Beautiful and touristy Krakow

The city of Krakow is now known as the new Prague, and I can see why. Problem is, not only does Krakow have the sights to compete with Prague, she also attracts the same immense crowds. And it's now a major stop on the Eastern European backpackers' trail, which means that they are everywhere.

I know I've complained in the last two weeks about the fact that so few people spoke any English around Poland. Well, you won't have any trouble in Krakow, what with all the English signs and menus and all. . .

Krakow is a gorgeous town that caters to tourists of every nationality. But for all its beauty, with its Wawel Hill and its castle and cathedral, with its neat Old Town and its gigantic market square (the largest in Europe), and everything in between. Add to that easy day trips to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, as well as to Auschwitz and Birkenau extermination camps, and you have a recipe for a wonderful couple of days.

The only problem is that it's too overrun by tourists to have a "genuine" feel like the rest of the cities I've visited. Nearly every other person you meet is from out of town. And it's too bad, for most travelers stop for the mandatory two or three days in Krakow and don't see the real Poland. Everyone stops here on there way to or from Berlin or Prague, and that's too bad. Though there was often a communication barrier, I'm so happy to have visited Warsaw, Gdansk, and Wroclaw. It made me appreciate Poland a lot more than I ever thought I would, and even now I'm considering coming back to check out towns like Torun, Poznan, Zakopane, Katowice, Sopot, and more.

Still, for all the foreigners arriving in Krakow every day, the most beautiful women remain the lovely Polish ladies. Nice to see that things remain the same, regardless of the hordes of tourists everywhere. And though I can't speak more than a few words in Polish, somehow it feels wrong to hear about 10 different English accents just by walking down the street toward Rynek Glowny. Okay, so Polish pronounciations sound mighty strange sometimes, but I'll take that over that Boston drawl (Park the car in Harvard Yard!) any day!;-)

I'm not much of a foodie, but Carmen (the Aussie I've been traveling with for over a week) is, and she introduced me to all sorts of Polish dishes. Say one thing about Polish food, say it's good, very filling, and extremely affordable. Hard to believe, but I've reached the point where I can now order my own pierogi, barszcz, zurek, golabki, nalesniki, and a few other dishes without making a fool of myself! Where else can you have such a good dinner with a half litre of beer for about 10$-15$!?!

Speaking of beer, it's quite nice and cheap, even when you pay between 25% and 30% more in touristy Krakow. Zywiec, Okocim, Warka, Piast, Tyskie -- at half a litre for about 3$-4$, it's all good! Especially when you're hanging out on the main market square, people-watching in either Wroclaw or Krakow!

Poland has some of the most beautiful women in the world, and it's in the college town of Wroclaw that you will find the sexiest. University towns are cool to visit when you travel. I have very fond memories of my "Nuit du Bac" in Montpellier, in southern France, or the two nights we spent in Salamanca, in Spain. Great night life and good-looking girls were everywhere. But Wroclaw was something else. I'd go back tomorrow!:p

Visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau extermination camps yesterday made quite an impression. I have already been to Dachau, near Munich in Germany, so Auschwitz wasn't that impressive in that it was very similar to Dachau. But when the shuttle bus dropped us at Birkenau, the impossible size of the camp defies the imagination. This place was purpose-built to be a killing ground, and it really disturbs the mind. Though the Nazis bombed a number of buildings to destroy as much evidence as possible as the Soviets were getting closer, all that's left is troubling enough. I feel that everyone should be made to visit that site at least once in their lives, just so that the errors of the past will not be repeated in the future.

One last night to go in Warsaw, and then I must say goodbye to Poland.:-( I thoroughly enjoyed my stay, and this country surpassed all my expectations. As I mentioned before, Poland makes you work a little harder than countries like Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Germany to fully appreciate its charms, but the effort has its own rewards. Believe me when I tell you that Poland is well worth a visit. But don't start in Krakow -- keep that for the end of your trip!

I'd be remiss if I did not give kudos to every hostel I've stayed at. Indeed, Poland boasts some of the best hostels in Europe. Modern, cheap, with every possible amenities, and full of freebies, they are slowly setting a new standard in Europe. Moreover, they are staffed by the nicest and most helpful people I have met, and I've been to 26 different countries. Thus, if you are thinking of traveling to Warsaw, book a bed at the Oki Doki hostel (; in Gdansk, check out the Targ Rybny (; in Wroclaw, Nathan's Villa is the place to be (could be the very best hostel I've stayed at); and in Krakow, look no further than Greg and Tom Hostel ( By booking a bed at any of these places, you'll get more bang for your buck and a lot of extras!

Having abandoned Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I have now moved on to Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind. About 80 pages into it and I am completely enthralled!

And now, onward to Finland!:-)


Curiosity has gotten the better of me ever since I learned that Orson Scott Card would be writing a new multivolume fantasy saga. There has never been this many ongoing quality fantasy series out there, and I was eager to see what sort of tale Card would come up with.

Hence, when I discovered that the novella Stonefather was a prequel to the Mithermages series which will soon be published by Del Rey, I jumped on this opportunity to get an early read and a peek at what's to come. Stonefather will be published by Subterranean Press in October, and it will be illustrated by Tom Kidd.

From the very start, this one didn't work for me. The narrative is reminiscent of the countless generic fantasy quest books which gave the genre such a bad name. Moreover, the characterization and the dialogues are juvenile in tone and a pain in the butt to follow. I found myself shaking my head and gritting my teeth on several occasions. In terms of style, think about post-Elenium David Eddings, with puerile dialogues along the lines of those between Richard and Kahlan in Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule.

Card's worldbuilding was the only facet of the novella I enjoyed. In addition, the imagery his prose creates is at times evocative. And yet, no matter how interesting some of the concepts turn out to be, the entire mood is thoroughly killed by the poor characterization, especially Runnel, the main protagonist. The supporting cast is comprised of unmemorable characters such as Lark, Brickel, and Demwor.

Stonefather is an uninspired and lackluster effort by one of the contemporary masters of SFF. Not only does it read like an 80s fantasy book, but a bad 80s fantasy book at that. One can only hope that the forthcoming Mithermage series will show more promise. Otherwise, this has the potential to be even more disappointing that Raymond E. Feist's Conclave of Shadows volumes.

Authors such as Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, Steven Erikson, and many others have elevated the fantasy genre to new heights in recent years. In order to compete with his peers, at least if he wishes to write at that level, Orson Scott Card must come up with something much more impressive and exciting than Stonefather.

The final verdict: 5/10

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

"No mas, no mas. . ."

Such were the words of the celebrated boxing legend Roberto Duran when he was forced to quit against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980.
He was given a boxing lesson that night, and Leonard reclaimed the welterweight title he had lost to Duran 5 months before. Much in the same way, after Susanna Clarke battered me to the point of unconsciousness so many times in the last couple of weeks, after knocking me down countless times, cutting me open, and basically killing me on my feet, my corner decided to throw in the towel.

When I reached the end of chapter 57 last evening, after 830 pages I decided that I had seen enough. I firmly believed that I could be a trooper and tough it up, but in the end I closed down Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell before going to dinner and knew that there was no way I could ever pick it up again. I have never -- ever -- been this underwhelmed by such a renowned work of speculative fiction.

Looking back, I can't quite believe how many chances I gave this novel. A lot more than it deserved, that's for damn sure! I meant to write a post full of sarcastic bits and pieces, but I went to Auschwitz and Birkenau extermination camps today and I don't have it in me to do so. Books that you read while on vacation sometimes become associated with those travels. I feel so sorry that my adventure in beautiful Poland will henceforth forever be tainted by the memory of such a disappointing book like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

I agree wholeheartedly that the novel is well-written. I really enjoyed Clarke's witty writing style, though the prose is at times a bit too flowery. That this work has been thoroughly researched is evident, and the author's grasp of the countless 19th-century details is nothing short of astonishing. And yet, incorporated together to form a novel created what is possibly one of the most boring works I have ever read. We're talking all filler and no killer here, all in the name of mannerism. . .

Pointless chapters succeed one another, adding more padding to a book that's already vast enough. Cut to about 400 pages, I reckon I would have enjoyed it quite a bit. Sadly, having to read through a panoply of chapters that go nowhere and add nothing whatsoever to the storylines just about did it for me. I mean, there is basically no plotlines, and those that comprise the novel are decidedly on the thin side. I mean, give me a reason to read this!

The characterization, much like the plot, leave a lot to be desired. Jonathan Strange is the only well-drawn character in the entire book, and even he is not anything special. The supporting cast is more or less on the lame side, which doesn't help at all.

Having said all that, it's the pace that killed me. I mean, when the story moves at a speed that makes a Polish train feel like you're riding the TGV, is it any wonder I lost interest. Keep in mind that the better part of that book was read aboard trains, while I had absolutely nothing else to do. The Polish countryside isn't exactly the rolling hills of Tuscany, so it's not as though the scenery was enchanting enough to keep me away from reading. And the only people in my compartments turned out to be old Polish folks who didn't speak a lick of French or English. Technically, I should have finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell ages ago. But the damned thing bored me to tears to such an extent that I could never read more than 50-75 pages in one sitting. I've spent the last week or so traveling with an Aussie girl from Melbourne, and she fell asleep on the train to Krakow. Naturally, I decided to read a little and never knew she was observing me until I heard her laugh. She claimed I had such a look of disdain and hopelessness on my face that I should just quit reading the stupid thing.

But I was so close to my objective. I wanted to soldier on, to reach the book's ending so I could review it. Alas, I relish the thought of finishing the novel as much as I want to get an anal search at the Warsaw airport when I fly to Helsinki in a couple of days. Truth to tell, I'd rather read Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth. And coming from me, that's saying something!

Hence, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell will become a wandering book. I will leave it here at the book exchange of Krakow's Greg and Tom Hostel, hoping that it will travel around the world in the hands of readers who will enjoy it more than I did. . .

I know that many people liked the book. But I believe it's fair to say that it did absolutely nothing for me. And I gave it more chances than I have ever given any single book I can remember. Oh well, to each his own. . .

I wanted to tell you guys more about Wroclaw and Krakow, but it's been a long day and I need a drink. Hmmm, I think I need more than a few drinks!;-) Just know that I'm still having a ball, though the girls in Krakow are nowhere near as stunning as the ones in Wroclaw! Needless to say, I'm loving my stay in Poland and I wish I could spend more time in this very nice country. So I'll give you the lowdown some other time.

Meanwhile, there's bound to be a cold Zywiec or Tyskie beer with my name on it nearby. . .:-)

Again, don't spellcheck me! And please, consider visiting Poland!:p For the gorgeous girls, if nothing else!!!

Chillin' in Wroclaw, and the Hotlist's 1,000,000th page view

Hey guys!

Just woke up and it looks as though it's going to be a glorious day in beautiful Wroclaw! Man, it's nice to be on vacation for another month or so!!!;-)

While I knew it was going to happen at some point while I was traipsing around Eastern Europe, last Friday night saw Pat's Fantasy Hotlist get its millionth page view! Fuck me, but that is totally unbelievable! Not bad for a dumbass who writes short, pathetic, laymen reviews, eh!?!:p Once again, many thanks to all of you who keep dropping by, day after day. You certainly keep things interesting! But 1,000,000 page views???? That's decidedly over the top!

The seaside town of Gdansk was surprisingly beautiful and I definitely enjoyed my stay there. It was only meant to be an extra stop on the itinerary, just so I could say that I had seen a little more of Poland, but it was very neat. Unfortunately, it rained on my last day there, which prevented me from visiting Oliwa and its cathedral, as well as the Baltic seaside resort of Sopot. Hot damn, but I would have enjoyed watching Polish women in their bikinis while soaking up the sun on the beach for an afternoon! Alas, it was not to be. . . I did get to Westerplatte, the site where WWII began when a German battleship attacked the Polish garrison stationed on the island. Yes, I took the kitch pirate ship to get there, but please don't tell anyone!

I got a few messages pertaining to Polish girls and how they can't be that great. Well, let me disabuse you of that notion! I've been to both Hungary and the Czech Republic, and there's no way in hell that those women go one-up on the Polish girls! Ellestra, you're right! They should put that on the posters to attract tourists. Then again, you'd probably get more British stag parties, which are starting to become a plague in Eastern Europe. Brits don't seem to have a clue when it comes to the women here. Acting stupid and boozing till you puke all over the place rarely sends the chick running after you while tearing their clothes off, you know. . .

No, I like the way Polish girls are stylish, whether they're wearing jeans and a tank-top or designer clothes. They're not trashy like some other Eastern European women (no, I won't mention any city, though everyone knows what I'm talking about). And unlike North America, which has become a "skinny" culture, Polish girls seem to understand that you can have meat around the bone and still be beautiful.:-) What can I say!?! I'm a meat lover! Girls in the USA and Canada sometimes have chickenbone legs and waists so thin you fear you'll break them in two if you hug them too hard. . . Polish girls, on the other hand, look like they can be hugged again and again! Hopefully I'll get to hug one or two before I leave Warsaw next week!:p And I'm an avowed leg-man, and boy do many of them have nice legs! The fad appears to be the tanning salons here. . .

Poland's biggest problem is that the trains are atrociously slow. We're talking quasi-Third World speed here, with an average of less than 50km/hour. For fuck's sake, it took me more than 7.5 hours to get from Gdansk to Wroclaw, when such a journey should take 4 hours at the most. Another problem is that no one speaks English, meaning that it makes everything more difficult for tourists. I don't mind countries that make foreigners work a bit to appreciate their charms, and Poland surely falls into that category. But the tourist infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired, especially if there is not a soul in a train station that can help you by telling you from which platform your stupid train leaves. I had a connection in Poznan yesterday, and I nearly missed my train because no one could/would help me out. Every traveler you meet will say that the Polish don't offer the warmest of welcome to tourists, but that's the way love goes, I guess. It's probably why the hostels's staff are so nice and helpful. I mean, this is my third Polish hostels and the folks here are fantastic. They all deserve a raise, and that's a fact!

I saw the Dutch lose to Russia last night, along with a few hundred soccer fans on a giant screen near Wroclaw's immense market square (the second biggest in Europe). There were a lot of Dutch partisans, but it was not to be. Perhaps I should refrain from watching games involving the Netherlands, as they always lose when I do so. I'll always remember that game during the Euro 2004, when the Dutch faced the Czech Republic. I was in Amsterdam and the Netherlands led 3-0 at the half. If you know the Dutch, you know how those guys can party. Well, they loss 4-3, and you've never seen a city go dead like that!

As for Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I enjoyed the second part more than the first, which is to say that I didn't dislike it as much as the other. This book is extremely overwritten and overlong, even though I enjoy her witty writing style. Interesting that some people are happy to overlook flagrant flaws (snail pace and absence of plot) that would be inexcusable otherwise, just for the sake of mannerism. . . I'll plod on, just because I want to finish the novel. But I have to agree with Rob and say that this is probably the most overrated book I have ever read.

Okay folks, Wroclaw awaits and the sun's out. This looks like a wonderful city, and I certainly intend to make the most of it. To all of you looking for a new place to visit, Poland is surely a country worth discovering. It has a lot to offer, even if you have to work a little harder to reach it. . .:-)

Again, don't spell-check me, as I have no time to proofread myself.:-)

Have a good one!


Though it might be hard to believe, I have yet to sample a single volume of Jim Butcher's popular Dresden Files series. Oh, I came close a number of times, but I somehow never got around to actually begin reading that sequence.
When the ARC for Backup, a novelette set in the Dresden Files series, showed up unexpectedly in my mailbox, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to discover Jim Butcher and get a glimpse of the book cycle which made the author famous.

Backup will be published by Subterranean Press in October, and the novelette will be illustrated by comic legend Mike Mignola. Paced perfectly, it reads like a thriller, and most fans should reach its end in one sitting.

Thomas Raith, Harry Dresden's brother, is notified that something pertaining to the Oblivion War requires his immediate attention. Soon, he discovers that Harry is in danger, and it's up to him to locate him and handle a number of difficulties without his brother being the wiser.

I enjoyed Butcher's style and tone, which reminded me of Mike Carey's The Devil You Know. So much so that I've decided to finally give the Dresden Files a shot! Man, as if I needed more stuff to read. . .

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

This just in: Polish girls are hot -- really hot!;-)

Hey guys!

I'm coming to you live from beautiful Gdansk, Poland! This town on the Baltic seaside is a neat combination of Strasbourg, France, and Innsbruck, Austria. I arrived yesterday afternoon, and I'm really liking it thus far. I'll be visiting Westerplatte tomorrow, where WWII began on September 1st, 1939, when a German battleship began pounding the Polish garrison.

Warsaw was nice, though the tourist infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired. People in Warsaw get mad when tourists talk about how everything is better in Krakow. Well sorry, folks, but you have a long way to go to make the Polish capital user's friendly enough to rival Krakow. Still, although many people kept telling me to skip Warsaw, I'm really glad I began my Polish journey. While it's true that there is not that much to see and do, you can still fill up a good two days and have a great time. The weather was on my side, as it only rained during the evening while we were watching the soccer game. I visited every major sightseeing stop in the Old Town and along the Royal Way. Checked out the Palace upon the Water in Tazienki Park. Missed out on the Warsaw Uprising Museum because the fucking thing is closed on Tuesday. Felt like such a dumbass, but I'll get to go when I return to the Polish capital to catch a flight to Helsinki. I had to see the Warsaw Ghetto Monument (though it's nothing to write home about) and the Jewish Cemetery (the largest in Europe). If you're thinking of going to Warsaw, book a bed at the very cool Oki Doki hostel. The girls at the reception are so helpful, it's unbelievable. They deserve the kudos! And the 3,50 zl for half a liter of beer during the daily Happy Hour is a must!;-)

It took me 14 hours and three flights and a sleepless night to get to Poland, and now that I'm free of jetlag it's all good! Still one day to go in Gdansk, and then I'm catching an early train to Wroclaw.

I've been reading Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and boy am I underwhelmed. Please tell me that something happens at some point. . . I'm about 350 pages in, and I've considered abandoning the book a few times thus far. This one I will leave at a hostel along the way, as I'm not lugging this brick around Eastern Europe with me, whether I finish it or not. . .

As for the whole "hype" thing, I reckon this story has reached proportions none of us ever envisioned. Well, that's the internet for you. All I'll add on the subject is that I don't ascribe a negative connotation to hype, as I feel that hype/buzz can be a good thing. I could write another post on the topic, but I don't have the time, the money, or the inclination to do so right now. I'm on vacation, after all!:-) I've tried to check the comments that were added, and now I'm told that this thing has been linked all over the place. I doubt that Simon Spanton had any idea of the can of worms we would be opening by posting our email correspondence.

Please don't spell-check me, as I'm typing as fast as I can! And enjoy my review of Butcher's Backup, which I really enjoyed!

Talk to you guys later! Gdansk awaits. . .

The Hype Files

Hey guys,
Simon Spanton, Richard Morgan's editor at Gollancz, and I have been exchanging emails regarding hype. He had some issues with my review of Morgan's The Steel Remains(Canada, USA, Europe), and we talked things over.

I would have liked to discuss the topic a bit further, as our definition of hype and all it encompasses appears to differ to some extent, but my getting on that plane bound for Poland in a few hours precluded my doing so. Still, Simon feels that this discussion is worthy of a wider audience, and he invited me to post it on the Hotlist.

Unfortunately, this is not a discussion he and I can finish at the moment. But perhaps you guys can add to it and make it even more interesting. . .:-)

- Simon Spanton's first message after reading my review:

Dear Pat,

Thanks for your review.

As someone who has seemingly been instrumental in ‘hyping’ Richard’s book I’m genuinely interested in learning what you believe constitutes hype?

All the best


- My reply:

Hi Simon,

I certainly helped build the exciting buzz surrounding this book, no question. But the hype began when reviews and advance praise started floating around. Before that, the SFF community, myself included, was just eagerly awaiting Morgan's take on fantasy.

Advance reviews made the book sound like it was the best thing since sliced bread, and I believe that the hype raised expectations to an unattainable level. I would like to think that I'm immune to hype, but I was taken along for the ride, as many others have been. So I wanted my review to put things back into perspective. And I sincerely believe that readers will enjoy the novel a lot more if they don't go into this want thinking that they're going to read a future classic of the genre. Whether TSR will indeed become a landmark fantasy book, only time will tell. . .

Much like Lynch went through with TLOLL, I guess I didn't want Morgan to experience an even bigger backlash (given his talent and backlist) from angry fans when the book doesn't meet their expectations. Some people were saying that Scott was the second coming of GRRM, while his debut was a world away from what Martin is doing in terms of style.

I'm now extremely curious to see how people will receive it, especially Morgan's scifi fans, many of whom will probably cross over to fantasy. . .



- Simon Spanton's response:


Please, let’s get a sense of perspective here.


1. Deception or racket
2. intensive or exaggerated publicity or sales promotion
3. To market or promote using exaggerated or intensive publicity
4. to falsify or rig

You refer to ‘advance reviews making the book sound like it was the best thing since sliced bread’. Is this really hype or are these enthusiastic reviews whose enthusiasm you don’t entirely share? If you believe its hype then you believe that all or some of these reviews were exaggerated or false. Exaggerated or falsified by whom? The reviewers? Me?

Or do you believe that these other reviewers were innocent but somehow ‘taken in’ by the advance pieces I sent out, by the manuscripts. Or even by the claims I made in my accompanying notes that this was a book that would send waves through the fantasy genre. Surely not by a shoutline ‘Fantasy just got real’.

Let’s get real here. Sending out advance copies to bloggers is NOT hype.

Claims that suggest it is display a real ignorance of how hype REALLY works. They also encourage the sort of misguided comment on your blog about genre publishers operating some sort of sinister ‘hype machine’.

Again, I’d ask if you believe there has been hype, point to examples.



- My reply:

Hi Simon,

Shit, I have a foot out the door so I can write much. I don't believe in conspiracy theory, so anyone who believes that genre publishers operate sinister hype machines is a dumbass. This is a business, and publicity people will come up with stuff that will hopefully entice readers to give their titles a shot. In that, you guys are no different than any other publishing house. Watch any commercial on tv, and you'll never see a company encouraging you to buy the other brand. That's how marketing works, and we see it is all aspects of our lives. Books are no different, and no I don't think that you or anyone at Gollancz are using deception to lure readers in. I mean, just remember when Voyager claimed that Hunter's Run would set a new benchmark in science fiction! Are you kidding me!?! But that's what marketing people are paid to do.

I think the hype regarding TSR remains comes from within SFF readers, at least a large part of it. It's Richard Morgan, for fuck's sake, and we want him to blow our minds! So we are already predisposed to be "influenced" by any positive buzz. Heck, people on message boards were getting excited about the damned book last summer, a full year before it was even released. We didn't even know what the novel would be about, and yet we were jumping up and down in anticipation.

When the advance praise from Joe and Darrin came, we were all salivating! Then the blogger reviews went up, and things reached a new level of excitement. I'm not saying that those bloggers wrote false or exagerated reviews. But I think that in their excitement, they may have, consciously or unconsciouly, overlooked some of the story's shortcomings. I'm guilty as charged of having done that in the past concerning titles that I was really looking forward to, and I was called out on it. Nothing wrong with that. We are only human, after all, and sometimes we really want some books to be so damn good. Just to give you an example, though he wrote a glowing review, [name withheld] came out and said that TSR had nothing on Altered Carbon and Black Man. I believe that, had I read it when you initially sent me the ARC, I would probably have enjoyed it more. As it is, all those positive reviews made my own expectations go up a few notches (and they were high to begin with), and in the end no novel could have met those expectations. . .

We, as readers, in a way create and magnify the hype. We want this book to be great, and when reviews keep telling us that it is, well we just keep hoping for more, and more. So I'm not saying that you and the folks at Gollancz did anything wrong. Man, you're riding that wave for all its worth, and so you should! We rarely so such a buzz for a book, especially when you're not named Martin, Gaiman, or Jordan. So I see nothing wrong in the way you guys played your card. And I don't think anyone of those bloggers can be blamed of anything but overexcitement at the thought of finally reading that new Morgan fantasy book.

The funny thing is that I never once said that TSR was bad. I said it's a good book, though not great. As I mentioned in my previous email, I didn't want to see a backlash when readers who are expecting too much out of it lash out on message boards. I have now sold 28 copies through my amazon links, and not one cancelled after reading my review. It's just a question, or so I believe, to go into this one with the adequate expectations. If you want and entertaining, action-packed, and shocking fantasy adventure, then TSR should satisfy you.

Do you remember in 2006 when Lynch's debut came out, and some advance praise made him sound like the second coming of GRRM. What you saw most often when someone hated the book was the fact that they believed that it would be a convoluted tale of epic proportions. What they got was a fun-filled, ass-kicking, caper that came like a breath of fresh air in an often stagnating genre. I loved TLOLL. But if someone thought that he would read the opening chapter of a tale similar to ASOIAF, of course he or she could be sorely disappointed. If you're looking for an action film and you end up seeing a chick flick, you'll be unhappy.

So I guess it's just about going into this one with the right mindset. That way, you come out happy and no one is bitching. My friend, it's not like this is the David Bilsborough's The Wanderer's Tale of 2008!;-) But by jumping genre, Morgan will now be compared to the top dogs of the fantasy field. It's a different ball game.

Okay, gotta go. Just don't think that I felt that there was some malicious intent on anyone's part to push some crap at unsuspecting readers. The hype I'm talking about is as much a creation of some inherent factors in each of us (our desire to see this book be as good as we want it to be), as it is a creation of the marketing and the advance reviews.

Hopefully I made a bit of sense. . .



- Simon Spanton's response:


Well this is much closer to it. Though I think we need to be careful when we attribute different views on a book to some kind of misreading or an overlooking of a book’s faults. I’m long enough in this game to know that people can get caught up in excitement, also that others feel that they have to distance themselves from it. Neither position is necessarily closer to an accurate reading of whatever book is being discussed. Simply because there is no such thing as one ‘accurate reading’. There are individual readings.

But none of this is about the key point here and that’s the misuse of the word ‘hype’. One of the delights for me of the growth that we’ve seen in the blogging phenomenon as it relates to its involvement in genre publishing is exactly its resistance to hype. By and large the blogging community and the forums have been remarkably resistant to the blandishments of the publishing industry – independent from and willing to be ornery towards whatever the industry hopes might be the next big thing.

So it’s doubly frustrating and irritating to see the self same communities and forums flinging accusations of ‘hype’ about in such a loose and ill-disciplined way. I really don’t see hype working on the internet – whether generated from outside or within the community. There are always people ready to dissent and the nature of the medium gives the dissenters the opportunity to be fairly heard and represented. ‘Hype’ seems to be a bogeyman just as the ‘swathes of formulaic elf and dwarf, kitchen boy destined for greatness fantasies’ are bogeymen; ie there just isn’t that much of it around. What are we scared of? We’re creating threats out of shadows so that we can shore up our own belief in the importance of what we hold to be true.

As in:

Xxxxx is a hugely important author because he stands out against the swathes of clichéd fantasy that I am properly aware of the shortcomings of (or at least I am now).
Yyyyy is a hugely important author because he stands out against the swathes of hyped authors who I’m proud not to have been taken in by.

If people come fresh to forums and see accusations of hype flying about it serves no-one – they assume conspiracy and they take on suspicions about new authors rather than deciding for themselves or on the basis of a real debate amongst like minded people about the actual merits or demerits of a book.

Let’s banish talk of hype so that we can stop jumping at shadows.


Okay, so it's your turn now! Normally, I would never disclose information of this nature. But since Simon Spanton feels that this could benefit from getting out there, feel free to spread the word around! I'll try to monitor this discussion while traveling. . . Next time you hear from me, I'll be on Polish soil! Adios amigos!:-)


Our lucky winner will get his hands on a copy of Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy, courtesy of the folks at Subterranean Press. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and

The winners is:

Mihir J Wanchoo, from Houston, Texas, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Win a copy of the limited edition of George R. R. Martin's STARLADY/FAST-FRIEND

Thanks once again to Bill and the rest of the Subterranean Press crew, I have a copy of the limited edition which includes the two novelettes Starlady and Fast-Friend for you to win. To find out more about this latest collector's item, check out this link.

Starlady takes place on a planet called Thisrock and depicts a Darwinian society populated by thieves, whores, cutthroats, pimps, and assorted lost souls. It is a tale of love, loss, vengeance, and ambition written with great economy of means, and with a narrative intensity that never, ever lets up.

Fast-Friend takes a fresh new look at an enduring human dream: travel to the stars. With consummate narrative skill, and with a visionary's sensibility, Martin tells an unforgettable story of longing and transcendence, a story suffused with images at once beautiful and terrifying, mysterious and profound.

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

Steven Erikson contest winners!

Our five lucky winners will each get their hands on an autographed copy of Steven Erikson's Toll the Hounds (Canada, USA, Europe), courtesy of the kind folks at Transworld.

The winners are:

- Ian Schildt, from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

- Matthew Carslake, from Cape Town, South Africa (q21 on

- Ben Day, from Kensington, New South Wales, Australia

- Kerry Longlade, from London, Ontario, Canada (ShadowOwl on

- Ole Kristian Tørresen, from Oslo, Norway (o'lee on

For those who didn't win, you can still pre-order Toll the Hounds at up to 40% off via the Amazon links in the first paragraph. . .

Thanks to all the participants!:-)

Provisional Top 5 of 2008

Here are my picks for the year thus far:

1- Neuropath by R. Scott Bakker
2- Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson
3- The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia
4- Return of the Crimson Guard by Ian Cameron Esslemont
5- Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

And the runner-ups would have to be:

6- Bloodheir by Brian Ruckley
7- The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford
8- The Edge of Reason by Melinda Snodgrass
9- Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik
10- The Digital Plague by Jeff Somers

Feel free to agree or disagree with these selections. . .:-)

Quote of the Day

My name is George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents.

The very best pick-up line ever used to hit on a woman!;-)

Toll the Hounds

Well, this one almost never happened. Many thanks to Simon Taylor at Transworld for getting me the page proofs on time, and for coming through again when I realized that nearly 80 pages were missing.

First of all, to those of you who fear that reading Toll the Hounds before Ian Cameron Esslemont's Return of the Crimson Guard might spoil the reading experience, no worries. The order in which you'll read both books will not take anything away from the experience, though Toll the Hounds shine some light on something which occurs in Return of the Crimson Guard.

The eighth volume in The Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence brings us back to the continent of Genabackis. A lot has happened since the siege at Capustan, yet, surprisingly, the narrative doesn't focus much on the intervening months since the events chronicled in Memories of Ice. I was expecting this newest Malazan installment to shine some light on some of the unexpected twists contained in Reaper's Gale, but it was not to be.

Both The Bonehunters and Reaper's Gale were all over the place as far storylines are concerned, and many fans were a bit put off by what they consider the author's lack of direction, or so it seems. Truth to tell, the sixth and seventh volumes of the series rank among my favorites because of that very reason. I feel that no other books advanced the main story arcs further than these two. Which is why, perhaps, I found the slow-going pace of Toll the Hounds for the better part of 800 pages to be somewhat anti-climactic. By the same token, it might mean that those who didn't enjoy its two predecessors as much as I did might like Toll the Hounds a lot more.

Antsy, Blend, Picker, Mallet, and Bluepearl are enjoying their retirement and seem content to run K'rul's Bar. But when the Assassins' Guild suddenly come after them, they realize that someone put a contract on their heads. Unfortunately, Seba Krafar, new Master of the Assassins' Guild, and his mysterious client will discover that Bridgeburners are not easy marks.

When their ship docks into Darujhistan, Spite senses the presence of her despicable sister Envy. Both are aware of the foretold clash their next meeting will bring. Cutter, irrevocably changed by Apsalar, is anxious at the thought of being reunited with his old friends of the Phoenix Inn.

Within the realm of Dragnipur, all the Chained are aware that Chaos is on the verge of overtaking the wagon. And when that occurs, Draconus is aware that all the realms could be destroyed. The man who forged Dragnipur has a desperate plan to face what seems inevitable, but little does he know that a blind Tiste Andii has an agenda of his own.

Mappo Runt, eager to travel to Lether to find Icarium, hires the Trygalle Trade Guild to take him to that distant continent. Gruntle, for want of a better idea, decides to become a shareholder in the venture. When things go awry, both the caravan guard and the Trell experience a lot more than they bargained for.

When the High Alchemist is notified that someone or something left the Finnest House, Baruk is aware that the beginning of the end has begun. And he knows that what is left of the T'orrud Cabal cannot hope to face a new Tyrant.

Itkovian's sacrifice gave birth to the cult of the Redeemer. But a new god comes into play, one bent on corrupting the cult and the rest of the continent. And only a former Seerdomin appears to stand in that god's path.

And in Black Coral, the weight of Dragnipur continues to be an ever-increasing burden for Anomander Rake, the only one who can endure such hardship. But for how long? Realizing what is coming, the Son of Darkness asks Endest Silann, broken High Mage of Moon's Spawn, and Spinnock Durav, wandering Tiste Andii warrior, to do what must be done. Meanwhile, far to the south, Clip leads Nimander Golit and the others toward Black Coral, where his confrontation with the Black-winged Lord awaits. However, what they encounter on their way might change them forever.

As Karsa Orlong and Samar Dev traverse the Plain of Lamatath, the Toblakai on his way to gather his Teblor army so they can destroy every vestige of civilization, he will encounter an unlikely companion, someone even Karsa realizes he cannot cross.

And as Hood closes the Gate to the realm of the dead and gather an army of souls, gods, Ascendants, and mortals alike converge on Darujhistan, City of Blue Fire, where a throne awaits.

As I mentioned, the novel's biggest shortcoming is its slow-moving rhythm. Not that Toll the Hounds is boring, far from it. It's just that the first three books seem to focus too much on secondary plotlines whose relevance in the bigger scheme of things appears a bit questionable. So while I found the POVs of Endest Silann and Spinnock Durav fascinating because they provided insight on Anomander's Rake past, Kharkanas -- First City of the Dark, and the feud that led Mother Dark to turn her back on the Tiste Andii, I felt that the pace suffered when Erikson tied up loose ends from Gardens of the Moon and Memories of Ice when the narrative shifted and concentrated on Challice, Murillio, Gorlas Vidikar, and so on.

As a matter of course, Toll the Hounds resounds with as much depth as its predecessors. There are revelations about Anomander Rake and Osserc, the coming of Light, the civil war in Kurald Galain, the Eleint, the Hounds of Shadow, the Jaghut, etc -- there is enough juicy stuff to satisfy every Malazan fan!

After nearly 800 pages spent setting the stage, Steven Erikson finally goes in "attack mode." And when he does, prepare yourself to be blown away! The last 130 pages or so make up what could well be the series grandest finale yet. Complex and convoluted as the storylines have become, there was no way to expect that such a momentous event would take place. Sure, we knew that a huge convergence would shake Darujhistan to the core of its foundations. But this time it's so mind-blowing that it will leave you dumbfounded. How Shadowthrone and Cotillion managed to manipulate events in such a fashion defies comprehension.

Lots of humor again in this one, the culmination of which is a "confrontation" between mule-riding Kruppe and Iskaral Pust. I've aways enjoyed Erikson's brand of humor in the past, yet I feel that the author may have overdone it a bit in Toll the Hounds. Lots of dark themes, and at times it felt that the humor was a tad out of place. Speaking of Kruppe, those fearing that his POV will somehow be annoying need not worry. Overall, it works rather well, though the tone is totally different from what we have become accustomed to from the other Malazan installments.

Though most of the book remains a slow-moving affair, when Toll the Hounds kicks it into gear it delivers on all fronts. Moreover, it sets the stage for what's to come. Still, I have to concede that the ending likely saved this one from being what could have been the weakest volume of the series.

Roll on Dust of Dreams!

The final verdict: 9/10

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

Eastern European Adventure

Hey guys,

The details have been finalized, so here is the tentative itinerary. Tentative because any backpacking trip relies as much on what is planned than on everything that just sort of happens. Hence, though I mean to do what follows, on those dates, I might meet a couple of cool Aussies in Warsaw, and we'll end up in Berlin or Prague for all I know.

Still, this is what I mean to do, more or less. Feel free to let me know of any cool bars/restaurants/clubs or unusual places to visit in each spot, or little side-trips that few tourists know about but which are worthwhile. If you live in those areas and you'd like to meet for a beer or three, do get in contact with me. But please don't feel bad if we don't hook up. Backpacking is about living the moment, and any long-term thing just doesn't agree with such a trip. In any case, if we can swing it, I'll be happy to meet you guys!;-)

June 14th: Flight to Warsaw via NYC and Helsinki
June 15th: Arrival in Warsaw, Poland
June 16th and 17th: Warsaw
June 18th: Transit to Gdansk, Poland
June 19th and 20th: Gdansk
June 21st: Transit to Wroclaw, Poland
June 22nd and 23rd: Wroclaw
June 24th: Transit to Krakow, Poland
June 25th to 28th: Krakow
June 29th: Transit to Warsaw
June 30th: Flight to Helsinki, Finland

July 1st and 2nd: Helsinki
July 3rd: Transit to Tampere, Finland
July 4th: Tampere
July 5th: Transit to Tallinn, Estonia
July 6th and 7th: Tallinn
July 8th: Transit to Riga, Latvia
July 9th to 12th: Riga
July 13th: Transit to Vilnius, Lithuania
July 14th to 16th: Vilnius
July 17th: Flight back to Montreal via Helsinki and London

I'm using most cities as a home base to check out nearby sites and attractions. . . And I'll see the final rounds of the Euro 2008 in Europe, which is as it should be.

Can't wait!!!:-)

Contest winners!

Okay, so with the number of ongoing giveaways, we have quite a few winners. And here they are:

For sets of the first four volumes in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, and Empire of Ivory, compliments of Del Rey:

- Carrie Beduhn, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

- Greg Hovencamp, from Ithaca, New York, USA

- Micah Schwantner, from Ramona, California, USA

For a copy of Naomi Novik's latest, Victory of Eagles (Canada, USA, Europe), once again compliments of Del Rey:

- Benjamin Bruce Warnnsby III, from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada (serdog on
For an ARC of Chris Evans' A Darkness Forged in Fire (Canada, USA, Europe), courtesy of Yours Truly:

- Eric Napier, from Jacksonville, Florida, USA

For a copy of Jay Lake's Escapement (Canada, USA, Europe), compliments of Tor Books:

- Ryan Adams, from Montreal, Quebec, Canada

- Matt Otis, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
For a copy of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother (Canada, USA, Europe), once again courtesy of Tor Books:

- Victoria Beavers, from Helena, Alabama, USA (vicki_girl on

For a set of Glen Cook's Chronicles of the Black Company (Canada, USA, Europe) and The Books of the South (Canada, USA, Europe), compliments of Tor Books:

- Aaron Nichols, from Olympia, Washington, USA

- Jennifer Kingsbury, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Guinevere Seaworth on

Many thanks to all the participants!

Ads: Beta Testing (part 2)

Well, I mentioned that this was a work in progress, and so it is. . .

I wish I could have spent more time tinkering with it, but work, life, and preparations for my month-long trip made it all but impossible to devote more time to this endeavor. We seem to have reached a happy medium with the way things are now.

Though I can't do nothing for those Firefox users who go for such a high resolution, I did what I could to make things easier for those with smaller computer screens. So the 468 x 60 banners on top appear to be of an appropriate size, though the 728 x 90 leaderboards looked much better on my 17-inch laptop screen. In addition, moving the sidebar ads down a bit helped clear up some room, which hopefully makes reading the new posts easier without the distraction.

No, I didn't go commercial. I had been thinking of posting ads for many months now, but the powers that be decreed that I couldn't do it without becoming part of a network. I'm not happy about the whole deal, but those are the rules. Hopefully publishers will post ads that reflect what I wanted to post myself. We'll have to wait and see. . .

The truth is that running the Hotlist is now taking too much of my time. Understandably, I could never envision that the blog would one day reach this many people all over the damned globe. Since last fall, I now devote between 10 to 15 hours a week to this little corner of the World Wide Web, and that doesn't include the time I spend reading. Which means that running this blog now gets in the way of many other things in my life. Which is why, in the end, I needed to find a way to monetize the site. It was either that, or reduce the time I spend trying to make this the best blog of its kind.

To those who can't stand the ads and are considering stopping hanging around, I hate to see you go. But a drop in quality and content would hurt the Hotlist a lot more than four ads will, I'm sure. This has basically become a part-time job for me. I love it, make no mistake, but I just need to get a little something in return.

I can't/won't ask people to buy more stuff through my Amazon links. I know that everyone works hard to earn their money, and it's not my place to ask you to throw it my way. Feel free to do so, as every penny goes back into books to read and review. No, I wanted publishers to help monetize the Hotlist, not its readers. I have just reached a one-year agreement with a publisher, so that's wonderful. Hopefully I can convince enough publicity people and authors to post ads here, ads for books/series I enjoy and want to share with the rest of the online community. The giveaways were meant for that very purpose, but a banner on top of the homepage for a number of days will give novels way more exposure.

As always, I welcome your feedback. This is and will remain a work in progress, though no change will likely see the light while I'm traipsing around Europe. If it all goes according to plan, publishers will jump on the opportunity to promote titles I want to give exposure to, and I won't have to rely on the online ad network. That would give me the control to decide exactly which ads will be posted on the Hotlist.

So here's to hoping that the next few weeks will see ads for Erikson's Toll the Hounds, Edelman's MultiReal, Esslemont's Return of the Crimson Guard, Sedia's The Alchemy of Stone, Morgan's The Steel Remains, and many more!

From your numerous emails, it's evident that many of you are shocked by how little such ads can generate in terms of revenues. When I tell you that I'm in no danger of quitting my day job, now you'll believe me!:p If I wanted to make money, I would have gone into porn. I elected to create this SFF book reviewing gig, and I have no regrets. It's been a great ride, one that will hopefully continue for a long, long time.

Thanks for your patience and suggestions. Having an audience is what makes it as fun as it is! As always, I'll try to keep up the good work.:-)

Win a copy of David Louis Edelman's MULTIREAL

I have three copies of David Louis Edelman's sequel to Infoquake (Canada, USA, Europe), MultiReal, up for grabs, compliments of the nice folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Even better, if you haven't read Edelman's excellent debut. Pyr will throw in a copy of Infoquake as well! Find out more about the two novels at and

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "MULTIREAL." 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. And please include the information as to whether or not you are gunning for both books, or just MultiReal.

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!;-)

The Steel Remains

Hype has a funny way of raising one's expectations to an unattainable plateau. Richard Morgan wasn't even halfway done with the manuscript of a forthcoming fantasy novel which had yet to be titled, and already we were hearing how the author would turn the genre on its head. And given Morgan's talent and reputation, all of us believed that if someone could do it, then the author was the most likely candidate. Advance reading copies had not even been printed, yet early readers raved about The Steel Remains. Fantasy, or so it was claimed, was about to get real.

The vagaries of life (or the fact that I reside in Canada) mean that European reviewers already had their reviews up before I even received my ARC. The verdict appeared quasi-unanimous: The Steel Remains probably was the fantasy novel of the year.

Now, at this point the hype made it so that anything short of one of the genre's top reads of the year would be a disappointment. Hence, with such expectations, is it any wonder that Morgan's fantasy debut failed to deliver?

It comes as no surprise that The Steel Remains is of the dark and gritty school of fantasy. And yet, though the author endeavored to be edgy and different, Morgan appears to have failed to realize that most of the "shocking" aspects he was throwing at us had been done before. The grit, the nastiness, the explicit language, the "in your face" violence, the drugs, the sex, homosexuality, etc; if you've read George R. R. Martin, Hal Duncan, Steven Erikson, and R. Scott Bakker, then you'll immediately realize that Morgan's take on fantasy might not be as original as some appear to believe. . . Moreover, those aforementioned authors pushed the envelope further and did it with more depth than Morgan did in The Steel Remains. One of the novel's shortcomings is the fact that the author appears to have mostly relied on those factors instead of concentrating on his superior plotting and storytelling skills to write this tale.

The Steel Remains is a character-driven book, and the various story arcs focus on three main characters. Ringil Eskiath, homosexual hero of the infamous battle of Gallows Gap, is wasting is life away now that the war is over. Then his mother shows up, asking him to find one of his cousins who was sold into slavery. His quest to locate his lost kin will soon make him realize that there is a lot more at stake, and that a greater menace threatens this post-war world. Archeth, a kiriath half-breed abandoned by her brethren is now advisor to the Emperor of the Yhelteth Empire. Sent to investigate the scene of a carnage which took place in a distant port city, she discovers that a formidable enemy of unknown might seems to threaten the empire. Egar the Barbarian, who fought for the Yhelteth Empire during the War against the Scaled Folk, is driven away by his own people and must make his way south to save his life. Not since the last war have the three come together, and they are now forced to do so in order to discover what lies behind this phantom menace.

Characterization has always been Richard Morgan's strong suit. Although well-defined to some extent, by trying to make them too edgy and over-the-top the author sort of shot himself in the foot and the whole thing backfired. Archeth possesses some depth, but more often than not Ringil and Egar fail to rise above the clichés they are meant to break. Morgan created a cast of morally (and sexually) ambiguous characters, but I feel that he didn't inject enough life in their personalities and back stories to make them memorable.

Black Man/Thirteen was my favorite read of 2007. Richard Morgan's name has become associated with quality, and any scifi yarn he writes has the potential to be a candidate for book of the year. Unfortunately, Morgan's style, which deservedly rank him among the very best science fiction writers out there, doesn't have the same kind of impact in the fantasy genre. Readers who are expecting the fantasy equivalent of Altered Carbon and Black Man/Thirteen might be sorely disappointed. In terms of style, this novel is very similar to Joe Abercrombie's The First Law( minus Joe's snarky sense of humor). By that I mean that it has a fairly straightfoward plot, with very little worldbuilding to speak of, and a relatively small cast of characters. But where Abercrombie used traditional tropes to trick readers into believing that they knew what was coming, Morgan utilizes the more "sensationalist" elements to shock readers, or to generate some reactions. The problem is, when you strip The Steel Remains of the grit, the profanities, the gratuitous sex scenes, and the bloody violence, were are left with rather thin plotlines. The last portion of the novel hinted that there is more depth to A Land Fit for Heroes than meets the eye, but this means that we must now wait for the sequel, The Cold Command, to discover if that's truly the case or not.

It's no secret that fantasy became nastier and more violent in recent years. Dark and brooding epics have irrevocably altered the genre, or so it seems. Had it been released a decade ago, The Steel Remains would have made quite a splash. In 2008, however, the book is following established paths and not uncharted waters.

Make no mistake: The Steel Remains is a good book. It's simply not the great novel which everyone appear to have anticipated. Richard Morgan, through likely no fault of his, is a victim of the hype and his own reputation. The author has raised the bar extremely high, and it was probably unfair of fans to expect him to raise it even higher by jumping genre.

My only advice: Don't believe the hype the way I did. If you like dark and gritty fantasy novels, then chances are that you'll enjoy The Steel Remains. Just don't expect the book to make an impression similar to that of GRRM's A Game of Thrones when it came out.

Regardless of the fact that it's nowhere near as groundbreaking as advertised, The Steel Remains is nevertheless an entertaining and action-packed read. If you go into this one with the appropriate expectations, there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy it.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 3rd)

In hardcover:

Stephenie Meyer's The Host is down one position, ending its third week on the charts at number 2. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Troy Denning's Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Invincible is down six spots, finishing its second week on the NYT list at number 11. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Charlaine Harris' From Dead to Worse is down eight positions, ending its third week on the bestseller list at number 21. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union is up one spot, finishing its fourth week on the prestigious list at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Keri Arthur's The Darkest Kiss is up two positions, ending its fourth week on the bestseller list at number 26. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Laurell K. Hamilton's The Harlequin is down ten spots, finishing its fourth week on the charts at number 30. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Win a copy of Ian Cameron Esslemont's RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD

I have five copies of Ian Cameron Esslemont's second Malazan offering, Return of the Crimson Guard, up for grabs, compliments of Transworld. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and PS Publishing.

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

Book Porn???

A new phenomenon was born at Westeros a few months back, one that leaves me more than a little perplexed. . . The more so because a lot of people appear to like this.

In essence, book porn is someone posting pics of his or her collection. Recently, it also became common pratice for some reviewers to post photos of the ARCs and review copies they get from publishers.

I never intended to do this, but many people have been bugging me to do so for a while now. So as it became clear that Detroit would win the Stanley Cup last night, I took a few pictures from some random pieces in my own collection.

Never say never, or so they claim, but don't expect another post like this in the near future!:p Just click on any of the images to see a larger version. . .

In this one: Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora (Bantam ARC), Lynch's Red Seas under Red Skies (Gollancz ARC and Bantam ARC), The Lies of Locke Lamora (Subpress ARC and limited edition), and Red Seas under Red Skies (Subpress ARC and limited edition)

In this one: GRRM's A Game of Thrones (Bantam ARC), Inside Straight (Tor Books ARC), Hunter's Run (Voyager ARC), Dreamsongs, Volumes 1 and 2 (Bantam ARC)

In this one: Erikson's The Lees of Laughter's End (PS Publishing limited edition), Esslemont's Return of the Crimson Guard (PS Publishing ARC), Erikson's Toll the Hounds (Transworld page proofs), Esslemont's Night of Knives (PS Publishing slipcase limited edition), Night of Knives (PS Publishing trade paperback limited edition)

In this one: Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash (Subpress ARC), Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind (Daw Books ARC), Bakker's The Thousandfold Thought (Overlook ARC), Pratchett's Making Money (Transworld ARC), Hamilton's The Dreaming Void (Pan MacMillan and Del Rey ARCs), Bakker's Neuropath (Orion ARC), Novik's Victory of Eagles (Del Rey ARC)

In this one: Abercrombie's Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings (signed Gollancz ARC), McDonald's Brasyl (Gollancz ARC), Donaldson's Fatal Revenant (Putnam ARC), Ruckley's Bloodheir (Orbit ARC), Carey's Kushiel's Mercy (Warner Books ARC), and the three new Tim Powers limited editions (Subpress ARCs)

Win a copy of Daniel Abraham's AN AUTUMN WAR

Thanks to the generosity of the author and Tor Books, I have five copies of Daniel Abraham's An Autumn War for you to win! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

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

Ekaterina Sedia's THE ALCHEMY OF STONE

Ekaterina Sedia dazzled me with her wonderful debut, The Secret History of Moscow (Canada, USA, Europe). Understandably, I'm really eager to read her forthcoming novel, The Alchemy of Stone (Canada, USA, Europe).

Both Robert ( and Larry ( are offering readers a chance to get their hands on an Advance Reading Copy of the book, so head on out to their sandboxes to participate if you feel like it!


Got this from the Subterranean Press website:

Jack Vance has been a seminal figure in the development of modern fantasy, so much so that it’s nearly impossible to imagine the genre as we know it today existing without him. In the course of his more than fifty-year career, he has published dozens of major novels, as well as collections filled with marvelously crafted stories, winning the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Edgar Award, the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America, and several World Fantasy Awards, including the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. Vance’s masterpiece, The Dying Earth, may be the most influential fantasy novel of the Twentieth Century, surpassed only by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, it has not only inspired several generations of fantasy novelists, but its influence has reached deep into the realms of graphic novels, comics, fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, and even computer gaming.

Today, in order to honor the magnificent career of Jack Vance, one unparalleled in achievement and impact, GEORGE R.R. MARTIN and GARDNER DOZOIS, with the full cooperation of Jack Vance, his family, and his agents, suggest a Jack Vance tribute anthology called Songs of the Dying Earth, to encourage the best of today’s fantasy writers to return to the unique and evocative milieu of The Dying Earth, from which they and so many others have drawn so much inspiration, to create their own brand-new adventures in the world of Jack Vance’s greatest novel.

Half a century ago, Jack Vance created the world of the Dying Earth, and fantasy has never been the same. Now, for the first time ever, Jack has agreed to open this bizarre and darkly beautiful world to other fantasists, to play in as their very own. To say that other fantasy writers are excited by this prospect is a gross understatement; one has told us that he’d crawl through broken glass for the chance to write for the anthology, another that he’d gladly give up his right arm for the privilege — that’s the kind of regard in which Jack Vance and The Dying Earth are held by generations of his peers.

Authors — stories in hand:

Robert Silverberg
Terry Dowling
Glen Cook
Tanith Lee
Liz Williams
Kage Baker
Elizabeth Moon

Authors — slated to contribute:

Neil Gaiman
Dan Simmons
Elizabeth Hand
Matt Hughes
Mike Resnick
Phyllis Eisenstein
Paula Volsky
Howard Waldrop
Tad Williams
Walter Jon Williams
John C. Wright
Lucius Shepard

Click on this link to learn more about this newest Subpress limited edition. . .:-)