Joe Abercrombie's website is finally up and running!

Many Canadian and European fantasy readers have read and enjoyed Abercrombie's The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged. Fortunately for US residents, Pyr will be publishing the American edition of The Blade Itself in September.

Those who hang out on and are undoubtedly aware that Joe can be found lurking and posting on those two boards. Even better, he has updated his website.

So if you want to learn more about one of the bright new voices in the fantasy genre, check out

Joe called the Hotlist «The gold-standard of sf&f blogs.» Is there any doubt that this guy knows his shit!?!

I will do a few things to help promote this title, so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, visit Joe's website and see if its content can pique your curiosity in such a way that you'll be tempted to give his debut a shot.

The Traveler

When John Twelve Hawks' The Traveler was released in 2005, it immediately created waves that rippled across genre fiction and beyond. As a matter of course, I wished to read this novel, yet I wanted to wait for the buzz to die down before giving it a shot. And somehow, I forgot all about it. When I was sent an ARC of the sequel, The Dark River, I realized once again how much of a dumbass I could be when I put my mind to it.

To remedy this unfortunate and unacceptable state of affairs, I brought The Traveler with me to NYC and DC. And I'm sure glad I did!

This thought-provoking techno-thriller will keep you begging for more! Complex and engrossing, The Traveler is a post September 11th cyber-version of the classic 1984.

John Twelve Hawks' narrative is powerful and evocative, with each locale coming alive and jumping off the pages. I look forward to discovering more about the different Realms.

The characters are genuine, believable, and well-drawn. Maya, in particular, is not your typical female protagonist. It's obvious that there will be something between her and Gabriel, yet it's going to be interesting to see how it will unfold in the two sequels. I'm curious to discover more about the Brethren and the unknown advanced civilization they've been communicating with via the quantum computer.

Fast-paced and exciting, The Traveler is hard to put down. Short chapters jumping from one POV character to the next ensure that readers keep turning those pages.

Though the novel is a well-executed thriller, it's the "fantasy" elements found within that truly make this one such an awesome read. The Harlequins, the Travelers, the Brethren, the Realms, and how they are all connected to our collective history, past and present, those are the characteristics which will mesmerize you at every turn.

Disturbing and paranoid, The Traveler should satisfy anyone looking for a quality read this summer.

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

Interview with Tobias S. Buckell

Hi there,

This Q&A would have appeared sooner, but I was on vacation! Tobias S. Buckell's new book, Ragamuffin (Canada, USA, Europe), has just been released, so I figured it would be nice to have a chat with the author!

My partner in crime for this one was Larry (Dylanfanatic) from and

To learn more about Buckell and his books, check out


- For those of us not familiar with your work, what can you tell potential readers about both Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin?

I call Crystal Rain my Caribbean steampunk novel. It's full of airships, steam powered trains, brass dials, flintlocks, that sort of thing. The world its set on is a lost colony settled by people of Caribbean background that has also lost its technology, and is working its way back up. Ragamuffin is my Caribbean space opera. Space opera is that genre of great big outer space adventure. Merchant ships observing great civilizations clash on a big scale, strange inscrutable aliens manipulating humans, that sort of thing. Only my heros in this book are Caribbean space merchants, branded and outcast as pirates. Both are picked with a lot of high octane adventure and fun. And explosions.

- Are you happy with the way Crystal Rain was greeted by the SFFcommunity?

Gosh yes, it was very well received and exceeded my grandest hopes for it. It got on the Nebula semi-final ballot, on the Locus Award for Best First Novel final ballot, and it got lots of great reviews and reader praise. I'm excited that the paperback is out, I'm hoping a whole new set of people get their hands on it!

- Will you be touring to promote Ragamuffin this summer? If so, arethere any specific dates that have been confirmed as of yet?

I'll be in Greensburg, PA at the end of the month, at Flights of Fantasy in Loudonville, NY August 22nd, and for now, that's about it. I'm really focused on finishing book three, and once that is done, I'm going to try and set up fall activity and touring.

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write both Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin in the first place?

I really wanted to try my hand at the tropes and traditions of the genre that I loved so much, but with a fully Caribbean flair and background. I felt that in the future all people would be in the future, not just the typical cast of Westerners.

- When crafting the dialogue for Crystal Rain and for Ragamuffin, howdid you go about deciding which Caribbean dialects to use?

I used bits of Grenadian and stuff from the Virgin Islands that I was familiar with. It was a tough enough gig finding the right balance, and something I still agonize over how to represent and pull off. I didn't want to use apostrophes and differently spelled words, so I focused as much as I could on the grammar and unfamiliar word combinations to try and get it across.

- One of the themes of both novels seems to be how conflict affects even the bystanders. Was this a conscious decision?

Yes. I grew up in the middle of a revolution and an invasion, and it always occurred to me that action novels do pass over the side effects and impacts of war on everyone. Heros run around offing people left and right, but what impact does that ever have on them? In the real world they suffer PTSD or develop elaborate self-stories to cushion that impact. Or they're pyschotic and like doing it. And the people whose lives they pass through are tremendously affected: friends, families, bystanders. In either case, the follow up is that there is more to it than just target practice.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

Gosh, I like it when other people analyze my stuff like that. I'm a bit bashful there. I think my sense of fun is a strength. I'm really devoted to not boring people. I feel like, no matter what, you'll whip through my books quickly and have a good romp.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the SFF genre which youwanted to twist or break when you set out to write both novels?

Sure, I wanted to feature characters who were of Caribbean descent in a prominent action adventure, genre-iffic novel, and do it well. I think the world is becoming more multi-cultural and diverse, including our own country, and that we needed more books that reflected that on our shelves if our genre is to survive and gain new readers and remain relevant.

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy Award? Why, exactly?

NYT, in a heartbeat. Don't get me wrong, I'd be an enormously happy author to get, well, any kind of award. But on the practical side of things, I want to make more money so I can write more books. About half my income is SF/F writing related, the other half is freelancing and blogging. If I could entirely focus on books all day, I would be one chipper author. Secondly, I really love the books I've written and poured my heart into them. Being a bestseller would mean more people were getting exposed to them, and that would mean a tremendous amount to me.

- What authors make you shake your head in admiration? Many SFF authors don't read much inside the genre. Is it the case with you?

I love the genre. I think we're in the middle of an incredible burst of coolness going on right now, and that I am now reading so many great books. It sucks to list a handful, because then I leave out others who I feel deserve props. But here is a current list of authors I'm digging on right now: Alistair Reynolds, Sean Williams, Neal Asher, Mark Budz, Linda Nagata, Karin Lowachee, Paul Melko, Paulo Bacigalupi, Karl Schroeder, Scott Westerfeld, John Scalzi, Ian McDonald, Peter Watts, Sean McMullen, Daniel Abraham, Tim Pratt, Ken MacLeod, Chris Roberson, Philip Reeve, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow,China Mieville and David Anthony Durham (I just started reading Acacia last night and am about halfway through, people, check this Fantasy out, it's seriously freaking awesome, and considers the political implications of all the high fantasy tropes out, it's great). I'm also a very fast reader, I do a book every couple days, many in a day if I really like them.

- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of thecovers that grace Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin?

It's so killer important, and authors as a whole have usually so little control. I know I pick up books with killer covers myself. Myself, I've been super fortunate with the collaboration between my editor, Paul Stevens, Irene Gallo, Tor's art director, and Todd Lockwood, the artist for both my books (and for the third, it looks like). Tor has done me well, and I love both my covers for those books. I think they kick ass and promise the same.

- To what degree, if any, are groups such as The League of HumanAffairs influenced by what we see happening in the world today?

You know, it's always interesting to me when modern analogues are drawn from my work. It's flattering and interesting in that it supports my age old belief, from English major days, of Reader Interpretation theory. In that I believe a book and its reader and what the reader draws from it is king, not necessarily what the author would like to force on them.

The League actually draws most of its inspiration from Toussaint L'Overture and his Haitian freedom fighters. Slaves led by Toussaint basically kicked the French off Haiti, in pitched military battle, much to Napeleon's surprise in 1803 when he had his brother-in-law try to reinvade the island to reinstate slavery (and by the way, the Louisiana purchase comes about after France then gives up on the idea of Caribbean and North American dominance after losing Haiti to the slaves, thus adding to the US Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma,Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota and chunks of other nearby South-West territory). After freeing themselves from bondage, Haitians suffer under military strong dictators who rise to power continuously. I imagine the League to be fighters against a great evil, who make so many sacrifices in fighting that greater evil they become something of a lesser evil, but an understandable one. You can understand Haiti's progress, anything is better than slavery, so they make the choice of a strong leader, decisive in military action. I see Americans today who say that in war for your right to freedom you have to give up other civil liberties, and early independent Haitians made a similar choice, it's just that when you cede leadership with that mentality in mind, it can trap you.

- Another theme that I noticed in your Nanagada-related stories is that of imposed change, whether it be the Loa altering themselves, the Gahe-controlled humans, or Nanagadans interacting with the League in "Necahual." Would it be safe to say that there are many complex interrelationships going on beneath the surface of your stories as these disparate groups mix and mingle?

Cultural power dynamics fascinate me. I'm trying to show that they're complicated, and gray, and that it also creates a lot of ground for conflict. And a novelist's trade is all about conflict! People do try to dodge talking about these sorts of things, I think making it far away in a bizarre future helps people decouple a lot of their own baggage and engage with the concepts a bit more.

- The fact that there is a website dedicated to your work is an indication that interaction with your readers is important to you as an author. How special is it to have the chance to interact directly with your fans?

I love answering questions, blogging, and meeting my readers in person. They're the ones who spread the word, and that my career hangs on, and hey, they're cool enough to read my work, so that means they have to be people I'm interested in! :-)

- In your short story "Necahual," there is a tantalizing hint about the origins of the Azteca. Will we be learning more about them in future stories?

Bits and pieces yeah. I'm working more on where they are going as a culture than where they came from.

- What can you tell us about your forthcoming collection of shortstories which will be published by Wyrm Press?

I've published over thirty short stories in magazines and anthologies that have been translated into five or six languages now over the last seven years. But they've been scattered all over the place. My readers do try to track them all down (I know of one dedicated reader or two who has the whole collection and has had me sign them all), but it's tricky, particularly if they're just now finding out about me. And my stories play with all sorts of things. I've wanted to pull most of them together for a while now, and Wyrm Press came to me to offer to do it. I'm really excited about it, as I think people will get a chance to see my range here. We'll also put something new in the anthology for readers, so that should be fun.

- What will be your next novel-length project? What's the progress report?

I'm just past halfway in my third book, Sly Mongoose. It's got au nique setting that I've been geeking out on, one that lets me posit aphysics-backed rationale for cities floating in the air. And lots of blimps. And zombies as well. It's a bit out there, but it's the most science and technology backed novel I've done yet. And as a result the pyrotechnics are pretty dang cool.

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now,and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

You know I'm not in high school anymore, so lit people's attempts to convince the public that they're really the cool crowd is about as useful to me as listening to a band geek shout that only classical music is real music. Meanwhile everyone is out there huffing on SF, F, mystery, suspense, spy novels, romance. Genre: we're the hip hop, rock, and pop that people are consuming in print, or watching on TV, even if no one is supposed to like us. Yeah some people don't want to associate, or validate, but you know, people are never so uncool as when they're uncomfortable with their own skin. I don't need anyone's permission to want to play on the bigger, cool field with more and wilder ideas and tools. I'm just doing it because it's fun.

- Anything you wish to add?

Gosh, I think I've probably said enough! Thanks for interviewing me, this was a great pleasure!

Another Robin Hobb Q&A

Thanks to Calibandar on for the heads up!

You can read the interview here. Robin mentions some interesting things, such as an upcoming anthology of her own, her participation in another anthology, her new novel, as well as an odd project.

Good stuff!;-)

NYC recap (and that little GRRM tidbit!)

Okay, since so many of you have asked about it, here's a little recap of what took place while I was in New York City.

Since I figure that most readers browsing this blog are only interested in the SFF stuff, I will forgo the details pertaining to various activities such as pub crawls; Harlem and Brooklyn walking tours; suffocating NYC nights; a dinner at Blooms with Pam and Brett (friends I met in Spain); a sumptuous dinner at Jean Georges' Nougatine for Restaurant Week with the lovely Ariela (member of the fabled Paris Crew who somehow went from cute to gorgeous in the years since we last saw one another!); the fact that, regardless of the amount of history and culture found there, Washington, D. C. is a bit soulless and has no vibe whatsoever; those two good-looking Argentinian girls; free wine-tasting; that German beauty who sat fit to arrive on my last evening in DC; those annoying Koreans who turned off the A/C in the middle of the night; and an assortment of additional traveling tidbits!;-)

There must be a curse between Tor Books and I. Not only does their computer system eat up the AOL emails I send there way from time to time, not only do sent ARCs and review copies fail to show up in my mailbox, but fate decreed that I wouldn't be meeting with anyone from Tor for a second consecutive year. Things found a way to screw up when I was there last summer, so I wanted to make sure that we would be able to swing it this time around. For some unfathomable reason, the email sent by the publicist containing her availability kept rebounding, which in turn led to my receiving it nearly a week after I had left New York City. By that time, I was already getting ready to leave DC. So next time I'm in town, meeting with the folks at Tor Books is first on the list of things to do!

Though he was waiting for me in the lobby and I went all the way up to Orbit's floor, I did meet up with Alex Lencicki, the Marketing and Publicity Director for the imprint. We had lunch at Palm, a wonderful steakhouse. Being in the Big Apple for Restaurant Week was a stroke of genius, let me tell you!;-) Alex has an online marketing background, so we discussed blogs and websites and message boards as marketing tools, online publicity, the evolution of the Blogosphere, etc. He was really interested about the Hotlist, about how it came about and grew to what it is today. With John Clute's comments at Readercon still on my mind, we discussed the pros and cons of online reviews. Interestingly enough, the better part of Orbit USA's publicity campaign for their launch is aimed at the internet. We talked about my fear that too many giveaways actually reduced the exposure that most novels receive, while overexposing certain titles. It was a very interesting afternoon, for we were two guys on different sides of the fence attempting to achieve the same objective. Surprisingly, Alex even asked for my advice on how to make their blog/online campaign better. Good food, good conversation -- I had a great time! Alex claimed that I had given him a lot to think about, so I guess I didn't make a complete fool of myself!

On the following day, I was a bit more nervous. Indeed, I was meeting Daw Books' top brass and I wanted to make a good impression (they have my manuscript, after all!). Betsy Wollheim, president and publisher, introduced me to her co-publisher Sheila Gilbert, and the rest of the Daw staff. I saw the new design for the paperback edition of Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind, and was asked which color scheme I preferred. After checking Bookscan to see how well what should be the fantasy debut of the year, we were joined by Erica, Advertising and Promotion Manager, and Sarah, publicist in charge of Daw titles, for a delicious luch at a Greek restaurant. We discussed everything from Terry Goodkind, to the godawful gay cover for The Name of the Wind, Melany Rawn, why Tad Williams' Shadowplay was not as good as it could have been, Michael Whelan's beautiful covers from the 80s and 90s, Rothfuss' Wise Man's Fears, online reviewing vs print media, and countless other things (many of which off the record, of course). Once again, I was a bit taken aback when both Betsy and Sheila revealed that they believed that online reviewing was the way of the future. With book sections closing down in many newspaper and the slow decline of SFF print media, it is only natural that websites like mine gained popularity. I think I'm now beginning to understand why people like John Clute and his cohort have sort of been lashing out at online reviewers more often of late. If they can feel that publishers rely less and less on their reviews, they're probably scared to have the rug pulled from under them at some point. The main problem most publishers face is that they don't always know where to look for quality content. . . C. S. Friedman told me last winter that Betsy raved about the Hotlist, so it was flattering and rewarding to have both Betsy and Sheila complimenting me on the work I do on the blog.:-)

After that came my first face-to-face meeting with my agent, Matt Bialer. When he met me in the lobby of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, he pointed at the wall where they have copies of all their bestsellers. "One day your book is going to be there," he said, gesturing toward the Dan Brown novels. Call me stupid, but that felt good! Once again, we talked about a variety of topics that ranged from Locus Magazine to Tad Williams, why I didn't like the latest Weis and Hickman Dragonlance books, Robert Newcomb, and much more. He showed me the cover art for Patrick Rothfuss' Wise Man's Fears and a couple of foreign covers. Understandably, we discussed my manuscript as well. He once more emphasized the fact that these things take time, so I must show patience. Matt also arranged a meeting between Anne Groell and I for the following morning.

So I made my way to the Random House building on Broadway, where I met Anne, Senior Editor for Bantam Dell. It was the first time I spoke with her, for I usually deal with her assistant Josh. Hence, it was great to finally meet her, and in person to boot! Who would have thought that creating this blog would open so many doors for me! As was the case with my previous meetings, our conversation encompassed many topics, including scantily clad sexy girls on the cover of all those urban fantasy novels. Thanks to Anne, my next Shameless Plug articles will be what I always meant them to be. She showed me the cover art for the new Sarah Ash book, which is pretty nice.

As a matter of course, I had to ask questions about both Scott Lynch and George R. R. Martin!;-) Anne set my mind at ease when she disclosed that there was indeed a more ambitious overall story arc for The Gentleman Bastard sequence, and that Republic of Thieves would not be just another caper. After Red Seas under Red Skies, I feared that this series would lose its originality if such was the case. I also discovered that a quote from my review can be found in the US paperback version of The Lies of Locke Lamora. As for Lynch producing a volume every eight months or so, forget about it.

I couldn't leave Anne's office without inquiring about the progress of GRRM's A Dance with Dragons. Sadly, what I have to report will not please anyone, so be forewarned. What it comes down to is this: Unless a miracle occurs, there is no way the next ASOIAF volume will be released this year. The folks at Bantam are hoping to get the finished manuscript at some point this fall. But if Anne's facial expression is any indication, they're not holding their breath. Which means that, at the earliest, we are looking at a spring 2008 pub date.

Many fans have been wondering why it should take this long for the author to write this new book, what with 50% of it having been completed already. Rumors have been circulating that GRRM did scrap some portions of what he had when they decided to publish AFfC in its current format. Well, unfortunately that's not hearsay. It appears that GRRM did cut some chunks out of the original manuscript and has been tinkering with a few things. Hence, he didn't truly have 50% of it done with and ready to go. Which explains the slower than expected progress for A Dance with Dragons.

The good thing is that Bantam are pretty flexible and there's no rigid timetable as to when the book should be published. According to Anne, the editorial process will begin as soon as the manuscript reaches her office. As was the case with Robert Jordan with the WoT volumes between A Crown of Swords and Crossroads of Twilight, I believe that A Dance with Dragons will be released as soon as possible after the manuscript is turned in. I figure that no one at Bantam wishes to repeat the mistake which came back to haunt them with A Feast for Crows. I'm persuaded that they will make only one announcement pertaining to the publication of ADwD, and that only when they'll know for sure that the production process has begun.

GRRM detractors should be happy to know that the author is writing. Personally, as long as I don't see a pic of a naked Martin swinging at Hedonism III in Jamaica, I'm satisfied!;-) ASOIAF is a series they'll still be talking about in 25 years, so it's only natural that it takes a while to write. I don't think GRRM ever envisioned that it would become this big. Anne told me that it was sold to Bantam as a trilogy! So GRRM fans rejoice because your favorite author is working hard to make this new installment as good as humanly possible. He's not late because he goes to cons, or because he has lost the will to finish this saga.

And that, my friends, is the long and the short of my stay in NYC. At least on the SFF front!:-)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 24th)

In hardcover:

J. R. R. Tolkien's The Children of Húrin is down two positions, ending its thirteenth week on the charts at number 16. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Laurell K. Hamilton's The Harlequin is up one spot, finishing its sixth week on the bestseller list at number 21. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

John Twelve Hawks' The Dark River debuts at number 24. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is up one position, ending its fifteenth week on the prestigious list at number 9. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Hunters of Dune debuts at number 33. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

New Q&A with Patrick Rothfuss

In case you weren't aware of this, there is a new interview with Patrick Rothfuss in the summer edition of Subterranean Press Magazine.

You check out the Q&A here.

SFF writers as high school students

Very amusing!:-)

Read it here.

The Electric Church

For some reason, I can't say that Jeff Somers' The Electric Church piqued my curiosity when I received the ARC. A few weeks later, as I was looking for something not too bulky to bring along for my trip to NYC and DC, I decided to give this Orbit USA launch title a shot. The story was occurring in New York City, which sort of made it apropos.

I started reading this action-packed novel on the eve of my departure, and I would have read The Electric Church till the wee hours of the night had I not had an early plane to catch. I was immediately sucked into this cyberpunk/noir science fiction tale.

An explosive near-future thriller in which Kill Bill meets Blade Runner -- that's how they sum up this book on the back cover of the ARC. I figure that's as good a description as any!

Avery Cates is a Gunner -- a hitman. As if his life isn't complicated enough, he finds a way to screw up in spectacular fashion when he kills a cop. From that point on, Cates is basically a dead man walking with the entire System Security Force on his trail. Somehow, Cates will dig himself an even deeper hole by killing more cops as he desperately attempts to save his own skin. Realizing that his miserable life has reached its expiration date, Cates will do the only thing that might see him survive. With no other alternatives this side of death, he will accept to kill someone for Director Richard Marin, of the SFF Department of Internal Affairs. His target: Dennis Squalor, founder and chief prophet of the Electric Church. The only problem is that, since Marin cannot be seen getting involved, Cates must face the SFF and the Monks of the Electric Church in order to succeed and possibly save his own life.

The worldbuilding is not your typical post-apocalyptic environment, though the premise is similar. About two decades in the past, the Riots were quelled rather violently, and every country on the planet is now part of the System of Federated Nation. Since Unification, the System Security Force, the corrupted military arm of the Joint Council, maintains order by taking lives instead of asking questions. It's an extremely gritty setting, and Somers' portrayal of near-future New York City and London is brilliant.

The characterization is the aspect that propels this story forward. First-person narratives can be tricky, especially when you're dealing with the POV of a disreputable criminal like Avery Cates. He's kind of a prick, no question, but it's impossible not to like him! As for his supporting cast, a more endearing band of misfits I would be hard-pressed to name!

The best characteristic of this novel remains its swift pace. Unlike most scifi books, which can be filled with numerous info dumps and slow-moving story arcs, The Electric Church reads like a thriller.

Jeff Somers shows that he has quite a few tricks up his sleeve. The addition of psionics was a nice touch that worked really well in the overall scheme of things. In addition, the whole premise behind the Monks, the Electric Church's converts, who abandon their flesh for enhanced robotic cyborg bodies with human minds, was quite fascinating. With eternal lifespans, they seek to achieve Salvation.

Jaded readers tired of the "same old" should definitely give Jeff Somers' The Electric Church a shot! As for me, it is with curiosity and eagerness that I will wait for the sequel, The King Worm.

Apart from Brian Ruckley's Winterbirth, this could well be Orbit USA's most interesting launch title. It will be released in a few weeks from now. . . You can learn more at, (this guy's blog is hilarious!), and (under construction). I'll let you guys know as soon as sample chapters appear online. . .

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

To Give or not to Give Away: The Verdict

First of all, let me just tell you guys how astonished I am by the overwhelming response the original post generated. I never thought that it would get so many people thinking and talking about this topic. I don't think I've ever written a piece that prompted replies from so many people in the industry, fellow bloggers and online reviewers, and SFF readers.

Every time I checked my email in New York City, I would take a second to peruse the comments on the blog. Many of you emailed me on the address, but I didn't have access to that account while on vacation. So I'm sorry for not being able to respond to Chris, Graeme and the others. In any case, at 2$ for 20 minutes of internet access, I was only using those computers for the "important" stuff. . .

Interestingly enough, it seems that a lot of publicists and other professionals in the publishing industry interpreted my initial post as an announcement that I wouldn't be doing any giveaways anymore. Let me reassure everyone by saying that this has never been considered. Many people appeared alarmed and concerned, for the Hotlist has become the perfect venue to give exposure to authors and their books. I'm acutely aware of this fact, and I don't want things to change.

Having said that, I will reduce the number of contests I do on the Hotlist. Six different giveaways in the span of about two weeks earlier this month proved to be too much, especially since other websites and blogs were announcing their own giveaways during that same period. Providing exposure to good writers and their work has always been this blog's mission. And yet, just how much exposure does one get when there are about ten simultaneous contests running out there? I'm conscious that, as owners of SFF blogs and websites, were are more or less trying to do the same thing. Hence, occasional overlapping is inevitable. But when different sites run the exact same contests, then such giveaways suffer from overexposure. Which, in the end, isn't good for anyone.

Graeme came to me, asking what we could potentially do between us to prevent blogs and website from becoming venues whose only function will sooner or later become to advertize what publishers are willing to supply. Could we somehow police ourselves? Honestly, I don't think that's possible. In any event, a blog is a very personal thing. So it all comes down to each of us. What is more important -- popularity or credibility?

As I mentioned in my previous post, it's easy for me to say all this because few giveaways actually result in an increase in my traffic. Yet that's not the case for most bloggers. Each person must make a decision, and it wouldn't be right for me to try to influence anyone. I've been "fighting" for the credibility of the blog-reviewing world for over two years, so it's obvious where I stand on this issue.

In addition, I have built a following over a long period of time. The new generation of bloggers all want to be popular now, to get the ARCs, the review copies, the interviews, etc. Many don't seem to understand that trust between a reviewer and readers doesn't happen overnight. It takes months for that trust to be established. That's why I maintain that the quality of a blog's content should remain the number 1 priority. After all, what good is an increase in traffic engendered by a giveaway if no one returns to read what you write?

But fear not, for less giveaways doesn't rhyme with no giveaways!;-) It's just that I will try to limit them to 3 or 4 a month, unless there's something special going on. And yes, anything bearing the name Erikson, Bakker, Martin, Hobb, Lynch, Kay, Novik, Gaiman, Williams, etc, should always be up for grabs!:-)

Some publicists were willing to give me the exclusive rights to the giveaways I was interested in, but I declined that option. Doing something to the detriment of the rest of the Blogosphere isn't an appealing prospect to me. Heck, I've been doing my best to help my fellow bloggers to get recognition, so it would make little sense to pull the carpet from under them like this. Still, I will ask for an "exclusive" buffer period when I run a contest, just to make certain that nobody else will simultaneously be doing the same. But I have no intention of preventing anyone from running contests on their sites. All those to whom I have talked so far find this acceptable. And if a publicist/editor isn't disposed to grant me such a buffer zone, then they will have to look elsewhere, for I will not offer their books on my blog.

As someone told me when I originally announced that I was considering reducing the number of giveaways on the Hotlist, I'm sort of like the Super Bowl when it comes to advertizing on SFF blogs. I know what sort of exposure I can provide to new or midlist authors. Unfortunately, unless everyone involved can rearrange the problem we are currently addressing, I will most probably have less room for such contests. This sucks because I love the fact that I can help spread the word about them and their work. Well, we'll have to see how everything unfolds. . .

As you can see, I've just announced a new giveaway for the limited edition of Neil Gaiman's M is for Magic. And believe me when I tell you that this is just one of the many upcoming collaborations between the Hotlist and Subterranean Press. With a lot more to come, so stay tuned!

As for a recap of my meetings in NYC, I'll try to write a post about that this weekend. I have some GRRM news that few people will like to hear. . .

I hope this post made sense. . .

Win a copy of the limited edition of Neil Gaiman's M IS FOR MAGIC

Thanks to Bill and the Subpress crew, I have a copy of the limited edition of Gaiman's new book, M is for Magic. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, or check out

Here's what Subterranean Press have to say about this latest collector's item:

"Best-selling writer Neil Gaiman’s M is for Magic is his first collection for readers of all ages, in the tradition of such Ray Bradbury classics as R is for Rocket and S is for Space.

In M is for Magic, readers will be enchanted by a neighborhood cat that fights a nightly battle to save his family from evil, a hardboiled nursery rhyme story, and many other delights as only Neil Gaiman can provide.

Each story in our edition will feature a two-color illustration by none other than Gahan Wilson. We’re still investigating cloth and paper choices, but hope to print the book on 80# Finch, a high quality, thicker paper than usual. Gahan Wilson will also be signing the book, and providing remarques (small sketches) in copies of the Lettered Edition. (Copies of the Lettered Edition will be available as soon as the traycases have been manufactured, in roughly 8-12 weeks.)

Table of Contents:

* The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds
* Troll Bridge* Don’t Ask Jack
* How to Sell the Ponti Bridge
* October in the Chair
* Chivalry
* The Price
* How to Talk to Girls at Parties
* Sunbird
* The Witch’s Headstone
* Instructions
Limited: 1000 signed numbered hardcovers: $60
Lettered: 26 signed copies, housed in a custom traycase: $350"

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "MAGIC." 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!

Peter F. Hamilton contest winner!

Well, it sure looks like many SFF fans are eagerly awaiting Peter F. Hamilton's The Dreaming Void (Canada, USA, Europe). So without further ado, here's the lucky person who will receive a complimentary copy from Pan MacMillan:

- Ugo Ugolani, from Mestre, Italy

As always, thanks to all the participants!:-)

Neal Asher contest winner!

The name of our winner has been drawn. He will receive a copy of Asher's latest, Hilldiggers (Canada, USA, Europe), compliments of Pan MacMillan.

The winners is:

- Nuno Fonseca, from Lisbon, Portugal

Thanks to all the participants!

New Peter F. Hamilton Interview

Okay, guys,

I just returned from Washington, D. C., and I realize that I'm behind on a number of things. Can't a guy leave Montreal for even a few days!?!

Anyway, for those of you who wish to know how things went in NYC, well you will have to wait for a day or two. Once the smoke has cleared and I'm settled, I'll write a post about how things went and what will happen with the giveaways, etc. . .

Meanwhile, coming to you courtesy of Adam (Werthead) from and Yours Truly, here is a new Q&A with scifi bestselling author Peter F. Hamilton. His newest work, The Dreaming Void (Canada, USA, Europe), will be released in the UK and beyond next week.


Dear Mr. Hamilton,Let us begin by thanking you for taking some time off your undoubtedly busy schedule to kindly answer our questions.

- Without giving anything away, what can you tell your fans about The Void Trilogy, and The Dreaming Void in particular?

The Dreaming Void is set in the same Commonwealth universe as Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, about 1,300 years after the close of the last book. Some old characters crop up, as well as some interesting new ones. The Commonwealth as a society has of course moved on, there are now several different types of human, with the Highers and Advancers being the two largest and most vociferous groupings. Highers enhance themselves with biononics, while the Advancers follow a route of genetic modification to ‘improve’ themselves.

- Will you be touring during the course of the summer and the fall to promote The Dreaming Void? If so, are there any specific dates that have been confirmed as of yet?

I’ve been told by my editor at Del Rey to leave a space in my diary for April 2008 for a possible visit to the US. No specific dates and cities yet.

- Will it be necessary to have read The Commonwealth Saga, which takes place in the same universe, prior to reading The Void series, or is it completely stand-alone?

I wrote the Void with the intention of it being completely stand alone. It was one of the things I was very conscious of while writing it, and kept asking my agent if there are too many unexplained references to things which happened before. He and the editor didn’t think there were, so hopefully it’s just writer’s paranoia. For myself, I feel the references to events from the other two books give it a nice sense of a universe with history.

- Your fellow SF author Justina Robson has described her admiration of the highly disciplined way you write, planning the details of chapters ahead of time and so forth. How would you describe your own writing process?

That was very kind of her. Spending time working out plotlines and location notes is essential for me. There are some authors who can sit down to a blank page, and simply start writing a novel. I’m not one of them.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

With reference to the above answers, adding a decent amount of depth to the worlds and places I create.

- With authors such as yourself, Alastair Reynolds, Richard Morgan and Neal Asher, British SF seems to be flourishing at the moment compared to a general downturn in the genre, particularly in the United States. Why do you think this may be? And have you been tempted, as so many SF writers have, to switch to writing Fantasy?

That’s a question that you’ll have to ask the publishers’ marketing departments. The number of readers certainly hasn’t declined, so why SF popularity is falling I don’t know. As to writing fantasy, there are sections in The Dreaming Void which are set in a world very reminiscent of a medieval magic society. So far the response I’ve had from the few people who’ve read it was very positive about those parts, so who knows. But I don’t want to write anything just because I think it will sell. If I have a story that would benefit from being set in such an environment, then so be it.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the science fiction genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write those different series?

Not specifically break, no. However, there are definitely some horror elements in the Night’s Dawn trilogy, which were fun to blend in to a hard SF setting. And with the first Commonwealth books I enjoyed the thriller and detective elements. Now the Void has some sections which verge on heroic fantasy. All these make for interesting concepts when mixed together and given a good shake.

- With a renaissance in screen SF underway, particularly on television, has there been any more interest in adapting your works for the screen? I could imagine Greg Mandel working as an ongoing series, for example. Would you consider writing something for the screen if asked, such as for the new Doctor Who series?

I’ve had a few inevitable enquiries from producers, which also inevitably lead to nothing. As for screenwriting, it’s a very different skill to novel writing, and at the moment I don’t have the time. But I’m sure it would be fun to give it a go one day.

- Death, as a force that humanity is trying to defeat or avoid, seems to be a major theme in Night’s Dawn, Misspent Youth and the Commonwealth books. Was this a conscious choice at the outset for these stories?

Not so much death, but I am interested in the theme of where medical science is supposedly taking us. As a species we’re just not psychologically adjusted to living for more than a century, yet billions are being poured into research that leads to increased life expectancy. Suppose it works out, and we can live for three of ten times longer than today. That’s the kind of question which SF exists for.

- A Second Chance at Eden collects together your short fiction from the Night’s Dawn universe. Are there any plans to collect your short fiction from outside that setting?

My short story output is incredibly small and slow. I did do a couple of stories between books this time around, mainly because I have a tough time saying no to Gardner Dozois. At the current rate I should have enough for a collection in another five years or so.

- Misspent Youth is a prequel to the Commonwealth and Void books. Did you come up with the Commonwealth universe first and decide a prequel was necessary first to lay the groundwork, or was the Commonwealth universe a natural outgrowth of the ideas explored in Misspent Youth?

The Commonwealth was a progression from Misspent Youth. I’d define it as a very loose prequel. Again, it’s a stand alone.

- The Night’s Dawn Trilogy and its associated books certainly made you a recognised name on the world science fiction stage. Do you plan to revisit that universe in the future?

Let me put it this way: I haven’t said I won’t. If I have a story or theme that fits then of course I’ll write it. As of this moment I don’t have anything I can use. If I did go back, it would be after the events of Night’s Dawn.

- What advice would you give a younger Peter F. Hamilton concerning his writing career? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

I don’t think so. So far I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done, even the less successful stuff.

- M. John Harrison recently wrote this post on his blog:

"Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding.Worldbuilding is dull. Worldbuilding literalises the urge to invent. Worldbuilding gives an unneccessary permission for acts of writing (indeed, for acts of reading). Worldbuilding numbs the reader’s ability to fulfil their part of the bargain, because it believes that it has to do everything around here if anything is going to get done.

Above all, worldbuilding is not technically neccessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism. It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there. It isn’t possible, & if it was the results wouldn’t be readable: they would constitute not a book but the biggest library ever built, a hallowed place of dedication & lifelong study. This gives us a clue to the psychological type of the worldbuilder & the worldbuilder’s victim, & makes us very afraid."

Needless to say, a multitude of people disagree with Harrison's postulation. What's your take on Harrison's post and the concept of worldbuilding in general?

As every story is its own length, so every story and novel has its own style and its own internal structure. The ones I write tend to have a degree of worldbuilding, which I as the author believe they require in order to function as a coherent unit. Every book is different as is every author. There are no rules as to what should be written, or how to write, which is what makes reading such a joy. Diversity is life.

- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the various covers that have graced your books? Do you have a personal favourite?

I’ve been lucky to get some very good cover art on a lot of my books. But my personal favourite is the UK version of Naked God. I actually visited Jim Burns when he was painting it, and even half finished it blew me away. I now have a very good copy hanging up on the wall at home.

- How would you like to be remembered as an author? What is the legacy you'll leave behind?

It would be nice just to know that a) people enjoyed the books, and b) what they read occasionally made them think about things they might otherwise have ignored.

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

Frankly, who cares what the ‘literary’ circle thinks. They can’t stop SF from being written, published, and read. I prefer to be judged by readers, ultimately they’re the only ones who count.

- Speaking from your own experience, do you feel that there is a difference between European and North American fans?

Never noticed one. They both throw great room parties at conventions.

- Anything you wish to add?

I think we’ve covered it, thanks.

Many thanks again for accepting to chat with us. We wish you continued success with your writing career and best of luck with the upcoming release of The Dreaming Void.

Westside Stories

Greetings from NYC's Upper West Side!:-)

Hope everyone's doing all right. I tried to balance my stay in the Big Apple between "business" and pleasure. I was lucky enough to have lunch with Alex Lencicki from Orbit, another lunch with Sheila, Betsy, Erica and Sarah from Daw Books, finally met my agent Matt Bialer in person, and had another meeting with Anne Groell from Bantam Dell. I really took advantage of Restaurant Week!;-)

Anyway, in terms of online reviewing, everyone seems to believe that they represent the future of book reviewing. So John Clute and the others who sat on that panel at Readercon should perhaps look a little more into this. . .

I did talk about the "overexposure" that two many giveaways generate, which in turn engenders less exposure for each title, etc. Anyway, after discussing it with a few people, it's obvious that we must do something in order for such giveaways to continue to be an adequate vehicle to promote authors, novels and series.

I threw a few ideas around, and they were greeted quite favorably. So we'll have to discuss this further when I get back to Montreal in the coming weeks.

All in all, a very interesting couple of days in New York City. I was very interesting meeting all these people, and see that the blog is such a positive influence in the wider world!;-) If only Mother Nature had smiled a little more on my stay here. . .

Talk to you later!

To give or not to give away. . .

My little announcement that I was considering reducing the number of book giveaways I do via the Hotlist doesn't seem to sit well with some of you. So let me elaborate a little before I call it a night. . .

If you've been reading this blog for a while, I'm sure you're aware that I've been working hard to give credibility and respectability to online reviewers. From the very beginning -- well, as soon as I realized I had a following -- I've been striving to offer quality content. Little by little, my work was ultimately recognized and appreciated by the more and more people in the publishing industry. Knowing that I was far from being the only one with quality content, on numerous occasions I invited fellow bloggers such as Jake, Larry, Rob, William, Ken, and others to work on some project or another with me, hoping that these collaborative efforts would help give them exposure. I put in a good word for many people whose work I enjoy and respect when publicists and editors asked me if I knew of any good blogs out there.

The long and the short of it is that I've spent the last two years or so attempting to establish that some online reviewers can write honest, fair and insightful book reviews. I'd like to believe that I fall into this category.:-)

When guys like Jay, Rob, Gabe, William and I began blogging, we were just a couple of punks (heck, maybe we still are. I know I am!) with absolutely no pretentions of being "true" reviewers. The only thing we all had in common was the fact that we were all huge SFF fans. As such, we probably created our own little sandbox on the internet in order to have an outlet to share our love of the genre with kindred spirits. There was no notion of ever receiving ARCs, doing interviews, or getting free stuff. After all, we were just a couple of punks, right!?!

It was a day and age in which not every other person had a blog, a LJ, Facebook, etc. Hence, it was much easier to follow what our fellow bloggers were doing. Which probably explains why we became quite popular and suddenly found ourselves with people who read our stuff because they had grown to trust our judgement and respected what we did. I can't even begin to explain how I felt when I first realized that over 100 people a day were checking out Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. When you consider that I rack up nearly ten times those numbers nowadays, you can imagine how I feel about the whole thing. . .

Since there were just a few of us who were doing it "seriously" back then, it was easier to be original. We all had our own voice, our own style, and that's what was so cool about it. Although most people believed that it couldn't be done, I always pushed the envelope, trying to get the publishers to do things they normally didn't do. Don't forget that blogs were virtual turds at the time, and most publicists wanted to have nothing to do with you. I have to thank Dave for giving me my first gig with Gryphonwood Magazine, which opened a few doors for me. Though the Hotlist was generating numbers that surpassed those of the magazine, "working" for print media made some people in the industry deign to look down on what I was doing.

Soon afterward, I had publicists, authors, and editors knocking on my door, eager to work with me. In retrospect, I must admit that it was a sweet victory/vengeance!;-) If memory serves me right, Jay Tomio and I were the first two bloggers who began offering book giveaways via our sites. A rarity at the time, these competitions and contests became an immediate success. Still, they were few and far between, and hence more of a bonus than anything else. The emphasis remained on the content.

What differentiated us from the print reviewers and the newer generation of bloggers is the fact that we were doing it for the love of the genre, nothing else. As I said, there was no promise of rewards such as review copies and other such concepts. We were just a bunch of guys who read books and then reviewed them. At times brutally honest (Gabe Chouinard and William Lexner, anyone!), we didn't really worry about ruffling any feathers. The online community is a small world, regardless of the fact that it spans the entire globe, and those were the people we were writing for. Gradually, the blogosphere grew and so did we. New bloggers saw the light, and each added his or her own flavor to something that has never ceased to gain momentum.

I believe that Jay was the first one of the original "punks" to gain notoriety. I edged my way into the limelight at the end of 2005, but it's in 2006 and the Hotlist took off and never came back down. As I mentioned, I did my very best to continue to offer quality content, meaning that I endeavor to write honest and fair book reviews. The content makes a blog, nothing else. Perhaps my efforts paid off at some point, but suffice to say that publishers finally realized that SFF blogs and websites could be wonderful tools to promote authors and their work.

Not so long ago, it used to be a major pain in the ass just to get a publicist to accept to supply a single copy of a novel for an online giveaway. Today, I could probably do a different competition every week, perhaps more. Publishers will shower you with books to giveaway, no matter who you are. It seems that all you need is a fantasy/scifi blog and you're in the clear. The danger here is that SFF blogs/sites could rapidly become little more than windows in which publishers pimp their stuff.

Of course, I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where running one of those contests doesn't increase my traffic. Unless I'm giving away a set of GRRM books, the newest Malazan volume, or a Subpress limited edition of Scott Lynch's debut, doing those giveaways does nothing for me. I see them as a way to say thank you to my readers for sticking with me. They, in turn, appear to enjoy the opportunities to win free books! But such is not the case with everyone. . . And when you're being offered novels to give away, many are not in a position to refuse. I know, for I would have been hard-pressed to say back in the days when the Hotlist was new.

The problem is that if blogs become little more than venues where publishers peddle their stuff, what little respect online reviewers have gained in recent months will evaporate before we have time to blink. Ken wrote an interesting post pertaining to Matt Denault's report on Readercon 18. Needless to say, this "Reviewing in the Blogosphere" panel shows you how far we are from credibility and respectablity.

It is my opinion -- and as such its worth is relative -- that there are too many giveaways nowadays. So much so that they are overlapping one another to such a degree that they no longer truly grant authors and their work as much exposure as they used to. The more there are, the less impact they generate. Not so long ago, such contests were a great tool to promote a book. But when you have ten simultaneous giveaways being pimped all over the place, they all sort of blur into one another. Unless they want to see their efficiency disappear altogether, publishers and bloggers will have to establish some sort of balance. For without that happy medium, giveaways will cease to be an efficacious means to spread the word about writers and books.

As Guy Gavriel Kay reminded me last fall, online reviewers striving for respect walk a very fine line. If we "sell out" and become little more than venues advertizing upcoming releases for various imprints that we give away for free, we instantly undermine our own credibility and that of the blog-reviewing world. Indeed, it gives ammunition to those who might suggest that blog reviewers are mainly about themselves and their own exposure. It feeds into the contempt implied by those who claim that we accept "bribes."

As I said earlier, I'm in a position where it's easy for me to make this judgement call. After all, most giveaways don't put more asses in the seats. Which is why I'm thinking about reducing the number of contests I do each month. Six in the last two weeks or so is simply too much. A publicist told me that I couldn't be serious, since the Hotlist is like the Super Bowl in terms of exposure their giveaway gets from a post from me. Be that as it may, content remains my number 1 priority.

Another problem seems to be that a growing number of people on various message boards consider a lot of people pimping those giveaways to be spammers. And in a way, we are. When there was two or three competitions per month, no one said anything. But now that there are countless threads pertaining to one giveaway or another, it sure changes the scenery on many boards. Which makes me realize just why the people at decided that members could no longer simply post links to their reviews, etc.

The timing is perfect, however. I'll be meeting quite a few people in the publishing industry in NYC this coming week, so I'll certainly bring this up in the conversations, if only to see what they think.

Okay, I have no idea if this makes sense. But I have a plane to catch tomorrow morning, so I'm going to sign off now!:-)

No parking sign -- NYC style!

I took over 500 pics while visiting New York City last year. But I don't believe any other photo captures the essence of the Big Apple quite like this one!;-) It was taken on the bustling 5th Avenue, where, obviously, one should look elsewhere for parking.

I'm flying to NYC tomorrow morning, so I thought that this would be entirely apropos. . .:-)

Additional John Twelve Hawks goodies!

I know the winners of the autographed copies of The Dark River were announced yesterday, but I just found out that I also had six copies of the UK edition up for grabs! Thanks to Transworld and Colbert Macalister for their support!

The winners are:

- Kevin Neuhaus, from Hagen, Germany (maschine on

- Daniel Minett, Manchester, England (Imperial Historian on

- Mark Chitty, from Caernarfon, Gwynedd, UK (chitman13 on,,, Unisphere Forums)

- Martin Berntzen Often, from Oslo, Norway (Morgoth on

- Mihai Adascalitei, from Neamt, Romania

- Shane McGrath, from Cork, Ireland

Thanks to all the participants!

Movie soundtracks

I recently received an email from someone who discovered the Hotlist a few weeks back. Little by little, he has been reading all my back posts (give the guy a medal!), all the way back to the very beginning, and he found out that I use movie soundtrack as a musical backdrop when I read.

Intrigued, he wanted to know which soundtracks provided the very best reading experience. So here are some of my favorites, in no particular order. There are too many wonderful scores for me to list them all, but here a few you can't go wrong with!;-)

When it comes to soundtracks, there are three names to remember: John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Schindler's List, Harry Potter, and countless others), James Horner (Braveheart, Titanic, etc) and Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, The Last Samurai, etc). There are other talented composers and conductors, but these three simply blow my mind!

If you want to enhance your reading experience, here are a few picks for you:

John Williams' original Star Wars soundtracks:

- A New Hope (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Empire Strikes Back (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Return of the Jedi (Canada, USA, Europe)

Two of Hans Zimmers' masterpieces:

- Gladiator (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Last Samurai (Canada, USA, Europe)

A classic by James Horner:

- Braveheart (Canada, USA, Europe)

Howard Shore at his peak:

- The Fellowship of the Ring (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Two Towers (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Return of the King (Canada, USA, Europe)


John Twelve Hawks contest winners!

Well, the names of our winners have been drawn. Each will received a signed and numbered copy of John Twelve Hawks' The Dark River (Canada, USA, Europe), compliments of Doubleday.

The winners are:

- Elton Porter, from Woodstock, Georgia, USA

- K. Magary, from San Francisco, California, USA (Kat on and Katran on

- Shara Saunsaucie, Madisonville, Tennessee, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Cry of the Newborn

Last winter, I received a friendly email from author James Barclay. He had just read my review of Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself and he wanted to know if I'd be interested in reviewing his work. After discussing things over with the folks at Gollancz, it was decided that they would hook me up with Barclay's latest duology, The Ascendants of Estorea. The author also has two trilogies under his belt, but this new series is considered his best work to date. And it came with the Steven Erikson stamp of approval, so what could I do!?!

Cry of the Newborn is a huge yarn. Weighing in at 819 pages in hardback, it's a veritable doorstopper fantasy novel. And yet, short chapters quicken the pace considerably, keeping you turning those pages and going on for one more chapter. I have seldom encountered a book of this size with such a fluid rhythm throughout.

I found the worldbuilding quite interesting. Instead of the traditional medieval setting, Barclay's backdrop resembles the Roman Empire. The Estorean Conquord has stood for over 850 years and it continues to expand. Yet when the Advocate sends her forces to conquer the Kingdom of Tsard, unexpected developments might bring the empire to ruin.

The characterization is an aspect which is at time satisfactory, but which leaves a little to be desired in some instances. For a tale of such proportions, James Barclay elected to tell his story through the eyes of a relatively small cast of characters. The upside of that is that it allows him to keep a tight rein on how everything unfolds. Barclay also deserves kudos for making a taxman one of the most engaging characters of all! Characters like Paul Jhered, Roberto Del Aglios, Ardol and Genna Kessian are particularly well-done, while the Advocate, Chancellor Koroyan and Thomal Yuran could have used a little more depth. As for the Ascendants, I found Arducius and Ossacer to be more three-dimensional than their two counterparts. Mirron was too emotional (there's only so much weeping one can take) and a bit on the lame side. As expected, readers can immediately tell that Gorian will turn to the dark side. You can feel it coming from a mile away. But Barclay demonstrates that he has more than a few tricks up his sleeves, and he took me by complete surprise when the time came.

All in all, I found the various storylines refreshing. The setting alone sets The Ascendants of Estorea apart from the slew of formulaic fantasy series on the market today. Barclay intrigued me from the start with the Ascendency Echelon -- a secret breeding program not unlike that of the Bene Gesserit aspiring to create human beings capable of manipulating the elements and do God's work on earth. But the very notion is considered heresy by the Order of the Omniscient, and everyone in Westfallen would burn at the stake should the religious order ever discover what has been transpiring in that small town for generations.

The Tsardon campaign engenders enough military battles to satisfy even the most demanding action fans. Personally, I thought there was a bit too much action at the end, yet I must admit that it makes for an explosive climax.

James Barclay's Cry of the Newborn is an ambitious and well-executed work of epic fantasy. And the best thing is that it's available in paperback. Even better, its sequel and the final volume of this duology, Shout for the Dead, is already available (in hardback and trade paperback), so you don't have to wait for years to discover how it all ends!

Cry of the Newborn makes a fine addition to any fantasy collection. James Barclay is on par with writers such as Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss, and not far behind Scott Lynch.

To learn more about the author and his novels: and

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, Europe

New Robin Hobb interview

Yes, it's that time of year again! Robin Hobb releases another novel, and she remains kind enough to take some time off her busy schedule to answer our questions - again!:-)

For those who have not yet read Renegade's Magic, there are no spoilers in this Q&A. Robin is allergic to them, it seems! And yes, I'm happy to report that she will be returning to the Rainwilds for her next work!


- Now that you have completed The Soldier Son trilogy, are you satisfied with the way everything worked out? In retrospect, would you have done anything differently?

Oh, I’m still much too close to the book to have any thoughts like that yet. Ask me again in two or three years, and I might have a more interesting answer.

A quick response to the first question. I’m never ‘satisfied’ with any of my books. There is always the idea of the book I attempted to write versus the book I actually managed to create. In that, I think I’m like most writers. My best book is always the one I intend to write next, not the one I’m working on or the one that is just finished. The ‘next book’ is always the one that is going to be perfect.

- Will you be touring during the course of the summer to promote Renegade's Magic? If so, are there any specific dates that have been confirmed as of yet?

This summer, as in Summer 2007? No, not at all. I will be going to Japan for the first ever Worldcon to be held in Japan, but that’s not a ‘book tour’. Just me taking advantage of the opportunity to enjoy an SF convention and then see a part of the world I’ve never visited. Other travel plans include France in 2008, for Imaginales at Epinal. And I’m desperately trying to arrange my schedule so I can go to Elf Fantasy Fair in the Netherlands next year. It’s hard to make the travel fit in with my writing schedule and my family life.

- While the fantasy genre is filled with long series, you have always stayed within the boundaries of a trilogy. Is there a reason for that? Would you consider writing something longer?

Well, I don’t think it’s strictly true that I’ve stayed within the bounds of a trilogy. The first three Hobb trilogies (The Farseer Trilogy, The Liveship Traders and The Tawny Man Trilogy) are all linked in terms of being in the same world and having character crossovers. In a way, it’s a nine book series.

And when I wrote as Lindholm, I wore a set of books about Ki and Vandien. Four of them, in an open-ended series.

However, as a writer, I like to have a destination. I like to plan things, to pace events and revelations, to think how at a certain point, the story will turn and change everything for the characters and the readers. If you are writing an endless series of stories about the same characters, you have to put up a magic umbrella to protect your characters from extreme disasters. Well, you don’t HAVE to, but most readers do expect that the protagonist will live to the end of the story. And if there is no end in sight, then it’s almost like a television series, where the reader knows that the cast will return in the next book. Having a destination allows me to let the story unfold naturally. The characters can grow and change.

I do like to write big stories, but I’ve learned that once you go beyond three books, the mythos can become really unwieldy, and the propensity for the writer to forget and then create inconsistencies increases. With every book you add to a tale, you are taking one more chance of having things go horribly wrong and spoiling everything. It’s kind of like a juggling act. Adding one pin too many can bring everything down in a terrible crash.

- What makes you decide between a third person narrative and the more personal first person narrative?

First person is more personal and in my opinion, it is the natural story telling voice. The ‘I’ is a voice that no one can argue with. The person was there, and unless he is a terrible liar, the reader at least starts out believing all he says. Think of Baron Munchausen, for instance. In the third person, those tales would lose at least half of their flavor.

- I ask because, inevitably, Nevare was often compared to Fitz. And as a somewhat stiff-necked young man who always tries to do the "right" thing, most readers were not able to relate to him the way they did with Fitz. Looking back, do you think that The Soldier Son would have worked better with a third person narrative? Had it been the case, you could have told portions of the story through the eyes of other POV characters such as Epiny, Spink, Gord, Amzil and Olikea.

I think the people who didn’t identify with Fitz may well connect with Nevare. I think that different stories and characters speak to different people. Why not a multiple point of view for this story? Well, so much of it is an internalized story for Nevare that I felt most comfortable staying with him and telling it from the point of view of the person most deeply meshed with the action. If I had ventured into the other points of view, I think the story would have become immense; there would have been too many threads to follow. Keeping a story under control and within limits can be very tricky. So the writer has to choose the point of view very carefully.

- What was your inspiration behind both the Plainsmen and the Specks? Native Americans come to mind, but was there more?

Actually, no, native Americans were not my focus for the Plainsmen or the Specks. Native Americans are definitely the product of our world and time; as such, you can’t simply transplant them to a fantasy world and have them work. The Plainsmen differed in many ways from the Native American people. Some were migratory herd folk, and others were hunters-and-gatherer, and some were unabashedly predators, such as the Kidona. The Specks had a culture that varied seasonally with their location.
I think that the peoples or tribes or countries of an imaginary place have to be products of that place, just as the individuals are. At least for me. I know that many writers create ‘alternative history’ and do it very well, but such is not my intention at all.

- What extensive research, if any, did the writing of the The Soldier Son entail?

I read about how cultures in conflict exchange information and cultural identity. War I think makes us mingle more than trade or peace do. Think of the British experience in India, and the huge cultural exchange that happened because of it. That was one area I read about, in two lovely little books. One was called Mr. Kipling’s Army, and the other was called Queen Victoria’s Little Wars. I highly recommend them.

I also read about such things as early firearms, how the US cavalry came to be, as well as the use of cavalry in other wars, the founding of military academies and how they are usually run, and road building. Things I had learned about convict workers when I visited Australia also came into play. All sorts of things. Some of these were dips into research rather than extensive studies, but all of them were interesting.

- In The Farseer, The Liveship Traders and The Tawny Man, you -- deliberately or not -- left a lot of things up in the air at the end, promising more to come. And yet, such is not the case with The Soldier Son trilogy. Was is meant to be more or less self-contained from the beginning?

I think the best place to end a story is where the next story would logically begin. So I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with you about the ending of the Soldier Son Trilogy. I think if I’d wanted to, I could have begun a chapter right after the ending and called it ‘Decisions.’ Without going into any spoilers, I think it’s easy to see that Nevare faces some huge choices, and it was not at all clear to me that he was locked into any set path. All of the characters are really on the stepping off point for big changes, which, of course, is a great place to begin any story. One can always imagine a ‘happily ever after’ ending following that last chapter. But I think it’s just as easy to imagine that their lives continue, unpredictable and eventful as always.

- If you could go back in time, what advice would you give the younger Robin Hobb concerning her writing career?

Hm. Start sooner. And keep all the early stuff that I wrote rather than discarding it. Well, actually, I’m not sure of that second part.

This answer keys in to a discussion I was having with a friend earlier today. I was looking at the lives of people who are hugely successful. I don’t necessarily mean in a monetary way, but people who are doing what they love, in unique ways. And most of them showed signs of what they would be when they were in their teens. Now I did start writing in my teens, but I had heard from so many people that I couldn’t possibly make a living from writing fiction that I myself didn’t take my writing seriously. I did it ‘on the side’ rather than saying, ‘This is what I love and what I’m going to do with my life.’ So, to answer your question, I wish I had taken the plunge sooner and made a commitment to doing this with my life.

- You recently said that there were six different projects you were toying with in regards to your next novel/series. In a post that created a ripple of excitement among your fans, you said that you were considering returning to the Rainwilds and that you missed Kennit. Have you made a decision as to what you will be writing next? Say yes!

Yes, I’ve made a decision. And one book will be set in the Rainwilds. And that is as much as I’m going to say about it right now, mostly to avoid setting expectations up. I will say, clearly, that I’m not going to write the ‘next chapter’ of Liveship Traders or pick up the previous cast and just extend their lives.

The other projects remain viable and are things I’ll continue to work at on the side. Some of them are unfolding in very interesting ways. Some are more Lindholm than Hobb. All of them are things I want to write. I’ve just decided that the Rain Wild story will come first.

- Anything else you wish to share with your fans?

No, I think that sums it up nicely. Thanks again for this opportunity to put this discussion out to the readership.

Best wishes,