31 May, 2009

Curiosities: Author Interviews

     The choice this weekend was between Up cartoon by Pixar or the horror flick called Drag Me to Hell. Drag Me to Hell won the draw and is, if you like horror movies, definitely worth seeing. While I recommend the flick, this post is about one of the adds that came before the movie. It was a short documentary by Honda about what the year 2088 will look like. Honda, being as ingenious as they are, wisely decided to interview some of the masters of predicting the future: science fiction authors!  
     Ben Bova and Orson Scott Card (one of OnlytheBestSciFi/Fantasy's voted top ten authors) had some pretty nifty things to say about the year 2088, and the short documentary is really well done, so if you have seven minutes, make sure to watch it. Also Included in the documentary were Scott Balton, a Lead Researcher over at NASA, and Darel Preble, from the ambitious Solar Space Institute. Enjoy!

29 May, 2009

Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #22

Welcome back to my weekly roundup.
Again and again, I'm surprised at how fast a week goes by. Now let's start......


Do you V? No, I am not asking for the twenty second letter in the modern Latin alphabet, nor for V for Vendetta film. I wanted to hear an answer like this: "V!? Yes, there was an amazing series aired on NBC in the 80's. It was the continuation of a science fiction franchise also known as THE VISITORS." Get ready for it, because ABC decided to remake V. To be honest I always have concerns when I hear or read about remakes. In this case, it's the other way round. I watched some episodes from the 80's series on video-cassette. This was at the end of the 80's, well before DVD brightened our lives. Compared to the original series, the trailer of the remake is really mouth-watering. Check out the V - upfront trailer below:


As you may have noticed the number of blogs related to SciFi/Fantasy is still growing, while some of them are not maintained any longer. In order not to get lost in the wild wild web, I searched for some help and advice. I found Reviewer Time: The Official Blog Post!! Harry Markov aka Daydream started to review blogs! So far he reviewed four blogs and if you want more information about blogs, I highly recommend to read these reviews. And the good thing is, there willbe more blog reviews in future!

Larry from OF Blog of the Fallen shared his thoughts about the "Essay: On Book Review Blogs" by Charles Tan over at Bibliophile Stalker. If you want more information and thoughts about changes of blogs then read it. And take part in the discussion by posting your thoughts.

John from Grasping of the Wind has an ongoing post under the tag Inside The Blogosphere which I really appreciate. For this week edition he asked several reviewers about Authors of note, without noteriety.
The answers are like finding a lost treasure. I discovered great "old" authors which are new to me.


In a time long long ago, (before I started to follow blogs and so on) I played a lot of PC- and Console games.
Anno is a series of several strategy games developed by Germany-based Sunflowers Interactive Entertainment Software company. So far ANNO 1602, ANNO 1503, ANNO 1701 have been released for PC. ANNO 1701 : Dawn of Discovery has been released for Nintendo DS. Nowadays, I prefer to play in front of the TV instead on a handheld or a PC. Therefore I'm really happy that based on the new upcoming ANNO 1404 PC version a Wii and NINTENDO DS has been developed. The German WII version is available under title ANNO - Erschaffe eine neue Welt. The English version titled Dawn of Discovery will be released in June 2009.
Now you ask yourself why the hell does this naughty guy fill us with gossip about video games. The answer is quite simple. On Wednesday this week I couldn't wait any longer and I bought ANNO for Wii. And I have no regrets about it. The controls work well, the graphics are a bit comic, due to the limits of the Wii. More importantly, they ported the game mechanism from PC to WII in a great way. Anyway, I am really enjoying it so far.
Please read the IGN game review. They explain a lot better than me why ANNO for Wii is a great game.
After so many words you need a video. Enjoy the ANNO trailer below.


In 2009 I read one of the best books in my life so far: The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruis Zafon. I bought and read the book based on Aidan's review. I'm still grateful for this. There are a lot more reviews available. Google "The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon review" and you get 31,500 hits! Incredible! Now, I am looking forward to reading his next book: The Angel's Game. Instead of a review link you get a book trailer:

John from Grasping of the Wind has an interesting category on his blog called Inside the Blogosphere.
The edition of this week contains the answers from several reviewers to the topic Authors of note, without noteriety. It is worth reading. I discovered "old" authors which are new to me.


When you read a post like this one you are interested in books. And I estimate you are a well-read person. As we all know we can't read everything. So what do you do when you attend an event - party, meeting, whatever - and people start to discuss books you don't know? The simple answer is LIE.
But how to lie about books in an educated way?
Read How to Lie About Books by Jason Henninger. CAUTION - you can catch the giggles...

23 May, 2009

Memorial Day

     Memorial day, in America, is a time to pay tribute to soldiers that have fallen in war. For our international readers, Memorial Day began in the wake of the American civil war, and was later expanded to recognize all soldiers that have fallen in combat. Typically, the members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars accept donations for poppy flowers, a blossom that attained its significance during World War One through a moving poem by John McCrae (1872-1918), entitled In Flanders Field:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

     I think it is important to understand that regardless of political affiliation or one's opinions of American foreign policy, Memorial Day is meant as a simple yet heartfelt tribute to those who served their country, and gave the last full measure of their devotion. In the spirit of memorial day, I am inclined to have you take a look at The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. The novel, above all else, is a meaningful tribute to those who have fallen, and while it criticizes the origins of war, it has nothing but respect for those who have braved its bloody struggles.

22 May, 2009

Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #21

I would like to introduce our newest contributor to Only The Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy: ediFanoB. As I am sure many of you know, he is a great enthusiast of the science fiction and fantasy blogosphere, an avid reader, and a prolific poster. Playing to the admirable amount of time he spends reading our blogs, I asked him to do a weekly roundup of everything he found noteworthy, whether it be news, reviews, or snakiness. And remember, he loves comments! Without further ado, I give you ediFanoB and his certified weekly roundup:

Now I should introduce myself. Mmmmh, ähhhh, mmhhh, .... I don't want to bore you just at the beginning. I have an idea: In case you really want to get more information about me than take the opportunity and read Reader Appreciation Interview - Edifanob from 5th of March ......... I warned you before!


Do you know the most democratic fantasy award, where only voters decide who will win? No? Then it's high time you visit The David Gemmell Legend Award and vote!
"The DGLA will be presented for the very first time in 2009 for the best Fantasy novel of 2008. The award will be given to a work written in the 'spirit' of the late, great David Gemmell, a true Master of Heroic Fantasy." In case you don't know what to read next, just check out the FINAL DGLA Longlist 2008.


This week two films that will be released during 2009 aroused my interest:

by Shane Acker. For additional information look at 9 (2009 film).
If you love movies like Coraline and Corpse Bride then you won't be disappointed. Check out the new 9 trailer below:

Probably the most famous fictional detective in literary history is Sherlock Holmes. I still like the old black and white movies starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Doctor Watson. This year we will get a special Christmas gift from Guy Ritchie: A new Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson. Check out the trailer below:

For me it is like Sherlock Holmes refreshed. I had the same perception when I watched the Star Trek Movie by J.J. Abrams.


So, as stated, I'm a fan of Sherlock Holmes. What do you think about an investigator in a steampunk world? When I read the first reviews of The Affinity Bridge by George Mann I was keen to read it. And to be honest I really liked it. And I wanted more! Fortunately there will be more. Snowbooks signs Mann for six !!
Thanks to Gav from NextRead for the link. George Mann gets gorgeous covers for his books. The next book in the series will be The Osiris Ritual (paperback release in September 2009).
Anyway, here is a great opportunity to discover George Mann. You can get his short story The Shattered Teacup for free either in pdf format or as mp3.

I read a lot of fantasy, but from time to time I need a book that goes beyond fantasy. Most of the time the main characters are male and young. But in 2008 I discovered a series with which I fell in love immediately: Gladdy Gold series by Rita Lakin. Gladdy Gold and her girlfriends live in Fort Lauderdale. That's nothing special. They start to work as private investigators. Still not that special. None of them is younger than 75! That's special. I laughed out loud when I read the first book. It is such a fluffy read with a great sense of humor. Ever read about a rollator race in a shopping mall? Or can you imagine a car full of old ladies out for a whole night of surveillance? Since I started reading these books I'm less afraid of getting older. I look forward to the release of book six Getting Old is Tres Dangereux in November 2009.


Since beginning of the week my google reader is exploding. Of course I follow a lot of blogs. But every day more than 80 new items are being posted! What is going on? It must be the influence of spring. Or do you have another idea why the hell people are posting so much lately.

Have a terrific weekend and enjoy reading...

21 May, 2009

Review: Terminator Salvation Sucks

     Coming hot on the heels of Star Trek, Terminator Salvation had a lot to live up to. Sadly, it didn't... In point of fact, it failed miserably at doing, well, anything beyond making things  explode. The Chicago Sun Times put it aptly when they said: "...All the pleasure of a video game without the bother of having to play it." And let me just say, they nailed it on the head. If you have ever watched a friend play a video game for hours on end without passing the controller over, then you know exactly what it feels like to go watch Terminator Salvation. Save your ten dollars and spend it on something that isn't determined to send you into epileptic shock with its numerous and repetitive action sequences. Hey, even this might be more entertaining. 
     To be sure, if you have followed the other Terminators, there is no way you aren't already waiting outside the movie theater, and, as we speak, you are having an intense debate with someone about some obscure Terminator fact no one else really cares about. That said, don't feel bad, because I was probably the other guy in line, and debating just as hotly as you.
     It isn't easy to watch one of your favorite franchises make a mockery of itself, spin on its head, and waste lots of money to get the plot... exactly nowhere. Sure, the special effects are great, Christian Bale is his usual compelling self, but somehow it just all falls short. Admittedly, my decidedly negative review could all be because I was expecting so much out of Terminator Salvation, and, like the bag on hot air that it is, it just had to drop you on your ass. 

Review: Woken Furies, by R. K. Morgan

     Woken Furies (2005) is the third installment in the action packed Takeshi Kovacs series by Richard Morgan, and is a clear step up over its predecessors. 

The Setup

     While Woken Furies can easily be read as a standalone, you need to read both Altered Carbon and Broken Angels to truly appreciate the depth of the revelations presented. That said, Woken Furies remains a great read in which Mr. Morgan maturing style and skillful character construction will leave you begging for the next installment. 
     Takeshi Kovacs is back on Harlan's World, his onetime home, waging a campaign of indiscriminate slaughter against the priests who killed his one time love. As per usual, a fairly innocuous fight in a restaurant ends up pushing Kovacs straight into the arms of a woman who is none other than a mythical rebellion leader. This time around, other Envoys are involved and the situation promises to get gory, and Mr Morgan promptly delivers.
     Not only is Kovacs set to collide with other Envoys on his moralistic journey, but a re-sleeved, younger copy of himself is out to get him as well. If that isn't enough, well, wait till you see how the Martian technology Kovacs discovered in Broken Angels is put to use. Cunningly orchestrated, Woken Furies is a battle ground for both seething historic forces and morality. If you enjoyed Altered Carbon or Broken Angel's, I'll bet you a book that you will like Woken Furies even more. 

My Take in Brief

     Woken Furies is a definite improvement over its predecessors, both in terms of style, plot, and philosophy. More than at any other point in the series, Takeshi Kovacs comes off as complex and likable. Previously, Mr. Morgan painted himself into a stylistic corner where he was forced to constantly up the suspense and violence to keep the plot ball rolling. I attribute this to the way the author's characters are constructed; they are the embodiment of an inherent contradiction, of competing interests and themes. Somewhat ironically, these inner conflicts are always resolved through outward acts of violence. In Worken Furies Mr. Morgan discovers, to good effect, that its okay to resolve these conflicts internally.
     Beyond the usual acts of gratuitous violence and suspense driven plot, Woken Furies presents the reader with two substantial developments in the context of the series. These are first a refinement of the overarching Quellist philosophy, and second the promise of future interaction with the mythic lost Martian civilization. In my opinion, Woken Furies sets the foundation for a move from the tight focus of military science fiction towards a more complex and compelling space opera. If Mr. Morgan ever decides to shift away from the tight focus on Takeshi Kovacs, he has surely set up what promises to be an epic continuation to the series.

  • Takeshi Kovacs facing off against none other than... himself.
  • A refinement of the socio-political dynamic.
  • Boom, squish, whack, crunch, and kerrrplunk.
  • Falling back on a few of the same literary tricks. 
  • An open ending that promises so much in the next installment.
Your Take

     I am honestly curious to see what people think about the Takeshi Kovacs series as a whole at this point. In my estimation Morgan has really developed as a writer, and I am inclined to wonder if you guys and girls see it that way. I haven't picked up The Steel Remains yet, but I am excited to see what his transition to fantasy looks like.

Ratings and Links

Amazon: 4/5
B&N: 3.75/5
My Rating: 4.25/5

A neat review of Woken Furies over at the Wertzone.

Piqued Your Interest?

Woken Furies, the third installment in the Takeshi Kovacs series, is not to be missed. If you enjoyed Altered Carbon and Broken Angels, then this book is not to book is a must read.


Want this book for free? Done. Just follow these simple giveaway instructions for your chance to win (giveaway runs for five days from the date of posting):

1) E-mail me your name and address with the title of the book as the subject. Snarky comments increase your chances of winning.
2) Sign up for site updates either in RSS or with Friend Connect on the side. This will also let you know about future giveaways; typically 2-3 per week.
3) Think happy thoughts.
4) (OPTIONAL) Share or link to any post on my blog--this earns you brownie points as well as increasing your (if you have made it this far) already significant odds.

19 May, 2009

News: The Gathering Storm Prologue and Blurb

Old News for Some, New to Me

     When browsing the Dragonmount forums I came across a across a synopsis of The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. BenTGainden explains that JordanCon asked people not to record the synopsis of The Gathering Storm, so this is the best we have access to for the moment. If you know of an actual audio copy, don't be scared to spread the love, discreetly. From the description, it is pretty clear to me that people are being called/drawn to the last battle, and are heading "north" to Tarmon Gaidon. 
     Additionally, before Mr. Jordan's recorded reading was presented to the audience, it was introduced by a little blurb, shedding light on the structure and some of the major plot lines. You can find all that underneath this, courtesy of WoTWiki:
     In this epic novel, Robert Jordan’s international bestselling series begins its dramatic conclusion. Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, struggles to unite a fractured network of kingdoms and alliances in preparation for the Last Battle. As he attempts to halt the Seanchan encroachment northward—wishing he could form at least a temporary truce with the invaders—his allies work in desperation to forestall the shadow that seems to be growing within the heart of the Dragon Reborn himself.
      Egwene al’Vere, the Amyrlin Seat of the rebel Aes Sedai, is a captive of the White Tower and subject to the whims of their tyrannical leader. As days tick toward the Seanchan attack she knows is imminent, Egwene works to hold together the disparate factions of Aes Sedai while providing leadership in the face of increasing uncertainty and despair. Her fight will prove the mettle of the Aes Sedai, and her conflict will decide the future of the White Tower—and therefore the world itself.
     If you are a fan of the series make sure to pre-order The Gathering Storm, or you will end up chewing through your fingers when your local bookstore doesn't have it in stock. I can pretty much guarantee that I will have this read and reviewed the day its out, so here is to hoping that the 23 different points of view in the book don't ruin in.

18 May, 2009

Review: Market Forces, R. K. Morgan

      Market Forces (2005) by Richard K. Morgan is a standalone thriller set in the near future, and published by Ballantine Books. If you are familiar with his action packed style, then Market Forces won't disappoint. As a standalone corporate adventure, it marks a definite improvement over both Altered Carbon and Broken Angels.

The Setup

     Think Mad Max minus the post-apocalyptic backdrop, and throw in a little corporate world domination just for kicks. Market Forces showcases the corporate gladiator like you have never seen him before. In a global political reality where "small wars" are harnessed as investments and promotions are earned behind the wheel of supped up cars, the one and only rule of the road is success.
     Meet Chris Faulkner, once part of the seething masses of the impoverished, he has fought tooth and nail to earn his place in Conflict Investment in the corporate world. Now, working for Shorn Enterprises, the most ruthless of them all, he must push the envelope even further to succeed. Corporate rivals, military warlords, and assassination are sown throughout Chris' climb to the top, and once there he has to decide if he wants to keep what's left of his humanity, or take an even bigger share of the profits.

My Take in Brief

     Market Forces is a clean break from the previous Takeshi Kovacs novels and the reader is presented with a much improved style on the part of Mr. Morgan. What felt hard edged and unpolished in Broken Angels is clean and sleek this time around. It is clear to me that his writing has matured, as have his tricks for character development and a plot construction. 
     In Market Forces every character is the embodiment of a contradiction cunningly used to showcase a society that is imprisoned by the excesses of capitalism. The poor are sequestered in the squalor of 'the zones' while the rich lead a life of reckless abandon. Far from dominating though, these political themes discreetly assemble to form a backdrop for a compelling and deeply personal story. Cunning and artful deception on the part of Mr. Morgan leave the reader guessing at every turn, and ultimately propels the protagonist towards a conclusion that is everything but typical. 
     I picked up Market Forces thinking it was another Takeshi Kovacs novel. To my initial disappointment, it was not, but my opinion quickly changed by the end of the first chapter. As tends to happen with most books that I really enjoy, I finished this in under two days and was mightily impressed. The book marks, in my opinion, a great improvement over its predecessors, so if you enjoyed those you are going to love Market Forces. 

  • A future that isn't necessarily so far off the truth.
  • Dynamic and compelling characters.
  • A subtle blend of real politik and actual political theory. 
  • Road-warrior action scenes that put Mad Max to shame. 
  • Mr. Morgan uses the takeaway quite artfully, promising a neat Hollywood ending and instead delivering one of his signature conclusions.
  • Honestly, nothing comes to mind here. Mr. Morgan hit the nail on the head given the limitations of the genre. The SFSite review of Market Forces phrases this a bit differently, so I thought it deserves a mention:
    The book has one serious flaw. The social and economic conditions that Morgan envisions are a result of picking several trends and following them all to their worst-case conclusions. The technique works in that it allows the reader to step inside a world that is demonstrably insane; its inhabitants have lost the ability to discern right from wrong. The few characters who do question the status quo are presented as either ineffectual idealists, arrogant meddlers, or simply disappear by the end of the novel. The playing field is so tilted that Morgan is required to continually increase the levels of tension and violence in order to keep the reader from stopping and seeing the holes in the character's thinking.
Your Take

     Some bloggers and reviews out there are uncomplimentary and I find this difficult to understand. You know what you are getting when you go with Morgan, so don't read it if you don't like his style. Its straightforward, brutal, and feels somewhat like mainlining adrenaline. If that isn't what you are looking for... then don't read it. That said, Market Forces definitely has more depth than its predecessors, and is thus more vulnerable to criticism. 

Ratings and Links

Amazon: 3.25/5
B&N: 3.75/5
My Rating: 4/5

An interview with Richard Morgan at Scifi.com. This covers his previous work and up to Market Forces.
A neat review of Market Forces over at Resolute Reader. 

Piqued Your Interest?

     If you didn't enjoy Altered Carbon or Broken Angels, don't bother. If you did though, I can guarantee that you will really enjoy Market Forces. I am addict at this point. 


Want this book for free? Done. Just follow these simple giveaway instructions for your chance to win (giveaway runs for five days from the date of posting):

1) E-mail me your name and address with the title of the book as the subject. Snarky comments increase your chances of winning.
2) Sign up for site updates either in RSS or with Friend Connect on the side. This will also let you know about future giveaways; typically 2-3 per week.
3) Think happy thoughts.
4) (OPTIONAL) Share or link to any post on my blog--this earns you brownie points as well as increasing your (if you have made it this far) already significant odds.

17 May, 2009

Giveaway Policy: Simple and Sweet

     From now on, I'll be giving away pretty much every book I review on the site. You can find the giveaway rules at the bottom of every post with a "Review: X" tag in front of it. Check out Review: Fallen Angels, by R. K. Morgan for an example. The idea here is for you to take a look at the review to see if you actually want to read the book. If you do then just follow these easy below.
     The whole plan here is to share the books that I really enjoy with you guys and girls. I can't promise that you will love what I love, but hey, your getting a free book out of the deal. The rules are obviously open to changes, and I am most definitely interested in getting some feedback on the rules by others that run contests, so let me know if you think anything needs changing. 

Want this book for free? Done. Just follow these simple giveaway instructions for your chance to win (giveaway runs for five days from the date of posting):

1) E-mail me your name and address with the title of the book as the subject. Snarky comments increase your chances of winning.
2) Sign up for site updates either in RSS or with Friend Connect on the side. This will also let you know about future giveaways; typically 2-3 per week.
3) Think happy thoughts.
4) (OPTIONAL) Share or link to any post on my blog--this earns you brownie points as well as increasing your (if you have made it this far) already significant odds.

After reading it, make sure to leave a comment letting me know what you thought. Go books!

15 May, 2009

Curiosities: Random Awesomeness

As per usual, a look at some interesting articles, pics, and curiosities that I stumbled across during the week. Make sure to check out the last one, I was really into it.

A great article featuring Vernor Vinge on the Singularity and why science fiction writers are becoming increasingly hesitant to predict the future. 

Just in case you wanted to fine tune the difference between Military Science Fiction adn Space Opera.

Now this is science, not fiction, at its best: a lockbox made of DNA

Couple of these out there, but I enjoyed this one. A look at the science in Star Trek

Science fiction and fantasy readings for socialists. A look at the top 50 must reads. Can you name ten before looking at the list?

Lastly, I leave you with some amazing, and I mean truly cool fantasy photo manipulations. Make sure to check these out you won't be sorry. I just with the new Wheel of Time book had something this good...

Review: Broken Angels, by R. K. Morgan

     Broken Angels (2003) is the second book by Richard K. Morgan in the Takeshi Kovacs series, a hard bitting military science fiction adventure that, once again, is sure to leave you breathless.

The Setup

     Broken Angles follows on the action packed Altered Carbon, and it can easily be read as a standalone book. In Broken Angels, we once again find Takeshi Kovacs hard at work trying not to get killed. This time around, the action centers on the discovery of an ancient Martian door that may very well lead to the greatest technological and archeological find in human history. The only problem is that Sanction IV is embroiled in a full out war, and both sides want a piece of the find. Cutthroat corporate executive, re-sleeved black ops operatives, and nano-tech gone rogue make the second installment in the Takeshi Kovacs series one not to be missed. If you enjoyed Altered Carbon, then you are going to love Broken Angels.

My Take in Brief

     Takeshi Kovacs is a brilliantly constructed character. I am hooked to the tension created by his Envoy training and his individuality. That said, Broken Angles is definitely more formulaic than Altered Carbon, and seems to lack some of the grit and realism present in its predecessor. That doesn't make it a poor read, quite the contrary in fact. I attribute that mostly to this book not being set on Old Earth, a setting to which the plot and action were central last time, as opposed to this installment where the setting on Sanction IV appears secondary. The fact that most of the action takes place on a beachhead doesn't help matters much.
     That said, I really enjoyed this book, with its earthy realism and extended cast of secondary characters. Mr. Morgan is quite the expert at brining to life new characters in as few words as possible. Sadly, he is also quite the expert at getting them killed in fairly gruesome ways as well. As usual, nothing is quite what it seems in the world of Takeshi Kovacs, so be ready for the plot to kick into overdrive and leave you gasping for breath as you are pressed down into your reading chair.
     Here is a blurb from Mr. Morgan himself:

"A deeper and darker excursion into the Kovacs universe, more detail on the politics of the Protectorate, the Martians and the Archaeologue Guild. A planetary war, a paradigm-shattering discovery and a journey into the inner reaches of Takeshi's trauma-ridden consciousness.

"If there was ultimately something clean at the end of Altered Carbon, Broken Angels offers no such comfort. You're just lucky if you get out alive. Focus called it 'nasty', and they were right."
  • Boom, squish, splash, crunch.
  • Awesome pace and tempo.
  • I mean come on, its Takeshi Kovacs!
  • The "paradigm-shattering" discovery. It is really cool, no joke.
  • Angry, and self-evolving nano technology.
  • A certain lack of detail in the setting.
  • Slightly formulaic.
  • Again, slightly deus ex, but much cleaner than last time.
Your Take

     I am really curious to see that people though about Broken Angels. I loved the first book, even though it left me feeling like I just avoided a car accident on the highway, and sincerely enjoyed this one as well. Sadly I bought Market Forces thinking it would be another Takeshi Kovacs novel, only to find out it wasn't---its still pretty decent so far though. So, which did you like better: Broken Angels or Altered Carbon?

Ratings and Links

Amazon: 4/5
B&N: 3.5/5
My Rating: 3.8/5

A great review of Broken Angels by MentatJack.
A spot on interview with Richard Morgan by Clarkesworld Magazine.

Piqued Your Interest?

     I love the Takeshi Kovacs series so far and most definitely plan to pick up the third installment soon, so expect a review of that. In the meantime make sure to pick up Altered Carbon if you haven't already, because you are going to love Broken Angels.


Want this book for free? Done. Just follow these simple giveaway instructions for your chance to win (giveaway runs for five days from the date of posting):

1) E-mail me your name and address with the title of the book as the subject. Snarky comments increase your chances of winning.
2) Sign up for site updates either in RSS or with Friend Connect on the side. This will also let you know about future giveaways; typically 2-3 per week. 
3) Think happy thoughts. 
4) (OPTIONAL) Share or link to any post on my blog--this earns you brownie points as well as increasing your (if you have made it this far) already significant odds. 

Congratulations Jake L. on your free copy of Broken Angels. Let us know what you thought when your done reading.

14 May, 2009

News: Amazon Unveils Encore Publishing

     Amazon announced a new initiative to help out the little guy. Have an e-book on Amazon that hasn't sold well but has gotten some amazing reviews? Well, today might be your lucky day. Amazon plans to comb through the overlooked masterpieces and go the whole nine yards with them.
     The AmazonEncore program will see Amazon partner with authors to reboot their works on the scale that they deserve. Amazon will help with the marketing and distribution and republish the book in multiple formats. As far as I can tell, this may lead to an increase in 'fake' reviews, which I alluded to in my post about trusting homegrown book reviews. Then again, this may also vindicate self publishing and lead to a totally new way of finding your next great read.
     The Amazon write-up is below or you can read it direct from Amazon themselves:
Unearthing Exceptional Books and Emerging Authors for More Readers to Enjoy

  Even great books can be overlooked. And authors with great potential often struggle to connect with the larger audience they deserve to reach. We’re fortunate at Amazon.com to have customers who know a good book when they read one, so we've introduced AmazonEncore to help connect authors and their books with more readers.
  AmazonEncore is a new program whereby Amazon will use information such as customer reviews on Amazon.com to identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors with more potential than their sales may indicate. Amazon will then partner with the authors to re-introduce their books to readers through marketing support and distribution into multiple channels and formats, such as the Amazon.com Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store, Audible.com, and national and independent bookstores via third-party wholesalers.

  Our premiere AmazonEncore title, Legacy, written by 14-year-old Cayla Kluver (now 16), had review titles such as "loved it, loved it," "rich lyrical tapestry and story," and "breath-taking in scope and execution!" In addition to raves from customers, Ms. Kluver has won several awards from literary groups. The new version of Legacy will be available in Fall 2009.

Movie: New Poster for District 9

     The Neill Blomkamp science fiction movie, District 9, is due for release in the middle of August, and promises so for far to be highly entertaining. A new poster was just printed for the movie, along with a documentary like teaser which gives a great glimpse of the aliens. 
     From what we can tell so far the movie appears to have a strong political message that seems to parallel South Africa's struggle with apartheid. While I don't mind a bit of politics thrown in with my science fiction, I sincerely hope that Mr. Blomkamp won't push the envelope too far. Then again, watching both the trailer and the teaser I can see how both can be melded into an appreciable viewing experience. Having a somewhat similar feel to Cloverfeild, I can only hope that the ending won't leave us hanging like a wet towel on a sunny day. Make that a very wet towel.
     You can watch the decoded trailer for District 9 (the version I posted before blurred out the aliens face and didn't translate what he was saying) or check out the teaser "Alive in Joburg", which in my opinion  gives you a much cooler view of the aliens. All in all, this promises to be a great flick and I will definitely be at the first showing I can get my hands on, regardless of what the reviews say.

Editorial: The Blockbuster and Popular Perception of Speculative Fiction

     Welcome to the second part of my two part editorial on bias against speculative fiction. In the first part, The Origins of Bias: Speculative Fiction, I gave my brief and admittedly incomplete take on where I believe the bias against science fiction and fantasy originated, how it is propagated, and what I understand to be the objective reasons for its continued existence. Today, I am going to take a brief look at the future of science fiction and fantasy as it relates to popular perception.

An Industry in Decline?

     Facts abound as to the generally poor economic viability of print media in the electronic age. Major newspapers are closing shop, and every week seems to herald the demise of one periodical or another. While, the economic depression has tightened belts across the board, it has also increased consumption of 'escapist' activities. 
     Borders issued a press release that suggested that its science fiction and fantasy titles were among the few that saw growth in the first quarter of 2009. How much of that is due to more people having free time to read or positive spillover from blockbuster movie titles is unclear. What is clear is that science fiction and fantasy are proving to be somewhat resilient in a market that has spared few other niches.
     That said, I09 has a few posts quoting speculative fiction publishing insiders who claim that profits are "way down". Publishing industry statistics suggest that book sales were down close to 2.5% for the year, which to me seems to attenuate, at the very least, the "way down" hypothesis. Anyway, we are here to talk about bias, and popularity is only tangential to the topic, so lets get down to business.

Has the Blockbuster Taken the "G" Out of Geek

     I have no doubt that if you are a fan of speculative fiction, you have gone to see at least one of the major movie releases in the last couple years. You would have to hate movies not to have done so. From any of the comic book franchises such as Spider Man or Iron Man, to the more glorious Lord of the Rings, or the record setting reboot of Star Trek, you are bound to have seen at least one of them. The huge success these franchises have fallen into has surely had some positive spillover on the science fiction and fantasy publishing industry. In fact, just last week they were selling a Star Trek book as I exited the theater. 
     The real question I want to get to is whether or not these movies have led to a shift in popular perception of science fiction and fantasy. Sadly, there is no simple answer to the question. To be sure, given the wide audience that these motion pictures have drawn in, it is safe to assume that it isn't "uncool" to see a sci-fi flick. Quite the contrary indeed if we are to look at the almost 80 million opening weekend that Star Trek achieved.
     Sadly, unless someone would like to fund (or has found) a survey that sounds out people's interest in and view of science fiction and fantasy, my answer to the question is inevitably piecemeal. My personal take is that yes, the spate of awesome movies that have rocked our theaters is shifting perception of the genre. In addition, I think we see a lot of people funneled towards the wider world of science fiction and fantasy through video games and a bold resurgence in the comic book industry.
     With the video game industry expected to outgrow music and movies by 2011, it might be more appropriate to have focused there. But then, video games never impact our popular opinion and collective consciousness nearly as much as movies do. I am reminded here of Activision-Blizzard's World of Warcraft add campaign that, when you boil it down, is telling you that playing a fantasy based massive multiplayer online RPG is the cool thing to do. Boasting a paying player base of nearly twelve million certainly says something about the adds success. 
     I'm going to cut myself short and conclude my two part editorial to let you leave with a laugh after watching Mr. T. I am really interested in what your take is on the current popular view of science fiction and fantasy, so drop a comment if you have the time. 

13 May, 2009

Editorial: Unearthing the Origins and Replication of Bias in Speculative Fiction

     Welcome to the first part of an analysis of the bias against speculative fiction. As eluded to in my introductory post the reasons for bias are both past and present. While some of these have unjustly clung to the genre, others have are indeed merited.

The Past: The Origins of Bias against Speculative Fiction

     Some of the bias against speculative fiction undoubtedly stems from its humble origins in early pulp magazines. "Pulp" magazines, as their name suggests, were printed on cheap wood pulp paper, as opposed to family oriented publications, which were printed on better quality paper and thus were known as "glossies". Pulp printing began in as early as 1900 and at their peak in the 1920's and 1930's sold over a million copies per issue. Despite their success, it is fairly easy to see how the association of 'cheap' and 'fiction' became ingrained in the popular consciousness.
     Additionally, even before the pulp fiction movement, the literary world was already looking down its nose at speculative fiction. The general air of condescension  is exemplified by a critical review of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein (1831). The critic describes the work as: "a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity". To be sure, there were a few complimentary reviews, but most followed the vituperative of our nameless critic. The subsequent popular success of Frankenstein is testimony to the general appeal of well written speculative among the general public. 
     The divide between critical and popular reception has generally been the saving grace of speculative fiction as a whole. As my introductory piece alluded through LeGuin's rant, respected critics often fall prey to old prejudices when reviewing works of science fiction and fantasy. Inevitably, this leads readers to adopt, internalize, and spread a generally unjustified view of speculative fiction as somehow below 'genuine' literature.

The Present: The Good, The Bad, and The Literate

     So far I have failed to draw a distinction between good works of speculative fiction and bad ones. I have avoided this because I am loath to brand any author or work as good or bad, but I am afraid that in the context of this editorial it is necessary. If science fiction and fantasy are to have a respected place among other genres, then they must objectively merit that place.
     I fear that much of the current condescension towards the genre is invariably linked to a daunting overabundance of unimaginative 'pleasure' reading (you know what I'm talking about here). Publishing is, after all is said and done, about maximizing profit. If publishers can cheaply crank out ten market worthy books and turn a profit on them, they will do so. This doesn't mean that a truly good science fiction or fantasy book won't perform much better, but profit is profit.
     Publishers will often want a finished manuscript and at least another book in the series partially completed before they will consider the first. This reduces the likelihood that a great standalone work will get noticed and published. The logic is fairly simple: if its easy to sting fans along through an entire series, let make it a series! To my great disappointment, this happens all too often. A series will start out great and then take a sharp turn downhill. Whether or not this is due to publishers forcing sequels down the throats of their writers or the writers themselves catering to the market is uncertain.
     There are great science fiction and fantasy series out there, but all too often they are hidden on the bookshelf by trilogies that just barely deserve the paper they are written on. I feel that this gives the genre a certain mass market/trashy aura that is not entirely undeserved. This often leads to readers hiding their interest in science fiction and fantasy and thereby further propagating the bias associated with speculative fiction. 

On Norms: The Personality Type of Speculative Fiction Readers

     I could make this a whole other editorial, but I am endeavoring to be brief. It has often been inconclusively speculated that only a certain type of individual reads science fiction and fantasy. In an interesting blog post, Carol Pinchefsky speculates that the Rational personality type is more open to enjoying science fiction and fantasy. She admits however that nurturing plays a significant role in ones predisposition towards the genre.
     More generally, and in America at least, there is a generally accepted norm that pushes individuals to be rational and realistic. Since science fiction and fantasy requires the "willing suspension and disbelief", they can thus be understood as a guilty pleasure that deviates from generally accepted norms. I could go into a whole diatribe here on American norms and values and how they affect society's view of speculative fiction, but I will spare you the academic discourse.
     Thats all from my end. I hope you enjoyed the brief look at bias in speculative fiction. I am sure that I missed a lot, and I hope you will point it out. I am very interested in your opinion here, so let me know why you think there is still a generally pervasive view of science fiction and fantasy as a guilty pleasure. 

12 May, 2009

Editorial: Bias and Speculative Fiction

     You have all seen the slight head shake or heard an offhanded comment when telling someone of your interest in science fiction or fantasy. Maybe it was a downcast look or a snide: "I don't read that kind of stuff", but if you have come out of the closet with your interest in science fiction or fantasy, I would bet my lunch money that you have met with your fair share of upturned eyebrows and forced nods.
     Bias can be defined as:
     Unreservedly, I feel that I am safe in saying that there is still significant bias out there against science fiction and fantasy in its many forms. However, I do not intend to paint those people who legitimately dislike the genre as somehow evil or repulsive. They are entirely entitled to their views, which I will honor and respect. This article is aimed primarily at those who snub the genre, yet have virtually no exposure to it, and consequently propagate a stereotype that is mostly unmerited and just plain wrong.
     The impetus for this post came from reading Calling Utopia a Utopia, by Ursula K. LeGuin (found through Variety SF). Her article, in response to an editorial at the New York times over the death of J. G. Ballard, briefly illustrates the kinds of insidious and inherent bias that can still be found throughout the literary world against speculative fiction. Leading from her article, I am going to discuss and analyze the origins of bias against speculative fiction, and then take a brief look at whether or not sentiment is changing.
     As I don't want to bore all of you with a lengthy diatribe, this discussion will be a two part series structured as follows: "The Origins Past and Present of Bias against Science Fiction and Fantasy" for tomorrow, and "Will the Blockbuster Vindicate Us?" for the day after. I hope that this topic is of interest to you, as I have already found many facts, both historical and psychological that have given me a fascinating new take on the subject. Till tomorrow my fellow enthusiasts!

10 May, 2009

Curiosities: Harry Potter = Star Wars!?

Review: Altered Carbon, by R. K. Morgan

Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon
Altered Carbon (2002) is Richard K. Morgan's debut novel and begins the Takeshi Kovacs series. It is a high adrenaline dystopian science fiction novel that promises to leave you breathless.

Humanity is flung out among the stars, and instead of traveling from planet to planet, people instantly needlecast their conviousness and memories to a new body, at their destination. Death has been eliminated, through resleeving, if you can afford it, or if someone can afford it for you.
Takeshi Kovacs, once a member of the most elite intergalactic force (the Envoys), is needlecast to Earth to serve as a private investigator in the apparent suicide of an immensely powerful man. Violence, sex, and torture mark Takeshi's adrenaline filled journey to the truth, and what a journey it is. Yet, despite his fierce training and penchant for violence, readers will invariably find themselves hooked to Mr. Kovacs, and will be left demanding more.

Before the end of the prologue I was sold, hook, line, and sinker. Altered Carbon is a brilliant mix of military science fiction, and space opera, eloquently framed in a dystopian future earth. Maybe a bit heavy on the tech talk, Richard Morgan nevertheless manages to weave a monumentally compelling tale that demands to be finished the day it was picked up. This book is so gritty, so in your face that it actually hurts. I'm not even talking about the torture scenes -- just the gratuitous violence sequences are enough to make you clench your teeth and give you a sore jaw.
 It is difficult to shake the impression that you are running away from something just as Takeshi Kovacs is running towards his goal. Regardless, this is a work that will thrill just as much as it will raise important theological and theoretical questions. Regardless of your bent and experience with science fiction, I would call this a must read.


  • An action packed adrenaline roller-coaster that leaves you breathless.
  • Compelling characters with realistic motivations.
  • A concise gritty and dystopian vision.
  • AIs, drugs, immortality, and chemically/mechanically enhanced bodies.
  • Great prose that gets you right into the action.

  • The torture scenes can be a bit too intense.
  • A few too many fortuitous encounters and discoveries.
  • A few glossed descriptions of the tech.

Your Take

I understand that this series has a lot of fans and few detractors. It is difficult, maybe impossible not to get sucked into the action and the unforgiving pace. Then again, some of you might have put Altered Carbon down for the simple reason that it was too much. Had you been reading a comfy little fantasy novel prior to this, I can easily understand that impulse.
My one question is whether or not some of the scenes, especially the torture scenes went too far for you -- then again, maybe it was the sex scenes. I know I would be hesitant to recommend this book to anyone under the age of eighteen.


A fun interview with Richard Morgan by Infinity Plus.
A theme based interview on the Failures of Capitalism by io9.
A great in depth review of Altered Carbon by A Dribble of Ink.

Piqued Your Interest?

If you enjoy military science fiction or space opera, this is a must read. I don't doubt that once you have read Altered Carbon you won't be able to stay away from the rest of the Takeshi Kovacs novels.

07 May, 2009

Curiosities: Would You Like to Know More?

     Just a couple fun links that I came across in my bored curiosity internet hunts. If you know of any good ones, go ahead and share. 

  • Ever read a science fiction novel and not understand exactly what the author meant by one of his terms? Check out the nerdiest dictionary of science fiction verbiage ever. Its gets real fun if you look in the "z" section.
  • Old Book Covers from Penguin gives you a great quick look at the past and how covers -- and ideas -- have changed.
  • A pretty awesome pic. Not idea what its from, but if anyone knows, post it up. Seems familiar somehow.

05 May, 2009

The Verdict Is In: Your Top 3 SF/F Books

Update (08/08/2009): 146 people have submitted their top 3, over Twitter, Comments, and the SFF Chronicles Forum.

Go ahead and post your top three science fiction and fantasy books/series in the comments section so we can increase the sample size, and I will edit accordingly. May the best literature win!

Share this post with the button at the bottom!!!

Review: Kushiel's Legacy, by J. Carey

     Kushiel's Legacy, by Jacqueline Carey, is made up of Kushiel's Dart (2001), Kushiel's Chosen (2002), and Kushiel's Avatar (2003). The trilogy follows Phèdre nó Delaunay, a brilliant and stunningly beautiful anguisette, as she saves the kingdom of Terre d'Ange from enemies both foreign and domestic.

The Setup

     Kushiel's Legacy is a rich and deeply intricate work of historical fantasy set in a land similar to that of France, with complex mythologies and religions not far removed from our own. Phèdre begins the series as an indentured courtesan at the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers, where her beauty is marred by a red mote in her left eye. Anafiel Delaunay, a spy extraordinaire, knows that the mote marks Phèdre as one touched by the gods. But being marked by Kushiel, god of suffering and justice, is no easy burden to bare.
     Delaunay buys Phèdre, along with another beautiful courtesan, and begins to train them in the ways of spies and scholars. From court intrigue to foreign invasion, Phèdre uses her cunning and god given gifts to pull Terre d'Ange back from the brink of disaster.

My Take in Brief

     This was a wonderfully rich series that remains truly unpredictable throughout. Phèdre, with her peculiar predilections, makes this a hugely interesting read that is sure to keep your attention. Given, there is more erotica in here than I am accustomed to, but to really understand the protagonists and the world of Terre D'Ange, it would be impossible to gloss over that aspect of the novels. Ultimately, the erotic is only an expression of the greater theme of love, which saturates the novel.
     Then again, the scenes in which Phèdre is taking pleasure from being tortured, often in a sexual way, might scare off some of you (speaking of which, make sure to check out my article on the use of torture in science fiction and fantasy). If you can brave those rough parts though, you will gain a world that is mired in history, and in which the characters are as original as they are endearing. Rarely have I read anyone who builds worlds this eloquently without drowning the reader in tedious detail. A great, rich read that won't let you down.

  • A rich and compelling work of historical fantasy.
  • An naturally flowing yet unpredictable plot.
  • Conspiracies and desperation abound.
  • Vivid and realistic cultures as archetypes form our own history.
  • The emotional detail and originality of the characters.
  • A possible overemphasis on the erotic.
  • A somewhat relaxed tempo.
  • An arch-nemesis that you want to succeed. 
Your Take

     As mentioned, some of you might be slightly put off by some of the, shall we say, more detailed encounters in Carey's work. That said, there is a dedicated fan base, who I agree with, that sees the erotic elements as secondary and necessary to the construction of Terre d'Ange. What's your take on the erotic elements of Kushiel's Legacy?

Ratings and Links

Amazon: 4/5
B&N: 4.2/5.5
SFReviews: 4/5
My Rating: 4/5 (I can't always be different!)

A great and in-depth review of Kushiel's Legacy, by The Alien Next Door.
A fascinating interview with Jacqueline Carey, courtesy of All Things Girl.

Piqued Your Interest?

     This series is worth your time, but I have found that it can be hit or miss with some. If you have your doubts, just go for the first book, Kushiel's Dart, before buying the others. The good news is that if you love the first trilogy, the second trilogy just came out in its entirety, so you will have plenty to read!

04 May, 2009

Review: Storm Front, by Jim Butcher

     Storm Front (2000), by Jim Butcher is the first book of the Dresden Files series, and is published by ROC. With the blockbuster sales of Jim Butcher's recent printing of Turn Coat (2009), I decided to start the series and see what all the fuss was about.

The Setup

     Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a wizard and paranormal consultant extraordinaire. Surrounded by colorful characters Dresden is drawn into a murder investigation that will either see him dead, or see a dark wizard brought to justice. 
     Filled with demons and faeries, the urban fantasy world that Butcher creates is remarkably straightforward and convincing. The strong hand of fate pushes Dresden into the heart of a complex murder investigation involving vampires, mob bosses, call-girls, and even a talking skull. With a strong helping of both magic and desperation, Harry Dresden makes for a colorful character in a series that promises to be as entertaining as it is humorous.

My Take in Brief

     Storm Front boasts a colorful cast of magic, monsters, villains and detectives. What originality it lacks by borrowing from generally accepted stereotypes of vampires and other assorted urban fantasy characters, it more than makes up for in tempo and plot. This a hugely entertaining read, easily polished off in a day or a few evenings; it won't last longer than that because it really draws you in.
     If I were to try and find something to criticize about Butcher's work, and try hard I would have to, it would have to be the few deus ex elements that tend to drive the plot. I can accept my fair share of luck and chance encounters, but Dresden seems to have won the lottery in that respect.
     This is a light and breezy read that is sure to entertain, but lacks the depth and complexity of a finer bodied fantasy. Those experienced science fiction and fantasy readers among you who choose to read this will come out feeling like you do after reading a Harry Potter novel; you will be happy and entertained but know deep down that you have somehow betrayed the true masters you are accustomed to reading. This feeling will not however, prevent you from reading the rest of the series.

  • Dresden is hilarious and yet profound.
  • A host of endearing characters.
  • A great plot and a wonderful tempo.
  • Simple, concise, and eloquent prose. 
  • All the Urban Fantasy creatures you can imagine.
  • Acts of desperation and convincing action sequences.
  • Somewhat stereotypical characters.
  • Dresden has a little too much luck.
  • A certain lack of situational detail, or maybe Chicago really is just bleak.
  • A general young adult feeling that might put some of you off.  

Your Take

     Like most popular series, Storm Front has its detractors and supporters. The sales numbers speak for themselves though, as the book that started the Dresden Files is wildly popular and will invariably suck you into reading the ten other installments. Did you get the same used feeling that I did after reading this? Not that its a bad thing, sometimes its good to be used...

Ratings and Links

Amazon: 4/5
B&N: 4.3/5
My Rating: 3.25/5

A more comprehensive review of Storm Front at Wertzone.
The semi-official Jim Butcher website

Piqued Your Interest?

     If you are looking for a fun and quick read from a trusted author in an ongoing series, then Storm Front is the place to start. If you know that you'll like it, then consider saving some money by buying the omnibus of the first three books, Wizard for Hire