Thursday, February 28, 2008

Read American Gods for Free

A little while ago I posted about a post in Neil Gaiman's blog in which he asked readers to vote for a book to make available online for free for a month. The winner of the poll was American Gods, and it is now available here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Forthcoming for March 2008

March appears to be a pretty good month for fantasy and science fiction releases (in the U.S. anyway since several of these are already out in the UK and Canada). I'm especially looking forward to the conclusion to Greg Keyes's The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series, The Born Queen. The series is fairly standard fantasy, but it is entertaining.

All books listed below are forthcoming in the United States. If there is no date with the UK or Canadian link, it means this book is already out on that country's Amazon. The date right beside the title and author is the US release date.

Note: Before They Are Hanged is already available on Amazon U.S. even though it is not March yet. It says they are in stock, but they do seem to be experiencing a delay since I have ordered mine but it has not shipped yet. It still should arrive well before it is scheduled to be released in the U.S., however.

Fire Study (Study, Book 3) by Maria V. Snyder (March 1)
UK (March 1)
CA (March 1)

Tangled Webs: A Black Jewels Novel (Black Jewels Trilogy) by Anne Bishop (March 4)
UK (March 4)

The Ancient by R.A. Salvatore (March 4)
CA (March 4)

The Hidden City: The House Wars: Book One by Michelle West (March 4)
UK (March 6)
CA (March 4)

Reaper's Gale: Book Seven of The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson (March 4)

Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) by Joe Abercrombie (March 25)

The Born Queen (Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Book 4) by Greg Keyes (March 25)
UK (March 25)
CA (March 25)

The Dreaming Void by Peter Hamilton (March 25)

Judge by Karen Traviss (March 25)
UK (April 3)
CA (March 12)

A World Too Near: Book Two of The Entire and The Rose (The Entire and The Rose 2) by Kay Kenyon (March 25)
UK (March 12)
CA (April 15)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Nebula Finalists for 2008 Announced

Locus Online (and many other places) have a complete list of the finalists for this year's Nebula awards.

The finalists for the novel category are as follows:
  • The Accidental Time Machine, Joe Haldeman (Ace)
  • The New Moon's Arms, Nalo Hopkinson (Warner)
  • Odyssey, Jack McDevitt (Ace 2006)
  • Ragamuffin, Tobias S. Buckell (Tor)
  • The Yiddish Policeman's Union, Michael Chabon (HarperCollins)
I have yet to read any of these, although I really want to read Buckell's Crystal Rain and the follow-up Ragamuffin (if I like Crystal Rain anyway).

A Dance with Dragons Cover

Random House has released the cover art for the U.S. edition of the fifth book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. A large version of the cover can be viewed on the Random House website here.

Bantam Dell's website lists this book with their forthcoming fall releases as available in October 2008. It is also now available for preorder on Amazon with a release date of September 30. Both of those dates are purely speculation since Martin has said many times on his Not a Blog not to believe the news about a release date until he has posted the announcement on his website after being pestered by hordes of angry fans who did believe the release dates.

It sounds as though there is at least hope that this book will be out by the end of the year, although I don't dare hope too much since the cover for A Feast for Crows was on Amazon for quite a while before the book actually came out (and when it finally did, it had a completely different cover). Usually I prefer the more generic covers to cover art with the characters because it usually looks as though the cover artist never actually read the book, but in this case, I miss the old covers depicting characters and scenes from the book. I loved the old cover on A Clash of Kings in particular.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Signed Copies of Elantris for Sale!

I read in this post on Brandon Sanderson's blog today that he has signed and personalized hardback (at least I assume that's what "harback" is supposed to mean) copies of his first published novel Elantris for sale here. Elantris is harder to find in hardcover now than any of his newer books in the Mistborn series. I'd love to get one but I already promised not to buy any more books until The Born Queen comes out toward the end of next month (having already ordered Joe Abercrombie's Before They Are Hanged from Amazon the moment I heard it was in stock already - and added Sanderson's The Well of Ascension to the order because one must get free shipping when ordering from Amazon).

Sanderson also mentioned several items of interest on his previous blog post. He put up artwork for the new paperback copy of Mistborn: The Final Empire (which is supposed to come out in September with a coupon for the third and final book in the series). The cover image says it's only $4.99 in the U.S. and $5.99 in Canada so that's not bad at all. I like the picture of Vin, but I still think the cover on the hardcover copy of Mistborn: The Final Empire is much nicer. He also wrote that Hero of Ages, the final book in the trilogy, is up on Amazon for pre-order now (the release date is October 14), and he shared some thoughts on the fifth Wheel of Time book since he has been rereading the series.

So much exciting news! I really want one of those copies of Elantris now... but must be good!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Interview with J. M. McDermott

Amazon's Omnivoracious blog has an interview with J.M. McDermott, the author of Last Dragon, one of the first books to be published under the Wizards of the Coast's Discoveries imprint. I have yet to read this book, but I have heard good things about it and would really like to read it. Plus I am curious about Discoveries, which is supposed to be very different from the usual Wizards of the Coast fare, including all types of speculative fiction, not just fantasy.

Tor Books to Create Online Community for Fantasy/Science Fiction

Simon Owens from bloggasm wrote to inform me that free ebooks are only the first of many offerings Tor will soon have available online. Two anonymous sources divulged that Tor plans to build an online community for science fiction and fantasy fans, including social networking, original short fiction, and nonfiction.

The rest of the details on Tor's new web-based science fiction and fantasy community can be found here.

In case you missed this earlier post about Tor's free ebooks, here is the place to go to register for their newsletter and free ebooks.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Review of Neuromancer

William Gibson's Neuromancer, the first book in the Sprawl trilogy, is the novel that began the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction. When it was published in 1984, it was a very revolutionary work, and it was certainly influential in modern day terminology since it made the term "cyberspace" popular (it was originally coined in one of Gibson's earlier works, the short story "Burning Chrome"). The frequent comparison to the body and "meat" is probably also responsible for the use of "meatspace" in reference to the real world. Undoubtedly, Neuromancer was a very important novel; however, it is not a very good book when considered purely on its own merits as a story.

Case was a talented cowboy, a data thief who worked for wealthier data thieves, until he stole from one of them. Instead of outright killing him, his employer damaged his nervous system badly enough to prevent Case from working in his profession. Case becomes a suicidal drug addict until a man named Armitage finds him and offers to repair his nervous system in return for the use of Case's abilities as a cowboy. He undergoes surgery, and awakens to find that the same substance that destroyed his nervous system before was put inside of him and will be released if he does not finish his job quickly enough. Case is partnered with Molly, a street samurai, and ordered to steal the construct containing the consciousness of one of his former mentors. Soon Case and Molly find themselves trying to put together the mystery of Armitage's past and figuring out how the AI entity Wintermute is involved.

Neuromancer is a relatively short book, only 271 pages long in mass market paperback. The first 100 pages are excruciatingly boring and the next 171 are often still fairly boring, making this the longest short book I have ever read. The plot develops at a glacial pace, and the prose is filled with fictional technical jargon. The meaning of some of these terms can be inferred from context at times, but normally not immediately, and Gibson has a tendency to throw out a lot of these words at once. At first, this is fun since it gives the book a certain high-tech, future feel, but it is overdone to the point where it is just confusing and tedious.

Some of the ideas in the story were probably very interesting in 1984, but anyone with a passing familiarity with science fiction today has probably seen these same concepts explored many times in a more interesting fashion. Artificial intelligence and its autonomy, virtual reality, and engineering the body to use technology are all common story elements within the science fiction genre today. This book does not delve in to these concepts, but shows them as a part of everyday life without examining the implications in depth.

The characters in Neuromancer are shallow and two-dimensional. Very little can be gleaned about their personalities from their actions and none of the characters ever feel real. More is revealed about the technology that is wired into their bodies than their hopes and dreams and motivations. The dialogue is often poor, and whenever a character talks about his or her past, it lacks emotion, feeling more like a big info dump.

Neuromancer contains a world that was imaginative when it was written in the early 1980s, but it does not hold up well over 20 years later. Because the strength of the book was exploring a world that is now common, the other obvious flaws--the lack of a strong plot, well-written prose, and deep or interesting characters--become fatal once that strength has been removed. I would not recommend reading it to others unless they really want to be able to say they read the first cyberpunk novel.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Before They Are Hanged Now Available

Before They Are Hanged, the second book in Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, was supposed to be released in the U.S. on March 25. Maybe it still is in most stores, I don't know. However, Amazon actually has it in stockas of today.

I really enjoyed the first book in the trilogy, The Blade Itself, so I think I may have to head over there and order myself a copy. It was nothing ground-breaking, but it was enjoyable with interesting characters.

As always, free shipping is a must so maybe I'll order The Well of Ascension while I'm there...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Review of Neverwhere

The first novel Neil Gaiman wrote after gaining his reputation as a comic book writer was Neverwhere, a stand alone story based on the BBC mini series Gaiman worked on. (Having seen the mini series before, I was amazed at just how similar the book and mini series were.) As is to be expected from anything by Gaiman, Neverwhere is an enchanting tale, strange and a little crazy. If almost anyone else had attempted this story, it would probably be somewhat silly. Yet somehow, whenever Gaiman writes something, he pulls everything together in such a way that it works really well.

Richard Mayhew is an ordinary London citizen with a decent but dull job and a pretty but snooty fiancee named Jessica (NOT Jess!). On the way to an important dinner with his Jessica's boss, Richard and Jessica find a young woman lying on the sidewalk, hurt and bleeding. To Jessica's great chagrin, Richard insists on helping the girl even if it means missing the dinner and losing Jessica. Richard brings the woman, who is called Door, back to his apartment and cleans her up.

Once Door has returned to her home, Richard finds that he no longer seems to exist. He can't hail a cab, his coworkers ignore him, Jessica can't even remember his last name, and his landlord doesn't even notice him bathing when he shows some potential tenants every room in Richard's apartment. Convinced Door has something to do with this occurrence, Richard decides to find her and becomes introduced to the London Underground - people who have "slipped through the cracks" of London - and is caught up in finding out why the rest of Door's family was killed.

The world of the London Underground is unusual and fascinating, and while it coexists with our world, it is very different. This world has many common fantasy elements - some magic, unusual creatures, and assassins yet it is also unlike standard fantasy. It is not at all the typical tale of a modern day person who is whisked to a magical land full of castles, beautiful princesses, and fairies where they may have to work on the side of good to defeat an evil dark lord. Many of the people are the homeless of London, and the "lords and ladies" are not well dressed or at all refined. There are residents who speak with and revere rats and sewer folk who collect rubbish from their smelly home. It's not a lovely and pleasant place, which makes it more realistic and gives it a sort of charm.

The story is paced very well without a boring moment. It is a fairly short, very plot-oriented story with sparse descriptions and a lot of dark, whimsical humor. I particularly enjoyed how Gaiman twisted the standard quest story, but unfortunately I cannot go into much detail about that without giving too much away.

The characters themselves are not explored in depth, but sometimes "good" and "bad" were not as apparent as one might have expected. The people of the London Underground certainly helped bring the story alive.

I would recommend Neverwhere to those who enjoy entertaining, well told mythical adventures.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Vote for Free Ebook by Neil Gaiman

To celebrate the 7th birthday of his blog, Neil Gaiman is going to make one of his books available online for free for a month. The free book has not yet been determined as Neil has requested readers to vote for the book they think is the best starting point for someone who has never read any of his work. American Gods is winning by a lot right now, and the closest contender after it is Neverwhere.

To read more and vote, go here.

Free Ebooks from Tor

By registering on Tor's website, you can receive emails containing free digital science fiction and fantasy books. The first book is going to be Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn: The Final Empire (a rather good book), and it will be followed by Old Man's War by John Scalzi. After that, they will send more books but the site does not say what they are.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


I closed the poll a day early since I'm done with Neverwhere so it's time to start reading the next book, which will be William Gibson's Neuromancer. I'm curious about this one since it's become a cyberpunk classic, but from what I've heard, I get the impression that it's more of an "important" book than a "good" book.

I'll probably do another poll at some point, but I just got the new Carol Berg book Breath and Bone yesterday so I think I want to read that one after Neuromancer.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

New and Forthcoming for February

Below are some new releases or books coming out later this month that I have been hearing a lot about or have been looking forward to reading. The book is already out according to Amazon US, Canada, and UK unless it says otherwise. (Bright of the Sky isn't actually supposed to be out until later this month in the US, but it says it is in stock anyway. The Red Wolf Conspiracy is supposed to be out, but it seems to be hard to get a hold of.)

The Red Wolf Conspiracy
by Robert Redick (April 1 in Canada)

The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

A Magic of Twilight: Book One of the Nessantico Cycle (Magnificent Fantasy: the Nessantico Cycle) by S.L. Farrell

Bright of the Sky: Book One of The Entire and The Rose by Kay Kenyon

Myth-Chief by Robert Asprin

Matterby Iain M. Banks (Feb 27 US and Canada - out in the UK)

Biting the Bullet (Jaz Parks, Book 3) by Jennifer Rardin (Feb 11 in the US and CA, Feb 7 in the UK)

In a Time of Treason by David Keck (Feb 19 in US, Canada, and the UK)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Review of Mistborn: The Final Empire


Mistborn: The Final Empire
by Brandon Sanderson
672pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7.5/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.48/5
Good Reads Rating: 4.5/5

Mistborn: The Final Empire is the first book in the Mistborn series and the second novel written by Brandon Sanderson, the author selected to complete the final novel in the Wheel of Time series. The second book in the series, The Well of Ascension, is currently out in hardcover and the final book, The Hero of Ages, has a scheduled release date of October 20, 2008.

The immortal Lord Ruler has been both a leader and god to the people ever since he came to power and saved them approximately a thousand years ago. He has gifted some of the nobility, who were his allies during the time of his ascension, with special abilities known as Allomancy and forbidden them to breed with the commoners for fear of passing this power on to children not of pure noble blood. An Allomancer is one who can perform magic using metals he or she has swallowed. Mistings are those who can activate one metal and use its power. Mistborn, more rare than Mistings, are those Allomancers who can use all the known types of metal and their powers.

The skaa (commoners) have been oppressed and subject to the whims of the noble class ever since the beginning of the Lord Ruler's reign. One of these, a Mistborn named Kelsier, has become a legend among his people as the only one to survive the punishment of being sent to the infamous Pits of Hathshin. Kelsier's brother tells him of Vin, a 16-year-old Mistborn street girl he detected, and Kelsier invites her to join his band of thieves and begins training her with her powers. Under the leadership of Kelsier, Vin and other skaa rebels form a plan to do the impossible - overthrow the Final Empire and its Lord Ruler.

The book was a bit slow in the beginning as it introduced the characters and skaa life, but it was nearly impossible for me to put down during the nonstop action of the last 100 pages or so. The story focuses on politics and planning a lot, but it also includes some really spectacular fight scenes. The fights are based on skill with Allomancy and using clever tricks to outsmart your opponent rather than merely whacking each other with weaponry, and some of the descriptions were quite well done. It certainly had some of the more fun fight scenes I can remember reading.

The magic system was unique and interesting, but it had its disadvantages as well as its advantages. It was refreshing to have magic following a set of rules instead of just being unexplained mysticism, but on the other hand, sometimes it would have been nice if a little were left to the imagination rather than all the descriptions of how Allomancy worked. Kelsier's training of Vin reminded me of tutorials in RPGs where you are learning how to use your character and what all the different controls do. I also found it really hard to get over the swallowing metal part of it - all I could think of is how unhealthy that sounded. (I know, kind of silly to get hung up on that in a fantasy book, but I just kept wondering why at least some of these people weren't dying from poisoning even if it was semi-explained.)

I liked the characters, but none of them were particularly unique or well-developed, although I did enjoy that they were fairly contemplative and thoughtful at times, particularly about religion, friendship, and betrayal. My favorite was Elend, the eccentric nobleman, but I came to love Vin as well as the story went on. I will not spoil the details of the ending, but I felt like some of it did not fit with the characters' actions through that point in time. The ending was also a bit rushed, and one part of the story that had potential to be very compelling was wrapped up in an unsatisfactory manner.

It may sound like I did not enjoy this book since I am being so critical of it, but the truth is, once I got past the slow beginning, I really had a lot of fun reading it. It did not live up to the expectations I had for it based on what I had heard about it, but that was mainly because I had some preconceived notions about the story that were false. It was not as original a story as I had been anticipating, but it was still very enjoyable with a unique world/magic system and more examination of it than most epic fantasy books offer. I will definitely be picking up the sequel.

Mistborn: The Final Empire was a strong and fun sophomore effort. It was nothing extraordinary, but it is certainly worth the time of epic fantasy fans.


Other opinions on this book: