Updated Index

Just a quick note to let you guys know that the Index of Reviews and Interviews located in the top right corner of the Hotlist has been updated.

For those with too much time on their hands, there are 200+ book reviews and I don't know how many interviews to peruse.

Nearly 5 years' worth of cool and interesting stuff, or nearly 5 years' worth of utter crap. Depends on who you ask. . .:P

The Sandman: The Doll's House

Having rather enjoyed my second stint with Neil Gaiman's The Sandman almost two decades after my first try with this series, I was curious to see where the author would take the story following Preludes & Nocturnes (Canada, USA, Europe).

The Sandman: The Doll's House is the second omnibus released by Vertigo, and it contains issues 9 to 16 of the award-winning comic book, as well as an introduction by Clive Barker. This second story arc was more difficult to get into -- much more than I thought it would be. There is a bit of a problem with continuity, and the storylines are all over the place. I'm well aware that Gaiman was likely laying the groundwork for a variety of plotlines yet to come, but as a whole this omnibus doesn't deliver a reading experience as satisfying as its predecessor.

Illustrated by Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, and Steve Parkhouse, I found the art in these eight issues to be less eye-pleasing than what I glimpsed in Preludes & Nocturnes. To a certain extent, one gets the feeling that the entire team was still trying to come to terms with what it was they were attempting to accomplish. On the other hand, the Dave McKean covers are great.

The pace remains slow-moving, as was the case with the first omnibus. Still, Gaiman introduces us to new characters, ideas, and concepts, and you can see that it's only a matter of time before the series truly takes off. Yet if The Doll's House was meant to be a symphony, it would be composed of decidedly discordant movements.

"Tales in the Sand" is a very interesting prologue, yet it doesn't seem to have much to do with the rest of the story arc. "The Doll's House" and "Moving In" set the stage for what is to come, yet "Playing House" goes in a totally different direction. Ditto "Men of Good Fortune," which doesn't appear to fit in any shape or form with the rest of the story arc. "Collectors," with its serial killer convention, was a fantastic read, however. "Into the Night" and "Lost Hearts" finally deal with the dream vortex theme.

All in all, The Sandman: The Doll's House is an absorbing, if uneven, read. I'm hoping that The Sandman: Dream Country, the third omnibus, will see the tale take off and fulfill its great potential.

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

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman contest winners!

Each of our five winners will receive a copy of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragons of the Hourglass Mage (Canada, USA, Europe), compliments of the folks at Wizards of the Coast.

The winners are:

- Guillaume Amoros, from Strasbourg, France (Gnome on dragonlanceforums.com)

- Gavin Kavanaugh, from Bremerton, Washington, USA

- Charles Robert Wenzler Jr, from Scottsdale, Arizona, USA (Twin Dragons on dragonlanceforums.com)

- Leonardo Gruber, from Porto Alegre, Brazil

- Deborah Thompson, from Howell, New Jersey, USA

Thanks to all the participants!:-)

NFL SHOWDOWN: GRRM vs Pat (Week 3)

Carolina Panthers: 7
Dallas Cowboys: 21

New York Giants: 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 0

Well, if I want George R. R. Martin to base a character on me and kill him in gruesome and spectacular fashion in the next A Song of Ice and Fire installment, them Cowboys will have to play better. Such a sloppy first half. . . Christ, we almost lost to the lowly Panthers!!!

As things stand, it looks as though GRRM will get to select another three books for me to read and review. . . Damn him! Even the Jets are 3-0 to start the season!

Win a copy of SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Thanks to the kind folks at Voyager, I have five copies of Songs of the Dying Earth, a Jack Vance tribute anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, up for grabs. For more info about this title: Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Jack Vance was 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 writers, from Gene Wolfe and Michael Moorcock to Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin, 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.

In Songs of the Dying Earth, we have called on one of the most distinguished casts of authors ever assembled—including Dan Simmons, Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, Paula Volsky, Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Lucius Shepard, Tad Williams, Tanith Lee, Liz Williams, Glen Cook, and eleven other famous writers—to write stories in honor of the genius of Jack Vance, stories using the bizarre and darkly beautiful far future setting of the Dying Earth, near the very end of Earth’s lifespan, where mighty wizards duel with spells of dreadful potency under a waning and almost burnt-out red sun, and adventurers and cutpurses strive to hoodwink and out-trick each other in haunted forests full of demons and monsters strange almost beyond comprehension.

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

Speaking of Erikson, the author of the recently published Dust of Dreams (Canada, USA, Europe) was interviewed by the folks at Fantasy Book Review. As always, it's an interesting read.

You can check out the full Q&A here.

No rest for the wicked indeed!;-)

Cover art for the 10th anniversary edition of Steven Erikson's GARDENS OF THE MOON

Hard to believe it's already a decade old. . .

Man, to have the opportunity to read Gardens of the Moon for the first time. . .=)

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

Paul McAuley contest winners!

Our four winners will receive a complimentary copy of Paul McAuley's The Quiet War, courtesy of the cool folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Jason M. Robertson, from Chicago, Illinois, USA

- Jenny Salyers, from Evanston, Illinois, USA

- Cameron Wagner, from Baraboo, Wisconsin, USA

- Andrew Gillespie, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

Limited edition for Neil Gaiman's SMOKE AND MIRRORS

From the Subterranean Press website:

For the diehard collectors among you, keep in mind that the deadline to take advantage of the special discount for the forthcoming limited edition of Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors is October 2nd, 2009. If you book before the deadline, you can get the Limited edition for 175$ instead of 250$, and the Lettered edition for 1200$ instead of 1500$.

Here's more:

The distinctive storytelling genius of Neil Gaiman has been acclaimed by writers as diverse as Norman Mailer and Stephen King. Now in this new collection of stories — several of which have never before appeared in print, and more than half that have never been collected — that will dazzle the senses and haunt the imagination. Miraculous inventions and unforgettable characters inhabit these pages: an elderly widow who finds the Holy Grail in a second-hand store...a frightened little boy who bargains for his life with a troll living under a bridge by the railroad tracks...a stray cat who battles nightly against a recurring evil that threatens his unsusupecting adoptive family. In these stories, Gaiman displays the power, wit, insight and outrageous originality that has made him one of the most unique literary artists of our day.

The Subterranean Edition of Smoke and Mirrors will feature an all original design by Dave McKean, be printed in two colors throughout, with original illustrations for each story, including 8-10 full color plates.

The lettered edition will be lavishly bound, housed in a specially constructed box, the most elaborate presentation we’ve yet attempted for a book. In addition, each copy will include an original sketch by Dave McKean.

Limited: 500 signed numbered copies, in slipcase

Lettered: 26 signed copies, housed in a custom box

This one looks like it's going to be something incredible!

5 cm per Second

Looking back, I can't quite recall why we even started to talk about Hayao Miyazaki when I sat down with Émilie during our break on the Friday night of last week. Which is kind of weird, if you ask me. But discuss Miyazaki we did, and by the end of that 15-minute break I was sold to the idea of giving his animated films a shot. Armed with a small piece of paper bearing the titles Princess Mononoke (Canada, USA, Europe) and Spirited Away (Canada, USA, Europe), with a heart drawn on it to signify that these two were her favorites, I made my way to the video store to see if I could find them.

By Sunday night, I had seen Princess Mononoke, and found both Spirited Away and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Canada, USA, Europe). I expected to enjoy the films. After all, Émilie held them in such high esteem that I figured they couldn't possibly be bad. Yet I never envisioned that I would enjoy them to such a degree. I don't know if it's because I distanced myself from Japanese animated features for a number of years, but all of a sudden I wanted more and more! It was all I could do not to track down every single Miyazaki movie.

But my initial fear remained, and remains still, if only to a certain extent. This genre, not unlike SFF, is filled with retarded shit. And I'm scared that one of these days I'll stumble upon a smelly turd I'll find so off-putting that it might just kill my renewed interest in the genre. But so far so good.

Wanting to take a little break from Hayao Miyazaki, lest I go through his entire body of work before the week is out, I elected to give you guys' suggestions a shot. I didn't really know what to go for, but I remembered that 5 cm per Second came with the highest possible recommendation.

Had anyone told me that evening sitting there with Émilie that in the span of about a week I would watch no less then four Japanese animated features and love each and everyone of them, I would have said you're crazy. But I did, and loved every minute of it! And based on the number of emails I've received recently, I know that many of you have rented some of them and enjoyed them as well. Hence, it mission accomplished as far as the Hotlist's main objective is concerned. Spreading the word about all that's good in SFF continues to be what I aim at.

Although quite different in style and tone, Makoto Shinkai's 5 cm per Second is as good as the three Miyazaki films I've seen thus far. Even better in some ways, as it's for a more mature audience. This film is comprised of three segments which follow the evolution of love and what it means to the characters at various points of their lives -- childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

I never would have thought that an animated feature would touch me in such a fashion. 5 cm per Second is a beautiful film. Visually stunning, yes, but it's the content which ultimately moves you. Takaki is the central character, meaning that he appears in all three arcs. But he's not necessarily the POV character in each one, and this diversity adds many layers to this work.

In the first part, "Cherry Blossom," Takaki befriends a shy girl named Akari when she's transferred to his elementary school. Upon graduation, Akari is forced to move again, and both she and Takaki keep in touch by writing letters. When he learns that his family will be moving far away, he decides to visit Akari one last time. In "Cosmonaut," we find an older Takaki nearing the end of high school and thinking about his future. Kanae Sumida has fallen in love with him since the first day she met him, but she could never bring herself to confess how she truly feels. And in "5 cm per Second," Takaki is now a computer programmer in Tokyo. Realizing that his life is not what he has always hoped it would be, on the verge of a breakdown Takaki quits his job. Akari is about to get married, when she finds that old love letter she never did give to Takaki.

According to Makoto Shinkai, the title 5 cm Per Second comes from the speed at which cherry blossoms petals fall, petals being a metaphorical representation of humans, reminiscent of the slowness of life and how people often start together but slowly drift into their separate ways.

I absolutely loved the way Shinkai explored the theme of love through various periods of a number of people's lifetimes. And the beauty of the movie is that you can't help but see yourself in basically every since part of the film. I guess that's why I was so moved by this work. It's all there. How powerful and exhilarating love can be, and by the same token how painful and bittersweet is can turn out to be. The immensity of a first love before the loss of innocence. How being too driven can blind you that what lies right in front of you. How shattered dreams and disillusionment can break you.

Tenmon's evocative soundtrack is just about perfect, and conveys layers of emotions. His end song theme almost made me choke up. There is no instrument out there that can capture moods and emotions quite like a piano, and Tenmon's track is simply brilliant.

You can find 5 cm per Second on various streaming sites or on YouTube. All in all, this is probably as good as it gets. And thank God they had the brains not to cap it all off with a cheesy, bubblegum Hollywood ending. Touching and moving, you have got to see this film.

I'm too lazy to backtrack and check who actually recommended 5 cm per Second to me, but I'll be eternally grateful! It's a movie anyone can enjoy, whether you're into anime or not. . .

Here's the trailer:

And here's that end song theme I've been listening to non-stop since yesterday:

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

Gary Gibson contest winners!

Thanks to the folks at Pan MacMillan, our three winners will get their hands on a set of Gary Gibson's Stealing Light (Canada, USA, Europe) and Nova War (Canada, USA, Europe).

The winners are:

- Richard Blakeley, from Dunedin, New Zealand

- Maarten Bouwman, from Vignate, Italy

- Vladimir Novy, from Zatec, Czech Republic

Many thanks to all the participants!

"Nebbia" by Cirque Éloize

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be among the 240 lucky people who scored an invitation for a 90-minute guided tour of the Cirque du Soleil international headquarters. Needless to say, it was a fantastic visit!

Unbeknownst to most people is the fact that over the last two decades Montréal has become the circus capital of the world. Understandably, the presence and growth of the Cirque du Soleil into the powerhouse it is today had a lot to do with this.

But there are now many smaller circuses doing shows here and abroad, and making a name for themselves. Cirque Éloize is the second "made in Québec" circus to achieve international renown. So when I learned that "Nebbia" would return to Montréal for a single weekend, I bought myself a ticket immediately.

Saw the show this afternoon at the Place des Arts, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. It is a world away from the multi-million dollar Cirque du Soleil productions, of course. And yet, Cirque Éloize have come up with their own unique style, which is a blend of circus and theatre. More intimate, a bit more poetic and whimsical. There's more interaction with the crowd, and from now on I'll attend whatever new shows Cirque Éloize puts together.

They'll be touring around Europe in 2010 with "Nebbia," so you might want to check it out. Here two links for those who want to learn a bit more about the show and Cirque Éloize.

And here's the trailer:

Win a teaser preview of Eoin Colfer's AND ANOTHER THING. . .

Eoin Colfer's latest addition to Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, And Another Thing. . ., will be released on October 12th. I've received an extended 140-page preview which my schedule won't permit to read, so I'm giving it away to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

An Englishman's continuing search through space and time for a decent cup of tea . . .

Arthur Dent's accidental association with that wholly remarkable book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, has not been entirely without incident.

Arthur has traveled the length, breadth, and depth of known, and unknown, space. He has stumbled forward and backward through time. He has been blown up, reassembled, cruelly imprisoned, horribly released, and colorfully insulted more than is strictly necessary. And of course Arthur Dent has comprehensively failed to grasp the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

Arthur has finally made it home to Earth, but that does not mean he has escaped his fate.

Arthur's chances of getting his hands on a decent cuppa have evaporated rapidly, along with all the world's oceans. For no sooner has he touched down on the planet Earth than he finds out that it is about to be blown up . . . again.

And Another Thing . . . is the rather unexpected, but very welcome, sixth installment of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. It features a pantheon of unemployed gods, everyone's favorite renegade Galactic President, a lovestruck green alien, an irritating computer, and at least one very large slab of cheese.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "DON'T PANIC." 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!

Musical Interlude

Ah, Pantera. . . One of my favorite bands during college.

When they stopped at the Auditorium de Verdun during the Far Beyond Driven tour, little did we know that we would witness the rowdiest crowd we ever saw at a live show. It was crazy, but what a show!

What better way to start your weekend than by listening to one of their best songs!?!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 22nd)

In hardcover:

Charlaine Harris' Dead and Gone is up two positions, ending its 19th week on the charts at number 10.

John Twelve Hawks' The Golden City debuts at number 16. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephenie Meyer's The Host is up two spots, finishing the week at number 17.

Karen Marie Moning's Dreamfever is down three spots, finishing its fourth week on the NYT list at number 21.

Terry Goodkind's The Law of Nines is up four positions, ending its fourth week on the prestigious list at number 22.

S. M. Stirling's The Sword of the Lady is down three spots, finishing its third week on the bestseller list at number 26.

Troy Denning's Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Abyss is down two positions, ending its fourth week on the charts at number 27. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Lev Grossman's The Magicians is down nine spots, finishing its fifth week on the NYT list at number 30. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Patricia Briggs' Hunting Ground is down two spots, finishing its third week on the NYT list at number 9. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is down one position, ending its 24th week on the bestseller list at number 10.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind is down one spot, finishing the week at number 20. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Dead and Alive maintains its position at number 24 for its seventh week on the charts. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Neal Stephenson's Anathem is up two spots, finishing its third week on the NYT list at number 31. 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 22.

Win a copy of the limited edition of Dan Simmons' THE TERROR

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Subterranean Press, I have a copy of the limited edition of Dan Simmons' The Terror up for grabs! This book finished number 6 in my Top 10 of 2007, so it comes highly recommended if you haven't read it yet. For more info about this title, check out the Subpress website.

Here's the blurb:

In the spring of 1845, Sir John Franklin leads a company of two ships and 130 men on a hazardous voyage to the remote, uncharted Arctic. His goal: to locate and map the legendary Northwest Passage. Two years later, the expedition, which began in a spirit of optimism and high purpose, faces disaster. Franklin is dead. The two ships -- the Erebus and the Terror -- are hopelessly trapped by gigantic, shifting ice floes. Supplies are dwindling, and the crews struggle daily against lethal, unimaginably frigid conditions. And something -- some Thing -- is stalking the survivors, spreading death, suffering, and chaos in its remorseless wake.

The Terror is both a rigorously researched historical novel and a compelling homage to one of the seminal SF/Horror films of the 1950s. It is popular fiction of the highest order, the kind of intense, wholly absorbing epic only Dan Simmons could have written.

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

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Well, thanks to my friend Émilie, it's official! I'm now a true Hayao Miyazaki fan, and I'll have no choice but to try to track down every movie he's made over the years. Truth be told, I was already hooked by watching Princess Mononoke (Canada, USA, Europe). Then came Spirited Away (Canada, USA, Europe), which blew me away. And though it follows more or less the same template as Princess Mononoke with the man vs nature theme, I really enjoyed Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

Though I've always been a big fan of animated features, it's been years since I've really focused on that medium. Not since the Robotech series was released in DVD, I'm afraid. And I now realized that I have missed out on a variety of quality works. Japanese anime series ranked among my favorite TV shows as a kid, and Robotech filled my mind with wonder during my teenage years. In a way, it's kind of weird that I've sort of avoided that medium for so long. . .

Well, the good thing is that I have some great stuff to look forward to! Starting with the rest of Miyazaki's repertoire, even though what's left is aimed at a younger audience. If I can fully enjoy Pixar movies, there is no reason why Hayao Miyazaki's films can't bring out the kid inside of me!

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind takes place a millennium following the Seven Day of Fire, a catastrophe which nearly destroyed human civilization and wreaked havoc in Earth's original ecosystem. The spores of the giant jungle known as the Sea of Decay continue to annihilate the scattered human settlements with their toxic touch. The windriding princess of the Valley of the Wind, Nausicaä, conducts secret experiments in order to discover the true nature of the Sea of Decay. But when an airship transporting a Giant Warrior embryo, one of the biological weapons which brought the world on the brink of doom, crashes into the cliffs near the Valley, their existence will be changed forever. Soon, a Tolmekian fleet under the leadership of Princess Kushana invade the Valley of the Wind and kills its rightful king. The Tolmekians plan to revive the Warrior to destroy the Sea of Decay and rid the world of the giant insects which have become the bane of mankind. It's up to Nausicaä to find a way to prevent the destruction of her beloved Valley of the Wind and its people.

Once again, Miyazaki created an interesting cast of characters for this movie. It's easy to root for the humane Nausicaä, but Lord Yupa, on his quest to find the mythical man from the ancient tapestry, is probably an even more striking character. The supporting cast may not be as strong as those of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, but Princess Kushana and Asbel were nice additions.

While good, the Joe Hisaishi soundtrack sounds more like something from an 80s anime television series. Still, a number of tracks are wonderful, and I may have to begin downloading a few of them!

All in all, if you are looking for good animated features to rent at the video store, Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind come with the highest possible recommendation.

Here's a trailer of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind to pique your curiosity:

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

A preview of David Louis Edelman's GEOSYNCHRON

Science Fiction author David Louis Edelman gives fans a glimpse of the last volume of the Jump 225 trilogy, Geosynchron, on his website. A big fan of the series, Geosynchron is one of the most eagerly anticipated titles of 2010 for me!

I'm pretty excited! If you haven't read Infoquake and MultiReal, you are missing out on something special!

For more info about this title: USA, Europe.

Listen to the entire second chapter of Jordan/Sanderson's THE GATHERING STORM

This from Tor.com:

Membership has its privileges!

We had such great success with the release of Chapter One from The Gathering Storm on Tor.com that we decided we just couldn't stop there.

For all of our new and pre-existing Tor.com members, we've got a little present. Consider it half love-letter (totally platonic, we swear!), half-thank you for being part of our community.

In conjunction with Macmillan Audio, we bring you the entirety of Chapter 2 of The Gathering Storm, from the upcoming audiobook.

The audio is live now on Tor.com. Just log in to listen, enjoy, and discuss.

If you can't wait to sink your teeth into The Gathering Storm (Canada, USA, Europe), then head on out to http://www.tor.com/.

Peter & Max

This book was my second assignment for losing that NFL wager with George R. R. Martin. And as much as I hate losing a bet like this, I have to give props to GRRM for at least selecting good titles for me to read. Other than Jack Vance's Tales of the Dying Earth (Canada, USA, Europe), I've enjoyed my "punishments" thus far.

Bill Willingham's Peter & Max is set in the universe of the award-winning comic book Fables. It's not a graphic novel, however. It is indeed a prose novel, the very first ever published by Vertigo/DC Comics. Although it's a stand-alone work, I feel that fans of the comic book will probably get more out of their reading experience. Newcomers to the world of Fables can easily follow the tale from start to finish, mind you. Yet I reckon that we might miss some of the nuances found throughout the book.

Centuries ago in the depths of the Black Forest, Peter Piper and his older brother Max encountered forces that changed them both forever. Their ordeals will set them against one another, with magic and music serving as the backdrop for this tale of revenge. Peter has always known that Max would eventually find him, and he must once and for all stand up against his brother's malicious magical powers.

Though not a graphic novel, Peter & Max features some beautiful ink illustrations by Fables artist Steve Leialoha. Some of the drawings truly bring scenes to life, creating an imagery which adds another dimension to the reading experience.

The worldbuilding is probably the most interesting facet of this novel. Fabletown is concealed by powerful spells in the middle of the Upper West Side of New York City. Over the millennia, the Fables, magical people fleeing the Adversary from their Homelands, came to settle with others of their kind on Earth. Hence, in Fabletown you'll find Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Prince Charming, the Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Bigby Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, and many more. Those Fables who can't pass as human now live at the Farm, another refuge in Upstate New York. I'm persuaded that they delve into this aspect with more depth in the comic book, but it was kind of neat to read about many of our childhood's fairy tales reinvented like this.

There are a few portions of the book were the pace gets bogged down a bit, but overall the rhythm of Peter & Max is quite satisfactory. The story alternates between what occurs in "real time" and scenes from the past showing how the Piper brothers became estranged.

The characterization can be a bit uneven. For instance, there are brilliant moments such as Peter's relationship with his handicapped wife at the beginning of the novel. The entire set-up is particularly well-done. Unfortunately, Max is nowhere near as fully realized as his younger brother, and as a character he doesn't get the same credibility. And the fact that he's not quite genuine influences the quality of the tale as the story heads toward a confrontation between Peter and Max. Personally, I found most "real time" sequences to be quite enjoyable, but the flashbacks were a bit hit or miss.

Overall, Peter & Max was a fun read, regardless of its few shortcomings. The book starts off pretty strongly; so much so that I entertained high hopes for a grand finale. The sluggish pace of the middle parts and a somewhat predictible ending sort of put a damper on things, though. Still, in the epilogue Willingham shows, as he did early on, that he possesses a deft human touch that can be heartwarming.

If you are looking for a lighter and different read, Bill Willingham's Peter & Max could be just what the doctor ordered. And now, I'm curious to read the comic book to see how it compares with the prose novel. . .

The final verdict: 7.25/10

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

Win a copy of Charlie Huston's MY DEAD BODY

Though I really enjoyed Charlie Huston's The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death (Canada, USA, Europe), I haven't read any of the Joe Pitt novels thus far. Hence, I'd like to pass along my review copy of My Dead Body to someone who will sink his or her teeth into it instead of seeing the book gather dust on my shelves. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the Blurb:


Just ask Joe Pitt. After exposing the secret source of blood for half of Manhattan’s Vampyres, he’s definitely a dead man walking. He’s been a punching bag and a bullet magnet for every Vampyre Clan in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, not to mention a private eye, an enforcer, an exile, and a vigilante, but now he’s just a target with legs.

For a year he’s sloshed around the subway tunnels and sewers, tapping the veins of the lost, while above ground a Vampyre civil war threatens to drag the Clans into the sunlight once and for all. What’s it gonna take to dig him up? Just the search for a missing girl who’s carrying a baby that just might be the destiny of Vampyre-kind. Not that Joe cares all that much about destiny and such. What he cares about is that his ex-girl Evie wants him to take the gig. What’s the risk? Another turn playing pigeon in a shooting gallery. What’s the reward? Maybe one shot of his own. What’s he aiming for? Nothing much. Just all the evil at the heart of his world.

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

Iain M. Banks excerpt

Well, the possibility to post an exclusive excerpt from Iain M. Banks' Transition (Canada, USA, Europe) went down the crapper due to territorial issues. That blows, but that's the way it goes.

However, there is an extract you can read here. Here's the blurb:

There is a world that hangs suspended between triumph and catastrophe, between the dismantling of the Wall and the fall of the Twin Towers, frozen in the shadow of suicide terrorism and global financial collapse. Such a world requires a firm hand and a guiding light. But does it need the Concern: an all-powerful organization with a malevolent presiding genius, pervasive influence and numberless invisible operatives in possession of extraordinary powers?

Among those operatives are Temudjin Oh, of mysterious Mongolian origins, an un-killable assassin who journeys between the peaks of Nepal, a version of Victorian London and the dark palaces of Venice under snow; Adrian Cubbish, a restlessly greedy City trader; and a nameless, faceless state-sponsored torturer known only as the Philosopher, who moves between time zones with sinister ease. Then there are those who question the Concern: the bandit queen Mrs. Mulverhill, roaming the worlds recruiting rebels to her side; and Patient 8262, under sedation and feigning madness in a forgotten hospital ward, in hiding from a dirty past.

There is a world that needs help; but whether it needs the Concern is a different matter.

In addition, iTunes will be serializing the abridged audio edition of the novel. Find out more here.

Harry Connolly contest winners!

Our three winners will each receive a copy of Harry Connolly's Child of Fire, compliments of the folks at Del Rey. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Brian Rammel, from Dublin, Ohio, USA (Warden of the Midwest on asoiaf.westeros.org)

- Rebecca Cerio, from Rockville, Maryland, USA

- Mitch Chambers, from Lubbock, Texas, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Spirited Away

If you read the post pertaining to Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke (Canada, USA, Europe), then you are aware that Spirited Away also topped my friend Émilie's list of best animated features of all time. Moreover, Spirited Away was supposed to be an even better movie.

So when I finally left that restaurant after a nice dinner with my co-workers last night, I headed on out to another video store, hoping that they carried Spirited Away. To my surprise, not only did they have a copy of the film, but I was also able to score a copy of Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. I was a happy camper, to say the least!

Did a little background check before watching it, and Spirited Away received even more accolades than Princess Mononoke. First of all, the film won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the only non-English animation to ever win an Oscar. With revenues in excess of US$ 300 million, it became the highest-grossing film in Japanese history, surpassing Titanic. In addition, Spirited Away was the first international film to earn US$ 200 million worldwide before opening in the USA.

What I expected was to see one of the very best animated features to ever be produced. What I saw was perhaps the very best animated feature ever. Visually beautiful, Hayao Miyazaki created a magical and whimsical world that delighted me from start to finish.

It was pure joy to follow young Chihiro's journey, which at times makes you reminisce about Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Haku, Yubaba, Kamajii, Lin, No Face, and the others comprise what turned out to be a wonderful cast of secondary characters.

Once again, Joe Hisaishi's soundtrack captures the mood perfectly, especially the early piano parts. To put it simply, Spirited Away is about as good as it gets! If you are looking for movies to rent this weekend, make sure that both Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away are at the top of your list! Here are the two trailers to pique your curiosity:

The only thing that sucks is that I guess I've seen the two best ones out there. . . But they were quite a ride!

For more info about Spirited Away: Canada, USA, Europe

NFL SHOWDOWN: GRRM vs Pat (week 2)

New York Giants: 33
Dallas Cowboys: 31

In a wild game where the Cowboys dominated but were plagued by turnovers, the Giants came up on top. Can't quite believe that Dallas was able to run the ball as though they were playing a CFL team! The Cowboys should have won that game, but the Giants took advantage of what opportunities they got and ran away with it.

That's football. . .

Win a copy of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's DRAGONS OF THE HOURGLASS MAGE

Thanks to the kind folks at Wizards of the Coast, I have five copies of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragons of the Hourglass Mage (Canada, USA, Europe) for you to win.

Here's the blurb:

In the concluding volume of this trilogy, the reader finds out what, exactly, Raistlin did after he abandoned the Companions to their deaths in the War of the Lance. Dragons of Spring Dawning shows Raistlin concluding a deal with the mysterious Fistandantilus, and the Legends trilogy shows what he did with that alliance, but until now there has been no explanation of what came between the War of the Lance and the Dwarfgate Wars. What power made Raistlin the Master of the Past and Present and allowed him into the Tower of High Sorcery - and a place in history as he pursued a place in the cosmos as a god.

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

Volume 13 of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time

With only a few more weeks to go before the release of Jordan/Sanderson's The Gathering Storm (Canada, USA, Europe), Brandon Sanderson just announced the title of the next WoT installment.

This from the author's LiveJournal:

As for that book . . . well, it's time for it to have a title. We've been calling it Shifting Winds up until this point, but that was never intended to be the final title. After a long round of conversations with Tor and Harriet, we settled on TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT as the title. There are various reasons for this, which I'll go into more once the book is out next year. I'm pleased, however, as this was the title I suggested. It's actually appropriate in an interesting way. Harriet was the one who came up with the name for the first of the three, and the second one gets the title I proposed. And so, we will (as I've been saying for a while) use Mr. Jordan's title for the final of the three, A MEMORY OF LIGHT.

I thought for a while on that last choice. If you've been following along these last couple of years, you know that my original intention was for this to be one book. When it was split, I still wanted it to be one book in name, in an attempt to honor Mr. Jordan's wishes that it be one book. (I still plan to suggest an omnibus edition at a later point, but the three books together will probably be too long for that to be an option.) Anyway, I was going to have A MEMORY OF LIGHT be the title (along with a subtitle) for each of the three books. When that fell through, I was left thinking on my next step.

Mr. Jordan named the final book A MEMORY OF LIGHT. It's one of the things we have from him, and I wanted very badly to use it. But at the same time, he named the three books AMOL, and I wondered if it wouldn't be better to let fans think of them as AMOL together, never using the title itself in case we managed to get that omnibus done. In the end, however, I decided that the title was simply too good not to use. I can't count on that omnibus, and I feel that using the title on the last third of the book is the best way to honor Mr. Jordan's wishes. It wasn't an easy decision, and some will disagree with it. But it is what we're going to do. So, the three books are:


You guys all know how pissed I am that A Memory of Light has been split into three volumes. Still, Towers of Midnight is a cool title, especially since it appears that there should be a certain focus on the Seanchan.

And unless you are living in a cave somewhere, you should be aware that you can now purchase the prologue from The Gathering Storm here.

Princess Mononoke

My friend Émilie is an anime and comic book aficionado. While discussing animated features last night, anything by Hayao Miyazaki came with the highest possible recommendation. To my surprise, I realized that I had already seen one of his movies, Howl's Moving Castle based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones.

Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away topped the list of must-see animated features, and I had a feeling that Émilie would probably throw rotten tomatoes at me if I didn't enjoy the movies. After being ditched at the last minute by my friend last night, I ended up with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Went to the video store and was happy to discover that they had a copy of Princess Mononoke.

A little background check revealed two very interesting tidbits of information. The first was that Neil Gaiman worked on the English adaptation of the movie. The second was that Princess Mononoke was the highest grossing movie in Japan until it was beaten by Titanic. Armed with these facts, I knew it would likely be something special.

Simply put, Princess Mononoke was fantastic. I know I can be demanding where movies are concerned, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Though it lasts more than two hours, I was enthralled from start to finish. Hayao Miyazaki sets the mood perfectly, and Joe Hisaishi's sometimes haunting soundtrack reveals layers of emotions and magic. Heck, I'm thinking of buying the movie soundtrack! Visually, this was wonderful. And storywise, it was great to see an animated feature that wasn't just meant for kids or people with a 2-digit IQ.

It was pure delight to follow the adventures of Ashitaka, as the last Emishi prince decides to meet his fate before his curse kills him. The supporting cast is comprised of a number of engaging characters such as Lady Eboshi and San the wolf girl.

I really enjoyed the fact that there's no good versus evil struggle. Every theme, concept, and characters have shades of gray. Environmentalism is a recurring theme in Miyazaki's movies, or so I'm told, and it plays a very important role in Princess Mononoke. Strong female characters are said to be another staple in his repertoire, and it's definitely the case in this movie.

All in all, I basically loved everything about Princess Mononoke, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who enjoys tales of epic proportions. Émilie is supposed to write down a list of the best animated features for me, but do let me know if you have recommendations of your own.

Not to be missed!

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

Peter V. Brett contest winner!

Our winner will get his hands on an Advance Reading Copy of Peter V. Brett's forthcoming The Great Bazaar and Other Stories up for grabs, compliments of the cool folks at Subterranean Press.

The winner is:

- Sandro Pergameno, from Rome, Italy

Thanks to all the participants!

Coming Attractions

Hey guys,

Here's what I have on tap for you in the near future. . .


Fulfilling my obligation for losing that NFL bet to GRRM, I'm currently reading Bill Willingham's Peter & Max (Canada, USA, Europe). Interesting thus far, though I think that readers familiar with the comic books will get more out of this one than people new to that universe.

In addition, I'm reading Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: The Doll's House (Canada, USA, Europe).

When I'm done with both of these, I'll be tackling S. L. Farrell's A Magic of Nightfall (Canada, USA, Europe), and Jeff Somers' The Eternal Prison (Canada, USA, Europe).

Nostalgia should also make me read Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragons of the Hourglass Mage (Canada, USA, Europe).

Other than that, a couple of SFF titles are vying for attention on top of my "books to read pile," chief among them Ian McDonald's Desolation Road (Canada, USA, Europe), Lev Grossman's The Magicians (Canada, USA, Europe), and Glen Cook's A Cruel Wind (Canada, USA, Europe).


I'm working on a few things, though extracts can be tricky at times. . .

I'm waiting to receive word on the possibility to post an excerpt from Iain M. Banks' Transition (Canada, USA, Europe).


As always, I have a few things cooking up.

I'll have a set of James Barclay's Chronicles of the Raven -- Dawnthief (Canada, USA, Europe), Noonshade (Canada, USA, Europe), and Nightchild (Canada, USA, Europe) up for grabs in a few weeks.

I'll have a couple of copies of Weis and Hickman's Dragons of the Hourglass Mage up for grabs soon, and the same can be said of L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s Imager's Challenge (Canada, USA, Europe).

There's more, but I'm still waiting to get confirmation on those contests. . .

Stay tuned for more!;-) I'm cooking up something with a number of SFF artists which should be a lot of fun!