Greg Hersom (RETIRED)

GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

Flame Winds: Entertaining, but doesn’t hold up to REH

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Flame Winds by Norvell W. Page

The mighty Prester John, aka Hurricane John, whom the Mongols call Wan Tengri, is a red-bearded champion from the Roman gladiatorial arenas. He seeks fortune and glory in the lands of the East, while also spreading Christianity by way of conquest. His wanderings bring him to the edge of the Karakorum Desert where lies the mysterious city of Turghol. Turghol is said to have many riches and a beautiful princess, but is controlled by seven evil Wizards of Khasimer who are the masters of the Flame Winds, a deadly storm that burns any who challenge them to cinder.

As is stated on the beautifully illustrated cover, Flame Winds is a heroic fantasy in the CONAN tradition. Norvell Page’s author’s note explains that he was fascinated by the medieval tales of the heroic Catholic priest Prester John who ma... Read More

A Place Among the Fallen: Strong beginning, then loses its appeal

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A Place Among the Fallen by Adrian Cole

In the world of Omara, belief in gods or magical power can be punishable by death. But when Korbillian arrives from out of a storm-tossed sea, there is no denying something is at work that’s beyond explanation. Korbillian hails from another world and he’s on a mission to destroy the evil growing from an earthen mound in the distant land of the east. However, as powerful as Korbillian is, he can’t do it alone. Along the way, he must recruit as many others to the cause as he can. Korbillian must convince the non-believers that if they do not help, Omara will meet the same demise as his home world. Out of misfits, ruthless enforcers, fellow refugees, rival soldiers, and even Omara’s animals and plant-life, an army is formed. But will they be enough? And are they really Korbillian’s allies or just fodder to be sacrificed for the cause?

Callin... Read More

Space Wolf: Entertained this 40-something teenage male

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Space Wolf by William King

In mankind’s distant future there is only war. Welcome to the world of WARHAMMER 40,000; a time flung so far into the future that the past has long been shrouded in legend. The human empire spans the universe but is assaulted on every front by demons, aliens, and the followers of evil gods. The Emperor is immobile, only kept alive by ancient machines created in the Dark Age of Technology. Our survival depends on his constant vigilance and the command of his vast armies. The greatest of the Emperor’s soldiers are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines; and the Space Wolves Chapter of the Space Marines consists of barbarian warriors recruited from the primitive world of Fenris, selected for their prowess in battle. If they live through the brutal training regimen and survive the tests, they then drink from the Cup of Wulfen. This mutates the warriors with ... Read More

Woken Furies: When Takeshi Kovacs is in a bad mood, people die

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Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan

Takeshi Kovacs spends most of Woken Furies, the third book in the Kovacs series, in a bad mood. Kovacs is an ex-Envoy, a carefully selected, highly trained, rigidly conditioned assassin for the powerful and draconian Protectorate, so when he’s in a bad mood, people usually die.

Of course, many of them are not really dead, or rather, Really Dead, because people in Richard K. Morgan’s future universe have cortical stacks, shiny storage devices attached to their cervical vertebrae, holding consciousness. As long as your cortical stack is undamaged, your consciousness can just be downloaded into a new physical body, called a “sleeve.” While you’re waiting for a sleeve your consciousness can be dormant, or it might be active, inserted into a virtual environment. This could be a paradise or a torture chamber... Read More

Broken Angels: Good noir science fiction

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Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan

Three weeks ago I finished Broken Angels, the second book in Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs trilogy. I’ve been struggling with this review ever since. Broken Angels is good noir science fiction. It is well-written. I just didn’t like it.

In some places in the book the timbers of the plot show through the flash-and-dazzle, but that is no more than a nuisance. Kovacs is a believable character in a complicated and exciting situation. The world, Sanction IV, is not well drawn at all, and that is deliberate. Sanction IV’s civil war is is just One More War on One More World. The planet’s people, its history, its culture and its future don’t matter to the people Kovacs works for, or to Kovacs himself for that matter.

On medical leave from the government... Read More

Altered Carbon: Graphic, brutal, and thrilling

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Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Richard K Morgan’s Altered Carbon, the first Takeshi Kovacs novel, is a roller-coaster ride. Morgan cycles us through traditional science-fiction, some mean-streets detective drama and a fine caper story before the book ends, all told by Kovacs himself, a disillusioned killer, a futuristic Sam Spade only slightly less dirty than the dirty business he’s in, a battered knight in tarnished armor.

In Altered Carbon’s future world, science has given humanity the ability to digitize consciousness and store it in a tiny canister embedded in a vertebra at the base of the skull. What is stored in these “cortical stacks” lasts indefinitely and can be decanted into a virtual reality or “sleeved” into a clone or any va... Read More

Black Sun Rising: Tarrant is the ultimate anti-hero

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Black Sun Rising by C.S. Friedman

Refugees from Earth colonized the planet Erna some 1200 years ago. Excepting its extremely high seismic activity, Erna seemed a hospitable planet for mankind to call home. However, soon after our arrival a terrible threat was discovered. A natural force of energy called the fae animated the thoughts and emotions of all living things, so that our very nightmares could be brought to life. This almost destroyed us. Then, some humans figured out how to manipulate the fae to become sorcerers. A religion was created, too, based on the hope that faith would one day make mankind immune to fae manipulations. These two events kept the struggle against the fae at an uneasy stalemate for close to a millennium. But as human civilization has been developing, a dark force fed by the sorcerous uses of the fae has secretly grown in power to become a new and powerful threat.
Read More

Among Thieves: Should be one of the best debuts of 2011

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Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick

CLASSIFICATION: Among Thieves is like a cross between Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastard series and Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire, told in a first-person narrative reminiscent of Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCrosse novels but without the hard-boiled cynicism. Apart from the occasional expletive and some graphic violence, Among Thieves mainly keeps to a ... Read More

The Wise Man’s Fear: We are divided

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The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

If, like me, you were so impressed with The Name of the Wind that you neglected all but the most pressing business until you turned the final page, you may have decided to give it a quick re-read in anticipation of the sequel. If you did, you probably spotted this quote in Chapter 43:
There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.
After a long but worthwhile wait, we now have the second novel in The Kingkiller Chronicle, and its title refers directly back to the quote: The Wise Man’s Fear. (And by the way, if you didn’t feel like rereading book one, Patrick Rothfuss posted a wonderful Read More

The Sea Thy Mistress: Brings Norse mythology to life

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The Sea Thy Mistress by Elizabeth Bear

The Sea Thy Mistress is the third book of the The Edda of Burdens, which I believe, is a trilogy. It picks up after the ending of the first book, All the Windwracked Stars. (The events in book 2, By the Mountain Bound, are the actual beginning of the story.)

Fifty years after Muire has ascended to become the Bearer of Burdens — a goddess that is one with the Wyrm that dwells in the ocean — she gives birth to a son. The infant is found on the beach by the cyborg Aethelred, a priest of Muire who was once a bartender. At the time the child’s father, Cahey — Muire’s former lover turned Einherjar — is off wandering the previously apocalyptic world, performing his task of protecting and helping the new h... Read More

The Heroes: Abercrombie takes the genre to a whole new level of badass

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The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

The Heroes is another story set in the same world as Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy. Veteran readers will be happy to be reacquainted with several characters from earlier books: the wizard Bayaz; the dishonored warrior Bremer dan Gorst; Finree dan Brock, Union Commander Marshal Kroy’s ambitious daughter; Black Dow, the ruthless leader of the Northmen. But if you haven’t read any of Abercrombie’s books yet, don’t worry — you don’t need to have read them in order to fully enjoy The Heroes.

If you have read the earlier books, you’ll recall that a conflict, provoked by the manipulations of two rival magical forces, has been brewing between the Union and the barbaric Northmen who are probably best compared to the historical Vikings. When The Heroes open... Read More

Travelers’ Rest: He came, he saw…

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Travelers’ Rest by James Enge

Travelers’ Rest is short and sweet. (Much like myself except the sweetness of Travelers’ Rest is Morlock Ambrose’s dispersion of justice, and the sweetness of me is, well I’m just freakin’ adorable). Also, Travelers’ Rest is a free e-book from Pyr  in honor of The Wolf Age, the latest MORLOCK AMBROSE novel, being their 100th book. Just in time for Christmas too. So a sincere thank you to Pyr is in order. They are already my favorite publisher, so they really didn’t have to, but it’s nice they did. (Click Read More

The Wolf’s Hour: Still vivid after 20 years

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The Wolf's Hour by Robert McCammon

As the Allied forces plan for D-Day, rumors surface within covert operations that the Nazis may have a final, deadly ace in the hole. With so much depending on the Allied invasion, the very best agent must be sent deep into enemy territory to thwart whatever it is that the Nazis have in store. What makes this British spy so special is that Michael Gallatin is a werewolf.

The Wolf’s Hour was originally published just over two decades ago and I read the mass market paperback way back then. Over the years, some parts remained so vivid that I would randomly recall them at the oddest of times. I’ve had it on my mind to reread it for a long time, just to rediscover why this novel has stuck with me like it did. So I jumped at the chance to review Subterranean Press’ illustrated reprint. This edition also contains a new novelette... Read More

Amortals: One helluva sci-fi thriller

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Amortals by Matt Forbeck

It’s year 2168, and Secret Service agent Ronan Dooley is investigating a savage homicide, of which he happens to be the victim. In fact, this is the eighth time Agent Dooley has died in the service of his country.

Several of Ronan’s lifetimes ago, he took a bullet meant for the president. His heroic death won him the honor of becoming the first participant in Project Amortal: a medical procedure where the deceased’s mind and memories are downloaded into the brain of an exact clone. The project was initially intended for heads-of-state or those whose public service had proven exceptional, but of course the few with the means to afford it could sign-up too.

When I started this book, it seemed apparent that the character of Ronan Dooley is somewhere between the likes of James Bond and Dirty Harry: a typical action hero, easily found in any numbe... Read More

Heir of Novron: Just a plain ol’ fashioned good time

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Editor's note: Heir of Novron was originally published as Wintertide and Percepliquis.

Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan

Wintertide
 is the next to last book in THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS series. As with the rest of these books, this is a fairly self-contained story, but at the same time the reader can feel the momentum building toward an explosive conclusion. Hadrian is forced into a deadly deal to kill an honorable knight by making it look accidental in a tournament, while Royce is desperate to be done with Riyria’s contracts so that he can try his hand at domesticated bliss with his true love.

Wintertide is my favorite book in the series so far, which is as a series should be... Read More

Kill the Dead: When working for the devil, there’s going to be a catch

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Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey

Richard Kadrey’s Kill the Dead is the sequel to Sandman Slim, and James Stark has been keeping himself busy working for various entities in order to pay the rent. The Devil is one of the entities that makes use of Stark’s services, and he wants Stark to serve as his bodyguard while he’s in town on business. Stark is forced to juggle the obligations of both Heaven and Hell, and manages to place himself in the middle of a conflict that started at the dawn of time.

Richard Kadrey’s writing style is awesome. Seriously, I want this guy to write my epitaph after I die. I imagine it would go something like this:

“Here lies Justin Blazier. If you owe him money, you’re a lucky son of a bitch.”

Kadrey continues the gritty shit-kicking app... Read More

Sandman Slim: Urban fantasy with a kick to the head

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Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me lately. I keep finding myself reading some gloriously blasphemous works of fantasy literature. I reviewed Jesse Bullington’s The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart and accepted that it could very well show up as a stain on my soul’s credit report. Now, having just finished Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim, I might as well file eternal bankruptcy.

James Stark was betrayed and sent to hell for 11 years. While in Hell he learned a few things like killing, drinking heavily, and swearing like it was an Olympic sport. James Stark’s only goals are payback for his banishment, and revenge for the murder of his one true love... Anything else that happens along the way is just a b... Read More

Deadman’s Road: Gruesome violence and ribald humor

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Deadman's Road by Joe R. Lansdale

Deadman’s Road is a collection of pulp stories about a gunslingin’ preacher who wanders the American Old West on a mission from God to seek out and destroy evil creatures. Reverend Jedidiah Mercer relentlessly faces down a town full of zombies, an angry ghoul, a pack of Conquistadores-turned-werewolves, a hell-spawn monstrosity haunting a secluded cabin, and a goblin horde that invades a mining town.

I’m generally not much of a fan of horror fiction. I’ve read fewer then a handful of horror books, but my limited experience is that good horror writers stand out as exceptional storytellers, so I look for the books they write outside the horror genre. Writers like Stephen King, Read More

The Wolf Age: Loyalty in a harsh world

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The Wolf Age by James Enge

One of the challenges of having read a fair amount of fantasy is that I find myself comparing the novels I’ve read. I look for similarities between books, characters and storylines. James Enge's The Wolf Age is built around the anti-hero who rebels against the existing order, a well used archetype. Fortunately, Enge still manages to put his story together in such a way that makes for a compelling read.

Morlock Ambrosius is a stranger traveling through lands that are being raided and pillaged by a nation of werewolves. Morlock’s combination of martial prowess and magical skills allow for accomplishments that would be otherwise impossible, and he serves as a catalyst for change. Morlock tries to stay out of trouble, but is swept up by a band of raiding werewolves that throw him in prison. They plan to either have him... Read More

Blade of Tyshalle: Heavy with philosophical and psychological themes

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Blade of Tyshalle by Matthew Woodring Stover

Several years after the events in Heroes Die, Hari Michaelson, known as Caine on the fantastical inter-dimensional planet called Overworld, is now wheelchair bound. Despite this he still holds onto administrator status in the martially enforced caste system of Earth’s grimly overpopulated and ultra-corporate controlled future. When Hari/Caine discovers a plot to gain control of Overworld’s desperately scarce natural resources by infesting its people with a deadly virus, all hell breaks loose. Caine’s many enemies take the opportunity to strike at him, targeting his wife, the Overworld goddess Pallas Ril, and their daughter. In Blade of Tyshalle, the fate of Overworld hangs in the balance as the conflict escalates to include ancient and forgotten gods.

Handicapped and getting older, Cain... Read More

Kell’s Legend: So bad it’s good, almost…

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Kell’s Legend by Andy Remic

An albino army invades the kingdom of Falanor, and the first to fall to their merciless onslaught is its most northern city, Jaldar. As it happens, this is where the famous warrior hero Kell has retired. As the invaders begin the slaughter, Kell hurries to rescue his grand-daughter, Nieanna. The dire circumstances call for an uneasy alliance between Kell and a dapper, swashbuckling thief named Saark. After a daring rescue of Nieanna and her friend Kat, the four become refugees, and they may be Falanor’s only hope against the clockwork vampire horde.

Knowing the premise of this book, I had my misgivings. However, I also knew that this story was supposed to pay homage to the late David Gemmell, so Kell’s Legend gnawed at me until I finally... Read More

This Crooked Way: A clever, witty, darkly whimsical series

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This Crooked Way by James Enge

Already an exile, Morlock Ambrosius is now also officially an outlaw in This Crooked Way. Winter finds him wandering when his horse, Velox, is stolen. Previous adventures have earned Morlock’s loyalty to the mystical steed and it’s apparent that the horse theft is a tactic to lure Morlock into a series of traps orchestrated by an enemy from his past. So into the dangerous pass called the Kirack Kund — dwarvish for "The River of Skulls" — The Crooked Man goes. This quest will end up lasting several years in which Morlock encounters golems, monsters, rival sorcerers, insectoid tribes, thieves, street gangs, and dragons, and even sort of adopts (or perhaps is adopted by) a misfit family.

This is the second novel Mr. Enge has written about his intriguing character. He has also written short stories about Morloc... Read More

Fell Cargo: Take to the high seas with this motley crew!

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Fell Cargo by Dan Abnett

Captian Luka Silvero and his bloody Reivers are the most despicable, cut-throat, greedy sea-wolves of the Old World and they're just the right stuff to rid the seas of something even more evil: the cursed Butcher Ship. Of course it takes the right incentive of a hefty reward and, for Luka, it's either sink the Butcher Ship or face his just reward at the end of noose. After all, a buccaneer does have his reputation to think of. Plus there is always the unbreakable pirate code...

I don't know what it is about pirates, but we can't help but love them, and Dan Abnett captures the salty ol' heart of a pirate story in Fell Cargo. So, wrap one fist around a cutlass and the other (unless that one is a hook) around your flint-lock pistol, then prepare to board. Take on other pirates, zombies, vampires, sea-monsters and thrice-damned curses. An... Read More

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery

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Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating ever since it was first announced in 2009. I was particularly excited about the anthology’s impressive list of contributors which includes several authors I enjoy reading like Glen Cook, Greg Keyes, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Garth Nix, Tim Lebbon, Read More

Fugitive Prince: Another excellent installment in one of the best fantasy series

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Fugitive Prince by Janny Wurts

Fugitive Prince is the fourth novel in THE WARS OF LIGHT AND SHADOW by Janny Wurts, but because of the series' unique structure, it's actually the start of a brand new "arc" inside the overall story: book 1 comprises the first arc, books 2 and 3 together are the second arc, and the third arc consists of books 4 through 8 (the first of which is Fugitive Prince). Looking forward, the forthcoming 9th novel, Initiate's Trial, will be the first of 2 books in the 4th arc, and the 11th and final novel will also be the final arc.

If you're keeping track, all of this means that the series' 5 arcs have a nicely symmetrical 1-2-5-2-1 structure, and also that, just in case you're not familiar with this truly excellent series yet, you still have the amazing op... Read More

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