m so pleased to call Flames of Shadam Khoreh a rousing success that exceeds all of the expectations placed on it by Beaulieu’s exceptional debut.
Beaulieu’s third book begins nearly two years after the events of Straits of Galahesh. War has moved from the islands to the mainland, and the Grand Duchy knows its time may be limited.… Read the rest
When you’re Baen, you know you have a bit of a reputation for ridiculous covers. Not just over sexed ones either, but classics like:
The covers below are not from Baen, a fact I find difficult to rationalize given the styles employed. Do you think Baen’s art director might be freelancing?
First up, young adult novel whose title I cannot decrypt. Is it Warriors? Thunder Rising? Dawn of Clans? I just don’t know! Let’s go with Bonus Scene Inside! Apparently this novel features cats that have powers to fracture the earth and appear in circles that hover above said fractures. Do you think these cats are weaving gateways? Watch out Egwene Al’vere!
Then we have Mike Resnick, and Pyr. I’m rather surprised with Pyr who are usually perfectly directed by the estimable Lou Anders. But, this dinosaur, raygun, mustache combo screams Will Smith’s Wild Wild West, which isn’t a comparison any sane consumer of fiction would want.… Read the rest
Since the moment I finished Wesley Chu’s debut novel, The Lives of Tao, I called reading it ‘the most fun I’ve had this year.’ I wouldn’t call it the best novel, and maybe not even the best debut, but it’s one of those reads that puts a smile on my face that won’t go away. In reading Mur Lafferty’s ‘debut’ (I put that in quotes since it’s only a debut in that it’s her first novel published by a SFWA approved house) A Shambling Guide to New York City, I found myself less joyful despite nearly identical character arcs and plot structures. My responses to myself ranged from ‘well everyone’s mileage varies’ to ‘oh my God these two books are incredibly similar why do I love one and not the other?’ Considering that question is what this review is about.
Lives of Tao tells the story of out-of-shape IT technician Roen who hears a voice in his head that turns out to be an ancient alien life-form named Tao who’s hitching a ride.… Read the rest
Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear
Remember when I made a bit of a stink that Range of Ghosts wasn’t nominated for a Hugo? I am even more vindicated by the exceptional quality of the sequel, Shattered Pillars. The new novel picks up right where Range of Ghosts left off with a disgraced horse lord and his wizard lover fighting against a fundamental religious megalomaniac.
There are times when Bear is a little unclear with her intent, or the inherent fuzziness of the magic raises an eyebrow, but couched in Bear’s gorgeous prose and confident voice everything comes off pitch perfect. I really can’t emphasize the point enough. Even when Shattered Pillars stumbles a bit with its pace or flow, there’s nothing that can derail my enjoyment because it’s just so well written. I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Bear’s, and I’ll be reading the next book in the series the second I get it.… Read the rest
We have news(!) – Speculative Fiction 2012 is now available on Amazon.
This collection contains over fifty of the year’s best online essays and reviews, from Tansy Rayner Roberts on Supergirl to Lavie Tidhar on China Miéville to Aishwarya Subramanian on My Little Pony to Joe Abercrombie on, er, himself. It is a diverse collection of some of last year’s best and most interesting writing. We fully expect – and hope – it will cause discussion, debate and a bit of a ruckus.
The book also contains a foreword from Orbit author Mur Lafferty, an introduction from this year’s editors (Jared Shurin and myself) and an afterword from the 2013 editors, Ana Grilo and Thea James of The Booksmugglers. Not to mention the beautiful cover from the talented Sarah Anne Langton.
All proceeds from sales of this book are donated to Room to Read, supporting literacy and gender equality in education around the world.… Read the rest
For once I’m only going to say nice things. . . mostly. I didn’t really love Adam Christopher’s Empire State. It was a novel that didn’t seem entirely sure about what it wanted to be. However, I can do nothing but bow down to this Forbidden Planet limited edition exclusive cover:
Holy crap. Am I right? I mean it’s beautiful on its own, but having read the book it’s also perfectly appropriate.
While I didn’t like Empire State so much, there’s one book series this blog has had nothing but good things to say about — Howard Andrew Jones’ The Chronicles of Swords and Sand. I consider both novels something of a revelation. So was the cover for the Desert of Souls hardback by Charles Keegan. The covers that followed in trade paperback and the sequel Bones of the Old Ones, were less spectacular.
Thankfully, Jones’ UK publisher has redeemed the series visually by commissioning Keegan to revisit his style for Bones of the Old Ones across the pond.… Read the rest
Sharing an editor at Orbit Books, Brian McClellan got a nice boost when bestselling author Brent Weeks called Promise of Blood, “a hugely promising debut. . .[and] the finest flintlock fantasy I’ve read. . .” For the first part, I really couldn’t agree more. McClellan’s debut novel reads much like something I’ve come to expect from Weeks or Brandon Sanderson, lacking perhaps only the confidence that comes with seeing your name in the New York Times. To the second, well, I’ll find it difficult to oust Bradley P. Beaulieu’s The Winds of Khalakovo from that perch, but I won’t object to having Promise of Blood in the conversation.
McClellan opens in the aftermath of a military coup, told from the perspective of Adamat, a private investigator and struggling small businessman. Ordered by the coup-master himself, Field Marshall Tamas, Adamat must discover why with their dying breath the Royal Cabal whispered: “You can’t break Kresimir’s Promise.” Throughout Promise of Blood the phrase becomes something of a “Who is John Galt?”, urging the narrative forward with a need to know the answers.… Read the rest
I’ve read approximately thirteen novels by one Mr. Raymond E. Feist, making him, along with Piers Anthony, the most read author of my life. This is somewhat of a disturbing realization on my part. I would note here that while I’ve read thirteen novels set in Midkemia and Xanth respectively, I’ve read even more set in Krynn. . . well over thirty. For the uninformed, Krynn is Dragonlance, the role playing game novelizations that I (and Jared Shurin) would argue as the face that launched a thousand ships in the hearts and minds of budding fantasists. I’m not really selling myself as a connoisseur of literature am I?
While my memories of the Xanth and Dragonlance novels feel accurate, namely that they are by and large unreadable to an older audience, I have continued to feel adequately warm and fuzzy about Raymond Feist’s work. So much so that I’ve actively waited for the day that his older novels would cross the electronic divide so that I might re-avail myself of them.… Read the rest