This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 26th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Billy Summers is down one position, ending the week at number 3.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 19th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Billy Summers maintains its position at number 2.

Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary is up two positions, ending the week at number 13.

V. E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue maintains its position at number 14.

Mini Reviews

Hey guys,

My mom finally passed away a couple of weeks ago. As sad as it is for our family, the time had come and it's better this way.

Understandably, I haven't had time to read a whole lot and must resort to mini reviews once more.

- Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (Canada, USA, Europe)

DNF at 80%.

I so really wanted to like this novel. I felt that its predecessor, David Mogo, Godhunter, featured lots of cool ideas and concepts, and I was looking forward to Suyi Davies Okungbowa's new series with Orbit.

But Son of the Storm is a slog. The characterization, especially, leaves a lot to be desired. Too YA, too black and white, with no shades of gray to speak of.

I persevered, hoping to at least finish the book. But in the end, I simply couldn't do it. =(

- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (Canada, USA, Europe) 8.5/10

As a matter of course, I read this novel back in the day. I picked up a copy at a hostel's book exchange a few years back, planning to reread it and see if this classic had aged well.

I brought it with me on a hiking trip last month and went through it in no time. God knows that a lot of science fiction doesn't age well at all. But Card's debut is still as good today as it was back in the 80s. Probably because it's a story about kids and how they develop and not about science and technology. The only thing that is at time obsolete is the language, what with the fart-face and other fart-something insults.

Say what you will about Card, Ender's Game remains a terrific novel!

- The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021), edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (Canada, USA, Europe) 8.5/10

This is a follow-up to last year's Dominion, the first anthology of speculative fiction and poetry by Africans and the African Diaspora. You may recall that I absolutely loved that anthology, so I was really looking forward to discovering what the 2021 collection would look like.

Now that I went through it, I can tell you that The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021) is as good as its predecessor. If anything, it might even be a little better!

Once again this year, Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald compiled short fiction tales that cover the length and breadth of everything that falls under the speculative fiction umbrella. As was the case with Dominion, such a convergence of genres and subgenres makes for captivating reading. Though most of the pieces are not culturally familiar in style, tone, or context to Western SFF readers, they all have something that can appeal to a broader audience. I was a bit surprised that this anthology contained a couple of pieces that were found in its predecessor. Though they're good, I'm not sure why they were included instead of original short stories.

If you only read one SFF anthology this year, make it this one! =)

- Isolate by L. E. Modesitt, jr. (Canada, USA, Europe) 6/10

When I was invited to read Modesitt's first installment in a brand new gaslamp political fantasy series, I knew I couldn't say no!

Here's the blurb:

Industrialization. Social unrest. Underground movements. Government corruption and surveillance.

Something is about to give.

Steffan Dekkard is an isolate, one of the small percentage of people who are immune to the projections of empaths. As an isolate, he has been trained as a security specialist and he and his security partner Avraal Ysella, a highly trained empath are employed by Axel Obreduur, a senior Craft Minister and the de facto political strategist of his party.

When a respected Landor Councilor dies of “heart failure” at a social event, because of his political friendship with Obreduur, Dekkard and Ysella find that not only is their employer a target, but so are they, in a covert and deadly struggle for control of the government and economy.

Steffan is about to understand that everything he believed is an illusion.

The blurb totally hooked me and I was intrigued by the Victorian setting.

Problem is, I don't think there was enough material to warrant a full novel here. Isolate features a political tale and a love story, both of which struggling to get out. Unfortunately, the bulk of the book focuses on the excruciating minutia of Steffan's day-to-day life, from what he has for breakfast every morning, to his reading petitions and answering letters, to what he does before going to bed at night. God knows that Modesitt isn't known for his fast pace, but Isolate makes the Recluce volumes feel like balls-to-the-wall affairs. And there's only so much every day minor detail one can take. Of the 608 pages, there can't be more than 200 pages that have to do with the story itself.

As a big Modesitt fan, you should know that rhythm is seldom an issue with me. I'm used to the pace of his novels and I can live with the slow-moving sections of his books. But it felt as though Isolate was the introduction to a multilayered tale that was then padded with a vast amount of extraneous and repetitive material to make it a novel. When, in truth, it should have been the first portion of book and not a novel-length project, in and of itself.

Unless you already are a Modesitt fan, I doubt that you'll want to wade through Isolate. Which is too bad, because there's a lot of good stuff in there. It's just buried deeply underneath a ton of superfluous details that bring little or nothing to the story. . .

You can read an extract here.

The Wheel of Time: Winespring Inn scene

You recall that I wasn't impressed by the trailer. Well, after seeing one of the opening scenes, I'm even more underwhelmed. . . =(

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 12th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Billy Summers is down one position, ending the week at number 2.

V. E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is down two spots, finishing the week at number 14.

Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary returns at number 15.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download Stephen King's It for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There isa price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Stephen King’s terrifying, classic #1 New York Times bestseller, “a landmark in American literature” (Chicago Sun-Times)—about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers…an evil without a name: It.

Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.

Readers of Stephen King know that Derry, Maine, is a place with a deep, dark hold on the author. It reappears in many of his books, including Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and 11/22/63. But it all starts with It.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 5th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Billy Summers maintains its position at number 1.

V. E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is down four spots, finishing the week at number 11.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 29th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Billy Summers maintains its position at number 1.

V. E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue returns at number 7.

Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary returns at number 14.

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Terry Brooks' CHILD OF LIGHT

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Del Rey, I have two advance reading copies of Terry Brooks' forthcoming Child of Light. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

At nineteen, Auris Afton Grieg has led an . . . unusual life. Since the age of fifteen, she has been trapped in a sinister prison. Why? She does not know. She has no memories of her past beyond the vaguest of impressions. All she knows is that she is about to age out of the children’s prison, and rumors say that the adult version is far, far worse. So she and some friends stage a desperate escape into the surrounding wastelands. And it is here that Auris’s journey of discovery begins, for she is rescued by an unusual stranger who claims to be Fae—a member of a magical race that Auris had thought to be no more than legend. Odder still, he seems to think that she is one as well, although the two look nothing alike. But strangest of all, when he brings her to his wondrous homeland, she begins to suspect that he is right. Yet how could a woman who looks entirely human be a magical being herself?

Told with a fresh, energetic voice, this fantasy puzzle box is perfect for fans of Terry Brooks and new readers alike, as one young woman slowly unlocks truths about herself and her world—and, in doing so, begins to heal both.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "CHILD." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download Susanna Clarke's Piranesi for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality.

Piranesi's house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller's Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

R. A. Salvatore contest winner!

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Harper Voyager, this lucky winner will receive a copy of R. A. Salvatore's Starlight Enclave. For more info about this title, check out these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

Bill Philpot, from Cottage Grove, Oregon, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Dune Sketchbook Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer

If you need some background music to brighten your day. . . =)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 22nd)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Billy Summers debuts at number 1.

The Wheel of Time: Official Trailer

After waiting for so long, I have to admit that I'm underwhelmed by this lackluster trailer. Definitely getting Shannara Chronicles vibes here. . . =(

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 15th)

In hardcover:
Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary is up six positions, ending the week at number 9.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue returns at number 14.

In paperback:

Stephen King's If It Bleeds returns at number 15 (trade paperback).

Extract from Joe Abercrombie's THE WISDOM OF CROWDS

Joe Abercrombie just put an extract from his upcoming The Wisdom of Crowds (Canada, USA, Europe) on his website.

Here's the blurb:

Some say that to change the world you must first burn it down. Now the Breakers have seized the levers of power, the smoke of riots has replaced the smog of industry, and all must submit to the wisdom of crowds.

Citizen Brock is determined to become a new hero for the new age. Citizeness Savine must turn her talents from profit to survival before she can claw her way to redemption. Orso will find that when the world is turned upside down, no one is lower than a monarch. And in the bloody North, Rikke runs out of allies . . . while Black Calder plots his vengeance.

The banks fall, the sun of the Union is torn down, and in the darkness behind the scenes, the threads of the Weaver’s ruthless plan are drawn together . . .

Follow this link to read the extract.

Mini Reviews

Hi guys.

As we knew it would, my mother's condition has begun to deteriorate after remaining rather stable for more than 2 months. It appears that the end is near, but you never know. She was supposed to pass away in mid-June at the latest, and yet she's still here. With things going downhill fast, it sure looks like it won't be long now. =(

I wish I had more time to write lengthy reviews. Sadly, I have no choice but to resort to mini reviews once again. . .

The God Is Not Willing by Steven Erikson (Canada, USA, Europe) 8/10

I relished the opportunity to read a new Malazan offering by Steven Erikson. As you know, I elected to stop reading material by Ian Cameron Esslemont, so it's been a while since Erikson released a new Malazan title. And since this was the first installment in the series that comes after the main sequence, I couldn't have been more excited!

The author has accustomed readers to sprawling fantasy works featuring complex storylines that span multiple ages and volumes, as well as huge casts of characters. In that regard, The God Is Not Willing is a much smaller, more focused tale, following a handful of protagonists over a couple of plotlines. As such, this could be Erikson's most accessible novel to date.

Can it be read by someone who has not read The Malazan Book of the Fallen series? Not really. Set ten years after the events chronicled in The Crippled God, the story would likely make little sense for a newbie. One of the highlights of the book is to demonstrate how much the Malazan Empire has changed. A reader not familiar with the saga wouldn't perceive any of those nuances.

Back in northern Genabackis, readers witness the repercussions of Karsa's legacy of destruction from the beginning of House of Chains. With climate changes melting the ice fields of the north, Teblor warriors and various other wild inhabitants from the far reaches of the continent have no choice but to flee disaster and run south, hoping to wreak havoc and destroy those who have made slaves of the their brethren in the past. The only thing standing in their way are a few Malazan marines.

The cast of characters is as disparate as it is engaging. Quite a few are too badass and all-powerful for my taste, and I'm not talking about God-touched characters or Ascendants here. Just seemingly ordinary marines. This novel contains the same thoughtful philosophical musings from past Malazan installments, but it's probably the one with the most humor we've seen thus far. In that regard, it's on par with the Willful Child series. It sometimes felt like Erikson was trying a bit too hard to be funny, especially with the scenes featuring the Heavyweights. But there's no denying that The God Is Not Willing will have you laughing out loud in almost every chapter.

As always, there's more than meets the eye with just about ever single character. Which bodes well for whatever comes next. As is usually Erikson's wont, this book also finishes with a mighty convergence that paves the way for the rest of the trilogy.

One thing I found interesting was the level of compassion found between the covers of this book. A lot more than I ever expected. Looks like Emperor Mallick Rel is turning into Justin Trudeau or something.

In a nutshell, this one is a must for all Malazan fans!

A Desert Torn Asunder by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Canada, USA, Europe) 5.5/10

I was looking forward to the sixth volume in Bradley P. Beaulieu's The Shattered Sands sequence because to a vast extent, it felt like the better part of the tale had reached its end in the previous installment, When Jackal Storm the Walls. And in many ways, it did. Not that this book acts as something akin to an epilogue, but it is a bit discordant compared to its predecessors.

Many storylines were detailed and meticulously plotted in the previous volumes. Sadly, a lot seems contrived in A Desert Thorn Asunder, from how the location of the elder god's resting place is located to how he will be raised and controlled. Moreover, this turns into a somewhat heavy-handed do-gooder tale that makes little sense when you consider that the desert tribes have hated Sharakhai for centuries.

Sadly, Beaulieu played it safe the whole way through and there's never a moment when you feel like the good guys could actually lose. Moreover, à la Robert Jordan, basically everyone survives what is an apocalyptic battle. What also kills it is the lame Game of Thrones-esque ending, with everyone sitting down and deciding how the city and the desert will henceforth be governed. Ultimately, A Desert Torn Asunder is a weak book with an even weaker ending. A somewhat unworthy end to what was a very good SFF series.