Madame Xanadu (Vol. 2): Exodus Noir by Matt Wagner
Exodus Noir, the second volume of Matt Wagner’s Madame Xanadu series, is an impressive follow-up to the first collection, even though there is a new artist on board. However, there’s no loss in artistic quality. If I prefer the first volume to the second, it’s primarily because I love an origin story. So, my preference is less a fault of the second volume than it is the inherent focus of the first.
This second volume is similar to the first in that it shifts from the present to the past. However, Exodus Noir Read More
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Madame Xanadu (Vol. 2): Exodus Noir by Matt Wagner
Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem by Steve Niles, Matt Santoro, & Dave Wachter
Though I’ve read multiple golem tales over the years, I became aware of their history the most fully after having read the extremely well-researched SF novel He, She and It by Marge Piercy. That was about twenty years ago, and I’ve been on the lookout for quality golem stories ever since. Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem is one of the best I’ve ever read, and it’s written by Steve Niles and Matt Santoro as a story that is appropriate even for young adult readers, ... Read More
Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson
Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson has a sharply focused premise and an action-oriented narrative, but issues of pace and point of view lessen the short novel’s impact.
The Viking town of Stenvik is the crossroads of events. Heading toward them from the north is a massive army led by King Olav, who is determined to unify the Scandinavian people under the White Christ, even if he has to kill a lot of them in order to do so. Defending the Old Gods against this upstart religion is an All-Star team of Viking raiders, ostensibly led by their general, Skargrim, but really under the control of a mysterious woman named Skuld, who says she is one of the three weavers of fate. Olav wants Stenvik as his winter base, while Skuld and Skargrim seek to deny its strategic p... Read More
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Like every other fantasy novel since 1997, A Discovery of Witches has been compared to the Harry Potter series. I often argue that debut novels should be judged by their own merit, that the Harry Potter yardstick is too reductive. In this case, however, Harry Potter comes off worse by association. A Discovery of Witches promises a world of witches, vampires and daemons, of a hidden manuscript which holds the key to the future, of a dark, forbidden love at the centre of the tale. It all looks very good on paper, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t quite live up to what it says on the tin.
Diana Bishop is a witch. Not in the wandbrandishing, spellreciting way we’re used to, though. She has relinquished all magic in favour of a quiet academic career studying the history of science. One day, she accidental... Read More
John Golden: Freelance Debugger by Django Wexler
Django Wexler, the man with such a fun name, hasn’t just limited himself to epic fantasy. In February Wexler released a novella called John Golden: Freelance Debugger. In proper Wexler form he took a genre that is almost too saturated (urban fantasy) and slammed his way into it with something new, eye catching, and unique.
John Golden tells the story of a man (Surprise! His name is ‘John’) who fixes computers by debugging them. While that might seem fine and dandy, the truth is that the entire premise of how this protagonist debugs computers (and just what the “bugs” are) is just about as interesting as anything else in the novel. Wexler packs quite a story into his few short pages (62 pages, actually).
Don’t let the technospeak and the footnotes put you off. While typically people like their text to flow certain ways, and footnot... Read More
Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
I really love Sherlock Holmes. I’ve read all of the original stories, several literary adaptations, and regularly watch not only the BBC but also the American television show, both of which are great (gonna talk smack about Elementary? Come at me, bro!). Last year I had the privilege of teaching an entire class on Holmes and Holmes adaptations. Sherlock himself is such a fascinating character that he is the “most portrayed” character in TV or film.
So it disappointed me that I didn’t like Anthony Horowitz’s book, Moriarty, more (or much at all), especially given the fact that only Horowitz’s books bear the stamp of approval from the Conan Doyle estate.
Moriarty tells the story of Frederick Chase, a Pinkerton detective from New York who arrives on the scene in Switzerland just after the famous detective and his neme... Read More
Dzur by Steven Brust
In Dzur, the tenth book in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series, Vlad is finally back in the city of Adrilankha. I suspect that most fans will be thrilled to return to that decadent cosmopolitan city; it’s just so much more interesting than watching Vlad roam around the countryside. Fittingly, each of the chapters in Dzur is named for one of the items Vlad is served at his favorite restaurant during a gourmet meal that runs parallel to the main plot of Dzur. (Vlad, an assassin by trade, is quite the foodie and, while he dines, he often points out the analogies between preparing a gourmet dinner and preparing to make a hit.)
So, he’s back in Adrilankha eating with a new Dzurlord in his favorite restaurant and telling us what happened just after the events of the last book, Issola (which yo... Read More
Busted Flush edited by George R.R. Martin
Busted Flush is the nineteenth entry in the Wild Cards series of mosaic novels edited by George R.R. Martin. The previous book, Inside Straight is something of a new beginning for the series, a new trilogy with new characters and a couple of new writers. It's a good point to get started. Unfortunately Busted Flush falls a bit short of the standard set in the first book of the Committee trilogy.
The story picks up some time after the events in Inside Straight. The UN secretary-general has snapped up the new American heroes after their dramatic performance in Egypt and formed the Committee — a group of Aces dealing with everything from genocide to natural disasters.There is plenty of work; our heroes are spread thin. In fact, the cracks in their organisation are clearly beginning to show. There ... Read More
Sinbad the Sailor by Phil Masters
I’ve read a good numbers of titles in Osprey Publishing’s MYTHS AND LEGENDS series and while the individual books vary in quality, that variation runs between good and excellent, making the series as a whole top notch. My latest read, Sinbad the Sailor, by Phil Masters, continues the positive run, falling somewhere in the middle of its predecessors.
The bulk of the book is a retelling of Sinbad’s seven voyages (including an alternate seventh voyage), keeping the original frame of Sinbad the Sailor telling the story to Sinbad the Porter, his poorer namesake. The retellings are solid, if not particularly enthralling. I would have liked more of a sense of voice for Sinbad, but they move quickly and fluidly. You can’t fault Masters for some of the repetition in the tales; the... Read More
An Autumn War by Daniel Abraham
This third novel in Daniel Abraham’s LONG PRICE QUARTET is even more exciting than the first two novels. In the first book, A Shadow in Summer, we saw the Galts (the enemies of the city-states of the Khaiem) destroy the industry of the Khaiem’s most glorious city, Saraykeht. In the second book, A Betrayal in Winter, the Galts attempted to get control of the city of Machi by killing off the Khai’s sons and installing their own man as Khai. However, the failed poet Otah, the youngest son of the Khai, managed (with the help of his old friend Maati) to uncover the plot and become Khai in Machi.
Fourteen years later, the Galts have not given up. That’s because they still suffer from the way they were treated by the Khaiem generations ago when the Khaiem’s andats destroyed Galt and turned part of their land into a vast wastelan... Read More
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
There is space opera, and then there is Space Opera. Dan Simmon’s 1989 Hyperion is S.P.A.C.E. O.P.E.R.A. From grand schemes to the most minute of details, vivid character portrayal to imaginative and original future technology, gorgeous scenery to a multi-dimensional, motivated plot, everything works. Weaving his tale, Simmons proves a master storyteller, each of the seven tableaus presented begging to be devoured. As a result, it is virtually impossible to read Hyperion and not want to follow up with the sequel, The Fall of Hyperion. Thus, potential buyers be warned: this is only the first half of a highly engaging story.
Hyperion’s success begins with world building. Simmons put hours and hours of thought and planning into the background details of his universe and how these elements work together. ... Read More
The Foundry’s Edge by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz
The Foundry’s Edge, by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz, is a solid MG/YA entry that, I’d say, had more potential than was met. In failing to fully take advantage of its possibilities, it never falls so far as to be a “bad” read, but it also rarely inspires or enthralls, though it picks up in the latter quarter of the novel, both in terms of action and emotion.
The story is set at first in the city of Meridian, a technologically advanced (well past any other regions) city thanks to being the home of the Foundry, a corporation that has been spitting out all sort of marvelous inventions/gadgets. Meridian is threatened, though, by surrounding regions, who are both jealous and leery of Meridian’s technical and scientific prowess. Years ago war raged between the two groups, and since that time, the Foundry has been keeping Meridian’s enemies at bay by giving them more and... Read More
A Betrayal in Winter by Daniel Abraham
“Constant struggle is the price of power.”
A Betrayal in Winter, the second book in Daniel Abraham’s LONG PRICE QUARTET begins about 15 years after the events of A Shadow in Summer (which you probably should read before beginning A Betrayal Winter or before reading this review).
Maati, the poet of Saraykeht, was disgraced by the disappearance of the andat Seedless and the subsequent downfall of the cotton trade in Saraykeht. He and Liat had a baby boy, but Liat left Maati years ago because he seemed to be going nowhere and didn’t seem wholly committed to his family. Maati hasn’t seen them in years, and he has also not seen his former friend Otah since that fateful night when Seedless disappeared. Maati’s life is dull and somewhat meaningless.
Things... Read More
The War in the Air by H.G. Wells
The War of the Worlds wasn't the only masterpiece that H.G. Wells wrote with the words "The War" in the title. The War in the Air, which came out 10 years later, in 1908, is surely a lesser-known title by this great author, but most certainly, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece nonetheless. In this prophetic book, Wells not only predicts World War I -- which wouldn't start for another six years -- but also prophesies how the advent of navigable balloons and heavier-than-air flying craft would make that war inevitable. Mind you, this book was written in 1907, only four years after the Wright Brothers' historic flights at Kitty Hawk, and two years BEFORE their airplane design was sold to the U.S. Army for military purposes. In The War in the Air, Wells also foresees ai... Read More
Dark Screams: Volume One edited by Brian Freeman and Richard T. Chizmar
Dark Screams: Volume One is the first of at least four volumes of short horror anthologies that are projected for publication through August 2015. The books are being published as ebooks only through Random House’s digital-only genre imprint, Hydra, for a bargain price of $2.99.
Volume One starts out with one of the most popular horror writers ever: Stephen King. “Weeds” was originally published in Cavalier, a “men’s magazine,” in 1976, and has never been reprinted until now — though it did become a part of the movie “Creepshow,” with King himself playing the role of Jordy Verrill. Jordy is the protagonist of “Weeds,” a not particularly intelligent man who farms a spread situated ... Read More