More inexpensive ebook goodies!


For a limited time, you can download Joe Abercrombie's Half a King for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King’s Finders Keepers is down one spot, finishing the week at number 3.

Neal Stephenson's Seveneves is down eight spots, finishing the week at number 20. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is up four positions, ending the week at number 1.

Andy Weir's The Martian is down one position, ending the week at number 2 (trade paperback).

Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven is down two positions, ending the week at number 6 (trade paperback).

Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish debuts at number 6.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is up four spots, finishing the week at number 9.

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons returns at number 10.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones returns at number 11 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is up eight spots, finishing the week at number 11.

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes is up three spots, finishing the week at number 15 (trade paperback).

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One maintains its position at number 17 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords returns at number 17 (trade paperback).

Win a copy of Christie Golden's STAR WARS: DARK DISCIPLE


I'm giving away my review copy of Christie Golden's Star Wars: Dark Disciple to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Based on unproduced episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this new novel features Asajj Ventress, former Sith apprentice turned bounty hunter and one of the great antiheroes in the Star Wars galaxy.

The only way to bring down the Sith’s most dangerous warrior may be to join forces with the dark side.

In the war for control of the galaxy between the armies of the dark side and the Republic, former Jedi Master turned ruthless Sith Lord Count Dooku has grown ever more brutal in his tactics. Despite the powers of the Jedi and the military prowess of their clone army, the sheer number of fatalities is taking a terrible toll. And when Dooku orders the massacre of a flotilla of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council feels it has no choice but to take drastic action: targeting the man responsible for so many war atrocities, Count Dooku himself.

But the ever-elusive Dooku is dangerous prey for even the most skilled hunter. So the Council makes the bold decision to bring both sides of the Force’s power to bear—pairing brash Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos with infamous one-time Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress. Though Jedi distrust for the cunning killer who once served at Dooku’s side still runs deep, Ventress’s hatred for her former master runs deeper. She’s more than willing to lend her copious talents as a bounty hunter—and assassin—to Vos’s quest.

Together, Ventress and Vos are the best hope for eliminating Dooku—as long as the emerging feelings between them don’t compromise their mission. But Ventress is determined to have her retribution and at last let go of her dark Sith past. Balancing the complicated emotions she feels for Vos with the fury of her warrior’s spirit, she resolves to claim victory on all fronts—a vow that will be mercilessly tested by her deadly enemy . . . and her own doubt.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "DISCIPLE." 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!

Uprooted


After a spectacular start, Naomi Novik's Temeraire saga gradually lost steam and then everything went downhill for a number of installments. So much so that I was considering abandoning the series altogether. The latest volume, Blood of Tyrants, though a far cry from the quality that made the first four books such memorable reads, was nevertheless an improvement that put this train back on track and readers could now look forward to what should be a compelling finale.

So when I first learned that the author was taking a break from the Temeraire series and had written a totally different novel, I wasn't particularly thrilled. But then I remembered how Novik had wowed me with "Seven Years from Home," her contribution to the Warriors anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Definitely one of the anthology's highlights, that short story had shown us a grittier side of Novik and a different writing style which boded well for things to come after the Temeraire saga was brought to a close. Hence, I was hoping that this new project would be, in style and tone at least, something akin to that excellent short fiction piece.

When the blurb for Uprooted was released, that hope died immediately. I don't think I've ever read a cover blurb that was this uninspiring. I received an ARC a few weeks later and just put it on the pile, having no intention to read it in the near future. But then rave reviews started to appear online. And they kept coming. This being something by Naomi Novik, of course I was going to read it. So when the time came to select the few books I'd bring with me on my hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies, Uprooted ended up in my suitcase.

Right off the bat, let me stress the fact that Uprooted is quite different from anything else Naomi Novik has ever written. Unfortunately, it's not the grittier side of the author that's showcased throughout the book. Far from it, actually. So far from it that it makes the Temeraire installments feel like the bloodiest grimdark offerings in comparison. Everything is steeped in folk stories and fairy tales and is told in a decidedly goody-two-shoes voice.

I'm sad to report that Uprooted is the most boring novel I've read in years. Normally, I would have quit before reaching a hundred pages or so. But I was stuck in various national parks in the Rockies with very limited reading material, so I had no choice but to persevere and hope it would get good at some point. That never happened. . .

Here's the blurb:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

The worldbuilding seemed almost childish at first, but showed more depth as the story progressed. As I mentioned, the tale is rooted in what appears to be Slavic fairy tales and legends. Hence, most of the storylines always seem a bit familiar, even if they're not. It appears that Novik chose to take the path of least resistance, for so many plotlines are quite predictable and have no emotional impact whatsoever when their resolution come.

The characterization is bland and unimaginative; more or less as bad as it gets, unfortunately. I found Agnieszka to be a dull and insipid main protagonist. She cries in probably half the chapters and her thought-process is occasionally akin to that to a teenage girl having her period. In a few short chapters, she managed to join Sansa Stark and Briony Eddon as my most hated SFF female characters of all time. The supporting cast is comprised of various lackluster men and women who fail to bring this tale to another level. This book would likely have benefited from having a number of different points of view. Unfortunately, the entire tale is told in the first person, so we only have Agnieszka's often vapid voice to go by. Having the Dragon's POV would probably have brought a certain balance to the narrative and definitely would have added more depth to the story. But it was not to be. . .

I won't even try to mince words here. The pace is absolutely atrocious throughout. You go through chapter after chapter in which little or nothing occurs. And when the tale finally picks up toward the end, having failed to capture the imagination early on, it just doesn't deliver.

When the quality of the Temeraire novels began to go down the crapper, some people started believing that Naomi Novik was a one-trick pony, that every single volume followed the same kind of recipe, and which explained why they were becoming a bit repetitive and dull. "Seven Years from Home" made me believe that this wasn't the case. However, Uprooted truly did me in, and now I'm not sure what to believe anymore. As bad as some of those Temeraire got, they were never sleep-inducing affairs like Uprooted. It just felt like the author was milking the series' popularity for all it was worth and that the proliferation of sequels was just a way to keep the saga alive past the point where it should have ended. For the life of me, I'll never understand how Uprooted garnered such rave reviews. Obviously those readers saw something in the book that totally eluded me and it's all good. Enjoying or disliking a book is a very subjective process, after all. Personally, I hated it from start to finish, and hated the fact that I had no choice but to go through it anyway.

I've never had a problem with Novik's prose in the past. She usually writes well and fluidly. For some reason, Uprooted is full of adjectives and adverbs that really bog down the narrative and I found that extremely annoying.

All in all, even though I've been looking for something, anything, I can find no redeeming quality that could somehow save Uprooted. As I mentioned, it was by far the most boring novel I've read in many a year. I hate to write such negative reviews and would have simply quit reading this book if I'd been home. But I was forced to go on, which explains why I probably feel even more frustrated than I should.

A major disappointment. . .

The final verdict: 4/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Limited editions of Mark Lawrence's The Broken Empire


Well, that thorn guy's first trilogy will soon be available in what should be beautiful limited editions published by Grim Oak Press. Here's an extract from the press release:

Coming Spring 2016 from Grim Oak Press, The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence is an omnibus featuring the three books of his trilogy in one beautiful volume. It will include nine new black and white interiors by fan-favorite artist Jason Chan as well as remarkably wicked thorn graphics by Patrick Rothfuss artist Nate Taylor.

Here are the details:

LETTERED EDITION: $300

■ Limited to 52 copies
■ Leather-bound book in a leather slipcase
■ Signed by Mark Lawrence, Jason Chan, and Nate Taylor
■ Three full-color interior plates by Jason Chan featuring his previous cover artwork on the trilogy
■ Nine new black and white interior images by Jason Chan
■ Exterior and interior thorn graphics created by Nate Taylor
■ Gilded page edges on the book
■ Sewn-in black ribbon
■ Additional short story included with fan interest
LIMITED EDITION: $100

■ Limited to 1000 numbered copies
■ Cloth-bound book with no slipcase
■ Signed by Mark Lawrence, Jason Chan, and Nate Taylor
■ Three black and white interior plates by Jason Chan featuring his previous cover artwork on the trilogy
■ Nine new black and white interior images by Jason Chan
■ Exterior and interior thorn graphics created by Nate Taylor
■ Sewn black ribbon
■ Additional short story included with fan interest

Follow this link for all the information.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian: 20 Adventure Tales of Conan for only 0.99$ here. 1339 pages featuring Conan the Cimmerian for less than 1$, it doesn't get much better than this!

Here's the blurb:

Conan The Barbarian is the original stories about adventure stories of conan the cimmerian written by Robert E. Howard in 1934-1936. In this book contains 20 stories of Conan The Cimmerian.

1.The Hyborian Age, first published in The Phantagraph, February-November 1936.
2.Shadows In the Moonlight, first published in Weird Tales, April 1934.
3.Queen Of the Black Coast, first published in Weird Tales, May 1934.
4.The Devil In Iron, first published in Weird Tales, August 1934.
5.The People Of the Black Circle, first published in Weird Tales, September, October and November 1934.
6.A Witch Shall Be Born, first published in Weird Tales in 1934.
7.The Jewels Of Gwahlur, first published in Weird Tales, March 1935.
8.Beyond the Black River, first published in Weird Tales magazine circa 1935.
9.Shadows In Zamboula, first published in Weird Tales, November 1935.
10.The Hour Of the Dragon, first published in Weird Tales, December 1935-April 1936.
11.Gods Of the North, first published in Fantasy Fan, March 1934.
12.Red Nails, First Published in Weird Tales, July, August-September, October 1936.
13. The Shadow of the Vulture, First published in the pulp magazine Magic Carpet Magazine, January 1934.
14.The Phoenix on the Sword, First published in 1932.
15.The Scarlet Citadel, First published in 1933.
16.The Tower of the Elephant, First published in 1933.
17.Black Colossus, First published in 1934.
18.The Slithering Shadow, First published in 1934.
19.The Pool of the Black One, First published in 1934.
20.Rogues in the House, First published in 1935.

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Joe Abercrombie's HALF A WAR


I'm giving away my ARC of Joe Abercrombie's Half a War to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Words are weapons

Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. She must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge if she is to reclaim her birthright.

Only half a war is fought with swords

The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships no god but Death.

Sometimes one must fight evil with evil

Some – like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith – are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others – like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver – would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "WAR." 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!

Armada



Although I've heard a lot of good things about Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, I have yet to give it a shot. So when Armada showed up in my mailbox and I read the blurb, I was intrigued. This appeared to be exactly what I needed to bring with me on my hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies.

This book is a very entertaining, but also very “light” science fiction tale. You'll go through it in a few sittings, which shows how much fun it truly is. The ending, however, leaves a lot to be desired. It's not a deal-breaker per se, but it does take something away from the overall reading experience. Which is too bad, as early on this looked like it would be one of the speculative fiction titles of the year. But then I realized that Armada is not marketed as a genre title. Hence, it is aimed at an audience which might not be as demanding as the regular scifi crowd. All I know is that if Alastair Reynolds, Ian McDonald, or Peter F. Hamilton had come up with such an ending, chances are they would have been crucified. . .

Here's the blurb:

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

I found the premise of the novel to be quite interesting. First Contact was made with an alien civilization back in the 60s. This fact was classified, as it appeared that they were bent on mankind's destruction. Unbeknownst to everyone around the world, the rise of science fiction movies and TV series such as Star Wars and Star Trek was contrived to prepare the world for the coming of the day when the aliens would attack the Earth. And video games became a means to prepare two generations of men and women to face that threat.

Cline does a good job setting everything up. And if you are a child of the 80s, this book will take you back to your childhood and teenage years. Like Zack's father, I was also a big Atari 2600 gamer and I won a load of Activision badges back in the day. There are so many references to pop culture, geek culture, and to old video games that reading Armada acts like a time machine. There seems to be references to every single science fiction movie (the good, the bad, and, of course, the ugly) ever made. I swear to God, the amount of stuff he was able to cram into the narrative is impressive. And a whole lot of fun to read!

The characterization is interesting until the proverbial shit hits the fan. Zack Lightman is an easy protagonist to root for. Having lost his father at a very young age, his only link to him is the collection of old video games and movies the man left behind. Zack is a well-drawn character and a likeable teenager, one that many guys my age will relate to. As such, channeling his own life through his dead father's obsessions, Zack is kind of an anachronism. Younger readers who won't get all those “older” references probably won't be able to relate to him as much as people in their 30s or 40s.

The problem with the characterization lies in the supporting cast. Where Zack is a three-dimensional protagonist, basically everyone else lacks what makes Zack genuine. Many are walking clichés or tools, and thus are disappointments. You can see that love story coming from a mile away, which somewhat cheapens the whole thing. Each new member of the EDA that teams up with Zack has that skill or something that will allow them to save the day. Sadly, it was too contrived for my taste.

The pace is fluid throughout the novel, making Armada a page-turner. The pop-culture-savvy prose and dialogue make this a joy to go through. All the way to the last few chapters, where pretty much everything goes down the crapper.

As I mentioned, the poor ending doesn't kill the novel. At least it didn't do that for me. Though I have a feeling it might put off some readers. My main problem with it is that it's extremely lackluster and doesn't make that much sense. Armada was such a strong work to begin with that I felt sad that Cline would cap it all off with an ending that fails to live to the high expectations generated by the first 300 pages or so.

Despite the ending, Ernest Cline's Armada will nevertheless appeal to all those boys and girls who, like me, spent hours playing on those old gaming consoles and who grew up watching all those scifi flicks and TV series. There are so many good things throughout the book that it will take you back on a trip down memory lane and make you smile, again and again. Too bad the author couldn't close the show with the same sort of panache that he demonstrated early on. But in the end, Armada remains an amazingly fun and entertaining read!

Armada could have been a terrific novel. One of the very best speculative fiction titles of 2015, no question. Yet the poor ending makes it merely a good one. Still well worth a read, though.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


Probably due to the popularity of the TV series, you can now download Blake Crouch's Pines for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

2013 International Thriller Award Nominee.

Now a Major Television Event from FOX, debuting winter 2015.

Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he get any phone calls through to his wife and son in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what is the purpose of the electrified fences surrounding the town? Are they meant to keep the residents in? Or something else out? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the world he thought he knew, from the man he thought he was, until he must face a horrifying fact—he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive. Intense and gripping, Pines is another masterful thriller from the mind of bestselling novelist Blake Crouch.

Avery Cates: The Shattered Gears



With The Electric Church (Canada, USA, Europe), The Digital Plague (Canada, USA, Europe), The Eternal Prison (Canada, USA, Europe), The Terminal State (Canada, USA, Europe), and The Final Evolution (Canada, USA, Europe), Jeff Somers introduced readers to Avery Cates, a far from likeable gunner you can't help but root for. Often down on his luck and not always the sharpest tool in the shed, Cates' first person narrative has been a highlight since the opening chapter of the very first volume.

So when the author emailed me to let me know that there was a new short story picking up some time after the end of the final installment in the series, I was pretty keen to read it! And then the Holidays rolled around and I totally forgot about it. My bad, I know. It wasn't until a few weeks ago, when Somers notified me that another piece of short fiction set in the same universe would be released in June that I remembered the first short story and made a mental note to finally read it. Better late than never, or so they say. . .

If you are a long-time fan of the Hotlist, you may recall that I pimped Somers' series as much as I could every time a new volume came out. And though it's been four years since the last one, it was so much fun to be reunited with Avery Cates, if only for the duration of a short story.

Here's the blurb:

Picking up after the conclusion of "The Final Evolution," this short story gives a glimpse of what the future holds for Avery Cates in the grim world that exists in the wake of his epic battle with Cainnic Orel, the Angels, and the dehumanizing avatar technology. As the System has collapsed under the pressure of war and a sort of "anti-singularity," Cates finds himself in unfamiliar environs - but as always, he's a quick learner.

Mysterious inhuman figures. An abandoned prison. And The Howler. Cates has his hands full, as usual ... and is starting to get his mojo back.

As was the case with every Avery Cates book, the post-apocalyptic worldbuilding is a neat touch giving the series its own flavor. Even more so since this is a piece of short fiction, it remains in the background and doesn't intrude on the tale itself. The reader definitely feels on familiar grounds, that's for sure.

The first person narrative filled with wise cracks and dark humor continues to work incredibly well and doesn't get old, even after several installments. As I mentioned in the past, Avery Cates is a despicable, manipulative, immoral, lousy, and sick fuck. Yet for all his faults and shortcomings, it's well nigh impossible not to root for the poor sod.

You can always count on Cates to somehow find himself in deep trouble, even when he's not looking for it. This little interlude appears to imply that there might be more in store for Avery Cates. If that's the case, it would make this reader quite happy! The Final Evolution seemed to bring the story arc to a close and no other misadventures seemed forthcoming. But now, someone appears to be looking for Cates. Someone set up a trap to capture him. And the answers he's looking for just might be in Moscow. Only Moscow got turned into slag during the war.

So what can Avery Cates do other than go looking for trouble? I foresee fun times ahead, for the readers if not for Cates. Looking foreward to whatever's in store for him!

The final verdict: 7.5/10

You can download this piece of short fiction for only 0.99$ here.

Win a copy of PJ Manney's (R)EVOLUTION


I have a copy of PJ Manney's (R)evolution up for grabs, courtesy of the folks at 47North. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Scientist Peter Bernhardt has dedicated his life to nanotechnology, the science of manipulating matter on the atomic scale. As the founder of Biogineers, he is on the cusp of revolutionizing brain therapies with microscopic nanorobots that will make certain degenerative diseases become a thing of the past. But after his research is stolen by an unknown enemy, seventy thousand people die in Las Vegas in one abominable moment. No one is more horrified than Peter, as this catastrophe sets in motion events that will forever change not only his life but also the course of human evolution.

Peter’s company is torn from his grasp as the public clamors for his blood. Desperate, he turns to an old friend, who introduces him to the Phoenix Club, a cabal of the most powerful people in the world. To make himself more valuable to his new colleagues, Peter infuses his brain with experimental technology, exponentially upgrading his mental prowess and transforming him irrevocably.

As he’s exposed to unimaginable wealth and influence, Peter’s sense of reality begins to unravel. Do the club members want to help him, or do they just want to claim his technology? What will they do to him once they have their prize? And while he’s already evolved beyond mere humanity, is he advanced enough to take on such formidable enemies and win?

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "MANNEY." 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!

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King’s Finders Keepers is down one spot, finishing the week at number 2.

Laurell K. Hamilton’s Dead Ice debuts at number 7.

Neal Stephenson's Seveneves is down five spots, finishing the week at number 12. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is up six positions, ending the week at number 1 (trade paperback).

Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven maintains its position at number 4.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones maintains its position at number 5.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is up five spots, finishing the week at number 13.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is up two positions, ending the week at number 17 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes returns at number 18 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings returns at number 19.

UK cover art for Jim Butcher’s THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS


The folks at Orbit just released the cover art for Jim Butcher's upcoming The Aeronaut's Windlass on their website.

Here's the blurb:

Jim Butcher, the no.1 Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera novels, conjures up a new series set in a fantastic world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors . . .

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the leaders of Albion – to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake . . .

More inexpensive ebook goodies


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The visionary creator of the Academy Award-winning Pan's Labyrinth and a Hammett Award-winning author bring their imaginations to this bold, epic novel about a horrifying battle between man and vampire that threatens all humanity. It is the first installment in a thrilling trilogy and an extraordinary international publishing event.

The Strain

They have always been here. Vampires. In secret and in darkness. Waiting. Now their time has come.

In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country.

In two months--the world.

Win a copy of Christopher Golden's TIN MEN


I'm giving away my review copy of Christopher Golden's Tin Men to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

After political upheaval, economic collapse, and environmental disaster, the world has become a hotspot, boiling over into chaos of near apocalyptic proportions. In this perpetual state of emergency, all that separates order from anarchy is the military might of a United States determined to keep peace among nations waging a free-for-all battle for survival and supremacy.

But a conflict unlike any before demands an equally unprecedented fighting force on its front lines. Enter the Remote Infantry Corps: robot soldiers deployed in war zones around the world, controlled by human operators thousands of miles from the action. PFC Danny Kelso is one of these “Tin Men,” stationed with his fellow platoon members at a subterranean base in Germany, steering their cybernetic avatars through combat in the civil-war-ravaged streets of Syria. Immune to injury and death, this brave new breed of American warrior has a battlefield edge that’s all but unstoppable—until a flesh-and-blood enemy targets the Tin Men’s high-tech advantage in a dangerously game-changing counter strike.

When anarchists unleash a massive electromagnetic pulse, short-circuiting the world’s technology, Kelso and his comrades-in-arms find themselves trapped—their minds tethered within their robot bodies and, for the first time, their lives at risk.

Now, with rocket-wielding “Bot Killers” gunning for them, and desperate members of the unit threatening to go rogue, it’s the worst possible time for the Tin Men to face their most crucial mission. But an economic summit is under terrorist attack, the U.S. president is running for his life, and the men and women of the 1st Remote Infantry Division must take the fight to the next level—if they want to be the last combatants standing, not the first of their kind to fall forever.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "TIN." 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!

Naomi Novik contest winner!

This lucky winner will receive my Advance Reading Copy of Naomi Novik's Uprooted to one lucky winner. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Rick Primeau, from Buffalo, New York, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Lou Anders' NIGHTBORN


Thanks to the folks at Crown Books for Young Readers, I have two ARCs of Lou Anders' Nightborn for you to win. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Karn Korlundsson is a gamer. Not a riddle solver. But in order to rescue his best friend, Thianna Frostborn, he will need to travel to the faraway city of Castlebriar (by wyvern), learn how to play a new board game called Charioteers (not a problem), decipher the Riddle of the Horn, and tangle with mysterious elves.

Meet Desstra. She’s in training to join the Underhand—the elite agents of the dark elves. When she crosses paths with Karn, she is not all that she appears to be.

Everyone is chasing after the horn of Osius, an ancient artifact with the power to change the world. The lengths to which Karn will go in the name of friendship will be sorely tested. Who knew that solving a riddle could be so deadly?

The novel includes instructions for playing the board game Charioteers. Visit ThronesandBones.com for additional games, maps, character profiles, and more!

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "NIGHTBORN." 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!


I just read a new Avery Cates short story and I realized that I haven't pimped Jeff Somers in quite some time. So just wanted to point out that you can download his debut, The Electric Church, for 5.81$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Avery Cates is a very bad man. Some might call him a criminal. He might even be a killer - for the Right Price. But right now, Avery Cates is scared. He's up against the Monks: cyborgs with human brains, enhanced robotic bodies, and a small arsenal of advanced weaponry. Their mission is to convert anyone and everyone to the Electric Church. But there is just one snag. Conversion means death.

"Some debuts simply set new bars in a genre. Jeff Somers' THE ELECTRIC CHURCH is one such book, a gritty noir story that challenges and surprises with every page. A novel that is equal parts Raymond Chandler and William Gibson. A major new talent has arrived -- and it's about time!" -- James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of MAP OF BONES and BLACK ORDER

Quote of the Day

This was my own fault, I realized. I could've taken precautions. But instead, I'd done the opposite. Like my old man, I'd spent my entire life overdosing on uncut escapism, willingly allowing fantasy to become my reality. And now, like my father before me, I was paying the price for my lack of vision. I was going off the rails on a crazy train. You could practically hear Ozzy screaming "All aboard!"

- ERNEST CLINE, Armada (Canada, USA, Europe)

I'm about 2/3 into this book and it's been the most fun I've had reading in years! =)

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King’s Finders Keepers debuts at number 1.

Neal Stephenson's Seveneves is down two spots, finishing the week at number 7. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife is down three positions, ending the week at number 19.

In paperback:

Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven debuts at number 4.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is up three positions, ending the week at number 5.

Andy Weir's The Martian is up down positions, ending the week at number 7 (trade paperback).

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game returns at number 18.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One maintains its position at number 19 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Revival is up seven positions, ending the week at number 20 (trade paperback).

Mark Lawrence contest winner!

Our winner will get his hands on a copy of Mark Lawrence's The Liar's Key, compliments of the folks at Ace. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Doug Landis, from Quarryville, Pennsylvania, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Seveneves


I've always been a big fan of Neal Stephenson. His writing style and wit make him a unique voice in speculative fiction and I knew I was going to read Seveneves as soon as it came out. Kudos to the publicity folks at William Morrow for sending out a survival kit for the coming end of the world along with the book. Selected to represent our nation to propagate the human race in outer space after the Earth is destroyed, the kit contains goodies such as a barf bag, a self-filtering water bottle, mylar blanket, tequila, and more! A very nice touch that really made you want to get started with the novel ASAP!

From the synopsis, it appeared that Seveneves would be another crazy, erudite, complex, and totally fucked-up novel like only Neal Stephenson can write them. Problem is, although good, this book wasn't exactly what the author has accustomed us to in the past.

Here's the blurb:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anathem, Reamde, and Cryptonomicon comes an exciting and thought-provoking science fiction epic—a grand story of annihilation and survival spanning five thousand years.

What would happen if the world were ending?

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain . . .

Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary and eerily recognizable. As he did in Anathem, Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle, and Reamde, Stephenson explores some of our biggest ideas and perplexing challenges in a breathtaking saga that is daring, engrossing, and altogether brilliant.

Along with Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Neal Stephenson's witty narrative trumps pretty much that of every single writer out there. The man can come up with prose that is simultaneously thought-provoking and will make you laugh. Indeed, it is usually impossible to read one of the author's works and not chuckle every couple of pages or so. And yet, for some reason, Stephenson elected to forgo his habitual style and tone and went for something altogether different. Hence, the first two parts of Seveneves, comprised of 566 pages, feel as though they were written by Kim Stanley Robinson. And though I love Robinson, it felt decidedly weird to read something that was so unlike what I had come to expect from Stephenson.

Like other readers and reviewers, I was expecting to read a panoply of accounts of disparate people's reactions to the impending doom of mankind. I was expecting civic unrest on a massive scale, and martial law as the social order began to unravel everywhere around the world. Simply put, I was expectating the first portion of Seveneves to be sort of a sociological study of how mankind would cope with the inevitable destruction of all but a few human souls. Not unexpectedly, Stephenson chose to focus on the more technical aspects of spacefaring and how the few survivors would initially establish themselves and then hopefully thrive until they would return to Earth thousands of years later once the planet became habitable again. I guess that Stephenson has a better opinion of the human race than I, which is why I couldn't quite believe that the two years leading to the catastrophe that would bring mankind on the brink of extinction were more or less chaos free. Basically every natural disaster of the last decade or so has engendered violence and looting. And yet, the author's portrayal of the months leading to what will come to be known as the Hard Rain was so peaceful and organized as to be contrived beyond belief. This, coming from such a talented author, was a bit of a disapointment.

With the book's main focus on the events taking place aboard the International Space Station, everything which is happening back on Earth is kept in the background for the most part. This, in the end, was the novel's biggest flaw. Not a deal-breaker, but it did take a lot away from the overall reading experience. Seveneves has a wonderful premise, but assuming that billions of people would simply accept their fate so peacefully takes away a lot of credibility. By electing to focus on what was being done in orbit as mankind prepares for the worst and refusing to tackle the issues that would certainly occur everywhere around the world, it felt like a cop out.

In terms of rhythm, the pace is uneven throughout the book. The first two parts are filled with scientific stuff and info-dumps as various characters are called upon to find ways to make life in space a possibility. Exploring the various facets of this space ark project is interesting, but the narrative often feels like a science documentary and it can be quite boring at times. For that reason, Seveneves can occasionally be a veritable chore to read. The last part takes place five thousand years later, as mankind is ready to return to Earth. This portion of the book is written in Neal Stephenson's usual style and it feels like a totally different book, written by a different author. Much better as far as the pace is concerned, it also features a bunch of interesting men and women, and makes for a much better reading experience.

In the end, the first 2/3 of Seveneves is pure hard science fiction that ultimately fails to deliver because it portrays humanity without its flaws. However, the last 300 pages or so are more akin to Dan Simmons' Hyperion and are a blast from start to finish. I wish Stepheson had spent less time focusing on what was taking place aboard the International Space Station and had instead focused a bit more on mankind's return to our planet. That last part is a real page-turner!

Overall, Stephenson's latest remains an interesting read. But what could have a been a great novel turned out to be merely a good one. Without the third part, Seveneves would have been a major disappointment. It's the Seven's secret mission and its aftermath which save this novel. But in a way, it just might be a case of too little, too late.

The final verdict: 7/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 6, edited by Ellen Datlow, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” —H. P. Lovecraft

This statement was true when H. P. Lovecraft first wrote it at the beginning of the twentieth century, and it remains true at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The only thing that has changed is what is unknown.

With each passing year, science, technology, and the march of time shine light into the craggy corners of the universe, making the fears of an earlier generation seem quaint. But this “light” creates its own shadows. The Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow, chronicles these shifting shadows. It is a catalog of terror, fear, and unpleasantness, as articulated by today’s most challenging and exciting writers.

The best horror writers of today do the same thing that horror writers of a hundred years ago did. They tell good stories—stories that scare us. And when these writers tell really good stories that really scare us, Ellen Datlow notices. She’s been noticing for more than a quarter century. For twenty-one years, she coedited The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and for the last six years, she’s edited this series. In addition to this monumental cataloging of the best, she has edited hundreds of other horror anthologies and won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards.

More than any other editor or critic, Ellen Datlow has charted the shadowy abyss of horror fiction. Join her on this journey into the dark parts of the human heart . . . either for the first time . . . or once again.