Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hunter and Fox is Full of Surprises

Hunter and Fox
Philipa Ballantine
Pyr Books
trade paper $17.32
ebook $10.31 Kindle  Nook

I enjoyed Philipa Ballantine's Geist very much (reviewed here) and have the sequel Spectyr in the TBR pile, so when an opportunity to get a review copy of her latest book arose, I took advantage of it.  I'm glad I did.

This is different than any of Ms. Ballantine's work I've seen to this point.  I think it's safe to say Hunter and Fox is different than most fantasy that's currently out there.  This is a good thing, although trying to pull off a book like this is a challenge for most writers.  By and large, Ms. Ballantine is up for the challenge.

This is a hard book to describe because there are multiple story arcs that intertwine.  I'm only going to give you an idea of the initial set up to avoid spoilers because there are plenty of surprises.  The story takes place in a world where Chaos reigns, with mountains becoming plains or shallow seas, forests turning into deserts, a constantly changing topography, with the flora changing with it.  Or at least it did until a despot known as the Caisah conquered everything and brought stability to large portions of the world.

Congratulations to the Campbell and Sturgeon Award Winners

The winners of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award have been announced. 

The Campbell Award is given for the best novel, and this year it's a tie.  Christopher Priest (The Islanders) and Joan Slonczewski (The Highest Frontier) will share the award.  The Sturgeon Award is given for the best short fiction and goes to Paul McCAuley for "The Choice", published in Asimov's 2/11.

Locus has a complete list of the nominees here

Adventures Fantastic congratulates all the nominees and especially the winners. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Authors Guild Shows Where its Loyalties Lie

Paul Aiken, the Executive Director of the Authors Guild sent a letter to John Read of the DOJ addressing the DOJ's suit against Apple and five publishers.  It's rather lengthy, but if you wade through it, as I've been doing from time to time (when my blood pressure drops to dangerously low levels and I need something to raise it), you'll find the following quote:
"Amazon’s vertical integration of on-demand printing eliminated the ability of iUniverse, PublishAmerica, XLibris and others to offer authors better royalties when selling through Amazon.  CreateSpace appears to have thrived ever since."
Now what's interesting about this is the list of publishers named.  I'm not familiar with all of them, but PublishAmerica has been shown to be a vanity press with little to no editorial oversight.  If you aren't familiar with the hoax manuscript some members of SFWA submitted, start reading here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Hammer and the Blade are a Fantastic Combination

The Hammer and the Blade
Paul S. Kemp
Angry Robot Books
26 Jun 2012
432pp mass-market paperback
$7.99 US $8.99 CAN
5 Jul 2012
432pp B-format paperback
£7.99 UK
26 Jun 2012

In addition to the people who supported him while writing the book, in the dedication Paul Kemp mentions the names of four people who inspired him while writing The Hammer and the Blade:  Leiber, Howard, Brackett, and Moorcock.  'Nuff said.

But in case you're one of those people who want to know a little more about a book, here's what  you should know.  In naming the four authors he does, Kemp sets himself a very high bar to try and meet.

Life Continues to Happen

Things have been slow at my wife's place of employment for a while, so slow that yesterday she was one of about half a dozen let go.  Needless to say, it was not a fun evening at my house.  While the boss stressed it was for financial reasons rather than job performance and would call them back if things turned around and they hadn't found other employment, it's still a bit of a nuisance.  Armadillocon was pretty much out of the picture already, but it's definitely not going to happen now. 

My wife has already started job hunting, and while I'm generally optimistic, nothing is guaranteed at this point.  I bring all this up so you'll know that if I seem to disappear for a while, it's only temporary.  I'm going to help with the job hunt however I can.  That could cut into my reading, reviewing, and blogging time.  Just so you know.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Announcing Adventures Fantastic Books

I thought I'd let you know that I've added a bookstore to the site, or at least a link to a bookstore.  It's there on the upper right.  This is something entirely new, so it may undergo a number of changes before it's all settled.  In other words, Adventures Fantastic Books is very much a work in progress.  In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I'm part of the Amazon Associates program, and everything in the bookstore is through Amazon.  I get a small pittance from each title sold through Adventures Fantastic Books.  Right now there are four categories, although I plan to expand.  The fantasy and science fiction categories will allow you to purchase any title in those categories Amazon currently stocks.  As a result, some of the titles in the fantasy section may not be the type of fantasy I focus on here.  But there's Search feature that will allow you to find anything in that category or in science fiction.

I could only include titles that I hand choose, but that will take a while, especially as there's so much fantasy and science fiction out there.  Each title has to be entered by hand, and there is a limit to how many items I can include, on the order of 500 or so.  While I could put a wide selection in that way, it's a time consuming process.  I'm adding items by hand in the other two categories, Historical Adventure and Featured Books.  I'll be adding more to these categories, but right now Historical Adventure has titles by Robert Low, Harold Lamb, Ben Kane, Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden, Scott Oden, and others.

The Featured Books will change frequently; probably not every day (although it's a thought) but at least once a week.  Right now all the titles that were shortlisted for the David Gemmell Awards are there.

I'm learning as I go here, and I'd appreciate your feedback.  Please feel free to let me know what works and what doesn't.  Should the book most recently reviewed be the Featured Book?  Are there categories you would like to see added?  Are there authors in Historical Adventure I've overlooked?  I'm intending to add categories for History and perhaps Detective or Pulp Fiction.  Are there any other categories I should include? 

Whether you buy anything through Adventures Fantastic Books or not, thank you for your support, comments, and taking the time to read this blog.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Congratulations to the David Gemmell Award Winners

I'm traveling and using a borrowed computer, so I'll keep this brief.  Adventures Fantastic sends its congratulations to the all the nominees of the the David Gemmell Awards, and especially the winners. 

And the winners are:

Legend Award for Best Novel:  The Wiseman's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Morningstar Award for Best Debut:  Heir of Night by Helen Lowe

Ravenheart Award for Best Cover Art:  Blood of Aenarion by Raymond Swanson

Further details can be found at the Gemmell Awards page.  And again, congratulations to the winners.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Long Looks at Short Fiction: "Amarante" by Scott Oden

Scott Oden
ebook $0.99 Kindle Nook

Scott Oden is an outstanding writer of historical adventure fiction and fantasy.  I'll be looking at his novels over the coming months. For now, though, I want to take a look at this short piece, a tale of orcs.  I've reviewed several stories about orcs in the last few months, one by Charles Gramlich and three different stories by Tom Doolan

This latest is probably the darkest of the lot, which is by no means a bad thing.  It concerns a punitive raid on a temple.  The leader of the orcs is Kraibag, Captain of the 10th Zhrokari Brigade.  They've finished destroying the temple for spreading sedition.  Kraibag is about to kill the surviving priestess when he's stopped by Muzgaash, a Witch Hound.  Witch Hounds can sense magic, and he warns Kraibag of sorcery. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Report on Howard Days 2012

The Robert E. Howard House
This had to be the best Howard Days I've attended, and from what others said, the best ever as far as the weather went.  Because of the recent rain, Friday I don't think the temperature got out of the low 80s, and I'm not sure it got that high.  It felt more like April than June.  Saturday I think the high was in the low 90s, which is still April temperatures for this part of the world.  Today I came home to triple digits.  Welcome back to summer.

The theme this year was Conan's 80th birthday.  Like many people, Conan was my gateway drug to Howard.  While I like all aspects of Howard's work, Conan is still my favorite.  My wife had been sick the day before with the stomach bug from Mordor, so I waited until I was sure she was back on her feet before I took off Friday morning, running a few errands for her and going to the store.  I didn't get there until after lunch, so I missed the tours and the morning panel, which was a tribute to the late Glenn Lord.  Here's my take on what I was there for.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Requiem for Ray

When I learned of Ray Bradbury's death this morning, a piece of my childhood died as well.  A fairly large piece, as a matter of fact, and there aren't too many pieces left.  I posted an announcement of his passing, but at the time that was all I could do, so with your indulgence, I'd like to say a few words of a more personal nature.  We're already beginning to see the deluge of tributes from those whose lives he touched, which is as it should be.  Many people more eloquent than I will be writing those, so I want to thank you for taking the time to read mine.

When I first began to make the transition to adult books, or what I probably thought of as "Grown up books" at the time, Bradbury was one of the first I read.  We were living in Wichita Falls, Texas at the time, and I would have been in about the fifth or sixth grade.  Somewhere in there; with the passing of years the chronological details have faded a bit.  I don't recall which happened first, if I discovered him on my own or if I was pushed in his direction.  One day in reading class, we had a guest come and read "The Screaming Woman" from S is for Space.  I was blown away. 

Science fiction was front and center on my radar, having read comics for a few years and with Star Wars released for the first time the previous summer.  In the children's section of the main branch of the public library, down in the basement, there was a rack of paperbacks.  If you're of a certain age, you know the kind I'm talking about.  The wire spinner in so many drug stores of the time.  This one contained popular fiction that had been deemed suitable for the more advanced of us among young readers.  Planet of the Apes was on that rack, along with most of James Blish's Star Trek novelizations.  As were a number of titles by Ray Bradbury, including The Martian Chronicles, with a terrific cover showing the author's face.  Behind him, the picture of Mars you see in the accompanying illustration, with a face looking out at you. 

If I hadn't been reading Bradbury before our guest came to class and read to us, I certainly was afterwards.  Over the next decade, as his work was reprinted and new works came out, I bought and read them all.  The October CountrySomething Wicked This Way ComesThe Illustrated ManLong After MidnightA Memory of Murder.  And all the rest, first in paperback, then as I could afford them, hardcovers.  I've bought as many of the collectible editions of recent years as I could, too, such as Match to Flame, Dark Carnival, and  the complete edition of The Martian Chronicles.

I can still remember where I was when I read some of them.  Long After Midnight at my grandparents' house.  The Golden Apples of the Sun in my room after we moved to Paris, Texas. 

And the stories, they still fire my imagination.  "Mars is Heaven."  "The Veldt."  "The Scythe."  "Marionettes, Inc."  "Rocket Man."  "The Crowd."  "The Small Assassin." 

I learned about wonder.  And fear.  And the romance of living in a boarding house.  And the Day of the Dead.  Somehow, after reflecting today on Bradbury's impact in my life, I suspect that it runs deeper than I realized. 

I never met the man, although I do have his signature.  When the complete edition of The Martian Chronicles was delayed, before Subterranean Press eventually took it over and published it, those who preordered it through a different publisher received a set of three prints from the book, each set unique, signed by Bradbury and Edward Miller.  Mine is number 22 of 200.  If my house were burning, and I knew family and dogs were safely out, this is the thing I would make sure I took with me. 

I've also got the two omnibuses, The Stories of Ray Bradbury and Stories, each containing 100 stories.  That's each containing 100 different stories.  And there are more not in these volumes.  I'll be dipping into them later this evening.

So in closing, I want to say "Thank you, Ray."  For all the thrills, chills, and wonder you've given me and will continue to give me through your works.  I've learned a great deal about writing from you.  And a great deal about life as well.

Crazy Greta is Crazy Fun

Crazy Greta
David Hardy
various electronic formats, $3.99

 If John Bunyan had dropped acid while writing The Pilgrim's Progress (or perhaps Dante writing The Inferno), then the result would likely have resembled this book.  With a dash of John Myers Myers' Silverlock thrown in and an echo of The Wizard of Oz in the final chapter. 

The setting is in Holland during the time of all the religious wars between the Catholics and the Protestants, with the Spanish invading currently invading.  Greta is an tavern keeper, about forty, whose husband left three years prior on a voyage to the New World, never to return and presumed lost.  The first couple of pages are something of an infodump, but that's all right because you need to know who these people are when they start dying.  Which happens within a couple of pages.
Brueghel's The Triumph of Death

The tavern is attaked by the dead, although these really aren't zombies in the traditional sense.  They're skeletons and animated corpses.  The handful of survivors end up fleeing the tavern, although not without a fight.  Greta swings a mean sword.  She swings a meaner skillet.

What follows is a nightmare scene out of Pieter Brueghel and Hieronymous Bosch.  I mean literally; Hardy cites the two painters in his afterward.

I'm not familiar enough with the works of either of these two men to catch all the references to the various paintings.  Some of them, though, weren't hard to find.  The scene by Bosch is one of those in the book.  And yes, what it looks like is happening in the picture is what's happening.

The story also becomes a wild trip not only through a devastated country side into the bowels of Hell itself, as envisioned by Hieronymous Bosch.  Along the way Greta gains and loses a number of companions.  My favorite was Christopher Marlowe, you can't remember his own death and thinks he's still alive.  Hardy's handling of him was especially well done.

There's plenty of conflict here, with fights or battles in nearly every other chapter, including a war between the forces of Heaven and Hell.  Crazy Greta is a fun book, but it's not your typical fantasy.  It's different, and that's a good thing. 

RIP Ray Bradbury

Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders have both tweeted that Ray Bradbury has died.  So far io9 is the only news outlet I've found carrying the story.   I'm swamped at work this morning, so I'm going to post this and write more later.  I'll have a more personal tribute tonight or tomorrow. 

Rest in Peace, Ray.  You will be missed.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Midnight House/Darkside Press is Having a Sale

I don't know how many of you are familiar with Darkside Press and Midnight House, two specialty imprints run by John Pelan who edited the recent The Century's Best Horror Fiction, a massive two volume collection featuring a horror story for each year of the 20th century, each by a different author.  Midnight House is the horror imprint, and Darkside is the science fiction imprint.  Their titles have included collections by Fritz Leiber and a collection of science fiction by Clark Ashton Smith.  I can't find a current website, or I'd post a link.  As far as I know (and I should know because I have lifetime subscriptions to both imprints), it's been a couple of years since a new volume from either imprint has come out.  This is nothing unusual in the small press world. 

But that doesn't mean their books aren't available.  For this week, they're running a special sale.  Following are the details from John, via Gerad Walters of Centipede Press.  I'll have a few things to say about some of the titles which may be of interest to some of you at the end.


Here's the deal: Order any quantity of lots of 5 of any the following titles and pay just $100.00 per lot! You can mix and match, but the orders MUST be lots of five books. You can buy as many lots as you wish at this bargain price. Dealers, now's a great time to shore up your stock! Collectors, here's a great opportunity to fill in some blanks or get some early Christmas shopping for your friends out of the way! This sale will not be repeated and ENDS FRIIDAY AT 1AM!!! I need to buy an expensive nebulizer and the meds to put in it, so this is a short-term need on our part.


INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMERS MUST ADD $30.00 per lot for S & H. Domestic orders shipped free!

Here are the available titles:

The Feaster from Afar - Joseph Payne Brennan (cover price $45)
Thing of Darkness - G.G. Pendarves (cover price $45)
My Rose & My Glove - Harvey Jacobs (cover price $40.00)
Darker Tides - Eric Frank Russell (cover price $45.00)
Falling Idols - Brian Hodge (cover price $35.00)
City Fishing - Steve Rasnic Tem (cover price $40.00)
The Shining Hand - Dick Donovan (J.E. Muddock) (cover price $40.00)
The Scarecrow - G. Ranger Wormser (cover price $40.00)
Echo of a Curse - R.R. Ryan (cover price $40.00)
Idol of the Flies - Jane Rice (cover price $40.00)
The Beasts of Brahm - Mark Hansom (cover price $40.00)
Return of the Soul - Robert Hichens (cover price $40.00)
The Harlem Horror - Charles Birkin (cover price $40.00)
Fingers of Fear - J.U. Nicolson (cover price $40.00)
The Garden at 19 - Edgar Jepson (cover price $40.00)

Also, do check our eBay auctions (seller ID = chrismorris927) Some terrific one of a kind items available this week!

OK, Keith here again.  Of particular interest to readers of the blog, let me recommend the first two titles in the list  (The Feaster from Afar - Joseph Payne Brennan, Thing of Darkness - G.G. Pendarves) as well as the volumes by Eric Frank Russell (Darker Tides) and Jane Rice (The Idol of the Flies).  Both Brennan and Pendarves wrote for Weird Tales, while Rice wrote for John Campbell's Unknown.  The Eric Frank Russell collection isn't science fiction but horror and dark fantasy, a side of Russell most people aren't familiar with.  Other titles were favorites of Karl Edward Wagner, such as Echo of a Curse by R. R. Ryan. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

New Issue (#96) of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Now Available

Beneath Ceaseless Skies
free online or through electronic subscription

A new issue of BCS went live today, unless you subscribe, in which case you've had it since Sunday night/Monday morning.  But I digress.

This issue contains two stories.  Let's take a brief look at them.