Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Vintage Books, these winners will receive a copy of Robot Uprisings, edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Very rarely, there comes a novel so grand in scope, so rich in historical details, so vibrant, so engrossing, that you basically lose track of everything else around you. James Clavell's international bestselling masterpiece Shogun was one such novel. Indeed, it made for the ultimate reading experience. Awesome doesn't even begin to describe the book. Such were my thoughts when I sat down to write my review for Shogun.
I had been looking forward to sinking my teeth into Tai-Pan. When I booked my flights and got confirmation that I would be flying to/from Hong Kong last winter, I knew that this James Clavell bestseller was coming with me! I thought that it would be interesting to walk around modern day Hong Kong and then read about how it all came to be. Unfortunately, though Tai-Pan is a good and entertaining read, it failed to capture my imagination the way Shogun did. . .
Here's the blurb:
It is the early 19th century, when European traders and adventurers first began to penetrate the forbidding Chinese mainland. And it is in this exciting time and exotic place that a giant of an Englishman, Dirk Straun, sets out to turn the desolate island of Hong Kong into an impregnable fortress of British power, and to make himself supreme ruler…Tai-Pan!
Dirk Struan is a protagonist loosely based on William Jardine and his Noble House is based on Jardine Matheson and Co., a major Scottish trading company which was known as the Jardine Matheson Holdings at the time of the founding of Hong Kong. As was the case with Shogun, the narrative is filled with a wealth of historical details. Once again, the author managed to imbue Tai-Pan with an encyclopedic knowledge pertaining to the culture and history of 19th century China. The novel starts right after the British victory in the first Opium War and with their laying claim to the rugged island of Hong Kong. Political and social upheavals in England and elsewhere in the Empire have repercussions throughout the tale. In terms of worldbuilding, even though it may not be as dense and sprawling a novel as Shogun, Tai-Pan remains a vast, dramatic, and marvelously crafted work of fiction.
James Clavell has a veritable knack for creating memorable characters. Understandably, Dirk Struan takes center stage throughout the book, as he is the only one who fully understands Hong Kong's incalculable worth and he remains the only true architect bent on shaping a commercial future in which the Noble House and the island are intricately linked. Still, as was the case in Shogun, a panoply of points of view from several characters, great and small, add layers upon layers to a very complex story. Again, the tale would never have been the same without the opportunity to witness events unfold through the eyes of men and women such as Culum Struan, Tyler Brock, May–May, Gordon Chen, Horatio Sinclair, and many more.
Weighing in at 732 pages, Tai-Pan is another big book, one which you would think would suffer from occasional pacing issues. Not so, however, as there is enough suspense and unexpected surprises to keep you hooked from start to finish. Although it's a another door-stopper work, for me there wasn't a single dull moment between the covers of Tai-Pan.
What sort of killed the novel for me was its ending. The lack of resolution, with everything literally hanging up in the air and the reader reaching the end of Tai-Pan before the smoke has even begun to clear. Though Shogun was always meant to be part of a much larger whole, it was nonetheless a great stand-alone work featuring a more or less self-contained, if multilayered, story arc. Sadly, Tai-Pan's finale doesn't provide much in the way of answers, I'm afraid. And to make it worse, it raises a decidedly high number of new questions. As such, the book leaves you hanging high and dry, which makes for a big disappointment.
Hence, like Shogun, for the most part James Clavell's Tai-Pan is an epic, captivating, exciting, panoramic, dramatic tale of the Far East. And yet, the anticlimactic and lackluster ending fail to live up to the lofty expectations generated by the novel's immense potential and make for a somewhat frustrating reading experience. For no matter how awesome 95% of the book was, the fashion in which the author brings it to a close robs Tai-Pan of the sort of emotional impact that made Shogun such an unforgettable read.
You can now download Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus for only 4.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
When a private envoy of the queen and member of Lord Carmichael's discreet service goes missing, Balfour and Meriwether are asked to look into the affair. They will find a labyrinth of dreams, horrors risen from hell, prophecy, sexual perversion, and an abandoned farmhouse on the moors outside Harrowmoor Sanitarium. The earth itself will bare its secrets and the Empire itself will tremble in the face of the hidden dangers they discover, but the greatest peril is the one they have brought with them.
Balfour and Meriwether in the Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs is the first novella length work in the Balfour and Meriwether stories by Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominated author Daniel Abraham.
Syfy has given a direct-to-series order to an exciting-sounding new project based on an acclaimed sci-fi book series. The cable network has ordered 10 episodes of The Expanse, from Academy Award-nominated screenwriting duo Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (Children of Men, Iron Man) and Alcon Television Group. The project has been described by industry insiders as “Game of Thrones in space” — not so much because of the specifics of the plot, but because it tells a dramatic sprawling grown-up story within a popular fantasy genre that’s based on a respected series of novels. The logline: “A thriller set two hundred years in the future, The Expanse follows the case of a missing young woman who brings a hardened detective and a rogue ship’s captain together in a race across the solar system to expose the greatest conspiracy in human history.” The Expanse is based on a series of books by James S.A. Corey. The most well-known title is probably the first in the series, Leviathan Wakes, which has been praised for reinventing and updating the old-school Star Wars/Firefly-style space opera. Syfy won a bidding war with another content producer to acquire the project. Syfy president Dave Howe promised, “The Expanse is epic in scale and scope and promises to be Syfy’s most ambitious series to date. Bringing this coveted book franchise to television with our partners at Alcon and the Sean Daniel Company is a giant win for Syfy, reinforcing our overall strategy to produce bold, provocative and compelling sci-fi fantasy stories. The Expanse joins a killer line-up of high-concept, high quality series, along with recently announced original projects Ascension, 12 Monkeys, the renewal of Helix, and the soon to premiere Dominion.” Sean Daniel and Jason Brown of the Sean Daniel Company developed the original pitch, with Fergus and Ostby, and will also executive produce. “The Expanse is one of the most special pieces of material we’ve ever encountered and it has been our dream to bring it to life since the moment we read it,” Daniel and Brown said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to be doing it with this team of all-stars.” Added Alcon president Sharon Hall: “The Expanse is an addictive, sophisticated, character-driven franchise and Mark and Hawk are the perfect people to steer it. Their script is a totally immersive and accessible sci-fi journey.”
Although I'm pretty sure that most of you have already read it, you should know that you can download Joe Abercrombie's debut, The Blade Itself, for only 1.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies. Nobleman, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules. Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it. Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glotka a whole lot more difficult. Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood. Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Blade Itself is noir fantasy with a real cutting edge.
Three Subterranean Press limited editions by Alastair Reynolds can still be downloaded on the cheap!
You can get The Six Directions of Space for 2.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
What if Genghis Khan got his wish, and brought the entire planet under the control of the Mongols? Where would he have gone next?
A thousand years after Khan's death, Yellow Dog is the codename of a female spy working for a vast Mongol-dominated galactic empire. When she learns of anomalous events happening on the edge of civilised space -- phantom ships appearing in the faster-than-light transit system which binds the empire together -- Yellow Dog puts herself forward for the most hazardous assignment of her career. In deep cover, she must penetrate the autonomous zone where the anomalies are most frequent, and determine whether the empire is really under attack, and if so by who or what. Yellow Dog's problems, however, are only just beginning. For the autonomous zone is under the heel of Qilian, a thuggish local tyrant with no love for central government and a reputation for extreme brutality. Qilian already knows more about the anomalies than Yellow Dog does. If she is going to learn more, she will have to earn his confidence -- even if that means working for him, rather than against him.
So begins a deadly game of subterfuge and double-cross -- while the anomalies increase...
In novels such as Chasm City and Revelation Space, Alastair Reynolds established himself as an indisputable master of the far-flung intergalactic epic. Reynolds brings that same deceptively effortless mastery to the shorter fictional forms, a fact that Troika, his elegant, compulsively readable new novella, amply demonstrates. Troika tells the story of men and women confronting an enigma known as the Matryoshka, a vast alien construct whose periodic appearances have generated terror, wonder, and endless debate. During its third "apparition" in a remote corner of the galaxy, a trio of Russian cosmonauts approach this enigma and attempt to penetrate its mysteries. What they discover--and what they endure in the process--forms the centerpiece of an enthralling, constantly surprising narrative. Troika is at once a wholly original account of First Contact and a meditation on time, history, and the essentially fluid nature of identity itself. Suspenseful, erudite, and gracefully written, it is a significant accomplishment in its own right and a welcome addition to a remarkable body of work.
And you can also download Thousandth Night for 2.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
Thousandth Night, the genesis for the epic novel House of Suns, is quintessential Reynolds. A visionary account of intrigue, ambition, and technological marvels set within a beautifully realized far-future milieu, it combines world-class storytelling with a provocative meditation on the mystery, grandeur, and inconceivable immensity of the universe.
The castle of Anderras Darion has stood abandoned and majestic for as long as anyone can remember. Then, from out of the mountains, comes the healer, Hawklan - a man with no memory of the past - to take possession of the keep with his sole companion, Gavor. Across the country, the great fortress of Narsindalvak is a constant reminder of the victory won by the hero Ethriss in alliance with the three realms of Orthlund, Riddin and Fyorlund against the Dark Lord, Sumeral, hundreds of years before. But Rgoric, the ailing king of Fyorlund and protector of the peace, has fallen under the malign influence of the Lord Dan-Tor, and from the bleakness of Narsindal come ugly rumours. It is whispered that Mandrocs are abroad again and that the Dark Lord himself is stirring. And in the remote fastness of Anderras Darion, Hawklan feels deep within himself the echoes of an ancient power and the unknown, yet strangely familiar, call to arms... "The Call of the Sword" is Book One of The Chronicles of Hawklan.
As if anyone needed more proof that 'Game of Thrones' is a cultural juggernaut, Sunday night's Season Four premiere earned HBO its highest ratings since 'The Sopranos' aired its last episode in 2007, according to EW. The show's 6.6 million viewers was its biggest audience yet, with two replays boosting that number to 8.2 million people. (The show's third season, which debuted March 31st of last year, garnered 4.4 million viewers by comparison.) The show also broke its own record for most-viewed episode previously held by week six of the third season (5.5 million viewers).
You can now download Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball's Acorna for only 0.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
"Something's Alive In There!" She was just a little girl, with a tiny horn in the center of her forehead, funny-looking feet, beautiful silver hair, and several curious powers: the ability to purify air and water, make plants grow, and heal scars and broken bones. A trio of grizzled prospectors found her drifting in an escape pod amid the asteroids, adopted her, and took her to the bandit planet Kezdet, a place where no questions are asked and the girl might grow up free. But Kezdet has its own dark secret. The prosperity of the planet is based on a hideous trade in child slave labor, administered by "The Piper" -- a mystery man with special plans for Acorna and her powers. But free little girls have a way of growing into freedom-loving young women, and Acorna has special plans all her own. . .
And all the sequels in the series are available for between 3.99$ and 5.99$.
Right off the bat, let me just say that, as is the case with Guy Gavriel Kay and L. E. Modesitt, jr., it feels as though Paul Kearney, even after all these years of writing quality novels, remains criminally unread for the most part. The Macht trilogy, his latest work, is in my humble opinion one of the very best fantasy series of the new millennium. So when it was announced that Solaris were reissuing A Different Kingdom, what many fans consider Kearney's best novel to date, I was pretty excited and knew I wanted to give it a shot ASAP.
Still, since the book was first published more than two decades ago, I was wondering if A Different Kingdom had aged well and could be read and enjoyed as much by readers in 2014 as those who fell in love with the novel when it was originally released in 1993. The answer, I'm pleased to report, is a resounding yes!
Here's the blurb:
Michael Fay is a normal boy, living with his grandparents on their family farm in rural Ireland. In the woods—once thought safe and well-explored—there are wolves; and other, stranger things. He keeps them from his family, even his Aunt Rose, his closest friend, until the day he finds himself in the Other Place. There are wild people, and terrible monsters, and a girl called Cat. When the wolves follow him from the Other Place to his family’s doorstep, Michael must choose between locking the doors and looking away—or following Cat on an adventure that may take an entire lifetime in the Other Place. He will become a man, and a warrior, and confront the Devil himself: the terrible Dark Horseman...
By SFF standards, A Different Kingdom is not a big novel. Weighing in at 423 pages, I have a feeling that had it been published in this day and age, the tale would have probably been a duology instead of a stand-alone work. And even though you get the feeling that Kearney didn't have the luxury of elaborating a whole lot when it comes to worldbuilding, this book is neverheless full of depth. My only complaint about it would be that I would have loved to learn more about most ideas and concepts the author introduced in A Different Kingdom. Perhaps due to the limited wordcount, Paul Kearney's narrative is superior to everything else he has ever written. His prose creates an imagery that makes the land and the characters come alive in a way that you seldom see.
It takes a little while to get used to the structure of the novel, as portions of basically every chapter jump from the present (Michael, now a grown and broken man living in England), to the past (Michael as a young man traveling in the Other Place), and an even more distant past (Michael as a young boy living in Ireland). But once you make sense of it, then everything works quite splendidly and Michael's tale grabs hold of you and captures your imagination. Michael Fray is, as a matter of course, the main protagonist of the book. I feel that Kearney did a great job portraying him at various stages of his life, from the curious boy, to the courageous young man, and then the broken man who grew old before his time. The supporting cast is comprised of a number of interesting characters, namely Michael's grandparents and his aunt Rose in the past, and of course Cat once he enters the Other Place.
The pace remains crisp throughout the book, and unfortunately you reach the end of this one all too quickly. Kudos to Paul Kearney for managing to fool the readers and bring A Different Kingdom to a close with a totally unanticipated ending. Although I wish this novel had been longer, the fact that it's a relatively short work by today's speculative fiction standards (with no info-dumps, no focus on extraneous plotlines that bring little to the overall story arc, and not a single dull moment between the covers) makes for a fully satisfying read. The blurb might make one think that this is a generic, run-of-the-mill fantasy story that you've seen many times before. Believe you me: It's far from that!
Simply put, A Different Kingdom is an awesome fantasy work produced by one of the most underappreciated speculative fiction authors out there. Better yet, it's Paul Kearney writing at the top of his game. If you are looking for an engaging and original stand-alone fantasy work to read, A Different Kingdom might just be what the doctor ordered!
A lot of people have messaged me to ask me whatever happened with the self-published SFF work I was supposed to read and review last spring. Well, nothing happened. . .
After getting in touch with the winner a couple of times prior to my trip to Ukraine last year, I tried once again during summer. When readers got in touch with me asking when the review would go up, I tried to contact another author whose work had piqued my curiosity. Again, no reply. I tried one last time around September, again with no luck.
I had totally forgotten about this until someone emailed me about it last week. So I just wanted to give you guys a little update to let you know that things have apparently gone down the crapper regarding this. . .
You can now download Terry Brooks' first omnibus of The Magic Kingdom of Landover series for only 1.99$ here.
Here's the blurb for the first installment:
After Ben Holiday purchased Landover, he discovered the magic kingdom had some problems. The Barons refused to recognize a king and the peasants were without hope. To make matters worse, Ben learned that he had to duel to the death with the Iron Mask, the terrible lord of the demons--a duel which no human could hope to win...
You can also download The Best of Lucius Shepard for only 2.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
Lucius Shepard writes from the darkest, truest heart of America -- not the heart of the United States or of North America, but all of America -- and he writes of it with rare passion, honesty and intelligence. His earliest stories, the ones that made his name a quarter of a century ago were set in the jungles of South America and filled with creatures dark and fantastical. Stories like "Salvador", "The Jaguar Hunter", and the excoriatingly brilliant "R&R" deconstructed war and peace in South America, in both the past and the future, like no other writer of the fantastic. A writer of great talent and equally great scope, Shepard has also written of the seamier side of the United States at home in classic stories like "Life of Buddha" and "Dead Money", and in "Only Partly Here" has written one of the finest post-9/11 stories yet. Perhaps strangest of all, Shepard created one of the greatest sequence of "dragon" stories we've seen in the tales featuring the enormous dragon, Griaule. The Best of Lucius Shepard is the first ever career retrospective collection from one of the finest writers of the fantastic to emerge in the United States over the past quarter century. It contains nearly 300,000 words of his best short fiction and is destined to be recognized as a true classic of the field.
You can also download Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero for only 2.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there's either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills... and there's nothing wrong with Joe Ledger's skills. And that's both a good, and a bad thing. It's good because he's a Baltimore detective that has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new taskforce created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can't handle. This rapid response group is called the Department of Military Sciences or the DMS for short. It's bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance...
You can now download David Constantine's The Pillars of Hercules for only 3.49$ here.
Here's the blurb:
Alexander, Prince of Macedon, is the terror of the world. Persia, Egypt, Athens… one after another, mighty nations are falling before the fearsome conqueror. Some say Alexander is actually the son of Zeus, king of the gods, and the living incarnation of Hercules himself. Worse yet, some say Alexander believes this… The ambitious prince is aided in his conquest by unstoppable war-machines based on the forbidden knowledge of his former tutor, the legendary scientist-mage known as Aristotle. Greek fire, mechanical golems, and gigantic siege-engines lay waste to Alexander's enemies as his armies march relentlessly west—toward the very edge of the world. Beyond the Pillars of Hercules, past the gateway to the outer ocean, lies the rumored remnants of Atlantis: ancient artifacts of such tremendous power that they may be all that stands between Alexander and conquest of the entire world. Alexander desires that power for himself, but an unlikely band of fugitives—including a Gaulish barbarian, a cynical Greek archer, a cunning Persian princess, and a sorcerer's daughter—must find it first… before Alexander unleashes godlike forces that will shatter civilization. The Pillars of Hercules is an epic adventure that captures the grandeur and mystery of the ancient world as it might have been, where science and magic are one and the same.
Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Crown Publishing, I have three copies of Chris Beckett's Dark Eden up for grabs! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family take shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees. Beyond the Forest lie the mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it. The Oldest among the Family recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross the stars. These ships brought us here, the Oldest say—and the Family must only wait for the travelers to return. But young John Redlantern will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. He will abandon the old ways, venture into the Dark...and discover the truth about their world. Already remarkably acclaimed in the United Kingdom, Dark Eden is science fiction as literature: part parable, part powerful coming-of-age story, set in a truly original alien world of dark, sinister beauty and rendered in prose that is at once strikingly simple and stunningly inventive.
You can now download Legends, an anthology edited by Ian Whates, for only 3.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
Legends is an anthology of all original stories written to honour the memory of one of Britain’s greatest fantasy authors. Determined warriors, hideous creatures, wicked sorceries, tricksy villains and cunning lovers abound as fantasy’s finest imaginations do their best and their worst. James Barclay reveals the origins of his elite mercenary band The Raven, Adrian Tchaikovsky unveils new aspects of the realm of the Apt, Tanith Lee, Joe Abercrombie, Storm Constantine, Stan Nicholls, Juliet E McKenna and more weave their magic as only they can. Produced in cooperation with the David Gemmell Awards, Legends will, in part, act as a fund-raiser for the awards. Steel yourself, throw caution to the wind, and dare to enter the realm of Legends.
You can now download C.J. Cherryh's Hammerfall for only 3.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
One of the most renowned figures in science fiction, C.J. Cherryh has been enthralling audiences for nearly thirty years with rich and complex novels. Now at the peak of her career, this three-time Hugo Award winner launches her most ambitious work in decades, Hammerfall, part of a far-ranging series, The Gene Wars, set in an entirely new universe scarred by the most vicious of future weaponry, nanotechnology. In this brilliant novel -- possibly Cherryh's masterwork -- the fate of billions has come down to a confrontation between two profoundly alien cultures on a single desert planet. "The mad shall be searched out and given to the Ila's messengers. No man shall conceal madness in his wife, or his son, or his daughter, or his father. Every one must be delivered up." -- The Book of the Ila's Au'it Marak has suffered the madness his entire life. He is a prince and warrior, strong and shrewd and expert in the ways of the desert covering his planet. In the service of his father, he has dedicated his life to overthrowing the Ila, the mysterious eternal dictator of his world. For years he has successfully hidden the visions that plague him -- voices pulling him eastward, calling Marak, Marak, Marak, amid mind-twisting visions of a silver tower. But when his secret is discovered, Marak is betrayed by his own father and forced to march in an endless caravan with the rest of his world's madmen to the Ila's city of Oburan. Instead of death, Marak finds in Oburan his destiny, and the promise of life -- if he can survive what is surely a suicidal mission. The Ila wants him to discover the source of the voices and visions that afflict the mad. Despite the danger sof the hostile desert, tensions within the caravan, and his own excruciating doubts, Marak miraculously reaches his goal -- only to be given another, even more impossible mission by the strange people in the towers. According to these beings who look like him yet act differently than anyone he has ever known, Marak has a slim chance to save his world's people from the wrath of Ila's enemies. But to do so, he must convince them all -- warring tribes, villagers, priests, young and old, as well as the Ila herself -- to follow him on an epic trek across the burning desert before the hammer of the Ila's foes falls from the heavens above. Written with deceptive simplicity and lyricism, this riveting, fast-paced epic of war, love, and survival in a brave new world marks a major achievement from the masterful C.J. Cherryh.
Our three winners will get their hands on a copy of L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s latest installment in the Imager Portfolio, Rex Regis, compliments of the folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.