New Poll: What to read next??? Again!!!

Here are the results from our last survey:

- King's Dragon by Kate Elliott (Canada, USA, Europe): 17%
- Rules of Ascension by David B. Coe (Canada, USA, Europe): 13%
- The Briar King by Greg Keyes (Canada, USA, Europe): 35%
- Elric: The Stealer of Souls by Michael Moorcock (Canada, USA, Europe): 23%
- Rite: Short Work by Tad Williams (Canada, USA, Europe): 9%

So I guess that Keyes will be moving up in the batting order. . .

Okay, so this is probably the last such poll for some time, but I wanted to see how the vote would go this time around. Here are the nominees:

- Dreamsongs, Volume 2 by George R. R. Martin (Canada, USA, Europe)

Dubbed “the American Tolkien” by Time magazine, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R.R. Martin is a giant in the field of fantasy literature and one of the most exciting storytellers of our time. Now he delivers a rare treat for readers: a compendium of his shorter works, all collected into two stunning volumes, that offer fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.

Whether writing about werewolves, wizards, or outer space, George R.R. Martin is renowned for his versatility and expansive talent, highlighted in this dazzling collection. Included here, in Volume II, are acclaimed stories such as the World Fantasy Award-winner “The Skin Trade,” as well as the first novella in the Ice and Fire universe, “The Hedge Knight,” plus two never-before-published screenplays. Featuring extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume II; is an invaluable chronicle of a writer at the height of his creativity—and an unforgettable reading experience for fans old and new.

- The Twilight Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (Canada, USA, Europe)

Three years have passed since the events of The Day Watch. His wife and daughter spending the summer on a dacha not far from Moscow where Anton is working when his boss Gesser reveals he has received an anonymous note. An Other has exposed the truth about their kind to a human, and now intends to convert that human into an Other.

The note has been sent to Zebulon and to the Inquisition's offices in Berne - a place whose address only the highest level of mages and sorcerers know. Now cooperating, the Night Watch and the Day Watch, along with an Investigator from the Inquisition, seek to unmask the culprit. Anton will represent the Night Watch, while the Day Watch is sending High Vampire Kostya Saushkin, once Anton's teenage neighbour.

Installed in the apartment complex to which the letter writer has been traced, Anton begins to investigate the residents one by one. Reviewing the dossiers of the building's inhabitants, Anton comes across a familiar - albeit much younger - face. Could Gesser be trying initiate his son as an Other?

- Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (Canada, USA, Europe)

Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.

As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.

- Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (Canada, USA, Europe)

In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion ... and anything is possible. In this, Gaiman's first book of short stories, his imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders -- a place where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under "Pest Control," and where a frightened young boy must barter for his life with a mean-spirited troll living beneath a bridge by the railroad tracks. Explore a new reality -- obscured by smoke and darkness, yet brilliantly tangible -- in this extraordinary collection of short works by a master prestidigitator. It will dazzle your senses, touch your heart, and haunt your dreams.

- A Cruel Wind by Glen Cook (Canada, USA, Europe)

Before there was Black Company, there was the Dread Empire.

An omnibus collection the first three Dread Empire novels: A Shadow of All Night's Falling, October's Baby and All Darkness Met.

29 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

Smoke and Mirrors, definitely!! That is the best short story collection I have ever read, it towers over everything by miles!!

Droidprogrammer said...

A cruel Wind. I had never seen the dread empire novels, although I have been reading the black company since the mid-nineties. Definitely worth a read

Anonymous said...

I am a huge Glen Cook fan, and I thought A Cruel Wind was just OK. However, its prequel, A Fortress in Shadow is awesome. So if you read ACW, make sure to read AFIS.

Jacob Da Jew said...

I love GRRM but would have to go with Gaiman.

Anonymous said...

MURAKAMI!!! Kafka on the Shore is so way far and above the other nominees it should be a no-brainer

Rob said...

I read both the briar king and the first Kate Elliott book years ago and still have not made it to the second book in either.

I own both sequels, but they kept being put behind other books on my shelf. heck i think i even own the third book in the keys and up to the fourth of the elliot.

Should i give either of these series a second try. (should probably reread from beginning its been so long) or should i start posting them to amazon so i can buy something else.

Anonymous said...

Kafka on the Shore.

Anonymous said...


I read "Kafka on the Shore" a few years back and was very very very very disappointed. The man doesn't have any plot and despite some wonky stuff happening, it's there for no reason. It's "up to you" to make up what it means. Which is weak.

To appreciate anything by Murakami (or that novel in particular) you'd have to be a PhD in Japanese culture.

The best book by ol' Haruki is "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" but that one is the exception in his oeuvre, rather then the rule.

Read Smoke and Mirrors. It contains some of Gaiman's best work.

Keep on rockin' Pat!

Anonymous said...

"Kafka on the Shore" is a fantastic book, but if you're going in without having read any of Murakami's previous work, you'll likely find yourself a little lost. He can be quite impenetrable and obtuse.

"Dance, Dance, Dance", "A Wild Sheep Chase", or "The Wind-up Bird Chronicle" are probably easier novels to start with of his.

Anonymous said...

I continue to see the name Lukyanenko crop up. I'd prefer to see the Hotlist review this. I need some reliable Lukyanenko reviews to help resolve whether or not to purchase.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. How can anybody even consider reviewing Murakami on a SF/F blog?? cause of the talking cats?:) It's a great book but man are you gonna be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

All of Murakami's books are essentially about sad, middle-aged Japanese men listening to jazz and eating Italian food while slowly going nuts with loneliness. Meanwhile, weird shit happens all around them.

Unknown said...

PeterWilliam, I feel it is my duty to warn you against reading Lukyanenko. The first book is certainly an interesting exploration of the boundaries between good and evil (it's not a morality play), if you don't mind a lot of psychobabble and very little action. The second book takes a major dive in quality in my opinion. You have to suffer through the emo persuasions of an "evil" witch, jilted by her demon lover - who looks like a bank manager in human form, and Batman's deformed twin in the Twilight. Needless to say, if you are a girl you may lap this up. However, the same arguments were in the first book from a "good" perspective, and they were more tolerable there.
Look up the entire plot synopsis on Wikipedia. Trust me, you will thank me for saving you from this nonsense.

Shirow66 said...

A Cruel Wind was awesome, one of the better books I read recently. It was about a million times better than the first 3 Black Company books.

Cory said...

The first story in the Twilight Watch was actually quite good. But the second part was meh.
The Daylight Watch, the only one I found enjoyable was the second story. I think that was the best of the bunch. The rest was just lacking in tension or the moral ambiguity didn't make the characters interesting enough. The plot of the light vs. the dark group was just reused many times.

I've seen a lot of Murakami in our local bookstore but I've never got the urge to read a book of his. I've read a lot of manga and watched a quite number of anime, will that make my reading his works enjoyable?

Anyway, I vote for Glen Cook. As a fan of Erikson, I've been meaning to try his works.

Unknown said...

Read Dreamsongs II! Skin Trade is fantastic.

Adam said...

Don't read smoke and mirrors. It's garbage. There isn't a single good story in this collection and I typically love Gaiman. I have been a reader of his since Neverwhere. Unfortunately, with him it's usually hit or miss, and this one was a HUGE miss.

I'm also not a fan of the Dreamsongs collection, although, admittedly, I only have Volume 1 and it is on Audiobook, meaning many of the stories were cut. I am very hesitant to give him any more of my money at this point, because he has absolutely no respect for his fans... particularly those that disagree with him. It could be a good book, but I'd pass.

Go for Murakami.

Unknown said...

I have to chime in for A Cruel Wind. Glen Cook has become one of my favorite authors in the last couple of years, and this book is one of my favorites.

Anonymous said...

"Smoke and Mirrors" contains some of Gaiman's best work, in my opinion. The introduction offers a great insight into how his mind works and the stories themselves make for a wonderful collection, much more then the mere sum of its parts. The only truly bad story there is "Eaten: Scenes from a Moving Picture".

Others are all wonderful and strange.

Adam Whitehead said...

I think you mentioned before that you hadn't read THE HEDGE KNIGHT yet, so I voted for DREAMSONGS VOLUME II. It's perhaps GRRM's single finest piece of writing to date.

"I am very hesitant to give him any more of my money at this point, because he has absolutely no respect for his fans... particularly the pig-ignorant ones that insult him on his own blog, tell him he looks like he is about to die and insult his other fans."

Fixed that for you ;-)

Marc said...

Pat, I first read the original Dread Empire trilogy (collected in A Cruel Wind) over 20 years ago. The books were published 30 years ago, and written several years before that.

They rocked my world, because it was the first time I encountered gritty, "realistic" military fantasy. I had a reaction similar to what Jeff Vandermeer describes in his Introduction to A Cruel Wind (and to what Steven Erikson states in his Introduction to the follow-up volume).

The impact for a first time reader is less in the current fantasy marketplace, but you'll be reading something that set the standard for today. The start is a bit rough, but it gets better and better as it progresses, and the later volumes (A Fortress in Shadow and the forthcoming omnibus Wrath of Kings) are still better.

So I vote for Murakami. Uh, I mean, for Glen Cook ;-)

Anonymous said...

cruel wind

Anonymous said...

dreamsongs 2

Luis Ager said...

Dreamsongs vol.2, Martin is the best!

Adam said...

"I think you mentioned before that you hadn't read THE HEDGE KNIGHT yet, so I voted for DREAMSONGS VOLUME II. It's perhaps GRRM's single finest piece of writing to date.

"I am very hesitant to give him any more of my money at this point, because he has absolutely no respect for his fans... particularly the pig-ignorant ones that insult him on his own blog, tell him he looks like he is about to die and insult his other fans."

Fixed that for you ;-)"

Okay, sycophant. I have never insulted GRRM publicly and have sent him more than one email of support when he admitted that the overt, personal and borderline harassing criticism was harming his ability to work. Nobody deserves to be insulted about their weight or age, or any of the other cruel and childish slander that CERTAIN blogs which shall remain nameless appear to revel in. Only on an anonymous forum such as this - the internet - is such libel not pursued by the law. And it should be.

You seem group every one of GRRM's critics in with the very worst of the lot. This leads me to believe that you find any criticism of this author to be baseless, and you are quite simply wrong. We both recognize that the ad hominem attacks on Mr. Martin are worthless and cruel. I freely admit this, and do not participate in that kind of activity.

That, however, is skirting the point, and I'm not going to let you or anyone else derail it, because it's important.

I do not agree with Neil Gaiman that the fans who purchase Mr. Martin's, or any author's books have no right to criticize their professional conduct. Writers like to pretend they are a privileged class of working people, that they are sovereign entities not beholden to any social or professional expectations, but the truth is they, and all other artists, are still the responsible for their public reputations, even when they have the amount of freedom that an author like George R.R. Martin has. When one acts unprofessional, in ANY type of work, but particularly work that is public, one will be criticized as such.

To put it in perspective: George R.R. Martin and every other successful author are, in a practical matter, corporations. The people who buy their books are the shareholders. As the overseers of ANY corporation that systematically undermine and neglect the interests of its shareholders will face judgment and loss for their actions, so will authors who behave similarly. I am almost certain that GRRM will see some sort of loss for his recent (and by recent I mean within the past four years) callousness towards his fans, particularly those who don't have the patience to be treated like piggy banks while their requests and concentrated interests go ignored.

A Dance With Dragons will no doubt turn a profit, as A Song of Ice and Fire continues to grow in popularity, and I would never wish harm financial or otherwise upon anybody. I'm only predicting GRRM is facing a considerable loss as consequence of his conduct, in particular a large portion of his most devoted fans - the ones who have been with him since the beginning and are now fed up of being strung along and offered self-promotional garbage to the point they no longer wish to purchase his books.

I am included in that category. I will probably read A Dance With Dragons, but I'm not giving him another dime. I'll let some other sucker (you, probably) do that.

Adam Whitehead said...

Hey, you say something that is factually inaccurate ("He has no respect for his fans," when GRRM actually has a very good reputation for having a positive relationship with the fanbase), you have to expect to get called on it.

My point was not to lump you in with the morons, but the fact is that the behaviour of the morons is directly responsible for GRRM backing away from doing regular updates on the book as he used to with prior books in the series. I think it is a shame that the behaviour of a tiny minority has led to this situation, but that's the author's call to make.

As for the merchandise thing, I concur that the author not wanting to discuss the work in progress but simultaneously asking people to buy tangential merchandising related to that work is somewhat inconsistent. But then if you have no interest in his merchandising blog posts no-one is asking you or me to read them, and they can be skipped in safety, as I also skip his posts on American football.

As for the situation with ADWD, the book will outsell AFFC in hardcover, easily. The growing volume of sales of the existing volumes is not tailing off and seems to be accelerating, so sales for ADWD will be significant. With the exception of the final WoT books, I don't see any other fantasy novel in 2010 equalling or eclipsing it in sales (unless maybe Meyer releases something).

Adam said...

You have me there - I will concede he does have a reputation for being accessible to his fans at conventions, and that I did make an exorbitant statement about him having NO respect - obviously this isn't true. I did not intent that to be a cruel attack on his person; it was only frustration. However, I will not concede that his behavior since the release of AFFC has been anything but inexcusable.

1. I understand everyone has the right to sell their fish. I would not begrudge anyone of this, particularly an author whose works I have enjoyed. GRRM, of course, also has the right to post whatever he wants on any website that belongs to him - such as his live journal account. However, going back to the shareholder analogy, one can't possibly expect the CEO of a major corporation to announce to his shareholders consistently for five years straight that:

"...No, the new model is not coming out any time soon as I predicted earlier, but let's not talk about that - instead, let's talk about giving me a raise, why I should be credited for work I don't do myself, and why I don't owe you ANY explanations for anything - even though I only work for half the year and take paid vacations on your good graces for the rest..."

... And expect us to be happy with it. In fact, that would infuriate the shareholders of any real, publicly traded company, and while I understand these situations aren't entirely parallel, I do see them as logically congruent.

2. This is, of course, an argument based purely from a business perspective. Art surely can't be held to the same standards as say, auto production or software manufacturing. But let's get real. Mr. Martin is not Cormac McCarthy or Toni Morrison. He's not Philip Roth either, but that's a bad analogy, because Philip Roth puts out a great novel almost every year, like clockwork. I do not begrudge GRRM for not being those authors. I enjoy his works on their own merit. But all of those authors would rightfully be allowed a larger margin for their creativity than we should allow him. Why? Because "A Song of Ice and Fire," while certainly a work with literary merit, is essentially a (very long) serialization. It is episodic in nature, from the structure of the novels to the the series itself - that is, it is not a single volume that requires immediacy in its completion. It requires more frequency and deserves less leniency in its delivery, not more. It is totally sound for GRRM's fans to expect at least somewhat regular installments. We are all participant to his success as an author by our own hard-earned money and that gives us a say, even if it is marginal.

Just to expound my point, though: ASOIF has already been drawn out by many more volumes than were originally intended. This is not to say that I, as a fan, want it to be any longer than is absolutely necessary. What I do want is ownership from Martin that he DOES have an obligation to his fans to meet deadlines, meaning the amount of time that is REASONABLE for him to create a new, worthy installment in the series. Where ADWD is concerned, that time is long, long past. I also want ownership from him that constant engagements with niche projects that do not fill any demand to the majority of his fan base, but that he demands exorbitant amounts of its attention to market and promote, is simply absurd, especially when it comes at the cost of the real "meat and potatoes" - his flagship series and our main reason for buying shares of his company - A Song of Ice and Fire. This is very poor form for "an artist" who claims to be serious about his work.

3. I understand that in the end, this is all about preference. Nothing is set in stone. Which is why I suggested Pat not read Dreamsongs Vol. II, and admitted I would not give GRRM another dime. I do not believe it is unsound to voice my frustration given the points discussed above.

Adam said...

And I apologize for calling you a sycophant and a sucker. That was rude... not very becoming of me at all.

Adam Whitehead said...

I don't think the shareholder analogy works, as with that you're expecting a monetary return on your initial investment, whilst with a series of books all that buying Book 1 does is get you Book 1. There are no guarantees Book 2 won't suck or four volumes in the author won't go off the deep end and start jabbering about objectivism for 200 pages at a time, which isn't what you signed up for with the first volume. Or there's the series which you might have started reading thinking it was going to be six books released in six years, only to find it's fourteen books in twenty-two years. These things happen.

Genre history is also littered with many, many unfinished series where the author gave up and moved on to other projects, even though their former works had sold very well (like with Melanie Rawn or David Gerrold, or Tolkien never doing everything with Middle-earth he wanted to), or works where the author left the audience on a cliffhanger and then took off and wrote some other things before coming back to it nineteen years later (like Jack Vance's DYING EARTH series, or to a lesser extent Stephen King).

By way of contrast, GRRM has never stopped working on ASoIaF to concentrate on other projects (he has written exactly two short stories not related to ASoIaF in the last fifteen years). His rate of production is slow compared to some other authors in the genre (although there are some who are slower) and his writing methodology is perhaps not as efficient as it could be, but in both cases his method of writing has given us the books we have so far, which presumably people complaining about the situation enjoyed.

I think the only conclusion that can be drawn is if ADWD is a spectacularly good novel and the wait will have been worth it, people will be fine with it, and if it's crap they won't be and can talk with their money when the later books arrive.