Man, it’s been a while since I wrote a review. This blog is becoming more like “Staffer’s Crazy Rants about Publishing Stuff” than a review site. I can’t say I lament the change, but it’s nice to just write a review sometimes. Know what I’m saying? And why not jump back into the pool with what is already appearing to be hypiest title of early 2014, Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades. The title is one word from being fantasy buzz word saturated. Why couldn’t it be The Emperor’s Blades of Shadows or The Emperor’s Cloak of Blades? Come on folks, if you’re going to shoot the moon don’t get left holding the King of Hearts.
Yes, that was a reference to the classic card game, Hearts, which no one under the age of 40 has probably ever played, but I played prolifically in my teenage years due to being an only child.… Read the rest
Moneyball by Michael Lewis is a fascinating look at market inefficiencies in professional baseball. Lewis relates how one team, the Oakland Athletics, used those inefficiencies to find great success. They discovered that men on base are the most statistically relevant factor in whether or not a team will score. Following that train of thought to its logical conclusion, a player who gets on base 40% of the time is a more valuable commodity than someone who just hits home runs. This statistical evidence flies in the face of one hundred and fifty years of anecdotal experience, but the Athletics were right and management in professional sports has fundamentally changed as a result. Could publishing be in need of a similar awakening?
Reading is an inherently subjective pursuit. As a book critic, I make recommendations based solely on my own impressions. I can struggle to frame why I feel the way I do.… Read the rest
I’m stealing from Chuck Wendig. And yes that’s his beard. And no I’m not ashamed of it. I just read his book, 250 Things You Should Know About Writing, and I figured it was the right time for me to riff on it. Imitation is the oldest form of flattery. Not to mention, there’s no such things as a new plot. Right?! I’m pretty sure Wendig says that in the book somewhere.
With NaNoWriMo in full swing (or rather, winding down) we’ve got writers galore taking a stab at being a novelist. I for one find it to be a nearly impossible task. There are literally a billion things I’d rather do that write, not to mention a billion reasons I don’t do it. But I’m going to settle for twenty-five.
Here we go. . .25 Reasons I’m Not a Writer.
#1) I have kids.
You might have them too, but mine are uniquely challenging.… Read the rest
The image above is a slice from the Gollancz re-issue of Simon Ings’ 1999 Headlong, originally published by HarperCollins. The art from Jeffery Alan Love (website) is absolutely haunting. Known for his work in outlets like the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, and other major editorial publications, Love hasn’t done a ton of cover work, although he certainly does a lot of science fiction and fantasy themed illustration. For example, here’s a pair of images, one of ‘The Hound’ from George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, and the other a piece of Tomb Raider art.
Look at the Hound again. Notice the facial details and the armor hinted at with the rounded lines at shoulder, elbow, and waist. But, look at the Hound’s chest. The hole in the middle of him, the gaping lack of something or the pulsing heart inside the black armor? Love puts a lot into the piece, but asks, much as Martin does in his novel, for us to interpret what the Hound really is or isn’t.… Read the rest
On Sunday, December 30, 2012 my father-in-law, Alfredo Rodriguez passed away from cancer of the pancreas. He was 61. His death was agony, to the point that his last days on Earth were spent entirely under the influence of morphine. I was there at the end and the days, weeks, and months leading up to it. I’ve never witnessed anything so heroic.
Four days before my father-in-law passed my wife turned 32. She was pregnant with our second child. Now, nearly a year later, with a healthy baby boy in my arms, I’m able to reflect on his passing, the struggle, the emotion, and the relief when it was all over. That reflection led me to consider death in general, but more specifically death in fiction. And, of course, even more specifically, death in the fiction I love.
I’m reminded of a famous line from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, “Duty is heavy as a mountain, death is light as a feather.” It implies, if not outright says, that death is easy.… Read the rest
Masks is the functional equivalent of the YA dystopia in a traditional epic fantasy setting. At the age of fifteen, citizens are recognized as adults and must don magic Masks on orders from the all powerful Autarch. To maintain his grip on the kingdom, the Masks reveal any treasonous thoughts or actions to the Autarch’s ever vigilant Watchers. At her coming of age ceremony, Mara, daughter of the Master Maskmaker, is rejected by her Mask. Banished into slavery, she’s forced to confront the rotten core that supports the Autarch’s reign.
Scott Lynch tackles something in Republic of Thieves that falls flat on its face. Politics. This doesn’t mean the novel fails. It’s actually a wonderful addition to a series that continues to excel with Lynch’s unique voice and kinetic narratives. Where Republic of Thieves falls short, MJ Locke’s Up Against It knocks it out of the park with the best portrayal of authentic politics I’ve found in the speculative genres.
At its roots, Up Against It is an asteroid colony disaster movie. When an accident occurs, destroying precious ice reserves, the entire colony is at risk if they can’t replenish it. Phocaea’s resource manager, Jane, is tasked with making that happen, while keeping the colony’s residents from tearing each other, and the government, apart. Add to that Mars’ mafia trying to move in, a group of teenage kids caught in the middle, a rogue AI coming to life, social structures based on internet popularity, and ubiquitous cameras beaming reality TV back to Earth.… Read the rest
October was crazy. My family finally joined me in Texas, completing our relocation from Washington DC, and we bought a new home. This is the first home we’ve owned that doesn’t share walls with another structure (condos, row houses, etc). This means things like lawn mowing, trash lugging, and copious amounts of cleaning. Who knew?
And we got this:
Concurrent with this I’ve been asked to read a lot of manuscripts, which is excessively time consuming and provides no end product for this blog. In fact, I’m not sure it provides an end product of anything except some reasonably coherent notes for a writer. Well, that and it’s helped me become a much better evaluator of fiction seeing these projects in their infancy grow into published works.
That said, with October over and life resuming some normal patterns, I hope to return to consuming two books a week and maintaining the best blog on the internet.… Read the rest
There’s almost nothing to said about this, but look at those tentacles. And the letters are made of sea creatures. COME ON, right? Joey Hi-Fi seems to be single handedly changing the expectations of what covers should look like. Man, love this.… Read the rest
Following up on the Epic Fantasy list we did a while ago, a group of us — Liz Bourke, Jared Shurin, Tansy Rayner Roberts and I — are taking a stab at Urban Fantasy. I know what you’re thinking, doesn’t Justin want to stab Urban Fantasy? Sometimes. But, there’s some really good stuff too.
- No more than one book or series from each author. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien could go in for The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings series, but not both.
- No anthologies.
- You can only list media you have consumed.
- Definitions of “essential”, “favorite”, “urban” and “fantasy” are left to personal interpretation.
The question, of course, is what the fuckity fuck do we mean by “urban fantasy”?
The delicious part is I don’t really care what any of you think it means. To me “urban fantasy” is all about structure and narrative. It has nothing — I repeat, nothing — to do with milieu.… Read the rest