27 April, 2011

It's News To Me #11 (A Dance With Dragons is Done!)

George R.R. Martin: Yep, you heard me correctly. The announcement's out, George is done with A Dance with Dragons. I have to say I'm still surprised. I honestly thought there'd be at least one more delay if a short one. Look out July 12, 2011!!!!!!! (Thanks Wertzone for the heads up)

The Wertzone: On that note, The Wertzone has a great summary of the ratings for HBO's Game of Thrones. No more Wertzone news, this is my blog. :)

Hugo Awards: The Hugo nominations are out. Alec was a big fan of The Dervish House and I own Feed, but have yet to read it. Can't say I'm all too interested in how this turns out. The David Gemmell Legends Award has it's final shortlist too, now that list is interesting.

Paul Kearney Interview: He talks about the newest/final book in the Macht trilogy, plus other projects he's been working on including the conclusion to the Sea Beggars trilogy. Love this author. Check out The Ten Thousand and Corvus for sure.

26 April, 2011

Review - The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

"...There's going to be shooting."
"There is?"
"Yes." The gunslinger looked serenely at Eddie. "Quite a lot of it, I think."

And so begins the coolest, most intense gun fight I've ever read.

Ever since I put down The Stand 300 pages in, I thought I'd never read another Stephen King novel. You could say I was even proud of the fact. Everyone seems to love King and I'm the only one who doesn't. I'm unique... I also don't like Katy Perry.

Well, then he had to go and write The Dark Tower series. The premise sounded way too interesting to pass by. The Gunslinger (my review) was decent. It was interesting and made me curious, but I still wasn't too impressed. I continued to believe I was a Stephen King Elitist (SKE).

After reading The Drawing of the Three [US] [UK], I can no longer deny it. I'm no longer an SKE. Sorry world, I'm not that cool anymore. I like Stephen King. The Drawing of the Three blew my mind. I still don't like Katy Perry though.

It's been a while since I've been this into a book. I had a hard time not ditching all my classes and just finishing the book. I wanted to spend every waking hour reading and that's a great feeling to have.

***Spoilers (for The Gunslinger only)***

The Drawing of the Three picks up right after The Gunslinger left off. Roland, the gunslinger himself, wakes up on a beach and almost immediately attacked by huge lobster-like creatures, lovingly called "lobstrosities". He loses two fingers and a toe and coupled with the fact that he's running out of food as well, this does not bode well.

Roland becomes very sick, but there's a reason he's the last gunslinger, he's the very definition of one of my favorite words - indefatigable. (Thought I was gonna go with another did you?)

Roland has been given some cryptic information (from the end of The Gunslinger) after finally catching up with "the man in black". He must now find the Prisoner, the Lady of Shadows, and the Pusher.

Luckily, it becomes apparent how this will work when the gunslinger finds a door in the middle of nowhere that also leads to nowhere, at least as far as he can tell without opening it.

***End Spoilers (for The Gunslinger)***

With The Drawing of the Three, we are also slowly given more information into the Gunslinger's mysterious past as he remembers the advice of his trainer. I always love these memories; many of which are filled with these kind of lines:
"Fault always lies in the same place...with him weak enough to lay blame."
I'm looking forward to finding out more about the Gunslinger's mysterious past.

As a final note, let me just say, Eddie Dean is awesome, Detta and Odetta are crazy/insane, and Jack, well, not much to say except read it. I will say no more.

Why Read The Drawing of the Three?

If you were a little dissatisfied with The Gunslinger, don't give up on The Dark Tower series yet. The Drawing of the Three takes everything up a notch (or 10). I couldn't have stopped reading even if I wanted to. It is an amazingly well-plotted, well-paced, and incredible book...and I no longer claim SKE status.

4.5 out of 5 Stars

25 April, 2011

Game of Thrones Episode 2 Review - "Why I Hate the Lannesters."

Same guy, episode two. Love this take on the show from someone brand new to the series. He really isn't a big fan of Joffrey...or any of the Lannisters for that matter. I can't wait till season 3.

24 April, 2011

Giveaway: Shadow Chaser, Alexey Pehov

The sequel to Shadow Prowler, Shadow Chaser will see the adventures of yet another generic fantasy protagonist continued in yet another generic sequel. See my glowing review of Shadow Prowler to see what I'm getting at. 

Giveaway Rules

If you are interested in getting your hands on Shadow Chaser, then follow the exceedingly simple instructions below. Giveaway runs until 5/10/11 @ 11:59 PM EST.

E-mail me your name and address at bloggeratf@[removethis]gmail.com, with "WHERE DID THE DRAGONS GO?" as the subject of the email. Snarky comments increase your chances of winning and win bonus entries for future giveaways. Open worldwide as long as delivery doesn't require the mounting of an expedition into remote wilderness.

21 April, 2011

Review - I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

I Am Not A Serial Killer [US] [UK] is the first book in the John Wayne Cleaver trilogy and it is insane, no joke, clinically insane.

What are the three things 95% of serial killers have in common? Bed-wetting, pyromania, and animal cruelty...and John has all three.

The story is told in first person by John Wayne Cleaver, who recently entered high school...and also happens to be a sociopath. Not only is he obsessed with serial killers, but he has his own monsters to contend with. He also has no problem with dead bodies as his family owns a mortuary and they live just above it.

Suddenly, a string of murders begin showing up in the small community of Clayton County and as John explains it to his "friend" Max, it's like when you're favorite comic book author shows up in town, he's almost elated. And who better to stop a sociopath than another sociopath right?

I never thought I'd be laughing to myself this much over such a creepy subject, but I Am Not a Serial Killer is told with a proper blend of seriousness and plenty of jokes...about killing and whatnot. Creepy/funny = Freepy?

For example:

"People always think it's creepy to live over a mortuary, but it's really just like any other house. Sure, we have dead bodies in the basement, but we also have a chapel, so it balances out. Right?"

There are plenty of other one-liners and puns, I guess it's amazing what you'll laugh at. :)

I Am Not A Serial Killer is also amazingly well researched not only in terms of serial killer references, but also in terms of a very realistic look into the mind of a possible serial killer, who also happened to be extremely likable. But I guess that's how serial killers tend to be, they can be extremely likable people, think Ted Bundy I guess.

What a surprisingly good book. The pacing was great, the plotting tight, and John Wayne Cleaver is a great, if not utterly bizarre, kid with whom to enjoy the ride. Seriously, this was one of the weirdest books I've ever read, let alone enjoyed this much. I could not stop reading it.

Why Read I Am Not A Serial Killer?

Even though my wife looked at me in a very strange way when she saw I was reading this, and your significant other probably will too, I Am Not A Serial Killer is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

4.5 out of 5 Stars

20 April, 2011

This Guy Loves Game of Thrones

This guy is a newbie to the whole Game of Thrones epic and I think we have a new fan. This is a 20 minute review of the show and most of it is just him gasping in amazement. It's also pretty infectious:

19 April, 2011

Game of Thrones - 2nd Season!

HBO has renewed Game of Thrones for a second season!

From Winter is Coming.

The gross audience from Sunday night was 4.2 million viewers. Not the best ever, but I guess it was enough and I'm sure it will grow. It's that good. Not that I need to tell you. :)

14 April, 2011

The Culture Novels, by Iain M. Banks

I picked up my first Culture novel quite a few years ago. It was a random purchase on a rainy day. The book was called The Use of Weapons and I had never heard of the author or the series. It turned out to be a great read, which turned into many more—the series is now up to 8 books. But don’t be intimidated.

I was disappointed at first, given that I had read the 3rd book first, as any fan of genre fiction rightly should be. These things have an order. It is important to follow the order. But the Culture novels stand strongly on their own, and the spoilers were very minor. I was pleased.

Over the next two months, I will share with you my thoughts on the Culture novels. As a whole and own their own, they make for a great read. I have been tempted to try a video review. This seems to fit nicely with the Culture. Trying something different, something new. We shall see. My reviews, at least, will be in order of publication, starting with:

Consider Phlebas (1987)
The Player of Games (1988)
Use of Weapons (1990)
Excession (1996)
Inversions (1998)
Look to Windward (2000)
Matter (2008)
Surface Detail (2010)

Various and sundry covers below. Stay tuned for the reviews, starting next Monday.

12 April, 2011

(Audiobook) Review - The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (ReRead)

First, I'd like to say if you plan on doing a reread of anything, audiobook is definitely the way to go. Whenever I've reread a book in the past, I can't help that nagging feeling that I should/could be reading something off the insanely-longer-than-it-should-be "To Read" pile.

An Audiobook solves this problem because you can still read whatever you want at the same time.

Then, as much as I love this series, I'm a little worried I'll get too worn out by the time I get to book 6 or 7 or 8. I'm sure you know better than I (as I've only read through book 5)

Next, I'm really glad I'm doing a reread, which I almost skipped, because it turns out my memory has done some tricks on me...sneaky little bugger. I had events all over the place in my mind as far as what book they belong to and now, through the wonderful medium that is the blog, I'll be able to keep track of them. I promise to use appropriate spoiler warnings before I get to that.

Okay, review time, finally I know, for The Eye of the World [US] [UK].

It was definitely a great time to start a reread what with the final volume coming out next year (and Sanderson keeps his promises). I couldn't believe how much I missed this amazingly thought-out world, I really felt like I was along for the journey and that's one of the most amazing things Jordan does...and it was good to see my old friends again.

Yes, things get a bit off toward the middle/end of this series, but I still argue that the quality is the same even though the braid-pulling is more prevalent. I let you know if I still feel this way when I get there.

Also, on audio is was great to listen to an interview, after the telling of the story, with the man himself, especially after his passing. He talks about how he came up with this fandangled series. Plus, he admits he doesn't listen to audiobooks except for his own, which he doesn't read, but only listens to on audio.

As I mentioned before, I will be describing the major events so I can keep track in the future. Feel free to refer back to this limited summary although there are plenty of other, and much more helpful synopses, etc. at these helpful sites: Dragonmount, Tor.com (reread), or just use Google.

***Aye, Spoilers Beware, Ye Mateys (I'll try to keep them only to The Eye of the World)***

In The Eye of the World, we have of course the discovery of the Ta'veren, Rand, Mat, and Perrin. They get whisked away by Moiraine and Lan and begin their adventures with Egwene and Thom who jump in at the last moment.

They finally get to Baerlon, where Nynaeve finds them. They meet Min. All three boys have crazy dreams of dead rats and Ba'alzamon.

Trollocs, Fades, and Dark Friends are constantly on their trail at one point forcing them into Shadar Logoth. The boys go off to explore, run into Mordeth, Mat takes a dagger (bad idea maybe?). Padan Fain follows them in. ** (see the footnote below)

Shadar Logoth splits up our band of travelers, causing 1. Mat, Rand and Thom, 2. Egwene and Perrin, 3. Moiraine, Lan and Nynaeve to travel separately (but in those groupings).

Group 1 finds a boat (Captain - Bayle Domon) to travel down the Arinelle, Thom "pretends" to teach Mat and Rand to be gleemen. They arrive in Whitebridge, end up running into a Myrddraal, Thom saves Mat and Rand, and Group 1 (minus Thom) heads out alone where they make their painfully slow way (although not as bad the second time through) to Caemlyn as they play tunes and juggle for their dinner along the way.

Group 2 lose their way, but end up running into Elyas and the wolves. Perrin discovers he can communicate with them. They run into tinkers/traveling people/Tuath'an, we find out more about them and they tell the story of the Aiel prophecy telling the people to get ready for "He who comes with the dawn." They continue on their way, run into Whitecloaks, bound and taken prisoner after Perrin and some wolves take out (kill) a few.

Group 3 decides to follow Mat and Rand because they're most important. Luckily Moiraine gave them handy dandy tracking coins. They follow to Whitebridge and onwards, finally running into the Whitecloaks. One daring rescue later, Perrin no longer faces death, but has not left a great impression. Groups 2 and 3 are now together.

In Caemlyn, Rand first meets Loial, an Ogier, who he immediately thinks is a Trolloc, but who can blame him (I had this in Book 2 for some reason in my memory along with The Ways). Mat keeps getting crazier and stays in his room the entire time. Rand goes to see the False Dragon, Logaine, and ends up falling off a wall into the royal garden, meets Elayne, Gawyn and Galad for the first time. He's brought to Morgase and Elaida Sedai. They let him go, reluctantly.

Loial mutters something about "ta'veren" as he does in about 95% of his lines.

Finally everyone meets up and immediately help Mat...for a time. They realize they need to get to The Eye of the World immediately, what with the Ogier and Aiel messages about The Dark One and The Eye of the World. They decide to use The Ways despite the presence of the Black Wind. Loial joins the group.

This leads them to the borderlands and more specifically, Fal Dara. Padan Fain still follows. He's now worse than a dark friend. They head straight for The Blight, looking for the Green Man who's in charge of The Eye of the World. They have much need, so they are quick in finding it.

The Green Man takes them to The Eye, made by 100 Aes Sedai (men and women) who died making it and he's in charge of guarding it - although reluctantly. The Eye of the World is a bottomless pool, Moiraine says it is the essence of Saidin.

They leave The Eye of the World and run into two men, Aginor and Balthamel. Lan is torn between Moiraine and Nynaeve. Nothing they do helps much. Rand takes off, followed by Aginor. He sees a cord or light connecting Aginor to something. Rand goes for the cord, Aginor burns. They are transported to a mountain pass where Bordermen and Shadowspawn are fighting. Rand kills (more like decimates) the Shadowspawn.

Rand then goes to Ba'alzamon's dream chamber, they have a pleasant chat, and Rand cuts Ba'alzamon's cord (all the cool kids have one).

Rand doesn't let anyone know he can access Saidin, although all the women know. Rand thinks he's done with Ba'alzamon (we've still got 13 books to go buddy).

They find broken shards of cuendillar, a seal of the Dark One's prison, a banner with the dragon on it, and the Horn of Valere in a fancy chest.

The Bordermen win the battle of Tywin's Gap, the Blight retreats a little, and Rand begins his training with Lan.

**There's obviously tons to say, but I thought Jordan does a great job of showing that Moiraine and Lan, the almost omniscient characters - like the wise wizard Gandalf, are not as clever as they purport to be. They're mixed into a world of people all trying to do the best they can. Did it really pain them to let the boys know they shouldn't go wandering around? To give them a little more information than they tend to. This is a good set up to show that Rand will not only have to, but have the ability to step into the role he must eventually fulfill.

***Yar, No More Spoilers Be Spoilin'***

Why Read The Eye of the World?

Who doesn't have time to read 14 thousand page-long books? But seriously, what a great book. Yes, it has it's flaws. Some parts are a bit too much, like the Rand/Mat traveling to Caemlyn, but what a great introduction to an immensely detailed world that feels like it could easily be real.

5 out of 5 Stars

(I don't reread many books, that should be a sign)

11 April, 2011

It's News To Me #10

Some interesting cover art has come out recently:

Tim Marquitz' sequel in his Demon Squad series:
Resurrection is something I've been looking forward to for a while now. I loved Armageddon Bound (Demon Squad 1) and this cover is leaps and bounds better.

Lev Grossman's The Magician King: The sequel to Lev Grossman's successful The Magicians is coming out this year and that means I really need to read the first. I've had a copy for months now and it's been beckoning to me ever since. (Thanks to Mad Hatter for bringing this to my attention)

And some news from Seventh Star Press:

Try a Seventh Star Press Title for Just Two Dollars!

What is your favorite flavor of fantasy? Do you like character-driven YA
Fantasy? Do you like heroic fantasy with loads of action? Do you like
epic fantasy with a wide cast of characters, lands, and lore? How about
epic scale urban fantasy?

To celebrate the launch week of Jackie Gamber's Redheart, we're announcing
a very special sale. The good news is that we've got a title in each of
the above areas of fantasy, so that you can try Seventh Star Press eBooks
out in this special sale that will be running through Mid-June. What are
you waiting for? Just two bucks and you'll be on a grand adventure. Find
out what readers around the world are discovering...there's a growing
constellation of quality titles at Seventh Star Press!

All eBook titles include the Matthew Perry illustrations that are in the
print editions.

Visit the following page for further information and direct links to eBook


And that's the news...at least to me.

09 April, 2011

Review - The Unremembered by Peter Orullian

One of the most stunning covers I've seen in a long time, The Unremembered [US] [UK] is one of the biggest releases of 2011. The question remains, does the book live up to its cover?

In many ways, The Unremembered is a very traditional tale. A couple almost-kids are swept up in an adventure they never imagined they would be in, chased by monsters who were thought to be myth, helped by people who know what they're doing (and have awesome powers). Luckily, even after the many traditional tales I've read, I still very much enjoy this type of story, but I'm sure many will find it a bit of a retreading.

And still, The Unremembered took me a while to get into. There are a few characters who are well introduced, but also a few more who are not, but yet are swept up into this adventure anyway. The author does do a great job of filling you in as the story progresses, through dreams and/or the places they visit, which have their own special power. One of those characters, Wendra, actually became one of my favorites by the end.

This lack of introduction, however, does lead to a bit of a disconnect with the reader...or maybe I should say a never-connect and hampered my ability to really get into the story for a while.

The author also tends to switch in and out of third-person omniscient and third-person limited. This is something that you can get used to, but can also be jarring and confusing at times at least at first, and yet another reason that it took a while to get into the story.

Another thing that grated on me, and this will be the last of my complaints, is that while the characters were well drawn and realized, they still tended to fall into some patterns, some cardboard characterization, that annoyed me.

Almost like Edding's Belgariad (and moreso in the Mallorean) where anytime Belgarath said anything, it was almost like "Oh Belgarath, you're always such a grouch". These types of things continued throughout the story even in the most dire of circumstances, and instead of lightening the mood, bugged me thoroughly.

While I've mentioned some good things, up till now I've focused mainly on the negatives and I'm sorry. I actually did enjoy this book and I think it's worth your time as well.

The world Orullian has created is amazing. It's detailed, it's completely well thought-out, and it has a deep history. There is plenty more to tell and plenty that has been hinted at, giving it a rich atmosphere and a world all it's own.

There are different races, most notably, the Quietgiven and the Far. The former, evil beings from the Bourne, the latter, a short-lived race with certain powers of their own. I sometimes called them "reverse elves". Then there's the League of Civility, a group that has successfully taken over much of the known world and attempting to get rid of history, and really write their own. They are also attempting (and somewhat successful) in getting rid of the Sheason, the magic wielders (for good), who they don't trust to wield so much power.

His writing is epic and fulfilling. It reminded me a lot of Robert Jordan at times - detailed, layered, and not as gritty as a lot of the contemporary works like Abercrombie, Lynch, or Erikson. In fact, The Unremembered is very reminiscent of The Wheel of Time, especially The Eye of the World. It's a coming-of-age tale in a highly realized world full of good and evil.

I mentioned the characters earlier, and while I had some reservations, overall, they're extremely three-dimensional. The main protagonist, Tahn, begins the story as a hunter. Every time he shoots his bow, he has to repeat a certain mantra that allows him to only kill those who deserve it, in accordance with the Will. He struggles to know who he is, why he must always utter these phrases.

Tahn is very close to his sister, Wendra, who when we first meet her, has given birth to the baby she had after being raped. This baby, who is stillborn, is immediately taken away by the Bar-dyn, one of the races of the Quietgiven who end up causing Tahn and Wendra to leave their homes.

They are taken away by a Sheason, Vendanj, and a Far, Mira, and meet some great characters on the way as they go from one dangerous adventure to the next and as they attempt to fulfill their destinies. Whether those are actually destinies or selfishly played pawns remains to be seen.

Why Read The Unremembered?

If you like coming-of-age tales with a different twist and plenty of action, you'll enjoy The Unremembered immensely. It's an epic tale with deep history and plenty of potential to become a very satisfying series ... possibly even the successor to The Wheel of Time.

After saying that, I also think that some might be disappointed because of the hype-machine that's been working on 11 (Spinal Tap reference) for the past few months. Sadly, I think that might kill the book for quite a few people. It was good, it has tons of potential, but it's not quite the next The Name of the Wind.

In this respect, I'd have to say that The Unremembered earned its beautiful cover, but only by the skin of its teeth.

4 out of 5 Stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

08 April, 2011

Making of - HBO's Game of Thrones

Yup, I will not be holding back when it comes to Game of Thrones news. I'm way too excited about this.

07 April, 2011

Interview - China Miéville

As I announced before, Kraken (my review) was the winner of the first ever Independent Literary Award for Speculative Fiction. Not only, as panelists and judges, were we able to enjoy Kraken, but we had the great opportunity to bombard Mr. Miéville with questions as well. He was nice enough to oblige.

These questions come from not only myself, but Jared (from Pornokitsch), and Jamie (from Mithril Wisdom) as well as some folks at sffworld.com. Make sure to check out their awesome blogs and the forums, especially since Jared did a lot of work getting in touch with China.


1. Why a Kraken? Don't get us wrong, we love Krakens, they're awesome, but why did you center the book around one?

When they got a giant squid for the Natural History Museum in London, what was I going to do, not lose my shit with excitement? Please. So I went, several times, as of course I was always going to, and it was as astonishing as one would imagine, to see a creature like that, in a tank like that, in a room like that. I'm a cephalopod fan, of course, a lurker at TONMO, a lover of ammonites and belemnites, cuttlefish, argonauts, squid and all of them. I was always going to write something revolving around a tentacled beast at some point. I'm a verbose lover of them, though in my own soul, the octopus unquestionably looms largest. Nonetheless, the squid - the giant squid in particular - has a cultural presence that none of the others can match, so it really did feel like having a myth right there in the room. Pickled. So that was the start. It's less, in truth, the Krakenness than the Giant Squidness of the thing that was the spur. The equation of the two is an arguably tendentious innovation of modernity, though one I'm perfectly happy to go along with.

2. The idea of parallel universes comes up a few times in your work (as in The City and The City and Kraken). This is definitely an interesting concept, but what has led to this concept in your work?

Sadly I think I, like most writers, am singularly ill placed to answer the question 'what has led to' any particular concept in the books. Not that that stops any of us trying to answer it, of course, but God knows when we do it tends to be awful waffle, because what do we know? In this case I'm tempted to say something along the lines of, oh, any SF writer and/or reader is always-already interested in alternate universes, in alterity. I, like everyone working in the field, feel a tug from the unreal. But parallelism in particular, I don't know. I'm not even sure I recognise that in my stuff (which is not of course to say it's not there), or, quite, what it is.

What makes another universe parallel, specifically? It's obviously in the eye of the beholder, and I think is something to do with nearness, with otherness-but-recognisability. Is that at all convincing? In the case of your question, I'm intrigued by the idea that there are parallel worlds implied in Kraken, or indeed in TC&TC. Because... minor spoilers!... for both, and particularly in the latter case, that is, I think, by no means self-evident. (I might even go further and say, about TC&TC, that it's very much predicated on the numbingly everyday. Though I realise that does not make it sound particularly appealing. Fail.)

3. In an interview, you said that Kraken marked the "end of a certain phase of my writing - a punctuation mark, a sort of breathing out." Can you expand upon this a bit? How do you think about the phase that has ended - what typified it? - and what comes next?

That's a very interesting question. I suppose it's something to do with the fact that for various reasons, Kraken was written over quite a long time. The City & The City was written at about the same time, and feels to me, and I think to some readers, quite different in voice to my previous books. Kraken, by contrast, was a kind of loving valedictory to what I hope is an enjoyable but rather chaotic kitchen-sink excess of the Bas-Lag books. It's a book all about totality, it's full of stuff, it attempts - whether successfully or not - to make a virtue of a certain kind of, I hope not exactly ill-discipline, but sort of distraction, like the book itself gets distracted, but that those distractions, I hope, are engaging. (Something that no one I've ever read does as well as Pynchon, to whom this book is, among other things, a tentacular pulp homage.)

I don't intend necessarily to pare down my writing and go 'minimal' all the time (I couldn't, even close), but at the moment I'm drawn at least to a different style of focus and voice, perhaps more like TC&TC. So that rumbustiousness of Kraken feels affectionate and even a little nostalgic.

4. I loved the idea of a spirit-being only being able to inhabit human-shaped objects. What was the inspiration for Wati? How did that come about?

It's always tough (and generally misleading) trying to reconstruct the order of these things, but insofar as I recall, Wati came from a concatenation of at least three events. i) Reading about the shabti, the servant-statues, in some book about ancient Egypt, and being absolutely blown away by the idea of such entities. Obviously, it's an exciting idea for someone interested in labour politics, like me. ii) The fact that for my 30th birthday (long before I wrote Kraken) my sister gave me a genuine (and, I add hastily, legitimately sourced) little Egyptian shabti. iii) Thinking about when Mickey magics the broom servants and orders them to carry the water in Fantasia - the notion that how it all goes wrong for him could represent a form of industrial strife and resistance on the part of his brooms. As to Wati's inhabiting of figures and figurines, I think I liked the idea of him ornerily appropriating made and constructed figures, a sort of expropriation, a statuary fuck-you.

5. “Is Urban the new Fantasy”?

I'm sorry, I literally have no idea what this means. I'm not being cute, I promise, I just don't think I understand what this is getting at. Do you mean 'there sure is a lot of urban fantasy around at the moment'? Because yes my goodness me there is. Do you mean 'The adjective "urban" is becoming increasingly disaggregated from what one might have thought its referent would be, and instead portending various fashionable aesthetic tropes actually contingent to metropolitan quiddity'? Also yes, it is, is it not? Will this pass? This too shall pass.

6. You seem to write mainly stand-alone works - and even the Bas-Lag books would fit that description. Do you have any future plans to write a series?

Never say never, of course, but I sort of doubt it. There's a bunch of reasons for this, but they mostly boil down to some variant or other of a predilection for texts that work as a totality. (This is, I suspect, just a way of saying I prefer standalones because I prefer standalones, and unprefer non-standalones.) That doesn't mean no sequels, necessarily, and obviously I like (and have done) books set in a shared setting, but that's different. I feel I think these days a bit ground down by the saga-ness of sagas, even where I admire them. And I have and do - for me, for example, Steven Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books were a huge thing, I'm a great admirer of John Crowley, whose Aegypt series is very much a series, and so on. But overall I suppose I'm attracted to the idea of narrative, of stories, being sort of contingent, extracted wilfully from a mess, which means that I like the idea of overlapping-because-messy stories, that are connected yes, because tugged out of an impossibly complicated tangle, but also distinct precisely because their edges are (like all stories' are) constructed, decided. We don't find stories, we make them, in real life and in fiction. After all it's no happy chance that they perfectly fill the book allotted them (hey, how about that!): the book ends because the edge of the story has been declared. It's as manipulative a decision to enseries a story as it is to end it with the last page.

While I really love loving cultural bumph, like books, movies, etc, I vaguely detect in me a disinclination to get addicted to series in any medium (post-Buffy I tend to assiduously avoid watching things on tv that I think might hook me as series, though I'm generally cheerful about individual episodes), which I think is perhaps related to my ongoing and extreme anxieties about time-management, and about frittering time away. So - and this is post-facto hypothesising - it might feel to me a bit hypocritical to attempt to addict others to such things.

Anyway, a book that starts and middles and ends pleases me.

7. The "Remade", from Perdido Street Station, are convicts that have been physically altered or bioengineered with any number of animal and/or mechanical parts grafted on. How did this idea come about and is it a look at punishment versus rehabilitation in a penal system?

I like grotesquerie. Part of, indeed for me a very if not the major, appeal of writing the fantastic has always been the creation of monsters, as many and as varied as possible. And with the Remade, with a category of person defined by their variability, I gave myself leeway to produce as many different physical monstrous forms as I could possibly come up with without having to endlessly rationalise them as new species. It wasn't just licence, it was encouragement, to indulge as baroque a teratogenesis as I could. And combined with that it raised (in what I hope isn't/wasn't too camply overt a manner) issues of crime, punishment, state power, the body, what has been called biopolitics, and so on. To that extent it is absolutely, as you imply, about the politics, culture and economics - and performance - of punishment, especially by the state.

Personally though I wouldn't tend to stress the terms of punishment *versus* rehabilitation, because those very terms of debate, which purport to represent the 'opposing wings' of possible opinion, restrict the conceptual terrain. Both of them, whether from a hawkish or a putatively dovish perspective, maintain the notion of crime as malignant social pathology, with the debate being over how best to address that Bad Behaviour™. Obviously lots of crime is terrible, and our task should be to understand where it came from, take care of those hurt by it and do whatever necessary to stop it happening again. But a worthy discussion of the penal system has to point out that of course i) our world is structured by countless unspeakable, violent, maleficent acts perpetrated every day by those in positions of power, from imperial wars to corporates'/the rich's tax evasion - or to give it its other name, stealing from hospitals - that are ignored, if technically 'illegal' in the first place, and are very often even culturally celebrated; and ii) colossal amounts of crime at the other end of things are not social pathologies at all - the infamous 'looting' after Katrina, otherwise known as 'attempting not to starve', would be an extreme case in point, but plenty of illegalities that occur are wholly predictable acts of survival, everyday efforts to get by, reasonable desires to experience a bit of pleasure, in many cases deliberately made illegal to justify oppressive structures of martial law (hello, 'War On Drugs'), and that deserve neither punishment nor rehabilitation, but instead illustrate the urgent necessity to change a society where such activities are so brutally pathologised.

8. Anything you can tell us about what to expect from Embassytown?

I'm very bad at answering questions like this because my own druthers tend to be to go into a book knowing as little about it as possible. That doesn't stop one expecting things, of course, but it would be best, I think, if a book could totally confound expectations and still win you over.

With that in mind, therefore, some, but not all, of the following hints about what's in Embassytown are lies: language; aliens; the politics of glass; metropole-periphery interaction; disguised unicorn riffs; cameras that act like wasps; cameras that act like bones; Spinozan astrophysics; comic poetry; shenanigans.

9. What does your tattoo mean?

The one on my arm? The short answer is it is a simultaneous homage to two radically countervailing traditions of the fantastic to which I owe fealty and love. The shorter answer is it is an incompossibility. The long answer is this piece , particularly between pages 123 and 127.

06 April, 2011

Review - Kraken by China Miéville

First off, a book with the title Kraken is required to have a sinking ship attacked by a Kraken or at least have the line "release the Kraken" make sense. Sorry, it's in the rules...This did not have any.

If that's what you're looking for, look elsewhere, although if you know anything about Mieville (I'm told), you should know that you never really get what you expect from his novels.

Kraken [US] [UK] was my first crack (or should I say krak) at China Mieville outside of the 100 or so pages I read of Perdido Street Station [US] [UK], which I do plan to someday finish. This is one of those books that leaves an indelible impression on you for a very long time after. This is also why I changed my rating a few days later (in the upward direction) as I'll explain in a bit.

Throughout the book, I was thinking I'd give Kraken at most a 2 out of 5.
I have to applaud the imagination the Mieville has. It's impressively insane. He not only has the craziest characters/entities/whatchamacallits, but he describes them in a way that makes it completely believable in the world he's created. It's quite amazing and I'd say Mieville's worth a read for the sole opportunity to have your mind blown with an extremely unique take on a fantasy novel.

The problem, and the reason for the initial rating, was that I felt so bogged down in the imagination, in the vivid descriptions and interesting characters, that I didn't feel like there was really any progression to the story; any reason to continue besides to find out about more cool creatures. This was much the same reason I stopped reading Perdido Street Station part-way through, although to a much larger degree. Like I said, I will get back to it as I now know it will all be worth it in the end.

The tale's protagonist, Billy Harrow, is a curator at Natural History Museum in London and its biggest draw, and on which Billy has personally worked, is the Giant Squid - Architeuthis dux. The only problem is that it's suddenly disappeared...out of nowhere...with no trace whatsoever.

Thereafter, Billy finds himself in a London that is not the same London he knew before he found the Kraken was gone. There are cults and gangs, creatures and spirits, Billy never would have believed existed including the notorious gang leader Tattoo, who is actually a tattoo of a face on the back of an unwanting punk, and Wati (my favorite), the Egyptian spirit who can only inhabit figurines and statues that are at least mostly human shaped.

The problem for Billy is that all these groups in this underground London think Billy is behind it all and he doesn't know a thing.

Like I said earlier, Kraken is amazingly imaginative and it stays with you long after you read this book, as I'm told are many, if not all, of China Mieville's work. The more I get away from reading this book, the more I find myself still thinking about it. It really was an enjoyable book that I'd definitely recommend.

Because this is my first Mieville book, I'm not the expert, but I've read this is the most linear and accessible of all his work.

Why Should You Read Kraken?

Well, don't read it if all you wanted were pirates and ships and sword-fights, etc. You won't get any of that. What you will get is a great book filled with characters and creatures that you can't believe how real you think they now are. :) (like henchmen that have actual hands, fingers and everything, for heads)

4 out of 5 Stars

04 April, 2011

Game of Thrones - 15 Minute Preview

I know, I know, everyone's posting this, but how can you not? This is one of the most beautiful things you'll ever see. :D

Beware, you will want to see the rest and the wait might just kill you (beheading style).

Review - Havoc (Malice Book 2) by Chris Wooding

The story in a nutshell:

Malice is an underground comic depicting kids in horrible situations, battling terrible monsters and overcoming (or not) even worse obstacles...and it's all real. Any kid who does the ritual and says the right words will be taken to Malice by the evil Tall Jake, ruler of Malice.

Havoc is a group of kids banded together to be the thorn in Tall Jake's equally lengthy foot (actually I don't know if that last part's true).

Havoc [US] [UK] was a great conclusion to the Malice duology and I have to say I liked it even better than the first. Wooding does a great job of not only creeping you out with the tone he's set, but his plotting is exciting and action-packed. All in a middle-grade level book. (There is a comic picture of a person's butt that emphasizes this point) :)

If you don't already know, Malice (my review) and Havoc are novels interspersed with comics and it's done almost flawlessly. I say almost because there is still a bit of a disconnect going from comic form to novel and back, but nothing that hurts the story in any way and nothing that's really avoidable in any way.

The imagination is brilliant, it's fun, it's an insanely quick read, and totally worth it even if you think you're too good for a kids book. :)

I did find myself looking forward much more to the limited comic portions, which sped by way too fast. But that's not anything I can really fault the book for.

Why Read Havoc?

I'll answer your question with a question...Do you like Awesome? Highly recommended.

4 out of 5 Stars