Saturday, December 30, 2017

Best Reads of 2017

2017 has been a tough year, both personally and for the world at large. I'm amazed that I've made it this far; somehow it still feels unreal to stand at the cusp of another year.

In 2017 I read 37 books (38 if I can finish my current read before midnight on the 31st) which is an average amount for me. While I didn't get anywhere near to the amount of books I wanted to read I can't complain about their quality.

Here, in no particular order, are my best reads of 2017:

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky


If I had to choose my top read of the year then this would have to be it. Children of Time is an astounding space opera that will have you re-evaluate your allegiance to humanity. It’s fascinating and terrifying in equal measure with a truly fantastic ending. Space spiders have never been more captivating. Read full review.

Infinity Engine by Neal Asher


Infinity Engine is a stunning conclusion to the Transformation series. It has all the hallmarks of a Neal Asher novel - devastating technology, massive space battles and stellar destruction on the grandest of scales, but it's also a far more intimate story of growth, redemption and forging your own identity. There are a lot of intricate layers at play in the superbly woven narrative; the myriad transformations will leave you both satisfied and utterly intrigued with the implications for the Polity universe at large. A mind-blowingly brilliant read! Read full review.

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley


The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley is space opera unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Set on, living organic world-ships, the novel is gross, unsettling, unrelenting and utterly glorious. It carries a strong social message and deals a deathblow to the notion that females are the weaker sex. These women are brutal, devious and totally badass. Be warned though, this is definitely not a tale for the squeamish. Read full review.

The Shadow of What was Lost by James Islington


The Shadow of What Was Lost is a thoroughly engaging coming-of-age fantasy tale with far more complexity than it initially appears. It shows immense promise to develop into a series worth following. Fans of The Wheel of Time series will find a lot to love here. Read full review.

Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King


No list can be complete without the King. The stories collected in Bazaar of Bad Dreams are terrific, haunting delights that will stay with you long after you turn that last page. This is a perfect read for those dark nights where you come to realise that the monster might be the one hiding under the covers... Read full review.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin


I'm late to the bandwagon, but boy what a bandwagon it is. While the narration style can be difficult to get to grips with at first The Fifth Season blew me away and shook me to the core. Well worth reading!

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh


An unusual tale about love and relationship in a futuristic landscape where death doesn't necessarily mean the end. A great read, especially if you are looking for something different!

Galactic Empires edited by Neil Clarke


Galactic Empires edited by Neil Clarke is a stunning collection of short fiction dealing with galactic empires in all their varied forms. It showcases some of the best voices writing in the genre today with some remarkable stories that will stay with you for ages. A great way to test the waters of what current SF has to offer. Read full review.

***

Here's to a wonderful 2018 filled with even more bookish delights and time enough to read them all!



Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Arrivals: A Torrent of Books

It seems South African customs have somehow managed to catch up with their backlog of international parcels. The floodgates have been opened and I've been overwhelmed by bookish delights from the folks at Tor books.

The gigantic edition of Brandon Sanderson's Oathbringer is a thing of beauty. The endpapers are simply gorgeous! I haven't started reading the Stormlight Archive series yet, but this is definitely the best incentive to get started.


The titles I received for review are Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson, The Man In The Tree by Sage Walker, War Craft by Tom Doyle, The Realms of God by Michael Livingston and the Last Chance by Gregg Hurwitz.

As is to be expected I couldn't help myself and also ordered a few more books to add to my collection.


Hopefully 2018 will bring enough time to read them all!

Monday, December 18, 2017

On My Radar: The Will to Battle

The Will to Battle, the penultimate installment of Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series releases this week. I must confess that I've been stockpiling the books for a binge reading session when I have enough time to adequately devote to the series. Last year I started in on the first book, Too Like the Lightning and about a third into the book I realised that this was something special - a complex, layered world steeped in philosophy and history, with a narrative style that requires your undivided attention to untangle. I'm looking forward to tackling the series soon when I'm able to give it the attention it deserves.


THE WILL TO BATTLE by Ada Palmer
ISBN: 9780765378040
Release date: 19 December 2017
Order a copy

The long years of near-utopia have come to an abrupt end. Peace and order are now figments of the past. Corruption, deception, and insurgency hum within the once steadfast leadership of the Hives, nations without fixed location. The heartbreaking truth is that for decades, even centuries, the leaders of the great Hives bought the world’s stability with a trickle of secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction could ever dominate. So that the balance held.

The Hives’ façade of solidity is the only hope they have for maintaining a semblance of order, for preventing the public from succumbing to the savagery and bloodlust of wars past. But as the great secret becomes more and more widely known, that façade is slipping away. Just days earlier, the world was a pinnacle of human civilization. Now everyone—Hives and hiveless, Utopians and sensayers, emperors and the downtrodden, warriors and saints—scrambles to prepare for the seemingly inevitable war.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Blog Tour: Firestorm


Firestorm the final book in Lucy Housom's Worldmaker trilogy will be published this December. If you are looking for a series set in an epic fantasy world with a fierce female protagonist, dragons and time-traveling assassins then this trilogy might be worth exploring.  Below you'll find an excerpt of Firestorm to give you a little taste of what to expect. (Don't worry, it doesn't contain any spoilers!)



‘What are you smiling about?’

She’d been staring into the night. The valley below them was utterly dark; the only light coming from their fire and the stars that shone crisp and clear above. She felt them in her blood. Sometimes she longed to join them, wrapping herself in isolation, removing herself from the world.

‘Kyndra?’

She looked back at the dragon. Char’s yellow eyes met hers unflinchingly and she felt some warmth return. Maybe it was hearing that name – the name her mother had given her, the one she had worn through childhood. Or maybe it was realizing that she couldn’t – and shouldn’t – solve Acre’s problems alone.

‘I think the goat is done,’ she said.


The black dreams began that night.


She stands upon a precipice, a glittering spire. Solinaris, the fortress of the sun, just as it looked before the first ever Breaking– in the days before Kierik’s mind shattered the world. She is not alone. Medavle is there, feet planted on the treacherous glass, his ageless face impossibly aged. And at his back, a figure, one claw-like hand grasping at the last Yadin. When the eldest sees her, a rasping, choking sound escapes his lips. It takes her a moment to realize it is laughter.


Kyndra woke, that laughter in her ears. For once, the stars and the night were equally silent and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up in an echo of fear. She hadn’t seen Medavle since he’d fled their battle, but his parting words were seared into her memory.

‘The last five hundred years were a mistake. They should never have been.’

Now, with Khronostian help, Medavle had the power to erase those years. Kyndra suspected his reason for doing so was very different to the eldest’s.

‘You don’t care about the world.’ Her own response echoed back to her. ‘You’re doing this for the woman you loved. For Isla.’

‘What would a Starborn know of love?’

Kyndra turned her face away from their dying fire. Reasons didn’t matter. All that mattered was stopping Medavle before he and the eldest ruined them all.

As they flew further north, the air became colder. The pattern of foliage below them shifted gradually from orange to brown to bare, skeletal branches. Low cloud hid them most of the time, but occasionally they’d emerge into clear blue, where the clouds were wispy and scudding high over narrow valleys. Mountain goat became a staple, though Char once managed to flush out a deer. Despite his huge wingspan, he was getting better at navigating the rocky gorges.

Every evening, Kyndra would ignite solid stone with a touch and they would sit around the flames, discussing what they might encounter when they reached Magtharda. That the eldest would send du-alakat to stop them was a given, but they could only guess at their numbers. Then there was the time prison itself; Kyndra envisioned it as a vast bubble, its walls invisible to the naked eye.

She caught her first glimpse with the first snow. They’d been flying steadily north-west until the land had pushed itself into peaks around them. Now, wherever Kyndra looked, she saw mountains. Steel-clad, white-capped, they were a line of silent priests, oddly menacing in their stillness. The sky was flat, reducing their world to a palette of greys – they’d left the colourful autumn valleys behind. Char was the only one who looked at home here; his dusky scales could have been sculpted out of the mountains’ hide. Kyndra’s hair was an alien streak of fire on the wind.

Magtharda appeared between one blink and the next. At first, Kyndra thought its towers were merely spires of rock thrusting free of the mountains, but, looking closer, she saw windows cut into them; dark, eye-shaped portals that marched around the outside of each soaring barbican. There were half a dozen, guarding the buildings beyond.

Char made a strange sound in his throat; perhaps he’d attempted to whistle. They flew beneath a great arch, a portal carved from solid rock. No gate or portcullis hung from its frame; it was unnecessary, Kyndra thought, when only those with wings could reach it. The ground was lost to view.

Magtharda lay on the other side. A tiered city, vast courtyards open to the sky, it rose in levels, keeping pace with the mountains that cradled it. Everything was built of the same greyish rock, left rough to echo the landscape. Waterfalls spilled over stone, falling hundreds of feet into deep channels that bisected the streets. The water was the only thing that moved.

With two quick beats of his wings, Char landed on one of the wider thoroughfares and lowered his head to drink.

‘Stop,’ Ma said sharply. Both she and Kyndra slid off the dragon’s back, scanning the empty streets. ‘Can you tell if it’s safe?’ the mercenary asked Kyndra. She was frowning at the water, rushing opaque under the dull sky.

Kyndra bent down and scooped up a handful, calling on Lagus. Clean, the star told her. ‘If there was poison in the water, there’s no trace of it now,’ she said.

Char gave a huff of relief and plunged most of his head in. Ma’s profile was rigid. She watched the streets, as if expecting an ambush, but nothing leapt out to break the city’s stillness. Kyndra, too, stood tensed; something was out of place here, out of step.

‘You feel it,’ Ma said. Her eyes travelled over the high buildings, the large, graceful arches, searching. ‘They are here, the Lleu-yelin, all around us.’

‘What?’ Char shook out his mane, showering them. He scanned the courtyard too. ‘Then where are they?’

‘Frozen,’ Ma said. ‘They are being held.’ She briefly closed her eyes. ‘I can feel the strands of it linking them together.’

‘The strands of what?’ Kyndra asked.

‘A focus.’

Char’s brow bunched. ‘What does it look like?’

‘It might not be an it, but a who,’ Ma said, a touch evasively. Char took a few clawed steps towards the centre of the city.

‘You mean a Khronostian?’

Ma shook her head. ‘I don’t know. We need to go further in.’

***


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review: Obelisk

Title: Obelisk
Author: Stephen Baxter
Pages: 309
ISBN: 9781473212763
Publisher: Gollancz
Published: August 2016
Genre: Science fiction / Short stories
Source: Review copy from publisher


Buy it from:
The Book Depository

A remarkable collection of short stories and novellas from one of our greatest SF authors.

This collection contains stories set in the worlds of the bestselling duology Ultima and Proxima, which expand on the characters and worlds of that series, including two brand new short stories. There are also a selection of alternate histories and possible futures, building on Baxter's work with Terry Pratchett on the Long Earth series.

Stephen Baxter is one of those authors I turn to when I want to explore fascinating ideas with just the right touch of hard science fiction mixed in.  Obelisk,  his latest collection of short stories contains 17 stories two of which are previously unpublished works. The collection is divided into four sections, each section deals with a different theme tying the stories together.

The first section PROXIMA-ULTIMA contains four stories set in the universe of the Proxima and Ultima duology and expands on the characters and events of the novels.  Two stories stood out here:
On Chryse Plain: Two worlds collide. After an accident Earthers and Martians are forced to band together in order to survive in an unforgiving environment. ★★★
Obelisk: A disgraced pilot returns to Mars after a tragic accident claims the lives of his passenger; he finds a new purpose to build a legacy, but it comes at a cost. A huge emotional gut-punch at the end, with a beautiful description of the journey to Mars:
"... he passively allowed Mars to swim out of the darkness before him. In the light of the distant sun, it struck him from afar as a malformed, lopsided, murky world, oddly unfinished, like a piece of pottery made by an inadequate student." ★★★★

OTHER YESTERDAYS deals with a selection of alternate-history stories. While I enjoyed most of them it's only the last three stories in the section that really captivated me.
Darwin Anathema: Darwin is put on trail posthumously for his heretical work on the Origin of Species in a world governed by an anti-intellectual church system. Deals brilliantly with the conflict between religion and science. ★★★★
Mars Abides: A haunting tale about the first human expedition to Mars which takes an unexpected melancholy turn. This is perhaps my favourite story in the collection with an excellent plot and interesting characters.  ★★★★★
Eagle Song: An alien beacon observed throughout the ages sets humanity on a desperate course. I loved how this story plays with the progression of time and progress in knowledge while the previous generation's beliefs became part of the mythology connected to the beacon. The sad, thought-provoking ending hits hard. ★★★★

OTHER TODAYS covers stories set in the present day.
The Pevatron Rats: A strange but interesting concept lies at the core of this remarkable tale about time-traveling rats and the dire consequences it holds for the world. ★★★★
The Invasion of Venus: Humanity has to reevaluate its position in the universe when alien forces clash. ★★★

The last section, OTHER TOMORROWS, deals with visions of the future and it is here where Baxter truly shines. I enjoyed all the stories in this section.
Turing's Apples: A signal form an alien civilization changes the lives of two brothers irrevocably. I particularly enjoyed the juxtaposition in personality between the two brothers and how the story, while dealing with vast timescales manages to highlight the importance of living in the moment. ★★★★
Artefacts: This is a strange and complex tale dealing with the nature of reality and sentience. It forces you to contemplate the big questions. Why are we here? What is it all for? Why is the universe like it is? I'm not sure I've quite managed to understand it completely yet. ★★★
Vacuum Lad: A superhero story of sorts. Fun, with an interesting reveal towards the end. ★★★
Rock day: A haunting cautionary tale about human folly. This one is bound to stir up your emotions. ★★★★
Star Call: Another story that deals with long timescales. A boy gets an unusual gift from his father - the opportunity to communicate with a ship AI as it travels to Alpha Centauri. The progression of time is used to excellent effect. The story takes a sad turn, but at least the ending is hopeful (as hopeful as most of the stories in the collection gets). The AI crawls into your heart and you can't help but empathise with her plight. ★★★★★

The Verdict:
Stephen Baxter's Obelisk is a solid collection of some stellar short fiction. The stories collected here are compelling, often bleak and extremely thought-provoking fare. They highlight possible futures where humanity has to deal with the consequences of climate change, changing political landscapes and severe shifts in belief systems. These stories will linger long after being read; the ideas at their core demand deeper contemplation and introspection - a sure sign of good science fiction at work. While not all the stories appealed to me there are some true gems in this collection. Definitely well worth a read!

The Rating: 7.5/10 (Very good)

Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cover Conundrum 2017

Who says procrastination is a bad thing? In an attempt to avoid struggling to write a review for the annual Sci Fi Month festivities I've devised a devious little challenge instead. (Yes, I dusted of the 2016 challenge. Twice totally makes it a tradition right?).

Can you identify these science fiction novels based on their covers? Well, tiny parts of them at least...

If you can feel free to leave your guesses in the comments, or share them on Twitter. Good luck, this year I opted for some easy ones!

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

***

The answers are:
1. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
2. Dune by Frank Herbert
3. Hyperion by Dan Simmons
4. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
5. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Reviewed here)
6. The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley (Reviewed here)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

3 Frighteningly Delightful Spooky Podcasts

It's Halloween time and there is nothing better than listening to spooky stories while snuggled into bed with the covers handy... just in case something goes bump in the night.

Here, in no particular order, are my favourite spooky podcasts to listen to on dark and dreary nights (or whenever I want to go to sleep quickly, for some reason I find them quite soothing...).


I'm sure Lore needs no introduction. Hosted by Aaron Mahnke, the Lore podcasts explores the history and truth behind legends, mythical beasts and folklore. Often truth is far more frightening than fiction. The show has branched out into a TV show on Amazon as well as a book series (which I can't wait to get my hands on). Top notch stuff!


The Anything Ghost show hosted by Lex Wahl shares people's personal encounters with the paranormal. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, these personal accounts are bound to fascinate.


Haunted Places is a relatively new podcast, but boy does it deliver with eerie, haunting narration! The show takes you on a tour of supposed haunted places while exploring the frightening, often disturbing backstory behind the most haunted locations across the world. This show is set to become one of my firm favourites!

***

If you have any suggestions for other spooky podcasts feel free to leave them in the comments. I'm always looking for new podcasts to explore.

Now it's time to turn off the lights, crawl under the covers and turn up the volume...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

New Arrivals: Books, Glorious Books!

Over the past couple of months I've been absolutely spoiled with review copies from the wonderful folks at Jonathan Ball Publishers. There are so many great books I don't quite know where to start...


An Echo of Things to Come by James Islington
The Half Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker
The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu
Empress of the Fall by David Hair


First Watch by Dale Lucas
Obelisk by Stephen Baxter
The Tower of the Swallow by Andrzej Sapkowski

***
Perhaps I should read them all at once!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Cover Reveal: The Soldier

My hiatus in September was planned to give me some much needed time to devote to playing Destiny 2. Sadly my week-long vacation was far too brief and upon my return to work life decided it was the perfect time to triple my workload and dump a bunch of other stressful things on me. Being exhausted seems to be my new reality, but I'm back... I just need to figure out how to do this again.

One of the most exciting things to happen while I was gone was not one, but two cover reveals for Neal Asher's forthcoming novel The Soldier, the start of a brand new series set in his Polity universe.

It's a tough choice, but I think the US cover from Night Shade Books has to be my favourite. It just screams destruction and mayhem - exactly what you'd expect from a book centering around the Jain and the deadly technology at their disposal.

US Cover

UK Cover

THE SOLDIER by Neal Asher
ISBN: 9781509862368 (UK) / 9781597809436 (US)
Release date: May 2018

A hidden corner of space swarms with lethal alien technology, a danger to all sentient life. Designed to obliterate entire civilizations, it was created by the Jain, a long-dead race, and forces are on the move who’ll do anything to unleash their last secrets. Now the tech is guarded by Orlandine, whose mission is to ensure it stays contained – at all costs. Living aboard a state-of-the-art weapons station, she watches over everything. But she’s hatching a plan to remove the threat forever - by destroying it all.

Meanwhile, humanity’s galactic territories and the alien Prador Empire watch this sector of space with interest, as neither can allow the other to claim its power. However, things are about to change. The Jain might not be as dead as they seem and interstellar war is never far away ...

***

I can't wait!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

New Arrivals: The No Time To Explain Edition

The past month has been a dismal reading month for me. Due to work I hardly found time to do any reading, but that didn't prevent me from buying more books!



With the launch of Destiny 2 imminent September will leave me with even less reading time, but I cherish having the potential to read all these. We all know that the best thing about a TBR-mountain is the untapped reading potential it holds...

Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: Galactic Empires

Title: Galactic Empires
Editor: Neil Clarke
Pages: 624
ISBN: 9781597808842
Publisher: Night Shade
Published: 17 January 2017
Genre: Science Fiction / Short stories
Source: Review copy from publisher


Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Neil Clarke, publisher of the award-winning Clarkesworld magazine, presents a collection of thought-provoking and galaxy-spanning array of galactic short science fiction.

From E. E. "Doc" Smith’s Lensman, to George Lucas’ Star Wars, the politics and process of Empire have been a major subject of science fiction’s galaxy-spanning fictions. The idiom of the Galactic Empire allows science fiction writers to ask (and answer) questions that are shorn of contemporary political ideologies and allegiances. This simple narrative slight of hand allows readers and writers to see questions and answers from new and different perspectives.

The stories in this book do just that. What social, political, and economic issues do the organizing structure of “empire” address? Often the size, shape, and fates of empires are determined not only by individuals, but by geography, natural forces, and technology. As the speed of travel and rates of effective communication increase, so too does the size and reach of an Imperial bureaucracy. Sic itur ad astra — “Thus one journeys to the stars.”

Themed around galactic empires in their many varied forms Galactic Empires edited by Neil Clarke brings together some of the best voices writing in the genre today. The 22 stories collected here offer an amazing selection of tales that will enthrall and entertain with their varied styles and themes.

Initially I set out to read one story each day, but work commitments and the longer length of some of the stories soon proved that I was a tad too ambitious.  In the end reading the entire anthology took quite a bit longer than I expected, but I'm glad I took the time to savour each story. While I enjoyed all of them, there are a couple that stood out above the rest. Below you'll find some brief thoughts on each story.

“Winning Peace” by Paul J. McAuley: Two people from opposing sides become unlikely allies in the aftermath of war where the losing side are forced into indentured service. Plays wonderfully with the themes of greed and corruption in a rich setting of galactic scale. Loved the twist ending. Read before. 4/5

“Night’s Slow Poison” by Ann Leckie: A six month long journey through a perilous stretch of space, The Crawl, forces a guardsman to face his own past and results in a life or death decision. Leckie manages to capture the claustrophobic feel of people confined together as they slowly travel towards their destination. The ending is somewhat predictable, but still makes for a powerful conclusion. I can’t help but feel that this story would work far better for people already familiar with the Imperial Radch series. 3/5

“All the Painted Stars” by Gwendolyn Clare: A touching story about an alien fighter’s encounter with humans as they go in search of the legacy of a dying race left for humanity to discover. Told from the perspective of the alien the narrative has an endearing, almost funny quality to it as the creature tries to come to grips with the nuances of the strange human crew who find themselves completely out of their depth. I loved the uplifting outlook of the story, particularly the transformation from killer into nurturer and how redemption can be found in the most unexpected ways. 4/5

“Firstborn” by Brandon Sanderson: Forever living in the shadow of his older brother, a military genius without equal, Dennison Crestmar tries to live up to the expectations of his father and his Emperor. They want him to become a great commander just like his brother, but he just doesn’t seem to have the same aptitude. Some hard truths are revealed forcing him to become his brother’s greatest rival. This was one heck of a tale; a tense read with some great twists and a satisfying, albeit abrupt ending. Even perfect people can be flawed. 4/5

“Riding the Crocodile” by Greg Egan: A couple embarks on one final project before they decide to terminate their lives. This story might not have a lot of action, but I loved the concepts it plays with. The sheer timescales and technology involved is amazing and the galactic society, the Amalgam, is almost beyond imagining. 4/5

“The Lost Princess Man” by John Barnes: Deception within deception in this story about a con man in search of a lost Imperial Princess. It also speaks uncomfortable truths about our society “And the one real pleasure is getting one’s way over and against resistance. The only thing human beings really enjoy is making other people do what they don’t want to.” I loved the unexpected twists and turns; I definitely didn’t see that ending coming. 4/5

“The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard: A beautiful, touching tale about an unconventional rescue mission. It deals with identity and how another culture can be forcibly subsumed, being forced to abandon the very things that provide their own cultural identity. 4/5

“Alien Archeology” by Neal Asher: The discovery of an alien artefact sets the stage for an incredible adventure filled with alien races, AI, huge spaceships and double-crosses. It’s amazing how much action and intrigue Neal Asher can cram into such a short story. This is an excellent primer to his Polity universe. Even having read this one before it still had me on the edge of my seat throughout. 5/5

“The Muse of Empires Lost” by Paul Berger: In the aftermath of a collapsed empire two people with unusual talents meet. Their chance encounter might just usher in the rise of a new empire. I absolutely adored the world-building in this story. Unusual and utterly captivating with a character you’ll love to despise. The ending is outstanding. 5/5

“Ghostweight” by Yoon Ha Lee: A bittersweet tale about revenge and the nature of truth featuring strange war-kites and origami inspired technologies. Due to the unfamiliar terminology this story was quite confusing at first, but it soon hits its stride with some unsettling revelations. 3/5

“A Cold Heart” by Tobias S. Buckell: A search for stolen memories turns bloody. Filled with loads of action an extremely interesting world sets the stage for conflict and, ultimately, a chance at redemption. 4/5

“The Colonel Returns to the Stars” by Robert Silverberg: A retired Colonel is called back into service to face the protégé who betrayed him. Great use of distance, both physical and emotional, to drive the narrative with an unexpected ending. 3.5/5

“The Impossibles” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: A lawyer has to defend her client in InterSpecies court and discovers some uncomfortable truths. A surprisingly captivating story dealing with the legal aspects of galactic civilizations. 4/5

“Utriusque Cosmi” by Robert Charles Wilson: A story about the end of the world, but not quite. While the premise is difficult to describe this is a brilliant read. Vastly complex and staggering in implication. 5/5

“Section Seven” by John G. Hemry: A group of operatives work their subtle magic in keeping a planet within the fold of the Federation. A fast-paced tale of espionage. 3/5

“The Invisible Empire of Ascending Light” by Ken Scholes: An Emporer gives up his throne in order to save his Empire. Quite an unusual, but touching story. 4/5

“The Man with the Golden Balloon” by Robert Reed: While exploring their ship two humans stumble upon a enigmatic agent of a galactic Union who imparts staggering truths about his machinations in their lives. A superb story, filled with tension and unexpected twists and turns. 5/5

“Looking Through Lace” by Ruth Nestvold: A group of xenolinguists encounters an alien culture far more complex than first suspected. An immensely interesting read dealing with social constructs and gender roles. 4/5

“A Letter from the Emperor” by Steve Rasnic Tem: A censor stationed on the fringes of a declining galactic empire finds compassion in the most unexpected way. A touching story about compassion and the malleability of truth. 3.5/5

“The Wayfarer’s Advice” by Melinda M. Snodgrass: A princess gets a brief respite after suffering unimaginable trauma that shifts her worldview forever. This brilliant, touching story is definitely my favourite in the anthology. 5/5

“Seven Years from Home” by Naomi Novik: Two galactic agents work on opposite sides of a conflict in order to entice the warring sides to join their empire. Beautifully written with an intriguing juxtaposition between the two cultures as they follow two very different paths. 5/5

“Verthandi’s Ring” by Ian McDonald: Two galactic empires battle each other on a truly epic scale. Strange, and thought-provoking. I particularly enjoyed the malleability of identity and form used in the narrative. 4/5

The Verdict:
Galactic Empires edited by Neil Clarke is a stunning collection of short fiction dealing with galactic empires in all their varied forms. It showcases some of the best voices writing in the genre today with some remarkable stories that will stay with you for ages.

The Rating: 8 (Great!)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase

Title: The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase
Author: Greg Cox
Pages: 281
ISBN: 9780765384140
Series: The Librarians #2
Publisher: Tor
Published: 25 April 2017
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher


Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Stories have power.

In 1719, Elizabeth Goose published a collection of rhyming spells as a children's book, creating a spellbook of terrifying power. The Librarian of that age managed to dispose of all copies of the book except one, which remained in the possession of Elizabeth Goose and her family, temporarily averting any potential disaster.

Now, strange things are happening around the world. A tree-trimmer in Florida is blown off his elevated perch by a freak gust of wind, a woman in rural Pennsylvania is attacked by mutant rodents without any eyes, and a college professor in England finds herself trapped inside a prize pumpkin at a local farmer’s market. Baird and her team of Librarians suspect that the magic of Mother Goose is again loose in the world, and with Flynn AWOL—again—it is up to Cassandra, Ezekiel, and Stone to track down the missing spellbook before the true power of the rhymes can be unleashed.

The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase is another fantastically fun and entertaining addition to the series. This time around our intrepid team of Librarians are tasked with saving not only the world, but the entirety of creation from the clutches of Mother Goose of all things. Those innocent childhood rhymes we all learned as kids turn out to be not so innocent after all.

As with the first instalment Greg Cox continues to capture the tone and feel of the TV series perfectly. All the humour, snark and witty banter that makes the show so much fun can be found in bucketloads. The novel reads just like an episode of the show so fans will feel right at home.

Aside from Flynn, who is conspicuously absent for most of the story, all the Librarians get their time to shine as they use their own unique skill sets to do what they do best - save the world! The twist at the end was rather unexpected, but brought things full circle in a very satisfying way.

If you are a fan of the TV show then The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase is the perfect fix to tide you over until the new season starts.

The Verdict:
The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase is a wonderful, whimsical flight of fancy. If you are looking for a fun, fast-paced adventure that will put a smile on your face then look no further. A must for fans of the TV show!

The Rating: 7/10

Thanks to Diana Griffin from Tor for providing the review copy.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Bookburners Season 3

Now that Winter has finally come it's time for the start of another great series. Yes, Game of Thrones was awesome, but I'm talking about Season 3 of Bookburners which starts today. Sal and her team are back and this time the threats they face are greater than ever.

The first episode, Bubbles of Earth, releases on 19 July with weekly installments thereafter. Each episode is available in both text and audio form. Perfect for your daily commute or a quick lunchtime escape from reality. You can purchase episodes separately or buy a season pass for access to the entire series.


The world as we know it is under siege. The Bookburners are stretched thin trying to control an influx of magic—and they don’t have much support from the Vatican. Can they overcome their history and band together to protect humanity from an increasing magical threat? Or will it destroy them, like it has destroyed everything else in its path?

Things have changed for the Vatican’s magic-fighting Team Three: their forces are depleted, and internal rifts are coming close to tearing this close-knit group apart. But some things never change. Magic still threatens to overwhelm our world, and when a startling appearance from Menchú’s past reveals new dimensions to this danger, the team will have to reassess their loyalties—to their jobs, their beliefs, and even to each other.


If that sounds like your thing, be sure to head over to Serialbox.com and prepare to experience a new way of storytelling!
***
To celebrate the release of Season 3 you can still grab the entire first season for just $2.99. But time is running out. The offer ends today!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost

Title: The Shadow of What Was Lost
Author: James Islington
Pages: 693
ISBN: 9780356507767
Series: The Licanius Trilogy #1
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 2016
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher


Buy it from:
The Book Depository

It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them - the Gifted - are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion's Four Tenets, vastly limiting their own powers.

As a young Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden powers of the Augurs, he sets in motion a chain of events that will change everything.

To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian's wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is . . .

And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated, begins to stir.

Reading The Shadow of What Was Lost, James Islington's debut novel, left me with an odd sense of déjà vu. Everything seemed so familiar - an orphaned boy with magical powers and his group of friends are sent on a perilous quest to prevent an evil force from being unleashed on the world. It checks off pretty much every box when it comes to classic fantasy tropes. The influence of other fantasy novels are quite apparent (the Wheel of Time most of all) and the novel almost feels like a homage to the fantasy of the 1980's. At the halfway mark, just as you start to think Islington has nothing unique to offer, he takes that comfortable familiarity and adds an unexpected layer of complexity that elevates the story to a whole new level through the use of nonlinear time.

The large cast of characters, Davian, Wirr, Asha, Dezia, and Caeden, are engaging and well-drawn as each of them struggle to cope with their place in the world and the secrets they hold. Asha was my favourite character by far. She undergoes the starkest transformation and deals with it in such a strong and stoic manner that she just completely captures your heart. As the story progresses more characters are introduced and the many political machinations at play in the world are slowly unveiled. With so many named characters, especially later, it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of them all.

You are completely drawn into the world with its rich and complex history filled with lore and magic. The Essence based magic system is intriguing and filled with some far-reaching implications especially since the magic users in the world are shunned and strictly bound by the Tenets which prevents them from using their magic to do harm, but it's these very powers that might be needed to save the world. All the history and lore can be somewhat overwhelming at times, especially when terms are used that are only explained later in the story, but I prefer this method where the complexity of the world is revealed in small pieces rather than large chunks of info dumping and exposition.

There are many twists and turns to keep you off balance as the pace picks up considerably in the latter half of the novel and the narrative races towards the inevitable conflict. The ending is satisfying with a haunting revelation that hints at much greater things to come.

Overall I really enjoyed The Shadow of What Was Lost. The pacing was somewhat uneven and the lack of glossary did diminish my enjoyment a bit. One thing is certain, if Islington can continue to expand on this immersive groundwork as his talents improve and are refined he'll be a force to be reckoned with. If you are a fan of classic fantasy novels you'll love this!

The Verdict:
The Shadow of What Was Lost is a thoroughly engaging coming-of-age fantasy tale with far more complexity than it initially appears. It shows immense promise and I can't wait to see where James Islington takes us next. It can only get better, and if it does this will be an exceptional series!

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: Children of Time

Title: Children of Time
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Pages: 600
ISBN: 9781447273301
Publisher: Tor
Published: 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased


Buy it from:
The Book Depository

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age—a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare. Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time weaves a fascinating tale of truly epic scope. Spanning the depths of time there are two very distinct storylines at play. The first follows the last remnants of humanity on board the colony ship Gilgamesh as they trace the ruins of their long lost ancestors in search of a world where they can start anew. The second follows the newly uplifted inhabitants of Kern’s World, a terraformed planet, as they shape a future for themselves.

Time is the most powerful force at work in the novel and it is used to tremendous effect. For the humans on board the Gilgamesh it results in entropy and decay. As their ship deteriorates and the cryonics keeping them alive slowly break down there is a growing desperation and urgency to find a new world to call home. This fractures their shipboard society leading to conflict and turmoil. For the non-human inhabitants of Kern’s World the passage of time means the opposite – an endless future of opportunity and discovery as they grow not only in intelligence but also in technological aptitude. Soon they are the ones reaching for the stars in wonder.

When these two societies finally collide the inevitable conflict has all the hallmarks of a desperate last stand that will have you on the edge of your seat. The conclusion is powerful, satisfying and unexpected. Perfect in so many ways, it simply blew me away and left a warm afterglow for days afterward.

The world-building is wonderfully intricate and imaginative. Tchaikovsky manages to take our phobias and allow us to see them in an entirely different light. Throughout the novel my sympathies quickly shifted to the uplifted spiders. As each generation grew more and more fascinating I grew increasingly attached to them and their society. By the end I was firmly rooting for the space spiders to kick some human ass.

To say that I loved Children of Time would be a huge understatement. It had everything I love in a space opera: epic scope, staggering timelines, advanced technology, alien creatures and most importantly a huge sense of wonder. The only issue I had was with the pacing. Towards the middle there are some events on the Gilgamesh that didn’t much interest me at all, and could have easily been condensed into a more compact form. While Adrian Tchaikovsky might be better known for his fantasy work Children of Time proves he is also a deft hand when it comes to science fiction and easily ranks him among the best science fiction authors I’ve read. It’s no wonder that this won the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award. Truly a remarkable story with startling, awe-inspiring implications and an intricately woven narrative. Definitely not to be missed!

While this was a standalone novel it left me craving more. Near the end I kept putting off reading the final chapters because I wanted it to last longer. I would absolutely love to see more of this universe. Hopefully we’ll get to see a sequel someday. I’ll be all over it like a jumping spider stalking prey...


The Verdict:
Children of Time is an astounding space opera that will have you re-evaluate your allegiance to humanity. It’s fascinating and terrifying in equal measure with a truly fantastic ending. Space spiders have never been more captivating. You have to read this!

The Rating: 9 (Excellent!)

Monday, May 22, 2017

New Arrivals: More Books

While I haven't been reading all that much the last couple of weeks that hasn't stopped me from buying more books. You can never have too many books right?


Tracer and Zero-G by Rob Boffard
The Fireman by Joe Hill
Hawk Queen by David Gemmell


The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I'm not sure when I'll read these, but I WILL read them!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cover Reveal: Forbidden Suns

Orbit has just unveiled the cover for Forbidden Suns, the third and final book in D. Nolan Clark's Silence trilogy. I loved Forsaken Skies and will definitely try to get my hands on the rest of the series as soon as the final book is released in October.


FORBIDDEN SUNS by D. Nolan Clark
ISBN: 9780356507552
Release date: 19 October 2017
Pre-order a copy from The Book Depository

In the cold of space, the fire of revenge still burns.

Aleister Lanoe has been on a mission since before he can remember. Honing his skills as a fighter pilot and commander through three centuries of constant warfare, he has never met a foe he cannot best.

But now he faces a mission which may be his last: take vengeance on the alien race who has coldly and systematically erased all the sentient life in its path.

In all his years at war, the stakes have never been higher.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Favourite SFF Cover Art

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but we all know that the first thing that draws you to a book is the cover. Striking cover art can often sway my book buying decisions. If a book has a beautiful cover I'm far more likely to grab a physical copy (even if I already own the ebook copy). I'm a sucker for beautiful cover art.

So here, in no particular order, is a tiny sample of covers I love.

I absolutely adore all the covers Jon Sullivan did for Neal Asher's novels. Quite honestly this entire post could consist only of his cover art...







When Jon Sullivan stopped doing the artwork for Neal Asher's books I thought all was lost, but the cover Adam Burns did for the US edition of Infinity Engine restored my hope. Stunning and dynamic in equal measure. I hope he gets to do more covers for Asher's work.


On the fantasy front I really enjoy the covers for Fran Wilde's Bone Universe series by Tommy Arnold. This is how I imagined the look and feel of the world when I read the book and his covers manages to capture it perfectly.


I have to give huge kudos to South African cover artist Joey Hi-fi. His work is simply incredible (especially coming from a country where Acacia trees on covers are viewed as the height of cover art). His cover for Broken Monsters is superb.




And lastly a very honourable mention must go to the absolutely distinctive artwork of Chris Foss. His art adorns many classic science fiction novels and for some reason I really enjoy his style.


I could go on and on, but to prevent this post from morphing into an infinite gallery of awesome covers I love I'd better stop here.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

On My Radar: Wrath

Today sees the publication of Wrath, the final installment in the Faithful and the Fallen quartet by John Gwynne. The series has been compared to the likes of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and by all accounts it seems to live up to that potential and then some! The big difference is that this series is now complete, which means I can unreservedly jump into this fantasy world knowing that there won't be a lengthy wait to see how everything turns out. I can't wait to get my hands on this series.


WRATH by John Gwynne
ISBN: 9781447259701
Release date: 4 May 2017
Order a copy

It’s time to brave the final battle

King Nathair has seized the fortress at Drassil, and now possesses three of the Seven Treasures. And with Calidus and Queen Rhin, Nathair will do anything to obtain the rest. They will allow him to open a portal to the Otherworld – so Asroth and his demon-horde can break into the Banished Lands and finally become flesh.

Meanwhile Corban has been captured by the Jotun, warrior giants who ride enormous bears into battle. His warband scattered, Corban must make new allies to survive. But can he bond with competing factions of warlike giants? Somehow he must, to counter the threat Nathair represents. His life hangs in the balance – and with it, the fate of the Banished Lands. Truth, courage and loyalty will be tested as never before.

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