Who'll be in town for Worldcon: Anticipation next week???

Yes, the con begins next Thursday, August 6th.

So who's coming over to Montréal for the occasion!?! Let me know and maybe we can try to meet for drinks or something!

As things stand, I have lunches scheduled with George R. R. Martin and L. E. Modesitt, jr., and quite a few invitations for a couple of drinks. I should also be at the Brotherhood Without Banners party on Saturday night. With more to come, I'm sure!;-)

See you there!

Upcoming project for Brian Ruckley

This from Ruckley's website:

As promised in the last post here, some brief details on the new book I'm writing. Yes, the fine folks at Orbit, in their infinite wisdom, seem to feel that the world could withstand further literary output by yours truly. (I say wisdom, but it might just be some ghastly administrative error on their part, of course. No matter. They signed the contract, so they're stuck with me now).

The working title (and so far everyone, including me, seems to quite like it, so I imagine it'll probably survive all the way through to publication) is The Edinburgh Dead. The setting is, as you might guess, Edinburgh; specifically, Edinburgh in the first half of the 19th century. Since I write fantasy rather than history, though, it's not quite as simple as that.

I'm taking some gruesome and rather famous aspects of Edinburgh's past and spicing them up a bit with veteran warriors, magical conspiracies, killers both human and decidedly not, desperate combat and sinister goings-on in general. In short, it's a dark, heroic fantasy set in 19th century Edinburgh. With swords and gaslamps.

As for publication date - because I know someone will ask about that sooner rather than later - I can't say exactly, but I'll be delivering the manuscript next year and barring exceptional circumstances it takes at least nine months, more likely something approaching twelve, to go from that point to publication. So you can do the math yourselves.

I'm having a lot of fun working on this so far. It's a stand alone novel, and that makes a very pleasant change after turning out a hefty trilogy like The Godless World. I'll no doubt report back here on the creative process and progress (watch out for that mid-book slump of despair and self-doubt!), but I'll leave it there for now. Got stuff to write.

If you haven't already, give Ruckley's latest, Fall of Thanes (Canada, USA, Europe) a shot, as it definitely is one of the fantasy books to read this year.

Retribution Falls

Well, you guys selected Chris Wooding's Retribution Falls in a recent poll, so the novel was moved to the top of the pile. And I must concede that after reading the excerpt I posted a while back, I was curious to read this one.

All in all, this entertaining book should be considered scifi light. Though it's a world away from works by authors such as Dan Simmons, Ian McDonald, and Peter Watts, Retribution Falls is an action-packed and fun-filled scifi romp reminiscent of Firely. Even though it contains a number of fantasy elements, the movie Serenity and the Firefly TV series obviously were an inspiration for this book. It's definitely a fun read from cover to cover!

Darian Frey is the incompetent and down-on-his-luck captain of the Ketty Jay. With his ragtag crew, Frey accepts what appears to be the opportunity of a lifetime. The simply hijacking of a cargo freighter will earn him a fortune. Although it sounds too good to be true, Frey goes against common sense and takes on the job. But when the supposedly easy robbery goes awry and the freighter explodes, killing everyone on board, Frey becomes public enemy number one. Soon, the crew of the Ketty Jay find themselves running from the Coalition Navy, hired bounty hunters, and the Archduke's elite troops, the Century Knights. Frey is aware that the ship was rigged to blow up and he's been framed to take the fall. As he attempts to keep his head on his shoulders and prove his innocence, Frey will uncover a conspiracy that goes beyond anything he ever thought possible.

Retribution Falls is a fast-paced read from start to finish. There is never a dull moment, which keeps you turning those pages. The downside of such a quick rhythm is that Chris Wooding seldom gets the opportunity to elaborate much on many of the novel's concepts and history. At times, I found that all the bantering and the action scenes got in the way of the storytelling to a certain extent. It would have been nice to learn more about the recent wars, the Daemonists, the Awakeners, the Century Knights, etc.

As far as characterization goes, Darian Frey and his team are without a doubt a motley crew. À la Firefly, there are plenty of one-liners flying around as they exchange banter and obscenities. Granted, this is likely the funniest aspect of Retribution Falls, but I felt that it was overdone on a number of occasions, especially in the back-and-forth between Frey and Crake. What I really loved about the protagonists was the fact that they all had their personal back story, which made each and everyone of them a three-dimensional character. Though Darian Frey more or less takes center stage, secondary characters like Grayther Crake, Jez, and Trinicia Dracken leave an indelible mark on the many storylines of the novel.

In the end, if you are looking for a fun, page-turning scifi read, then Retribution Falls is for you. If Joe Abercrombie ever wrote a science fiction book, this is the sort of thing he'd come up with.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

Karen Traviss contest winner!

The name of our winner has been drawn, and the lucky bastard will get his hands on my review copy of Karen Traviss' Jacinto's Remnant. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Clayton Burbanks, from Houston, Texas, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Joe Abercrombie video interview

Today is the official release date for the US edition of Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold (Canada, USA, Europe). And the folks at Orbit just posted this video interview with the author to help promote the novel.

Win a full set of David Weber's Safehold series

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Tor Books, I have three sets of David Weber's bestselling Safehold sequence up for grabs! The prize pack includes:

- Off Armageddon Reef (Canada, USA, Europe)

- By Schism Rent Asunder (Canada, USA, Europe)

- By Heresies Distressed (Canada, USA, Europe)

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

US cover art for Steven Erikson's DUST OF DREAMS

Many thanks to Irene Gallo from Tor Books for sending me a jpeg of what is not yet the final version of the US cover art for Steven Erikson's Dust of Dreams (Canada, USA, Europe).

It's a direct pick-up from the UK cover by Steve Stone. But the color scheme is a bit different, which brightens the scene somewhat.

Quote of the Day

The way most New Yorkers dress -- with all that's available, so many still look so dull.

- NEW YORK CITY: Weaknesses

Manhattan, the isle of joy, is a thing of wonder. Nothing quite beats the pleasure of walking out onto the streets to be surrounded by the incredible variety of life, the brusqueness and the energy.

- NEW YORK CITY: Gold Star

These quotes were taken from Lonely Planet's The Cities Book: A Journey Through the Best Cities in the World (Canada, USA, Europe).

Along with Lonely Planet's The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World (Canada, USA, Europe), it could well be one of the best travel-related pictorial books ever made!

New cover art for Glen Cook's THE MANY DEATHS OF THE BLACK COMPANY

After bringing you the cover art for the soon-to-be-released The Return of the Black Company (Canada, USA, Europe), here's the cover art for Glen Cook's fourth Black Company omnibus.

The Many Deaths of the Black Company will be comprised of Water Sleeps and Soldiers Live. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Amazon.com Scifi Extravaganza

Just received this email alert from Amazon Associates:

Save up to 60% on over 600 DVDs. Find all things Sci-Fi in our Sale Extravaganza! From your favorite TV shows, to great Boxed Sets, find DVDs from $5.99.

Just perused the list, and there are some great bargains out there. Whether its for boxed sets of series such as Heroes, Stargate, Star Trek, The X-Files, or DVDs or Blu-rays of movies like Independence Day, Terminator, Serenity, Dune, Alien, they have quite a selection. They also have specials on many anime series such as Fullmetal Alchemist, Final Fantasy, and more!

Check it out here!

Win a Jack Vance prize pack

Thanks to the cool folks at Subterranean Press, I have a Jack Vance trio up for grabs! The prize pack includes:

- Songs of the Dying Earth, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (trade hardcover)

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

New US cover art for Robin Hobb, Raymond E. Feist, and L. E. Modesitt, jr.

- Robin Hobb's Dragon Keeper (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Raymond E. Feist's At the Gates of Darkness (Canada, USA, Europe)

- L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s Arms-Commander (Canada, USA)

Win a full set of Joel Shepherd's Cassandra Kresnov trilogy

I have one set of the trade paperback edition and one set of the mass market paperback edition of Joel Shepherd's Cassandra Kresnov series for you to win, compliments of the kind folks at Pyr. The prize packs include:

- Crossover (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Breakaway (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Killswitch (Canada, USA, Europe)

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

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.
Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 21st)

In hardcover:

David Weber's By Heresies Distressed debuts at number 11. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Angel's Game is down five spots, finishing its fourth week on the bestseller list at number 13. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Charlaine Harris' Dead and Gone is down three positions, ending its tenth week on the charts at number 16.

Stephenie Meyer's The Host is down one spot, finishing the week at number 17.

Laurell K. Hamilton's Skin Trade is down five positions, ending its sixth week on the prestigious list at number 29.

John Ringo's Eye of the Storm debuts at number 32.

Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan's The Strain is down one spot, finishing its sixth week on the NYT list at number 33. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies maintains its position at number 7 for its 15th week on the bestseller list.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind is up one position, ending the week at number 15. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Charlaine Harris' eight Sookie Stackhouse novels are on the paperback bestseller list, ranking from number 6 to number 24.

Why Urban Fantasy probably doesn't get much respect. . .

Much to this subgenre's authors' chagrin, urban fantasy/paranormal romance continues to be considered low-brow and shitty material. And yet, even the most ardent detractors will admit, albeit grudgingly, that there are quality reads out there. Too few according to most for the subgenre and its writers to garner much in the way of respect, however.

To elaborate on this sad state of affairs, I invited urban fantasy author Lilith Saintcrow to write an ad lib column on the subject last year. Her piece generated a lot of discussions, and was followed by another column. Then came Carrie Vaughn's "Deconstructing Urban Fantasy."

Now, I don't mean to flog a dead horse and throw oil on the fire, but this proved to be too much for me. I received a review copy of Jenna Black's Speak of the Devil (Canada, USA, Europe) a few weeks back, and the blurb stuck in my head and won't go away. Knowing that I would likely take some heat if I posted my thoughts online, wisdom prevailed upon me not to do so. But still, that blurb kept nagging at me. So I showed it to a couple of friends, curious to see what they would make of it. Most found it so ridiculous that they thought I had made it up. Their jaws dropped to the floor when I showed them the actual novel. Since they were all men of various ages and since such a book is aimed at a female audience, I elected to try the same experiment with women. Oddly enough, their reaction was even worse. And the word that kept coming back was "trash." Moreover, the majority of the 24 girls I asked opined that they would never bet caught dead with such a book. Fortunately, thousands of women don't share that aversion, which is why this subgenre remains so popular.

Okay, so I'm acutely aware that I'm not the target audience for this sort of thing. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Nor can I judge Speak of the Devil on its own merit, for I have only the blurb to work with. For all I know, Jenna Black might be better than Jim Butcher and Carrie Vaughn put together. But with such blurbs, respect won't come knocking on urban fantasy/paranormal romance's door any time soon.

Don't let the trashy cover influence you. Most urban fantasy and paranormal romance cover art feature the same sort of crap. After all, had I let the cover fool me, I would never have read Carrie Vaughn's Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Canada, USA, Europe). And as you know, I am now a big fan of the Kitty Norville series. And though my agent says that those books are my guilty pleasure, let me assure you that there is no guilt whatsoever on my part. Vaughn writes good books, period!

So here's this blurb:

Morgan Kingsley, America’s most successful exorcist, is paying the price for an exorcism gone wrong. The victim’s family is suing the daylights out of her, the Exorcism Board has suspended her, and now she’s living on a diet of ramen noodles and bad coffee. But Morgan has a few good men at her side. One is her current boyfriend, nice-guy legal eagle Brian, who’s suddenly starting to reveal his inner bad boy. The other is Philly cop Adam White, who’s trying to help Morgan find out who sent her a little present—a severed human hand—and why someone seems determined to destroy her.

As her stalker turns more violent, leaving dead bodies in his wake, Morgan turns to the dark side of her life: a group of demons steeped in secrets, sinful eroticism, and otherworldly family feuds, including one sexy beast who shares Morgan’s body—and some X-rated fantasies. Soon Morgan must choose between her friends, her enemies, and her libido: to escape a mad demon determined to destroy her completely.

Now, that first paragraph isn't at all bad. If not for the mild "chicklit" feel, it is quite similar to the blurb of Jim Butcher's Fool Moon.

But that second paragraph literally killed me. And it had the same effect of basically everyone I showed it to. As I mentioned, Jenna Black can well be a heck of an author. I have no idea, really. But her work has been nominated for urban fantasy awards, so the woman obviously has legions of fans. Nevertheless, for all that this subgenre is a multi-million dollar business, it's awfully difficult to take it seriously with blurbs like these.

Can you imagine attributing such a blurb to authors like George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, or Carlos Ruiz Zafón? Or Robin Hobb and Jacqueline Carey?

Conventional wisdom says that urban fantasy and paranormal romance will continue to be a huge commercial success. Authors such as Laurell K. Hamilton and co. will top the bestseller lists. But I have a feeling that respect will remain as elusive as it has been thus far. . .

Fool Moon

Okay, so I know I was late for this party. More than fashionably late, no question. But better late than never, right!?! I totally got into Storm Front (Canada, USA, Europe) when I finally gave the novel a chance last December. And I couldn't wait to give the rest of the series a shot, as most Jim Butcher fans opine that Storm Front could well be the weakest book in the sequence.

After going through Steven Erikson's Dust of Dreams, I knew I needed something lighter to read next. Butcher's Fool Moon appeared to fit the bill perfectly. And if every Dresden Files installment is as fun and entertaining, I reckon I will thoroughly enjoy the entire series.

Business has been quite dead for our down-on-his-luck professional wizard. Since the events which occurred in Storm Front, Harry Dresden has had a hard time making ends meet. But suddenly, a strange murder comes along that requires his supernatural expertise. When he investigates the brutally mutilated corpse, Harry realizes that werewolves seem to have been involved. Moreover, Karrin Murphy, director of Special Investigations of the Chicago Police Department, reveals that this case could well be linked to a number of other unexplained murders. Forced to keep Murphy in dark regarding certain arcane matters, he will get in trouble with the law. Now a fugitive, Harry Dresden must find a way to solve this case before getting himself killed.

Fool Moon features the first-person narrative of Harry Dresden. Once again, it was a delight to follow the misadventures of this sympathetic and sometimes inept protagonist.

Detective Karrin Murphy, Bob the skull, Gentleman Johnny Marcone, and Susan Rodriguez are the main characters comprising this novel's supporting cast. Although there are plenty of new faces in this second volume, it was nice to see some old faces again. With plenty more to come, I'm sure.

The fast-paced urban fantasy plot was more complex and satisfying than that of Storm Front. Every time you feel as though you've seen this before, Jim Butcher's imaginative storylines surprise you. And though the plot is fairly linear, there are quite a few unanticipated bumps along the way to keep you guessing. In addition, the few glimpses we are offered of Harry's back story hints at a more multilayered tale than meets the eye.

If you are looking for fun and entertaining books featuring a flawed, endearing, and not always the sharpest tool in the shed kind of hero, The Dresden Files are definitely for you!

I must admit that this series is fast becoming addictive!

The final verdict: 7.75/10

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

Joe Abercrombie contest winners!

Thanks to the cool folks at Orbit, our five lucky winners will receive a complimentary copy of Joe Abercrombie's excellent Best Served Cold. For more info about this title: (Canada, USA, Europe).

The winners are:

- Daniel Weed, from Bedford, Massachusetts, USA

- Troy J. Knutson, from Collierville, Tennessee, USA

- Kenda Montgomery, from Smiths Station, Alabama, USA

- Dave Brace, from Chicago, Illinois, USA

- Ben Baker, from Los Angeles, California, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Worldcon : Anticipation to offer "Taster" memberships

Initially, the plan was for me to cover everything that had to do with the upcoming Worldcon, from the pre-production stages to the convention itself. But when they refused to grant me a press pass, well this initiative went down the crapper and stayed there.

Hence, I've been promoting Montréal, for I want everyone to make the most of their experience while in town, but not the con in particular. And yet, these taster memberships are such a good idea that I've decided to make an exception and post the content of this press release:

Heard about World Science Fiction Conventions (Worldcons) and thinkthey sound cool but not sure they’re worth the money? Then Tastermemberships are for you.

Here’s how it works. Whenever you show up, you go to the convention’sRegistration Desk. There you’ll pay for a Day Membership (75–95 CAD),depending on the day of the convention and whether you are buying anadult or a child membership). Your membership badge will betime-stamped. Then you may wander about the convention freely. See theExhibits, the Art Show, and the Dealers Room. Hear a speaker. Getautographs. Watch a film. Join a filk sing. Go see a program item ortwo (there will be hundreds over the course of the convention).

If Worldcon really isn’t for you, then just go back to Registrationduring posted open hours within three hours of your time-stamp andyou’ll receive all but $20 of your money back for an adult membershipand all but $10 of your money back for a child membership. But if youlike what you find and want to hang around the rest of the day andevening, then just stay for the rest of the day. Your badge will letyou stay and attend all open events until the next morning. If youwant to attend more days, just come back and buy another DayMembership or convert your Day to a Full Membership. It’s easy andsafe. And you’ll find out for yourself what all the fuss is about.(We’ve been going for years and there’s so much great stuff to do wecan’t imagine anyone wouldn’t want to stay but some people need to tryit for themselves to be sure.)

Taster Memberships paid by cash, traveler’s check, or credit card willbe refunded immediately. Memberships paid by check will be refunded bymail. We will not issue refunds after registration closes for the day.On days where registration is open until 20:00, no refunds are givenafter the close of that day’s Registration. We encourage you topurchase by 17:00 on those days, otherwise you will not have the full3 hours benefit of the taster membership. One Taster Membership perperson. We will accept US dollars as well as Canadian dollars atRegistration at the convention. Due to the volatility of the currencyexchange market, at the door rates in US dollars will only be set afew days before the convention.

The 67th World Science Fiction Convention, known as Anticipation, willtake place in Montréal, Québec, Canada from Thursday, August 6ththrough Monday, August 10th, 2009.

Grand Canyon pictures

Just realized that I never did post the link to my Grand Canyon photo album on Facebook.

Click here to see the pics!;-)

Adam Roberts speaks out against the Hugo Awards

Nothing new, really. Every year, we hear more and more about the decline in the pertinence and the importance of the genre's most prestigious awards.

And yet, author Adam Roberts went at it with quite a lot of vigor this time around. . .

Roberts' post generated a rather vast number of comments and discussions. You can read his piece here.

And I saw on Westeros that John Scalzi responded here, and artist John Picacio did so here.

Make of all this what you will. . .

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Steven Erikson's BAUCHELAIN AND KORBAL BROACH

I'm giving away my ARC of Steven Erikson's Bauchelain and Korbal Broach to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: USA, Europe. This omnibus contains three novellas:

- Blood Follows (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Lees of Laughter's End (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Healthy Dead (Canada, USA, Europe)

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

Teaser Excerpt from Joe Abercrombie's BEST SERVED COLD

To help promote the release of the US edition of Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold (Canada, USA, Europe), the folks at Orbit granted me permission to post this teaser extract.


The dice came up six and one. The highest dice can roll and the lowest. A fitting judgem0ent on Friendly’s life. The pit of horror to the heights of triumph. And back.

Six and one made seven. Seven years old, when Friendly committed his first crime. But six years later that he was first caught, and given his first sentence. When they first wrote his name in the big book, and he earned his first days in Safety. Stealing, he knew, but he could hardly remember what he stole. He certainly could not remember why. His parents had worked hard to give him all he needed. And yet he stole. Some men are born to do wrong, perhaps. The judges had told him so.

He scooped the dice up, rattled them in his fist, then let them free across the stones again, watched them as they tumbled. Always that same joy, that anticipation. Dice just thrown can be anything until they stop rolling. He watched them turning, chances, odds, his life and the life of the Northman. All the lives in the great city of Talins turning with them.

Six and one.

Friendly smiled, a little. The odds of throwing six and one a second time were one in eighteen. Long odds, some would say, looking forward into the future. But looking into the past, as he was now, there was no chance of any other numbers. What was coming? Always full of possibilities. What was past? Done, and hardened, like dough turned to bread. There was no going back.

"What do the dice say?"

Friendly glanced up as he gathered the dice with the edge of his hand. He was a big man, this Shivers, but with none of that stringiness tall men sometimes get. Strong. But not like a farmer, or a labourer. Not slow. He understood the work. There were clues, and Friendly knew them all. In Safety, you have to reckon the threat a man poses in a moment. Reckon it, and deal with it, and never blink.

A soldier, maybe, and fought in battles, by his scars, and the set of his face, and the look in his eye as they waited to do violence. Not comfortable, but ready. Not likely to run or get carried away. They are rare, men that keep a sharp head when the trouble starts. There was a scar on his thick left wrist that, if you looked at it a certain way, was like the number seven. Seven was a good number today.

"Dice say nothing. They are dice."

"Why roll ’em, then?"

"They are dice. What else would I do with them?"

Friendly closed his eyes, closed his fist around the dice and pressed them to his cheek, feeling their warm, rounded edges against his palm. What numbers did they hold for him now, waiting to be released? Six and one again? A flicker of excitement. The odds of throwing six and one for a third time were three hundred and twenty-four to one. Three hundred and twenty-four was the number of cells in Safety. A good omen.

"They’re here," whispered the Northman.

There were four of them. Three men and a whore. Friendly could hear the vague tinkling of her night-bell on the chill air, one of the men laughing. They were drunk, shapeless outlines lurching down the darkened alley. The dice would have to wait.

He sighed, wrapped them carefully in their soft cloth, once, twice, three times, and he tucked them up tight, safe into the darkness of his inside pocket. He wished that he was tucked up tight, safe in the darkness, but things were what they were. There was no going back. He stood and brushed the street scum from his knees.

"What’s the plan?" asked Shivers.

Friendly shrugged. "Six and one."

He pulled his hood up and started walking, hunched over, hands thrust into his pockets. Light from a high window cut across the group as they came closer. Four grotesque carnival masks, leering with drunken laughter. The big man in the centre had a soft face with sharp little eyes and a greedy grin. The painted woman tottered on her high shoes beside him. The man on the left smirked across at her, lean and bearded. The one on the right was wiping a tear of happiness from his grey cheek.

"Then what?" he shrieked through his gurgling, far louder than there was a need for.

"What d’you think? I kicked him ’til he shat himself." More gales of laughter, the woman’s falsetto tittering a counterpoint to the big man’s bass. "I said, Duke Orso likes men who say yes, you lying-"

"Gobba?" asked Friendly.

His head snapped round, smile fading from his soft face. Friendly stopped. He had taken forty-one steps from the place where he rolled the dice. Six and one made seven. Seven times six was forty-two. Take away the one …

"Who’re you?" growled Gobba.

"Six and one."

"What?" The man on the right made to shove Friendly away with a drunken arm. "Get out of it, you mad fu-"

The cleaver split his head open to the bridge of his nose. Before his mate on the left’s mouth had fallen all the way open, Friendly was across the road and stabbing him in the body. Five times the long knife punched him through the guts, then Friendly stepped back and slashed his throat on the backhand, kicked his legs away and brought him tumbling to the cobbles.

There was a moment’s pause as Friendly breathed out, long and slow. The first man had the single great wound yawning in his skull, a black splatter of brains smeared over his crossed eyes. The other had the five stab wounds in his body, and blood pouring from his cut throat.

"Good," said Friendly. "Six and one."

The whore started screaming, spots of dark blood across one powdered cheek.

"You’re a dead man!" roared Gobba, taking a stumbling step back, fumbling a bright knife from his belt. "I’ll kill you!" But he did not come on.

"When?" asked Friendly, blades hanging loose from his hands. "Tomorrow?"


Shivers’ stick cracked down on the back of Gobba’s skull. A good blow, right on the best spot, crumpling his knees easily as paper. He flopped down, slack cheek thumping against the cobbles, knife clattering from his limp fist, out cold.

"Not tomorrow. Not ever." The woman’s shriek sputtered out. Friendly turned his eyes on her.
"Why aren’t you running?" She fled into the darkness, teetering on her high shoes, whimpering breath echoing down the street, her night-bell jangling after.

Shivers frowned down at the two leaking corpses in the road. The two pools of blood worked their way along the cracks between the cobblestones, touched, mingled and became one. "By the dead," he muttered in his Northern tongue.

Friendly shrugged. "Welcome to Styria."

Mark Chadbourn contest winner!

Our winner will get his hands on a full set of Mark Chadbourn's The Age of Misrule trilogy, compliments of me! The prize includes:

- World's End (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Darkest Hour (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Always Forever (Canada, USA, Europe)

The winner is:

- Sean Malone, from Pierre, South Dakota, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Patrick Rothfuss news

I recently contacted Betsy Wollheim to inquire about the progress of Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear (Canada, USA, Europe).

When asked if the tentative April 2010 release date was still within the realm of possibilities, here's what she had to say: "We do not have any pub date for Rothfuss, and won’t until the book is nearly perfect. I have no idea how long that will take."

Whether Rothfuss can achieve perfection for a spring 2010 release date remains to be seen. Which means that this one could be published later on next year. . .

GRRM on Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie's BEST SERVED COLD is a bloody and relentless epic of vengeance and obsession in the grand tradition, a kind of splatterpunk sword 'n sorcery COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, Dumas by way of Moorcock. His cast features tyrants and torturers, a pair of poisoners, a serial killer, a treacherous drunk, a red-handed warrior and a blood-soaked mercenary captain. And those are the good guys. Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, could teach even Gully Foyle and Kirth Gerson a few things about revenge. The battles are vivid and visceral, the action brutal, the pace headlong, and Abercrombie piles the betrayals, reversals, and plot twists one atop another to keep us guessing how it will all come out. This is his best book yet. All that's missing is a map.


So what are you waiting for!?! Get your copy of Abercrombie's Best Served Cold (Canada, USA, Europe)!

New Poll: What to read next???

The results from our last survey are in:

- In Conquest Born by C. S. Friedman (Canada, USA, Europe): 21%
- Prador Moon by Neal Asher (Canada, USA, Europe): 4%
- The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton (Canada, USA, Europe): 26%
- Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds (Canada, USA, Europe): 17%
- Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks (Canada, USA, Europe): 29%

Banks ended up victorious, but it was a very close race. So I guess I'll be reading Consider Phlebas in the near future. . .

Receiving hundreds of review copies every year means that there is no chance in hell I can read even a quarter of the books I get in my mailbox. I have a multitude of "books to read" piles, and some titles have been lying there for months, even years, awaiting my attention. Hence, this new poll will feature SFF books that have been lying around for quite some time, even though I've been meaning to read them at some point. Let's see which novel will take the cake!

The nominees are:

- King's Dragon by Kate Elliott, a Nebula Award nominee (Canada, USA, Europe)

Set in an alternate Europe, a world where bloody conflicts rage and sorcery holds sway, both human and other-than-human forces vie for supremacy. In this land, Alain, a young man seeking the destiny promised him by the Lady of Battles, and Liath, a young woman gifted with a power that can alter the course of history, are about the be swept up in a world-shaking conflict for the survival of humanity.

- Rules of Ascension by David B. Coe (Canada, USA, Europe)

For centuries the Forelands were disputed by several tribes. Then came the magically gifted Qirsi--physically no match for their foes, but capable of mindsight, creating and controlling mists and fire, and bending solid matter to their purpose. After a Qirsi traitor betrayed his race to save himself, the Qirsi were defeated and dispersed among the seven realms of the Forelands. Those specially endowed Qirsi capable of multiple powers, the Weavers, were all put to death.

For centuries the Forelands enjoyed relative peace. But when Tavis, the heir to the Kingdom of Curgh, is wrongfully blamed for the murder of a noble, the accusation sets in motion a series of events culminating in civil war. The ensuing chaos topples the throne in Eibithar and threatens to rain chaos on all the realms of the Forelands. Tavis, thrust into the center of deadly controversy and stripped of the protection of his family's nobility, turns to the Qirsi, his last remaining hope for redemption. But another Qirsi traitor, secretly fomenting fear and mistrust among the Dukedoms, seeks to destroy Tavis. Tavis must survive long enough to clear his name and save an entire kingdom. A powerful, compelling tale set in an unforgettable land, rules of Ascension will capture your heart and fire your imagination.

- The Briar King by Greg Keyes (Canada, USA, Europe)

In the kingdom of Crotheny, two young girls play in the tangled gardens of the sacred city of the dead. Fleeing an imaginary attacker, the girls-one of whom is the reckless young daughter of the king-discover the unknown crypt of the legendary, ancestral queen, Virgenya Dare.

In the wilds of the forest, while investigating the slaughter of an innocent family, king's holter Aspar White weaves his way through a maze of ancient willows-and comes face-to-face with a monstrous beast found only in folk tales and nightmares. Meanwhile, traveling the same road, a scholarly young priest begins an education in the nature of evil, found festering just beneath the surface of the seemingly peaceful land.

The royal family itself comes under siege, facing betrayal that only sorcery could accomplish. Now-for three beautiful sisters, for a young man made suddenly into a knight, and for a woman in love with a roguish adventurer-a rising darkness appears, shattering what was once certain, familiar, and good. These destinies and more will be linked when malevolent forces walk the land. For Crotheny, the most powerful nation in the world, is shaken at its core. And the Briar King, harbinger of death, has awakened from his slumber.

Imbuing his tale with richness, pathos, action, and passion, Greg Keyes begins an amazing new epic that takes fantasy fiction to a new level. At the heart of the story, Keyes has placed a remarkable young woman, Anne Dare, the youngest daughter of a royal family . . . and the one person upon whom the fate of this world may depend.

- Elric: The Stealer of Souls by Michael Moorcock (Canada, USA, Europe)

When Michael Moorcock began chronicling the adventures of the albino sorcerer Elric, last king of decadent Melniboné, and his sentient vampiric sword, Stormbringer, he set out to create a new kind of fantasy adventure, one that broke with tradition and reflected a more up-to-date sophistication of theme and style. The result was a bold and unique hero'"weak in body, subtle in mind, dependent on drugs for the vitality to sustain himself'"with great crimes behind him and a greater destiny ahead: a rock-and-roll antihero who would channel all the violent excesses of the sixties into one enduring archetype.

Now, with a major film in development, here is the first volume of a dazzling collection of stories containing the seminal appearances of Elric and lavishly illustrated by award-winning artist John Picacio'"plus essays, letters, maps, and other material. Adventures include 'The Dreaming City,' 'While the Gods Laugh,' 'Kings in Darkness,' 'Dead God's Homecoming,' 'Black Sword's Brothers,' and 'Sad Giant's Shield.'

- Rite: Short Work by Tad Williams (Canada, USA, Europe)

Though best known for his epic series, Tad Williams is also an accomplished practitioner of the short form. Rite: Short Work gives ample evidence of this, as it contains a knockout novella later expanded to novel length (”Child of an Ancient City”); riffs on the great fantasist Michael Moorcock (”The Author at the End of Time,” “Go Ask Elric”), along with excursions into some of his most popular creations and beyond. At over 140,000 words, Rite is essential for every Tad Williams fan and fantasy aficianado. Each tale features a full-page black-and-while illustration by Mark A. Nelson.

STRANGE BREW contest winner!

This lucky gal will get her hands on a copy of the anthology Strange Brew, edited by P. N. Elrod, courtesy of Yours Truly! The book contains short stories by bestselling urban fantasy/paranormal romance authors such as Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Karen Chance, P. N. Elrod, Charlaine Harris, Faith Hunter, Caitlin Kittredge, and Jenna Maclaine.For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Erika Trojhan, from Köln, Germany

Thanks to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 14th)

In hardcover:

Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Angel's Game is down three spots, finishing its third week on the bestseller list at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Charlaine Harris' Dead and Gone is up one position, ending its ninth week on the charts at number 13.

Stephenie Meyer's The Host is down one spot, finishing the week at number 16.

Christie Golden's Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Omen debuts at number 18. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Laurell K. Hamilton's Skin Trade is down six positions, ending its fifth week on the prestigious list at number 24.

Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan's The Strain is down eight spots, finishing its fifth week on the NYT list at number 32. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is down one spot, finishing its 14th week on the bestseller list at number 7.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind is up two positions, ending the week at number 16. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Seven of Charlaine Harris' eight Sookie Stackhouse novels are on the paperback bestseller list, ranking from number 6 to number 21.

Dust of Dreams

The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Vaster in depth and scope than any other fantasy epic ever written, it's hard to believe the series is actually coming to an end. And as this multilayered tale draws to a close, I was quite eager to sink my teeth into the ninth volume of this saga. Indeed, I've rarely been this eager to read a fantasy novel. Fanboy I may be, it's true, but after the uneven read that was Toll the Hounds, I simply couldn't wait to return to the continent of Lether, where everything would be played out.

In the Author's Note, Steven Erikson warns us that Dust of Dreams is essentially the first half of a two-volume novel, to be concluded with the forthcoming The Crippled God. Hence, there are no resolutions to the various storylines, and Erikson had no choice but to end this one with a cliffhanger. And as far as cliffhangers go, it's about as big as they come. Erikson asks readers to please be patient. For the record, I can tell you that there is closure of a sort at the end of Dust of Dreams. Just not what we are used to. . . Be that as it may, Dust of Dreams advances the plot toward the grand finale we have been waiting for, and the book ties many storylines together in surprising fashion.

In my opinion, Gardens of the Moon, Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice, House of Chains, and Midnight Tides were meant to lay the groundwork for the entire series. With that established, The Bonehunters, Reaper's Gale, and Toll the Hounds served as transition books to bring all these disparate plotlines together in a complex tapestry of threads and characters. Dust of Dreams and The Crippled God are the climax of this ambitious fantasy saga. Like most fans, I've often shaken my head in confusion, perplexed by the fact that Erikson appeared to be focusing on secondary characters and seemingly unimportant storylines in every single Malazan installment. Well, Dust of Dreams finally provides a number of surprising, even shocking, answers. Past volumes contained an enormoius amount of foreshadowing that we simply didn't get. Yet in Dust of Dreams, a lot of things suddenly make sense. A case in point would have to be the entire Shake storyline. At times, it felt kind of lame and unnecessary in the past, but you won't believe what Erikson has in store for them.

Both The Bonehunters and Reaper's Gale were all over the place in terms of plotlines, which is what I loved about them. Toll the Hounds, although suffering from inconsistent rhythm, more or less followed the blueprint of earlier Malazan books. I feel that Dust of Dreams bears more similarities with the former, as the author has a panoply of storylines to bring together.

The Tiste Edur empire overthrown, the Bonehunters find themselves without an enemy. Morale is low among the soldiers of this exiled Malazan army, and ennui threatens to make things worse, yet Adjunct Tavore won't give the order to march into the Wastelands. They can all feel the threat of what's coming, but still they must wait.

Warleader Onos Toolan is gradually losing control of the White Face Barghast. Clan chiefs continue to abandon the herd, while others now openly challenge Onos Toolan's right to lead them. Hetan knows that an enemy must soon be found, or the White Face Barghast could be fragmented beyond repair.

Foreign leaders seek to take advantage of the Khundryl Burned Tears and the Perish Grey Helms as both armies prepare to rendezvous with the Bonehunters to enter the Wastelands. Indifferent to the fact that the three armies will face a menace that could destroy the world, these nobles plan treachery.

Hundreds of refugees march westward, forced out of their homes, tortured, and murdered by the Fathers, the Quitters, the starvers, and the bone-skinned Inquisitors. Rutt leads them across the Glass Desert, beyond which lies salvation in the form of a mysterious glass city.

Kalyth, last survivor of a tribe on the Elan Plain, has been named Destriant of the K'Chain Che'Malle by Matron Gunth'an Acyl. She is ordered to journey beyond Ampelas Rooted to seek out a Mortal Sword and a Shield Anvil. Obviously insane, the Matron is preparing for war.

With the Omtose Phellack ice fields melting, the water level is rising, threatening the Shake's existence on Third Maiden Isle. Prophecies claim that the Shake, broken, decimated, and lost, are destined to change the world. Twilight and the Watch will take their people upon the Road of Gallan, a journey that will bring the Shake back to the First Shore, as well as their destiny.

Resenting the threat posed by the Deck of Dragons and its mysterious Master, the Errant reclaims his role as Master of the Tiles. Summoning the surviving Clan of Elders, he plans the biggest betrayal of all.

Adjunct Tavore plans to cheat Shadowthrone and Cotillion. The gods can have their war, but she and the Bonehunters won't be used. Though she will order the army to march toward Kolanse, an isolated confederation of kingdoms beyond the Wastelands, the Adjunct is aware that the gods and Ascendants are planning another Chaining of the Crippled God. And though she is seemingly playing Shadowthrone's game by marching to face the new menace which overwhelmed Kolanse, no one knows what Tavore's ultimate plan truly is.

Olar Ethil, the daughter of T'iam who embraced the Ritual of Tellan, has an agenda of her own, and she will compel even the Herald of Death to see her schemes succeed.

As gods and Ascendants hover in the background, a convergence is about to take place in the Wastelands. And to the south, a cluster of jade-colored stars can be seen shining in the blackness of the night sky.

Revelations about the K'Chain Che'Malle, the Shake, the Soletaken, the D'ivers, the dragons, the Tiste wars, the T'lan Imass, yada yada yada, abound. Once again, expect the unexpected!

There is a lot of introspection in Dust of Dreams, mainly from the soldiers, and at times I found it a bit off-putting. As a renegade army on foreign shores, the Bonehunters are aware that they will make the ultimate sacrifice to save the world, their heroic feats unwitnessed. As these unsung heroes contemplate their dismal future, there is a lot of musing about what it means to be a soldier, the futility of war, etc. It adds another dimension at the beginning of the novel, yet it starts to get old after a while. It doesn't take anything away from the reading experience, mind you, but it does slow down the pace in many chapters.

In addition to the usual Malazan, Lethreii, and godlike suspects (Fiddler, Quick Ben, Tehol, Bugg, etc), Dust of Dreams sees the emergence of a host of characters whose importance in the greater scheme of things had not been evident earlier in the series. Yan Tovis and Yedan Derryg immediately come to mind, but the same could be said of Setoc, Grub, Rud Elalle, Sinn, Gesler, and Stormy. Add to that the return of characters such as Silchas Ruin, Icarium, Mappo, Kilmandaros, and more (though not in roles readers may have anticipated), and you have an incredible convergence about to occur.

It takes a while for the proverbial shit to hit the fan, but when it does Steven Erikson caps it all off with a bang. Indeed, the author closes the show with epic battle scenes reminiscent of Capustan and Coral. The very best action scenes since Memories of Ice, no question!

Although it ends with a major cliffhangers, Dust of Dreams furthers the plot and sets the stage for what should be an unforgettable finale in The Crippled God. Believe me when I tell you that this book will have you begging for more! Steven Erikson is a master storyteller.

Dust of Dreams is epic fantasy with a capital E!

The final verdict: 9.5/10

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