Category Archives: Books

Cibola Burn is out!

Life has been a bit mental recently but I still find time to read thanks to a regular commute and an even more regular bowel.

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

I am currently reading a book by an author I have been meaning to read for years. I am almost ashamed to say that I have quite a few Dan Simmons books on my shelf but have only just started to read one these epic tomes. I have now almost finished reading his space Canterbury Tales-esque novel – Hyperion – and will definitely be reading a hell of a lot more. It is absolutely superb and unless it has an awful ending (which is unlikely as it is the first part of an award winning series) I can recommend it already. I will review it soon.

Cibola Burn by James A Corey

Cibola Burn by James A Corey

This has put me in something of a quandary however, as I normally just plow on if I have started a series I like and I have book two – The Fall of Hyperion – sitting quietly on my kindle.  BUT the next instalment of  James A Corey’s equally brilliant Expanse series is out and is also now on my kindle screaming for attention. In case you haven’t read an of The Expanse series then I should point out that you are wasting your life. I would also suggest that you start with Leviathan Wakes right now. There are also rumours that the series may soon be a TV show, so get in quick if you want to be one of those annoying bastards like myself who always bleats on that “The books are better” to any poor sap that passes by.

I guess this entry is essentially saying – sorry I haven’t written much (I am moving house and country) but here are two books you can be getting on with in the meantime. Well, The Hyperion Cantos is 4 books and so far, so is The Expanse series. So here are eight books to be getting on with. That should be enough. Now if you will excuse me, my kindle and I have to catch the train home and then go to the toilet.

Hugo Award 2014 Nominees Announced

Hugo AwardThe nominees for the Hugo Award 2014 have been announced. If you read a lot of science fiction then this should be fairly exciting news. If nothing else, it should give you some ideas for your next bit of reading (some of which is free – see below).

There is a lot of good stuff here and I am pleased to say, what with my finger being on scifi’s throbbing pulse, I have quite a lot of this stuff on my kindle waiting to be read. With the exception of Vox Day as I don’t like him as a person and will never bother with anything he does (google him.)

Like the Oscars there are a lot of categories which can all be found on the official Hugo Award website. Listed below are the main Hugo Award nominees in the main categories I care most about. Excitingly all the stuff that was published by Tor.com is available for free download or can be read on their awesome website. Read the Tor.com stuff here.

Here are the four Hugo Award categories I am most interested in and the nominees:

Best Novel (1595 nominating ballots)

  • Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
  • Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, Larry Correia (Baen Books)
  • The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books)

Best Novella (847 nominating ballots)

  • The Butcher of Khardov, Dan Wells (Privateer Press)
  • “The Chaplain’s Legacy”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
  • “Equoid”, Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
  • Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)
  • “Wakulla Springs”, Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)

Best Novelette (728 nominating ballots)

  • “Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
  • “The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
  • “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
  • “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
  • “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)

Best Short Story (865 nominating ballots)

  • “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
  • “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)
  • “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
  • “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)

The winners are to be announced at Loncon3 in London on Sunday 17 August 2014. Read on!

James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series to be a Syfy TV show

The Expanse series

The Expanse series

Previously on this site I have highly recommended the James S.A. Corey Expanse series. Because it is fucking awesome. So far three of the books are out, with a fourth due this summer. Read my review of the first book here. The two books that follow are just as good, so you really have a treat in store if you haven’t discovered them yet.

Excitingly, Syfy have just confirmed that they are going to be making the Expanse series into a TV show with each book equalling 10 episodes, much like Game of Thrones. I know Syfy makes and produces some awful shite, like the stuff they do with Asylum movies (although they can be fun), but keep in mind that they also made Eureka, Alphas, and, much more importantly – the new version of Battlestar Galactica.

In Corey’s Expanse books no one zips about faster than light so they are all confined to the solar system. The solar system system is still epically massive though, and the series manages to be pretty exciting space opera with fleets of spaceships and exotic moon bases and so on, all while remaining in familiar, realistic surroundings. The Expanse setting is a believable one and consequently everyone lives in cramped, industrial type conditions while floating through the vast expanses of space. In other words, conditions like the ships in Battlestar. (Or Firefly.) So Syfy might do a good job here if you share my optimism that they will be more BSG and a lot less Sharknado.

Also, the writers – James S. A. Corey is actually two talented fellows called Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck – seem to be able to knock out one Expanse book a year (unlike other series I could mention), so this could run for a while. Quite frankly there aren’t enough decent Science Fiction shows on right now and this one is actually going to be in space! Recently I’ve been having to watch Firefly, BSG, Farscape, Stargate and Trek repeats just to get my space scifi fix.

Hopefully that will change. No pressure Syfy….

 

Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan


I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy recently as I am, like thousands of others, writing a fantasy novel. Fantasy was one of my favourite genres throughout my teens (science fiction predictably being another). It was all sparked by a mixture of reading Conan the Barbarian books and comics and also by the fact that I grew up in the 80s and played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. My childhood was awesome.

Apart from A Game of Thrones and Joe Abercrombie I haven’t really read many new fantasy authors as I have been reading a lot more scifi and historical fiction. So after perusing Amazon (sorry bookshops but your fantasy sections are usually lacking), I came across a new author that seemed to have ridiculously good reviews. His name is Anthony Ryan and the book was his debut novel Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven’s Shadow.

Blood Song revolves around a character called Vaelin al Sorna. The book begins with his dad dropping him off at a school that turns out to be the military wing of the Order. These guys are more than just soldiers though – they are the SAS of their particular Kingdom and Vaelin is the best of them.

The first half of Blood Song is basically just Vaelin and his mates at school. Kind of like a violent Harry Potter. It well enough written that you want to keep going with it and by the second half it really starts to pay off. There are a lot of hints that there is more going on. Politically, the King might not be so great and his daughter might also be up to something (as she is hot and therefore suspicious). The Order itself might not be so great ethically and keeps its fair share of secrets. The element of magic is also slowly weaved into the narrative and there are hints of destiny and things going on that I can’t explain without giving too much away.

These added elements make what was feeling a bit of a ‘been there seen that before’ fantasy tale into something a bit deeper. I’m not necessarily saying deep, but by the end I was sufficiently satisfied that interesting things are afoot.

The characters are great and believable with a variety of individual needs and character arcs. The story is well told and written. The fact that the Faith of the Order is one that worships the spirits of the dead and believes that they are being guided and supported by them is an interesting twist because this allows them to justify killing infidels who believe in a deity.

If you like fantasy books you will very probably enjoy Blood Song. Anthony Ryan spins a good yarn which, although at first feels pretty similar and unoriginal slowly evolves into a pretty damn good story. It certainly had me hooked and I have preordered the sequel. Recommended.
Anthony Ryan’s Amazon US page
Anthony Ryan’s Amazon UK link
 

The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

Where to begin? The unique, bizarre, satirical novel, The Dancers at the End of Time is an experience that is hard to categorise or even explain.

Set millions of years in the future, the book opens with the protagonist, Jherek Carnelian, and his mother, The Iron Orchid, discussing the word “virtuous” on a beach of bleached bones on the shore of a crimson sea after just having had sex. So it is immediately established that the world has changed a fair amount. The characters inhabiting the End of Time are a decadent and dissolute bunch who are immortal and possess almost unlimited power. They amuse themselves by holding ever more elaborate parties in incredible settings. At one such party an alien lands and warns them all that the Earth is about to end along with the entire universe. This is pretty tedious news to the denizens of the distant future as the ‘End of it All’ has been prophesied for so long that it, along with space travel generally, is seen as passé and dull. The alien is consequently ignored.

Into this bizarre immoral society comes Mrs Amelia Underwood – a highly moralistic housewife from the 19th century Brockley. Jherek is fascinated by her and decides to fall in love with and limit himself to just having sex with one person. This is a novel and exciting idea to those from the future and, as it turns out, is quite a challenge.

The Dancers at the End of Time has aliens, time travel, robots, godlike beings, parallel universes and more. It is a tale of the last lovers in the universe and an insane discussion on morality. It is also a bit bonkers in a charming and erudite way with a host of characters and situations that seem almost normal when you are reading it, but sound insane when you are trying explain it to others.

It is actually an omnibus of three novels – An Alien Heat, The Hollow Lands, and The End of All Songs. Consequently, it is a tad long. In my humble opinion, however, that is a good thing. The Dancers at the End of Time is essentially a satirical look at the contrast of Victorian morality clashing with the utterly decadent world at the end of time. It is both funny and inventive. Humanity can now do anything, has done everything, and is just struggling to stay entertained. This results in a stagnant amoral species, that is strangely naive and pointless. By the end of the book you no longer see the opening scene as shocking, it is just the way things are.

I really enjoyed The Dancers at the End of Time but it probably isn’t for everyone. Which is a shame. It’s inventive and fun with some great characters. Recommended.

Game of Thrones Season 4: A Foreshadowing

Game of Thrones Season 4

Game of Thrones Season 4

In case you are into Game of Thrones and are up to date with the show, here is a treat to get you salivating about Season 4. If you aren’t up to date, you are probably wasting your life and should keep up with everyone else.

Game of Thrones: A Foreshadowing is basically a 15 minute feature that explains how things are going to be even more violent and epic than the previous three. Which is quite a feat. It is based on A Storm of Swords, which is the second part of the third book. I have read it and it’s bloody brilliant, and there is indeed quite a lot of action and general epic goings on. There is also a new trailer I have included below that, which was just released today. You’re welcome. Enjoy.


Now here is a second trailer that only came out today!

Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust is the final part of the Wool trilogy. Don’t read this without having read Wool and Shift first. Obviously. It’s a trilogy.

Dust follows on from the end of the previous two Wool trilogies – which sounds odd I know but if you have read the books, then you will know what I mean. It is difficult to review as the Wool series is full of mystery and questions and almost everything I could say would require a major spoiler alert.

So let’s just leave this as a quick review by saying that Dust nicely answers all the questions left over from the previous stories and satisfactorily ties up all the characters’ individual narratives. It is also bloody good and damned exciting. Enjoy.

Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift by Hugh Howey is the second book in the Silo series. The first one was Wool. Both are brilliant.

Shift is actually a prequel that establishes how the whole scenario of people living in underground bunkers in a post-apocalyptic world came about. It ends by running parallel with the end of the first book.

Shift has three principal protagonists – Donald, a man who designed the bunkers and ends up in Silo 1; a guy called Mission who is in a bunker that is on the verge of revolution; and Jimmy, who was in Wool.

Donald’s story begins when he is a senator years before any of the madness started. Thanks to cryogenics, his story spans hundreds of years. We get a lot of questions answered during his tale (and the book as a whole) but more questions are then raised.

To be honest, I’m not all that keen on prequels as you effectively know what is going to happen and who is going to live. While this true with Jimmy’s story, his tale of survival is still a great read. Donald’s story is effectively a whole new scenario where anything can happen. There are some great moments in Shift and some amazing surprises and events. So don’t be too concerned about the whole prequel business.

This is the second book of the trilogy and if I was to be a tiny bit negative, it would be to say that it did feel a little bit like book two of a trilogy (but a superb trilogy). If you know what I mean. As I said, Shift doesn’t suffer from the ‘I know what is going to happen’ common to prequels, but it does feel like the pieces are being aligned for the final act. Having said that, the story is satisfying and intriguing and highly enjoyable in it’s own right.

If you have read Wool and are uncertain whether you should continue with the story then worry no more – read Shift and enjoy. As further ecouragement, you have to read this in order to read book three. Which is the best of the lot.

You can buy Shift on kindle here:Shift by Hugh Howey

Sizes of Scifi Spaceships

I’m not sure why I put “Scifi” in the title there. A comparison of our human space vehicles would be frankly pretty sad.

But I found this fantastic. If you are a science fiction fan you will know 70% or more of these ships. I’ve never been into Warhammer but their vessels look awesome. This has all given me a strange hankering to go and watch some early Lexx and the whole of Farscape all over again. I have provided a link as the image is colossal! Enjoy.

size_comparison___science_fiction_spaceships_by_dirkloechel-d6lfgdf.jpg

Thanks to http://dirkloechel.deviantart.com/art/Size-Comparison-Science-Fiction-spaceships-398790051 for this!