In 1610: A Sundial in a Grave Gentle mixes history and fiction into something that is not quite a historical novel and not quite historical fantasy. I am not completely familiar with Gentle’s oeuvre but I was very much impressed by Ash – A Secret History, a novel in which she uses the same techniques, so I had high hopes of this novel as well. As with many good books it did not live up to my expectations in some ways and surprised me in others.
As the title suggests the novel opens anno 1610, a year that may change history. After centuries of wars France is now slowly gaining influence under le bon roi, Henry IV. A process that would reach its peak under Henry’s grandson Louis XIV. Unfortunately for Henry not everybody agrees with his policies and in 1610 an attempt on his life succeeds. Valentin Rochefort has been coerced into an assassination attempt on Henry IV. Henry’s wife, Maria de Medici is the one behind the plot. After having a hand in the death of the ruling monarch, Rochefort decides to leave the city but is delayed by a duel with a young upstart named Dariole. Rochefort hates Dariole bitterly but also experiences a perverse pleasure in being humiliated by the younger man. Initially Dariole plans to settle their duel once and for all, but after a lively debate with Rochefort, Dariole decides to follow him. Rochefort being pressed for time has no alternative but to agree.
Over the course of his brief career Huston has very quickly become one of the top crime fiction writers. One of the things that is the most impressive about Huston’s career so far is that he appears to be getting stronger with every new book.
In The Shotgun Rule, his first stand alone thriller, Huston pulls out all the stops. He uses every trick in his arsenal to full effect, while introducing some new ones as well. In A Dangerous Man Huston played with the dramatic tension in key scenes and the effect it had on the reader. By giving the conclusion to a scene in or near the beginning he doesn’t allow us an effective way to release the tension that has built up; so we are left to carry it over to the next scene. Huston not only employs this technique in The Shotgun Rule but develops it further.
One of the things I find interesting about “hard” science fiction — by way of introducing Peter Watts’s Hugo-nominated novel Blindsight, the best example of the type that I have read in years — is that it is probably the most legitimate heir to the original remit of story, a remit that has existed since humans first gained sufficient consciousness and intelligence both to create stories and to need to create stories. Looking at the earliest stories we have record of, we can always see several purposes at work: stories existed to inform; to entertain; and, from the start, stories have existed at the level of myth to theorize, to suggest and test possibilities about the unknown elements of the world that we see and experience. What are those odd looking animals, where did they come from; where did we come from; what are those flashes of light in the darkness?
I imagine that within any given movement, though, there comes a time when some sufficiently large number of people — a majority in fact or at least in voice — decides that they’ve carried things as far as they want to, that any further change, any further speculating, is as likely to impact them for the worse as for the better. And we can see this in modern Western fiction, as the new game of literature is “the human condition” — showing what we know rather than grappling with what we don’t know. There is the pressure to see literature according to a single aesthetic, to judge it based solely on how well it captures our humanist understanding of a fixed present. It’s no surprise that such a static, unchanging view of the world would be anathema to a writer like Peter Watts, an evolution-minded marine biologist by training. Watts understands that life is not static, that we are part of a world, part of a universe, that is constantly evolving. At a high level, Watts is interested in how this evolution, our evolution, may play out; he is as interested in what we don’t yet know about ourselves as what we do. It’s easy to see why this type of speculative fiction has become gauche in many circles: we like to think we know everything.
I was pleased to finally track down David Bilsborough, and I needed a compass and some help, and was able to speak to him on a number of topics. I enjoyed The Wanderer’s Tale and you can find my review here.
First person features are not often seen from debut novelists, but Patrick Rothfuss was able to thwart any such novice regularities with witty banter, a highly developed and diverse arrangement of characters, intimate settings, and an easy-to-read yet sophisticated writing approach. While many of those characteristics are vital for a good story, the most important aspect may be Rothfuss’s strongest: the ability to tell a provocative story.
The Name of the Wind starts off by introducing Chronicler, a story teller whose path takes him on the search for the characters of tales that are wrapped in legends. On this journey, Chronicler searches for one that is known by many names.
The first glimpse we get of Kvothe is as a small town inn keeper. However, this façade becomes evident with his interaction with Chronicler. After Kvothe agrees to tell Chronicler his tale, he starts off depicting his childhood as a piece of the Edema Ruh, a highly skilled troupe of traveling performers. Even though Kvothe was of a young age (a few years past ten), he was more than capable of entertaining the crowds in a few choice acts. After one such performance, Kvothe met Abenthy, an arcanist that would begin to mold Kvothe for The University. However, life as he knew it would end in an event that would drive him for years to come.
If Priest was an examination of violence born of an inability to deal effectively with grief then Cross is a multi-faceted examination of evil. Chief among the questions asked here is whether evil exists and whether it is bred or born. Bruen easily provides an answer to the former; evil does exist. The answer to the latter, more basic philosophical/theological question is harder to answer. Examples of both sides are presented by Bruen and a valid case is made for each side of the argument. The reader may ultimately decide that the answer is both.
Cross comes across as more plot-driven than the other books of the series and less of a character study. Jack is an active participant in the investigation, which remains for the most part front and center and retains a more linear progression. This is a nice touch and reflects Jack’s still relatively new found sobriety. But a less introverted plot certainly doesn’t mean that it is any less hard hitting because when Ken Bruen is the one throwing the punches they hurt.
Over the many years that Inspector Brant has been bringing his own patented brand of policing to the streets of southeast London, the brilliant but tough cop has made a few enemies. So when a crazed gunman, hired by persons unknown, pumps a magazine full of bullets into Brant in a local pub, leaving him in grasping at life (but ornery as ever), his colleagues on the squad are left wondering how to react.
Brant’s old partner Inspector Roberts, the man who may know him best, finds himself wondering why someone didn’t shoot the hateful detective years ago. The answer, as they’re all about to find out, is quite simple: if you come after Brant you’d damn well better kill him the first time-because if you don’t, you won’t want to stick around to find out what happens next.
With the first half of 2007 behind us we wanted to gather the FBS think-tank and stop to smell the pages. To look in the rear-view mirror and take stock of the books that we have read. A lot of books had their thumbs out, vying for our attention, trying to hitch a ride. Because we are a trustworthy bunch we stopped for quite a few of them.
But which one’s had some gas money in their pockets or offered to drive for a stretch?
Which one’s stayed with us for the long haul, wide awake and bringing in the new day?
These are the ones that have stood out so far. So if you see them standing on the side of the road go ahead, pick ’em up.
“The Rose in Twelve Petals” begins Theodora Goss’s newly-in-paperback collection In the Forest of Forgetting, and the story makes an ideal introduction to the the author’s work. A retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty story, it frames and then re-frames our expectations. The initial recognition of the familiar story pulls us into the the fairy tale mindset: of stories that map the small journeys and decisions that can unexpectedly lead to major life changes; of characters and encounters that we understand to be meant not quite literally, yet not as simple allegory either. As the story progresses, the postmodern telling of the tale, the way that every character and every side are given voice (reminiscient of Pamuk’s My Name is Red), the way that the subtext of classic fairy tales — gender, class, politics in the largest sense of the word — are literalized, all serve to pull fairy tales into modernity, into history (often but not always our own). This mixture of old and new modes of storytelling recurs in the collection’s other fifteen stories: there are times, settings, characters and themes that appear again and again, similar but different, the original fairy tales of a multitude of parallel worlds. Throughout, Goss’s storytelling palette is made up of the strange day-to-day patterns of individual wants and desires, the certainties and uncertainties that make up our daily lives.
This article was supposed to have been posted a couple of weeks ago and I take full responsibility.
As has been said before one of the great things about Fantasy Bookspot is the diversity of the group. We read a broad range of books and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
So we thought that we would gather the Boomtron think-tank and choose the best book of 2006. We gathered at an undisclosed location to anoint a book but then we got thirsty so we took the meeting to a local bar. Things started out fine, then veered into an exercise in futility, quickly devolved into farce and basically turned into a bar-brawl.
Accounts on how it started are varied and unclear but according to the bartender someone said that Matt’s mom drove an El Camino, he got mad and threw a hardboiled egg which splattered all over kcf’s shirt. Then kcf morphed into Neth who then tried to grab Maria’s umbrella to retaliate (which was a big mistake since anyone can tell you NEVER grab Maria’s umbrella) and caught a whack in the head instead. I broke a heel, there was popcorn involved not to mention a wetsuit (thrown by Trin) and a set of fondue forks.
Pandemonium and Chaos argued over which one was going to describe the event and the whole thing ended with 1000 page fantasy bricks being thrown at each other and tgjason doing a manga-style table dance (you had to be there). I still have a Tad Williams lump on the side of my head. Patrick was last seen wandering the streets muttering “stupid thousand, I hate you” under his breath.
Needless to say it’s a long story that no one wants to hear.
The end result is that we all decided to make our own lists of the best books of 2006.
Michael McGill is a burned-out private detective and self-described “shit magnet” who is enlisted by the White House Chief of Staff to retrieve the Constitution of the United States, not the one taught about in history class but the REAL Constitution. The one with invisible amendments held in secret and meant to be used in a time of moral crisis to return the country back to more traditional values. The current presidency believes that time is now, but they have a problem. The book was lost 50 years ago and needs to be recovered. That’s where Max comes in and his search for the missing constitution will lead him across the country and deeper into the shadows of America on a job that “started out weird” and turned “scary”.
II. The Holy Trinity – Chester Himes, Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines
III. Gone, Forgotten and Waiting for Discovery – Robert Deane Pharr & Clarence Cooper Jr.
IV. The Best of the Rest
V. Lost to History – Jerome Dyson Wright & Charlie Avery Harris
VI. The tip of the Iceberg (but not necessarily Slim) – Books for further consideration
Years ago I came across a veritable treasure trove of crime fiction. I was at a local library looking through the books that were for sale when I saw a forgotten box of books tucked away in the corner. Curiosity got the better of me and what I discovered inside the box were worn paperbacks with dated covers by authors that I had never heard of. Books with titles like Whoreson, Poor Black and in Real Trouble and The Jones Men. Books that featured characters with names like White Folks, Kenyatta and Giveadamn Brown. All of these books would tellingly bear the stamp of the Maryland DOC.
Readercon 18 was held July 5th through the 8th, 2007, in Burlington, MA, USA. Readercon is known as a very focused convention: there are none of the art shows, music, gaming, costumes, etc. that one often sees at conventions of the fantastic. Instead the attention is lavished on the convention program — the panels, talks, readings and interviews. As the name suggests, Readercon is very much a convention by and for those who share a love of books that require discussion.
Was my pick in Jay Tomio’s Blind Desires: Fantasybookspot.com’s 2007 Speculative Fiction Picks, based on magic, weapons, and the epic fantasy blurb that Tor put out in their catalog. By the end of the first chapter, I knew it was going to be a win for me. A quest to stop an ancient evil by a rag tag band of heroes seems cliché, but nevertheless, it worked on many different levels for me.
From the back of the book:
“David Bilsborough, a brilliant young author, has created a passionately imagined vision of Lindormyn, a world teeming with peoples, history, and cultures, a world rich with fabulous landscapes and hidden terrors: a world with compelling characters – human and other – some deadly, others merely remarkable.”
I hope whoever wrote that blurb got a bonus check because it was right on the money.
Getting to Know You is only David Marusek’s second book, but he is already a veteran of the science fiction wars. Marusek’s 2005 novel Counting Heads was the subject of the debut speculative fiction column “Across the Universe” in that bastion of mainstream fiction, The New York Times Book Review; the column both proclaimed Counting Heads to be among the reviewer’s “favorite books [of 2005] in any category” and yet wondered, “why does contemporary science fiction have to be so geeky” that it becomes inaccessible to readers of mainstream literature? The question helped renew a battle, waged within the science fiction community since the New Wave movement of the 1960s, over how the “science” and “fiction” components of SF intersect. Some (such as Charles Stross) argued that SF should be more geeky, should focus its efforts on the tech-savvy readers of websites like Slashdot and Boing Boing; others (including John Scalzi) argued that what SF requires are more accessible entry points for readers less familiar with science. Sadly, the first point of the NYT column — regarding the quality of Marusek’s fiction — was largely forgotten in the discussion. Given all this, I’m happy to say that Getting to Know You, a new collection of the author’s short stories, in large part bridges the gaps that its predecessor highlighted: it’s equally accessible to SF genrephiles and mainstream readers. The collection’s defining characteristic is carefully constructed balance.
Pearce, an ex-con and Edinburgh hard man who’s still recovering from the recent loss of his mother, is invited by the dysfunctional Baxter family to protect their pregnant sixteen-year-old daughter from her martial-arts-expert husband, Wallace, a man ten years her senior with a penchant for killing family pets. Having found out that the baby’s not his, Wallace has sworn vengeance. Pearce declines the job: He’s no babysitter. But when Wallace kills Pearce’s dog, he goes too far. Now it’s personal.
Revenge is part of the grieving process. But has Pearce finally met his match?
Time to find out who the real hard man is.
Peter McKrall is at a crossroads—out of work, fighting a klepto habit, and trying to figure out his next move. Life takes an unexpected turn when a search for his niece’s stuffed dog leads him to something else entirely: a bullet-riddled corpse. Talking to reporters lands Peter on the local news, which turns out to be a dangerous spotlight. And now Darla, the troubled daughter of the victim, is reaching out to him—but can she be trusted? When a second murder takes place and evidence is planted in his trash, the cops dredge up Peter’s painful history. The only ray of sunshine in this harrowing nightmare is Ruby Jane, whose warm smile melts the winter chill.
An unwitting player in a bizarre chain of events, Peter has no idea that the deranged killer is after him—until he takes a shot at Ruby Jane.
Boomtron deals with all types of genre fiction, though the Fantasy portion tends to get the most traffic. But we’re trying like hell to correct that. Some visitors of the site may not be familiar with your work. Lets gets some of the obligatory set up questions out of the way if that’s ok with you, if some of them are redundant don’t send the nerf gun bullies down 95 to my house!
Let me confess up front, I find the consolatory, self-indulgent nature of much recent middle grade and young adult fiction troubling. I started reading novel-length fiction when I was 10 or 11 years old, the same age as the protagonist of Brent Hartinger’s Dreamquest and the age of its intended audience. Before I reached age 12, I had lived six impossible lives and more. I had been dragged from my sedentary middle age to assist a band of dwarves in recovering stolen property; worked with a group of rats to save my cinder block home for myself and my children; assisted a mute swan in finding true love; escaped those who refused to understand my love of music and impressed a fair of fire lizards; was given the job of assistant pig-keeper (which to a city-dwelling child seemed impossible); had been the smartest child in the world (something that certainly was impossible) who was yet tricked by adults into winning a war in space; and yes, I had gone down a rabbit hole and discovered a land of wonders at the other end.
Thirty years ago two sisters disappeared from a shopping mall. Their bodies were never found and those familiar with the case have always been tortured by these questions: How do you kidnap two girls? Who—or what—could have lured the two sisters away from a busy mall on a Saturday afternoon without leaving behind a single clue or witness?
The Skinner is part of Neal Asher’s “Polity” universe. However, while it exists in the same future history as many of Asher’s other works, it is quite separated from most of them in time and location. Thus, while some knowledge of Asher’s previous work in this setting will add some context, it is not at all necessary to understand or enjoy the book.
The book is set in the far future on the human-occupied world of Spatterjay, just beyond the authority of the star-spanning A.I.-ruled human Polity- there is a Polity outpost on the planet, but outside its confines the local humans, known as “Hoopers,” rule. The planet is noteworthy for being the source of a virus, borne by most of the local humans and transmitted by the bite of a common local organism, that can transform a human being, making him immortal and gradually, over time, stronger and more resilient- someone who has the virus for several centuries is virtually unkillable by normal means.
Since a mysterious childhood illness, Harry Wilkes has experienced horrific visions. Gruesome scenes emerge to replay themselves before his eyes. Triggered by simple sounds, these visions occur anywhere a tragic event has happened. Now in college, Harry feels haunted and turns to alcohol to dull his visionary senses. One night, he sees a fellow drunk easily best three muggers. In this man, Harry finds not only a friend that will help him kick the booze, but also a sensei who will teach him to master his unusual gift. Soon Harry’s childhood crush, Kayla, comes and asks for help solving her father’s murder. Unsure of how it will affect him, Harry finds the strength to confront the dark secrets of the past, only to unveil the horrors of the present.
Cast of Shadows begins with every parent’s worst nightmare, when Davis Moore’s teenage daughter is brutally raped and murdered by an unknown assailant. It gets worse. For Davis Moore is a fertility doctor, dealing with cutting-edge genetic reproductive techniques. It’s a controversial and dangerous occupation: Moore has already been the object of a fanatic’s assassination attempt. But for a father driven half-mad by grief, his work presents one startling and dangerous opportunity–the chance to secretly clone his daughter’s killer and look into his face.
“The first morning after would be the worst of all, when he would wake having forgotten, and then, in the daylight, remember that his only child was dead.”
Moscow has been hit by a wave of brutal murders. The victims are of both sexes, from different backgrounds, and of all ages, but invariably blond and blue-eyed. They are found with their breastbones smashed in, their hearts crushed. There is no sign of any motive.
Drugs, sex, and violence are the currency of daily life in Moscow. Criminal gangs and unscrupulous financial operators run the show. But in the midst of so much squalor one mysterious group is pursuing a long-meditated plan. Blond and blue-eyed, with a strange shared attraction to a chunk of interstellar ice, they are looking for their brothers and sisters, precisely 23,000 of them. Lost among the common herd of humanity, they must be awakened and set free. How? With a crude hammer fashioned out of the cosmic ice. Humans, meat machines, die under its blows. The hearts of the chosen answer by uttering their true names. For the first time they know the ecstasy of true life.
Today Boomtron is proud to present author, Richard Lee Byers, perhaps best known for his work in the Forgotten Realms setting like the The Year of Rogue Dragon and the Haunted Lands arcs as well as contributing to the Sembia anthology.
Damon: So, in Unclean, was this a book that you were asked to write or a story you had been working on in your head? Thay is such an interesting place, I am glad we got to visit. Do you have to clear world changing events in a story with management or do you have more free reign in your writing?
Richard Lee Byers: The Haunted Land (of which Unclean is Book One) is partly a project I proposed and partly a project that WotC wanted done. When I was halfway through writing The Year of Rogue Dragons, I came up with the idea of doing another trilogy that would showcase the undead of the Forgotten Realms in somewhat the same way that YoRD showcased the dragons. WotC thought that was a good idea and suggested setting the story in Thay and using it to evolve that environment in a particular way. So the concept for the trilogy is sort of half theirs and half mine.