Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson : Review

God-Emperor Kairominas is lord of all he surveys. He has defeated all foes, has united the entire world beneath his rule, and has mastered the arcane arts. He spends his time sparring with his nemesis, who keeps trying to invade Kai’s world.

Except for today. Today, Kai has to go on a date.

One of the things I have come to love about Brandon Sanderson is that he proves with every new release that he is not done growing as a writer and that he isn’t afraid to let his stories get a little weird.  And there is no denying how weird I found Perfect State to be, it is an odd combination of science fiction and fantasy. Throughout all the years that I have been a reader I have only ever found one author who can combine elements of science fiction and fantasy and not have it turn out horrible–Anne Mccaffrey. I probably shouldn’t be as surprised as I am that Brandon Sanderson nailed that combination so well with Perfect State.

In the last 300 years God-Emperor Kairominas has managed to conquer and unify all of his known world, and has managed to master all aspects of his Lancing ability except weather control, and one day he knows he will learn that as well. There is only one thing left in the world he has yet to do, and it has been determined it is time for Kai to find an appropriate mate and procreate. When you have the power of a god you would think that there would be nothing left that could scare you, but Kai is terrified.

Despite the fact that this is a non Cosmere novella– I haven’t been a big fan of the non Cosmere stories Brandon has released so far, Perfect State has turned out to be one of my favorites. Despite being another of his shorter novella’s, I found the world building of Perfect State to be surprisingly solid and detailed without feeling rushed or crammed. Plus, Brandon Sanderson almost wrote a sex scene…I almost dropped my book while I was reading it thinking he was going to take the scene to its conclusion, it’s a very risque book by Brandon’s normal standards!

I really hope Brandon continues the story of this novella in the same way that he has continued the story of Legion and that we really get to see exactly where Kairomina’s story ends up going.

Interview with Larry Niven

I’ve conducted many interviews over the years of running this blog. Some have been with bigger authors than others, and with each of them I’ve had some feelings of nervousness. I tend to gripe about that to those around me in the hours preceding an interview. With this interview, be glad you weren’t anywhere near me in the days leading up to it.

It’s not so much that I am, or was, terrified of Larry Niven. He’s an absolutely sweet guy and a pleasure to chat with. No, the issue came with the 130 or so people who would be watching this interview. I don’t do public speaking… So, for those of you whom will be listening to the audio, I’d like to apologize in advance for how terribly awkward I was.

[For convenience LN = Larry Niven and RL = Rebecca Lovatt, and TD = Tom Doherty].

RL: I’m Rebecca Lovatt, a fantasy reviewer for the Arched Doorway. I am here with Larry Niven, who probably needs no introduction since you are here anyways.

LN: If you need an introduction, check your program book.

RL: Obviously everyone [here] knows who you are, so could you tell us a story about yourself that we don’t know?

LN: Give me a minute. Hmm. Yes I’ve got stories that you don’t know. I’m just trying to select.. Let me tell you a longish story, ok?

RL: Alright.

LN: There’s a movie out, or it came out a few years ago called Battlefield Earth. Many of you are nodding your head, you’ve all seen it. Here’s my story. I’m a judge for the Writers of the Future and Galaxy Press which are Scientologists and I get along with them mostly. It’s easy and they are doing good in the world. They are giving the first big breaks to a number of science fiction writers and other writers too. Anyone who has a pulpish mind could compete for these. 

The rewards are great, not just money, though there’s money… thanks to me. But publicity also. Ok, they made a movie called Battlefield Earth and they were ready to publicise it in their usual way, which was flamboyant and get it done. They invited several, perhaps all, of the judges of Writers of the Future, and they ran a red carpet up and down Hollywood Boulevard, up and across and back down, and put up stadia and invited a lot of fans to sit in the stadia and watch us walk the red carpet.

So that’s the first time that me and my wife Marilyn had done such a thing. It was fun. We go into Grauman’s Chinese which I had been familiar since I was a kid. Grauman’s Chinese now called something else; pavilion in the front, built in the grand style that was popular when movies were just coming on the scene. We collect free popcorn and soft drinks and look around. There are two more judges and their wives, that is Jerry Pournelle and Roberta Pournelle, and Tim Powers and Serena Powers.

We obviously all gather, we don’t see any other judges and we are waiting for the movie to start and Jerry says “What are we going to tell Joni?” Joni Labaqui is the publicity director for Galaxy Press–and for Battlefield Earth of course. There is no avoiding her because we are going to be crossing the street and have dinner in the building next door. The Galaxy Press building. Jerry says “cause the movies going to be awful” and we all nod our heads. There’s a ghastly silence and I said “I’m going to tell the exact truth” and Tim says ‘that’s horrible idea’, and tells an awful story about rejecting a bad story as a judge and then lying to the guy who had written it.

Now the movie comes on, and many of you have seen it, it’s wild, and Jerry’s position is that the guy who played the head villain was the only big name they actually had, because he’s a Scientologist, and nobody was willing to tell him when he was overacting. So you saw the movie, make your own judgement. The movie ends and we spill toward the restrooms. A young lady intercepted me and says she was Joni’s acolyte and how did I like the movie? And I said, “I came expecting to have a wonderful time and I did.”

We use the restrooms and we spill out into the lobby. I link up with Marilyn, we find Jerry and Roberta outdoors and Jerry says “did Joni’s acolyte get to you?” and I said “Yeah.” and I told him what I said and Jerry laughed. And then Tim and Serena appear, and Tim is distraught; he’s in great distress, Joni’s acolyte got to him and asked him how he liked the movie, and he said “it was the best thing since Shakespeare.” Or some such, he said “it was a wonderful work of art and bound to win an Oscar.” She said she wanted to videotape him. Jerry then says, “Niven is a master of diplomacy” and told Tim what I had said–came expecting to have a wonderful time and I did. That was that, until the next morning because we went to dinner but we didn’t run across Joni.

Joni Labaqui phones me at 10AM at my office at home and she says, “What did you think of the movie?” and I said that “I came expecting to have a wonderful time and I did.” and Joni laughs like a maniac and then she says “that is exactly what Tim Powers told me.” You’re never going to read this story because I don’t dare write it.

RL: Alright thank you for that.

So Ringworld, you returned back to that in 2009 with Ringworld’s children..

LN: Oh okay, I have trouble keeping track. 

RL: So what was it like returning back to that?

LN: Uhm, it went like this–Ringworld in 1970 I think, and then Ringworld Engineer is 10 years later, and then the Ringworld Throne 15 years later, and then Ringworld’s Children not very long after that. A few years, a couple of years, I don’t know. 

Ringworld and Ringworld Engineers… Robert Heinlein said they read like one long novel, which I thought was wonderful. Particularly since it had taken me so long to write the sequel.  This is David Gerrold style, if you guy’s have been following The War Against the Chtorr you probably got old doing it. That’s the way it was with the Ringworld series.

The Ringworld Throne… that’s when Barbara Hambley phoned me and said “I’m putting together an anthology of women vampire stories called Sisters of the Night, and two of my regulars bailed out. Would you give me a vampire story?” I said, “I don’t do vampire stories.”

She said Ringworld vampires from Ringworld Engineers and I started thinking and a whole novel involved, including a novella that was too big for her book so she had to publish a section of it.

Ringworld’s Children emerged from the internet, there’s a website that exists just to discuss my stuff, at least on the surface and they were arguing about ‘Could Seeker have had a child from Teela Brown?’. The answer to that one was no, but they had the wrong answer, you don’t get a story out of me unless you’ve got the wrong answer.

Lets see that’s the story of the Ringworld Sequence up until Ed Firman wanted to write stories that started with the Fleet of Worlds as described in Ringworld. Ed wrote five books essentially with me, but using my stuff and without much input from me in the way of text. The last one followed Ringworld’s Children. You’re up to speed on the Ringworld without those stories, you can read them for fun, they are good, but canonical they are not quite.

RL: Alright thank you, and I believe after almost every one you’ve said you will not be writing more in the series.

LN: That’s correct.

RL: Will you be writing more in the series?

LN: Just like I have been telling you for about 40 years now, I am not going to write more in the series.

RL: Any hints as to when we can look forward to you not writing more in the series?

LN: I have no ambition to write more about the Ringworld. I sent it out of sight, it’s out of reach of known space, and let’s leave it that way.

RL: Alright then, is there anything you are currently working on, or anything we can look forward to from you that’s not Ringworld related?

LN: Sure. You’ve seen the Dream Park series? There are four books in Dream Park and Steven Barnes is tired of them, my collaborator. Steven wanted to write a swords and sorcery novel and that sounded like fun. We set it in the Magic Goes Away series, in which history shows that magic grows less powerful as you approach the present. It’s called the Seascape Tattoo. Let me tell you about the Seascape Tattoo, we’ve got a character who resembles Conan the Sumerian and his name is Aros. Aros has got lot’s of scars, and some of those scars he’s had them tattooed. 

[Larry stood up and began pointing to different parts of his chest at this point. I’m also not sure on the spelling of the character’s name. Aros could be wrong.]

Your first sight of Aros is without a shirt, he’s got a seascape with ships down here, and a sun up here and maybe there are two suns because he got bitten by some spiders once upon a time and that left marks, and he got slashed with a sword. It’s easy to see he got slashed by a sword because that’s the horizon, and ships down here.

Sounds like a detail but we made a good use of the seascape tattoo, and there is some time travel involved and some magic. Aros is one of the main characters and the other is a wizard. They don’t get along too well at first. You’ll be seeing this in maybe a year, we want to fiddle with the ending. What else? You’ve seen Shipstar and The Bowl of Heaven, read The Bowl of Heaven first because this is a two-part novel. Steven, Jerry Pournelle and I are working on a novel. We’re just getting it started. This is set in the Legacy of Heorot universe, I guess this is a good time to apologise for that title, it is my fault.

Jerry and I were going to write a short story with intent to win a Nebula Award, and we chose a high falutin title that only an English student would recognise, and I regret we kept it. But it’s a good series, it’s among the best things I’ve done and we did it with Steven Barnes, and did a lot of lecturing. It was a crazy scene, Steve would appear with a block of text on his computer and Jerry and I would tear into it and rebuild it. And that’s an awful experience, except it’s also an education, and Steve took it as an education.

We did that with what is by now two novels plus a novella called the Secret of Blackship Island that is only on your computer. Plus the one we’ve just started which doesn’t have a name yet.

RL: Alright thank you, I know I for sure am looking forward to those, and I reckon there is probably one or two people in here who are as well. 

As you’re speaking of collaborators… What are some of the challenges that you face when you’re with new authors that you are collaborating with, or just in general when you are doing collaborative works?

LN: I do a lot of collaboration and I like it. But every collaboration is different from all the others. There are a few basic rules and I wrote about them once 20 or 30 years ago and they haven’t changed much. You don’t collaborate with a novice, and you don’t collaborate with someone you don’t trust to come through. You get that trust by talking about a collaboration until you are both sure. That is recreation, you are not doing work until you write text, you’ve got to think of it that way. 

You’re going to do about 80 percent of the work, collaborations are about 160 percent as much work as a solo flight, because of the interaction factor. You’re doing it to get a better book, if you think you can do it better alone you should write it alone. This has worked out for me throughout my entire career.

Including the first novel which was written totally for fun with David Gerrold, the Flying Sorcerer’s, with a title like that you know it’s not intended to be serious. We rebuilt the space program using balloons on another world, a world of two suns.

What was the question again?

RL: What are some of the challenges you face on collaborative works?

LN: Yeah, challenges with collaborators. It’s the communication thing. Let me tell you this, tell you a little long… Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett were within range of me, because they were publicizing Good Omens. A book I highly recommend, it’s wonderful. I have read it more than once, and that’s unusual.

Terry’s plane had been delayed by six hours, I took him home, I didn’t know what we were going to do there but it wound up we started talking collaboration, and we were going to write a book together involving a beanstalk. We had a lot of fun, but at the end of it were weren’t going to write it. Writing it with Terry Pratchett would have been a disaster, he writes so much faster than I do.

He would have run away from me and it would have been all Terry. That is the only challenge I can lay out as something you’ve got to face, if your pacing is different you’re in trouble. If your collaborator gets a stroke you’re in trouble. So you may have to face finishing it yourself, that’s not my story, that’s Arthur Clarke and Frederik Pohl. 

Frederik Pohl finished it for the title. His most recent Frederik Pohl and Arthur C. Clarke, but by then Clarke was not able to write anymore and what Frederick started with was a handful of notes. You’re taking a chance when you start a book of your own as well. You don’t know you’re capable of finishing it, you always could before if you’ve got a record. But your first one, god knows.

My first was a novella that appeared in Worlds Of Tomorrow magazine, and Fred Pohl took it down to Betty Ballantine and suggested it could become a novel. I didn’t know how to expand it into a novel, I didn’t know I could do that. It turned out I could, but it’s just under 60,000 words which is tiny by today’s standards. Writing is a risk, if you’re going to do it, don’t do a collaboration yet if you’re just starting.

Particularly don’t do it with someone who is just starting, because he doesn’t know and you don’t know and it’s a big risk.

RL: Alright, just keeping with that last bit do you have any other advice for people who may be looking to get into writing perhaps? 

LN: Ok. I ran across a woman at a convention party room and she said as follows. When we got into conversation she said ‘I’ve talked to some of the best writers in the field. I’ve talked to Anne McCaffrey, Gordy Dixon and several big names and they gave me advice on how to write and I still can’t seem to produce anything.’ 

And I said tell me a story, and she blocked. If you don’t have a story there is no point in getting good advice. What else could I tell you? There are mechanics you need to understand, and the truth is, I don’t anymore. My memory reaches back to when the tools of a writers trade included a reel of paper and the delusion that you were talented. I got that off a cartoon, but also you needed scissors and scotch tape. You’d use those instead of rewriting a whole page to fix one line. you need lines that were that much apart [he indicated with his fingers] so you’d have room for notes scribbled in. That was for your first draft and intermediate drafts.

Your final draft had to look neat, so you had to do it all over again. Everyone my age remembers whiteout, which is used to erase, and lots of people my age remember the selectric II typewriter, which would do your erasing for you. There were two ribbons, one was whiteout. You would type the whiteout letter over the one you wanted to remove, and it would be blocked, not gone. You could still tell it was there but you could fix it. And Jerry once reminded me that if you hit the wrong letter at the start of a sentence you would spend a few seconds trying to rewrite the sentence trying to start with that letter. I’m reminding some of you, and telling the rest of you that this was the way it was before computers. Computers are wonderful.

Advice for writers? Get yourselves a computer and understand computers. Harlan Ellison still writes with a typewriter but I don’t recommend this. In fact I don’t recommend trying to write like Harlan Ellison. It’s too difficult, and certainly never try to write like Ray Bradbury, it is too difficult.  Ray has ruined a lot of good writers.

RL: Thank you, and can you tell us about Niven’s Law? 

LN: Well, sure, why not? Niven’s Laws have changed over the years, but these are what I figured are basic truths. Not always though, one of the basic truths is to never let a waiter escape. A waiter hovering over your elbows while you’re in deep conversation is rude, don’t do that.  Remember that the waiter doesn’t have to come back, or doesn’t have to come back at your convenience.

But basics, Niven’s Laws One: A and B. Never throw shit at an armed man. Never stand next to somebody who’s throwing shit at an armed man. Most of you probably don’t remember the 1964 democratic national convention in Chicago. Outside there were people called Yippies and they were throwing shit in baggies at the policemen, forgetting that the uniform doesn’t matter if you go straight to the hind frame through the nose. It’s basic.

Lets see… I’m not remembering all of Niven’s Laws, but there is an important one and it’s wordy, sorry about that. Sorry about that, I always try to be as concise as I can, always. But there is no cause so truthful, so good, so clearly virtuous that you cannot find a fool following. Next time you liberals read some quote from Rush Limbaugh remember that there are  conservatives who are as bright as you are. You can always find a fool following a cause you want to denigrate.

Others… well there’s Fuzzy Pink’s Law, my wife’s law is never waste calories. whether you eat that hot fudge sundae is up to your doctor and your dietitian, but whether you eat a bad hot fudge sundae is a violation.

As for the rest of Niven’s Laws you can find them. There is a book called Niven’s Laws that was put out by one of the convention publishers.

RL: Alright thank you very much, and what would you say your proudest moment has been over the course of your writing career?

LN: I’ve been told that I am this year’s Grand Master for the Science Fiction Writers of America. I’m very proud of that, but I was very proud of my first Hugo Award for Neutron Star, and all subsequent Hugo Awards too. I think that stopped around 1975, I haven’t had a Hugo in a dog’s lifetime, in two dog’s lifetimes. But I’ve won other awards, but those I think were the most important. That first Hugo really nailed that for me, I was going to be a writer.

RL: I think by the time you’ve won a Hugo you probably already are a writer.

LN: Yeah, and you wouldn’t think I’d need verification, and you’d be probably right. Getting published was a very proud moment. A check for 25 bucks from Frederick Pohl for the Coldest Place, a story that was obsolete before it was published. Many or most of you know that story–the coldest place in the solar system was supposed to be the back side of Mercury because Mercury was supposed to be a one face world. Facing the sun with just one face as the Moon faces the Earth with just one face, and then some Russian scientist demonstrated that Mercury can’t keep an atmosphere it’s too small. It loses its atmosphere at all times, the difference is that Mercury is close enough to pick up more atmosphere, hydrogen atoms, protons from the solar wind at all times. So there will be an atmosphere to carry heat from the hot side. 

That was the problem till someone else demonstrated that Mercury rotates one and a half times per year so that there aren’t any spaces on Mercury that don’t see sunlight except at the poles.

So, obsolete.

RL: And I’m going to ask you a question that you probably aren’t going to like. Who is your favorite author?

LN: How many people do I want to insult? No I can’t name a favorite author. In particular I have this software problem, or character flaw, I can’t remember peoples names easily. So by the time a new writer has established himself I still haven’t memorized his name. I haven’t memorized his name until he is middle aged author. So I would be ignoring some really good writers. 

There is one called Stephenson? Snow Crash.

RL: Neal Stephenson 

LN: Yeah, I like him very much. Once upon a time, no writer really likes to name all writers he doesn’t like as much as this one. Arthur C. Clarke was in town and do for a party to be held at Jerry Pournelle’s that night, but that morning he was on a radio show and they asked him “who’s your favorite writer?” He said “Larry Niven”, and then he had to apologise to Jerry. In fact he felt called on to apologise to Jerry, who forgave him almost at once. 

RL: Thanks, and my apologies for that. So of all of your books, which one would you say was the most difficult one to write?

LN: That’s easy, there was Destiny’s Road. I had this neat idea for a spacecraft that leaves a colony, winding around to leave a lava surface as a road for future generations and disappears off into the distance and never comes back. 

Pick it up 200 years later with a kid growing up and write a man’s life story. A life story in fiction is likely to be until he is in his 30s or 40s, because you probably don’t want to carry on till his death. I didn’t at any rate, but I flinched from writing a man’s life story. Robert Heinlein did it all the time, I had never done it before.

I turned in Destiny’s Road four years after the contract lapsed, and occasionally it got mentioned by Bob Gleeson and Tom Doherty, but they never nagged me. I guess they had faith I’d come through, or else their business plans included a few failures. At any rate I’m extremely proud of Destiny’s Road, and there was a reviewer who said ‘Niven usually does fireworks. He doesn’t in this book, but without the fireworks going, by god the man could sing.’

As I say I’m proud of it. 

RL: That’s awesome, and you should be proud of it. It’s a good read.

LN: Thank you. 

RL: Which do you prefer, ebooks or paperback?

LN: Ebooks or paperback? Of course there are three choices, the third being hardback.

RL: I just meant physical copies…

LN: I don’t have a preference, I’ll sell it to you in any form. I like ebooks a lot more than the publishers do; the publishers are having trouble with their sales. I’ve talked with Tom Doherty on this and his take is that it’s ruining the field. It’s destroying the bookstores, people used to wander into bookstores because bookstores used to be right next to the bakery or something. 

And if they wandered in they would walk out with a book, they don’t do that anymore. They have to consciously want to buy a book and go looking for it, or something that will suit. That’s Tom’s take and I don’t say he’s wrong.

TD: I didn’t say that ebooks were ruining bookstores, what I said was they served a different need entirely. What they do — if you know what you want they are great. They are not great for discovery, there is too much out there. It’s like finding needles in haystacks, if you don’t know what you want. If you want your backlist, it’s great; you can look there and find it all. But for new authors it’s much harder, there is good stuff out there but there is an awful lot of bad stuff too. 

We get a lot of feedback on Tor.com and people are so disappointed by the last three books they bought, because they bought books from just a couple of lines. They weren’t edited, they weren’t polished, and the person didn’t have a particular talent. Now there’s very talented people out there too, but it’s very hard to take the time to tell the difference on the internet.

LN: If you heard that, good. If not, Tom will be around and he’s going to be on panels so you can get this elaborated. The one thing he said that is well-worth noticing… and what was it? Sorry guys it’s Saturday morning after a Friday night with a lot of music. 

My point however is… I work through my agent Eleanor Wood, who puts my lapsed stories from my backlist onto the internet, and I’m getting 85 percent royalties. I got 4 percent royalties from World of Ptavvs (my first novel), and I’m used to getting 8. It’s hard to fight that Tom.

TD: It’s hard to fight that if you’re Larry Niven, and people are looking for your stuff. 

LN: Yeah, that’s the point I wanted to make. Tom’s point is that if you’re a well-established writer everything is golden for you on the internet. If you are a novice, how are you going to get noticed? Your editor from a magazine isn’t going to run down the street to Betty Ballantine with a something that could become a novel. Betty is in another field now, and the bookstores keep closing, and the publishers need to notice you.

People complain about the editors these days, they aren’t doing as much work to produce a really good book out of something that is the high end of mediocre. They used to do that, well Bob Gleeson still does that, but they don’t all.

RL: Thank you, and I have to say it’s probably quite nice having the person you’re quoting in the audience to correct you as you quote them.

LN: Yeah, I was hoping that would happen.

[The second half of the interview was a Q&A with the audience. If you’d like to listen to that. It starts around the 38:30 mark.]

RL: Alright, thank you everyone for coming to listen, and thank you Mr. Niven!

Willful Child by Steven Erikson : Review


These are the voyages of the starship, A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life life-forms, to boldly blow the…

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback – a kind of James T Kirk crossed with ‘American Dad’ – and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space’.

I really wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy Willful Child when I received it, I do not read that much sci-fi, and while I’m in the middle of reading Steven Erikson’s Malazan books, I’m not a huge fan. It took me awhile to get started on the book because of those two facts, and I’m a little upset with myself for waiting so long to start it. The first thing I remember feeling after finishing it, was a little bit of shock at a science fiction book that didn’t take itself too seriously.

One of the most important things to mention here–at least to me, is that Willful Child was nothing like anything Erikson has written before, its hard to believe it was written by the same author. First of all, while it was not a simple book, it was a really easy book to get into and read. You don’t sit there  trying to piece together exactly whats going on in the  world, it’s laid out pretty clearly in the beginning. I was happy to be reading an Erikson book with a learning curve that wasn’t too steep.

Willful Child follows the exploits of the incorrigible Captain Hadrian Sawback and his ill-chosen crew aboard the A.S.F Willful Child on a mission to seek out and stop a smuggling operation in the Blarad System. It only takes you a handful of paragraphs before you realize this book is one giant Star Trek parody, and that is about where I first started laughing so hard I choked. Hadrian Sawback is quite possibly the best and worst starship captain I have ever read about. If the fact that he crewed his ship with a mix of incompetent family members and buxom women doesn’t give you that feeling right away, the suspicion you’ll probably get right away is that he most likely lied and cheated his way through officers school to get his ship probably will.

The best thing I think I can really say about this book is just how funny I found it to be, I laughed my entire read through it. First you have the sexist Captain Hadrian who probably picked his crew out of a modelling catalog. Then there is the ridiculous sounding, yet almost believable technology they use. Instead of using some sort of teleportation device they use the Insisteon, which doesn’t teleport you to another ship, but argues with the universe and insists that: no Captain Hadrian is not on his ship anymore, he is already on that ship, and the universe just needs to accept that fact.

I don’t think there is anyone I wouldn’t recommend this book to, whether or not they are a fan of the genre and author. The cleverly played humor and the well-written story is enough to make Willful Child more than enjoyable by anyone. If Erikson doesn’t make a sequel, I’m going to be more than disappointed, I’ve already checked several times to see if one has been mention yet.

Willful Child is scheduled to be published November 4th by Tor Books.

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


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Black Out by Tim Curran : Review


In the midst of a beautiful summer, in a perfectly American suburban middle-class neighborhood, a faraway evil is lurking, waiting to strike the unsuspecting residents.

First come the flashing lights, then the heavy rains, high winds, and finally a total blackout. But that’s only the beginning…

When the whipping black tentacles fall from the sky and begin snatching people at random, the denizens of Piccamore Way must discover the terrifying truth of what these beings have planned for the human race.

Blackout by Tim Curran is one of the newest stories in DarkFuse’s popular novella line and so far my favorite out of those I have read. With it Tim Curran tells the story of what happens when the power goes out and does not come back on again, of what happens when the stars vanish from the sky and a darkness so thick and menacing you can almost feel it descends upon the world. It asks the question of what do you do when the people around you start vanishing one by one, and those you would hope to rely on in such a situation are no where to be found. Blackout tells the story of one middle aged man and his attempt to survive what he believes to be the end of humanity.

Jon believes he lives the perfect middle-American life in the perfectly middle-class and perfectly dull neighborhood of Piccamore Way and he is completely fine with that. He is past the age of wanting excitement in his life and is content with the predictable lifestyle he now shared with his wife Kathy. That all changes when Jon wakes up one night to an almost unnaturally severe thunderstorm to find his wife missing and his neighborhood in the middle of a blackout. While searching for his wife Jon soon finds himself trying to survive with a small band of survivors who are desperately trying to evade the horrifying tentacles that have dropped from the inky blackness above and started yanking them into an unknown fate into the sky. Throughout all this Jon keeps asking himself just one question, will he ever see his wife again?

With Blackout Tim Curran wrote the perfect horror novella for me, it was just the right length to leave me feeling satisfied and while it kept you guessing at what was really going on the entire time, the conclusion was more than satisfying. It just left me with only one question, and that was why had I never heard of this author before? I would recommend this book to just about anyone who is a fan of the horror genre, and suggest to people that Tim Curran is an author to check out. You will not be disappointed!

Blackout by Tim Curran is set to be released August 19th by DarkFuse.

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

No Return by Zachary Jernigan : Review


On Jeroun, there is no question as to whether God exists–only what his intentions are.

Under the looming judgment of Adrash and his ultimate weapon–a string of spinning spheres beside the moon known as The Needle–warring factions of white and black suits prove their opposition to the orbiting god with the great fighting tournament of Tchootoo, on the far side of Jeroun’s only inhabitable continent.

From the Thirteenth Order of Black Suits comes Vedas, a young master of martial arts, laden with guilt over the death of one of his students. Traveling with him are Churls, a warrior woman and mercenary haunted by the ghost of her daughter, and Manshep, a constructed man made of modular spheres possessed by the foul spirit of his creator. Together they must brave their own demons, as well as thieves, mages, beasts, dearth, and hardship on the perilous road to Tchootoo, and the bloody sectarian battle that is sure to follow.

On the other side of the world, unbeknownst to the travelers, Ebn and Pol of the Royal Outbound Mages (astronauts using Alchemical magic to achieve space flight) have formed a plan to appease Adrash and bring peace to the planet. But Ebn and Pol each have their own clandestine agendas–which may call down the wrath of the very god they hope to woo.

Who may know the mind of God? And who in their right mind would seek to defy him? Gritty, erotic, and fast-paced, author Zachary Jernigan takes you on a sensuous ride through a world at the knife-edge of salvation and destruction, in one of the year’s most exciting fantasy epics.

I want to start this by saying that this was a difficult book for me to read, and even more so for me to write this review, so please bear with me.

No Return by Zachary Jernigan is certainly an interesting read; filled with excellent world building, descriptive writing, dynamic characters and with fantastically written fantastic scenes, realistic and brutal,  Jernigan has shown himself to be a talented and creative writer.

Jernigan’s novel was refreshingly unique, setting itself apart from many of the other novels, with a complex world, races, and magic system. Jernigan manages to describe and explore them thoroughly even though the novel is quite short. He manages to keep the writing simplistic, not going into too much detail and explanation, which works quite well as there’s a lot going on within the novel. Jernigan’s novel is an interesting sci-fi and fantasy hybrid.

The thing I was asked to take note of by the author was any feminism/to look at it through a feminist perspective, and it’s something I’m struggling with. His female characters were well-written, and they were by no means inferior to the male characters. They’re strong (physically, and politically), well-written, and compared to many other female characters in literature, quite well done. The line just goes fuzzy however, with the sexualization of the text.

There were quite a few sections in this novel where I had a difficult time getting through, and in a few of those instances, had to put the book down for a few days before attempting it again to get through those parts. I personally have a preference to not read sexually explicit scenes, especially descriptive ones… And to say there were a couple of those in No Return would be an understatement. They’re just not scenes I enjoy read, or have any interest in reading… If I wished to, I would go pick up an erotica novel.

To be fair though, I had been warned about these scenes prior to agreeing to read and review it.. These scenes, (again, for me… What holds true for in these matters by no means dictates that others would agree) detracted from the story, and stopped me from thoroughly enjoying the novel. Without them, or at least, without them being quite as numerous as they are, I believe I would have absolutely loved the book. However, as they are predominant throughout the novel, I don’t think it’s something that I can easily recommend to anyone.

The ending of this novel will leave readers wanting to know more about the world, and the characters in general, though the novel can be read as a standalone. However, I believe Jernigan will be writing a sequel as well. Will I read it? Probably. Jernigan has shown himself to have a unique flair, setting his novel apart from the rest of the genre.

Unidentified Funny Objects – Crowdfunding Anthologies

With the increased popularity in crowdfunding, opportunities have opened up for independent publishers to pursue writing projects that previously had been unfeasible. Today I’m going to go into detail about a project called U.F.O. (Unidentified Funny Objects). This project is fascinating to me because it merges several genres that so rarely seem to coincide: fantasy, sci-fi and the game changer, comedy!

For an individual who has never really read much comedy, this is rather intriguing for me. It offers a chance to read great fantasy stories that I am used to and love, only with a comedic twist. We’ve enlisted Alex Shvartsman to tell us a little about his anthology and what makes it work.

Alex was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding UFO2; his current campaign.

What made you decide to create this anthology? It’s a rather unique anthology in today’s market.

A: That’s just it — there is nothing else like it, despite the ample evidence that readers enjoy such fare. There are precious few pro-paying markets that are publishing humorous SF/F. This was frustrating to me as a writer who primarily pens funny stories, and I set out to fill the niche.

So this is the second volume in the U.F.O. series. I understand the first one was a Kickstarter funded project as well. What have you learned from the process and how have you improved since last time around?

A: One of the tough lessons I learned from the first time around is that crowdfunding is hard work. You have to constantly put your project out there, seeking out new audiences and reminding the people who might be interested but haven’t pledged yet that you’re out there. I spend over an hour a day working on various aspects of the Kickstarter campaign: writing updates, contacting bloggers and reviewers who might be amenable to promoting it, and communicating with readers through e-mail and social media. And that’s just during the campaign — the really hard work comes afterward.

Creating a crowd-funded project is a little bit like being a CEO of a publicly traded company. You make the decisions, but you are responsible to your shareholders. And while Kickstarter backers can’t fire me, they can certainly choose not to support my future projects if they are not happy with what their money helped create.

What type of comedy really works for you as a reader? Is there any particular style that is predominantly present in this collection?

A: I like a wide variety of styles, but am especially partial to sarcasm. An engaging character with a great voice who is approaching the world with several extra-large grains of salt will win me over, every time.

Having said that,I set out to collect a wide variety of styles for UFO. What works for me may not be funny to you, and vice versa. So I am looking for great stories with humor elements, something a reader can enjoy even if they don’t find it particularly funny. Based on the feedback I got, this worked for the first book. I don’t know anyone who loved every single story in it, but everyone I talked to enjoyed the majority of the content, and had a few favorites, which were different stories for each reader.

Without giving away too much, can you tell us a bit about one of the stories?

A: I’m very fond of the story by Ken Liu that will appear in UFO2, titled “The MSG Golem.” It it, God starts talking to a little Chinese girl who is vacationing on an interstellar cruise-ship. He instructs her to build a mini-golem and have it chase down the rats that are infesting the spaceship. This story manages to question the sensitive subjects of cultural identity and religion in a way that is wickedly funny but not offensive. The first time I read it was on a subway and I must’ve scared some of my fellow commuters by snorting/laughing into my Kindle.

Will these stories appeal to someone who loves comedy but doesn’t really read the fantasy genre all too much?

A: The goal is to offer something that will appeal to everyone. I want each story to surprise and delight the reader. A variety of voices, genres, and styles to keep things fresh and interesting. I happen to think it will appeal to anyone who enjoys humorous stories, but I’m biased!

I appreciate you taking the time to step away from your current Kickstarter campaign to talk with us today. I along with the team of Arched Doorway wish you and your anthology all of the best!

After having learned a little about this great project, I would like to encourage readers to checkout a crowdfunding site and consider being apart of these great opportunities to create something that is entirely new. I’ve always been a strong advocate of quality work given a new twist, and these types of projects are great sources for a breath of fresh air.

UFO successfully funded their first anthology, and now are on the way to doing so with UFO2. The first of the below links will take you to the campaign page.

Some projects I am currently aware of that I would strongly recommend you give a look and consider backing:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/776571295/unidentified-funny-objects-2-anthology-of-humorous – A great guy and friend of mine and the man behind U.F.O.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1891800025/the-awakened-an-epic-fantasy-anthology?ref=category – An interesting fantasy anthology — Take a look!

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/neverland-s-library-anthology/x/2810126 – My own crowdfunding campaign for an anthology I’m co-editing, Neverland’s Library. (Expect a post about it in the next week or two; awesome things are happening with it — Tad Williams is writing the intro!)

Highly Anticipated Fantasy Novels of 2013

Last year I compiled a list of highly anticipated science fiction and fantasy novels that were to be released this year. And, with a new year only a couple of months away, the holiday season approaching and many great books coming out in 2013 it seemed only fitting to create a new list.

There aren’t really any Science fiction novels on here, as I’ve had more of a focus on Fantasy this past year and haven’t had a chance to read any of the latest novels in the genre. I’m definitely missing some books, and there are some books on here that you might disagree with. Feel free to let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

1) A Memory of Light – Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

– The Eye of the World (book 1 of the Wheel of Time) was published back in 1990. 23 years later, the series is finally coming to a close. With the Last Battle between good and evil approaching; and  the end of an age, Rand, Mat, Perrin and the rest of the world must unite under a common goal and put their own wars and differences aside to fight the Dark One and the Forsaken, along with their hoards of evil creatures.

Release Date: I had this on my 2012 list as well; but with the date changed, A Memory of Light, the epic conclusion to the Wheel of Time series will be release January 8th 2013. 

  • Read “Eastward the Wind Blew” (Chapter 1) here
  • Listen to “The Choice of an Ajah” (Chapter 2) here

2) The Daylight War – Peter V. Brett

Humanity is fighting back. Although the night still belongs to the demons that arise as the sun sets, new wards and weapons are giving those willing to fight in the darkness a chance to retaliate against their core-spawned enemies.

But, as humanity is about to learn, not all monsters are confined to the dark.

Civil war ravages the north and south, battles fought between those who should be working together. It is up to Arlen – the Painted Man – and Jardir – the self-proclaimed Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer – to put aside their differences and bring their people to terms if they are to have any chance of saving their civilisation from demon-rule.

The Daylight War is another one that was on my list for 2012, but with the date finally announced, I’m happy to say that the third book in the Demon Cycle will be out next year!.

My review for the first book, The Warded Man can be found here.

Release Date: February 12th 2013 – My review for The Daylight War will be posted around mid-January.

3) Bloodfire Quest – Terry Brooks

Long ago, many dangerous creatures were locked behind a magical barrier, bringing peace and prosperity to the land. But now those barriers are eroding, and generations of embittered prisoners are about to escape. War seems inevitable… unless a few brave souls can stem the tide.

While some venture into the forbidden lands, others must undertake a perilous quest – a quest whose success will mean the death of a young girl who has barely even begun to live, but whose failure will have unimaginable consequences.” – source.

Book Two of the Dark Legacy, Bloodfire Quest continues the tale of The Wards of the Faerie in Brook’s world of Shannara
Release Date: March 7th 2013. – My review for The Bloodfire Quest will be posted mid-late February. 

The third, and final book in the Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy will be out shortly afterwards on July 16th 2013.

4) The Gate Thief – Orson Scott Card

“Danny North is still in high school, yet he holds in his heart and mind all the stolen outselves of thirteen centuries of gatemages. The Families still want to kill him if they can’t control him…and they can’t control him. He is far too powerful.

And on Westil, Wad is now nearly powerless—he lost everything to Danny in their struggle. Even if he can survive the revenge of his enemies, he still must somehow make peace with the Gatemage Daniel North.

For when Danny took that power from Loki, he also took the responsibility for the Great Gates. And when he comes face-to-face with the mages who call themselves Bel and Ishtoreth, he will come to understand just why Loki closed the gates all those centuries ago. –source

The Gate Thief is the second book in the Mither Mages series, picking up from The Lost Gate it continues the tale of the mages of Westil whom have been exiled to Earth.

Release Date: March 19th 2013

5) A Tale of Tales – David Farland
“The great war with the Wyrmling Hordes is over, and mankind has lost. Lord Despair has gathered an army of fell creatures, planning to unleash them like a wildfire across the stars.
Those who oppose him know that the battle is all but lost. Though they stand against the darkness, they cannot hope to win with arms. Indeed, they stand against him armed with little more than principles.
Fallion and Tuul Ra, with only a handful of allies, must hope that with resolve and cunning alone they can win the day — before darkness closes upon them forever.” – source
I haven’t had a chance to read The Runelords series, however — readers of Farland’s Runelords will want to read the ninth, (and final) instalment to the epic series.
Release Date: April 1st 2013
6) River of Stars – Guy Gavriel Kay
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay is set in the same alternate historical China as his novel Under Heaven, but centuries later. Following the tales of Lin Shan, the daughter of a scholar, whose intelligence capitvates the emperor whilst alienating her from women of the court, and Ren Daiyan after he takes the lives of seven men and joins the outlaws in the forests of Kitai and emerges years later.
Release Date: April 2nd 2013
7) Blood of Dragons – Robin Hobb

Blood of Dragons
 is the fourth and final novel in the Rain Wilds Chronicles. No description of the book has been released yet, but I plan to have a review for the first book in the series — Dragon Keeper up later next week. {Will update when a description is available/review has been posted.}

Release Date: April 9th 2013

8) The Silver Dream – Neil Gaimen and Michael Reaves

“Sixteen-year-old Joey Harker has just saved the Altiverse — the dimension that contains all the myriad Earths — from complete destruction. After mastering the ability to walk between dimensions, Joey and his fellow InterWorld Freedom Fighters are on a mission to maintain peace between the rival powers of magic and science who seek to control all worlds.

When a stranger named Acacia somehow follows Joey back to InterWorld’s Base, things get complicated. No one knows who she is or where she’s from — or how she knows so much about InterWorld. Dangerous times lie ahead, and Joey has no one to rely on but himself and his wits — and, just maybe, the mysterious Acacia Jones.” – source

This book is partly on this list just because I’m a fan of anything Gaimen, however I have heard lots of praise for the first book, InterWorld and I am sure that The Silver Dream will be an excellent follow-up novel.

Release Date: April 23rd 2013

9) The Rithmatist – Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist
 is an epic fantasy set in an alternate version of out own world. The Americas are under treat by creatures known as Wild Chalkings (two-dimensional drawings infused with life). Following the tale of Joel, a boy wanting nothing more than to be one of the Rithmatist and his adventures as he follows a trail of discovery which could change their world forever.

This book is primarily on here because I’m a big fan of Sanderson’s writing (if you hadn’t noticed by the number of his books appearing on this list, and by how many I’ve reviewed..) but aside from his Alcatraz series which I’ve yet to read, Sanderson has proven himself to be a great writer of epic fantasy, and I’m sure The Rithmatist will not be an exception to that.

Release Date: May 14th 2013

10) The Ocean at the end of the Lane — Neil Gaiman

I’ve yet to read anything by Gaiman that I haven’t absolutely love, and this one sounds as if it’ll be no exception to that.

It began for our narrator forty years ago, when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed.

His only defense are three women on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

To quote Neil himself, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a novel of childhood and memory. It’s a story of magic, about the power of stories and how we face the darkness inside each of us. It’s about fear, and love, and death, and families. But, fundamentally, I hope, at its heart, it’s a novel about survival.” – source

Release Date: June 18th 2013

11) Emperor of Thorns — Mark Lawrence


To reach the throne requires that a man journey. Even a path paved with good intentions can lead to hell, and my intentions were never good.

The Hundred converge for Congression to politic upon the corpse of Empire, and while they talk the Dead King makes his move, and I make mine. The world is cracked, time has run through, leaving us clutching at the end days, the future so bright that those who see it are the first to burn. These are the days that have waited for us all our lives. These are my days. I will stand before the Hundred and they will listen. I will take the throne whoever seeks to thwart me, living or dead, and if I must be the last emperor then I will make of it such an ending.

This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don’t look to me to save you. Don’t think I will not spend you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don’t follow me.

Follow me, and I will break your heart.

I only just picked up Prince of Thorns recently, but so far I’m loving it. While I’ve heard mixed reviews about the series, I have to say I’m enjoying it so far. I’m sure the sequel, King of Thorns, and Emperor of Thorns are going to be equally enjoyable, if not better.

Release Date: August 1st 2013

12) Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch

“After their adventures on the high seas, Locke and Jean are brought back to earth with a thump. Jean is mourning the loss of his lover and Locke must live with the fallout of crossing the all-powerful magical assassins the Bonds Magi. It is a fall-out that will pit both men against Locke’s own long lost love. Sabetha is Locke’s childhood sweetheart, the love of Locke’s life and now it is time for them to meet again. Employed on different sides of a vicious dispute between factions of the Bonds Sabetha has just one goal – to destroy Locke for ever.” – source

I haven’t actually read The Gentleman Bastard Sequence yet, however, I have heard great things about it, and have heard a lot of praise for Scott Lynch. With the release date being repeatedly pushed back, fans of the series have had to be patient and wait for the next instalment in the series — hopefully though, this time the release date will hold true.

Release Date: I’ve found conflicting data.. My guess is either September 3rd, 2013 or May 6, 2014. I’ve been told that there’s no official release date yet.

10) Stormlight Archive Book 2 – Brandon Sanderson

Continuing in Sanderson’s epic world he created in The Way of Kings (My review for tWoK can be found here). Not much information has been released about what the unnamed sequel will be about, but with the the intriguing characters, and expansive system he set up in the first book in the Stormlight Archive, I’m sure it’ll be great.

Release Date: December 2013

11) The Blood Mirror – Brent Weeks

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks is the concluding novel in the Lightbringer Trilogy. Wrapping up the tales of Kip, Gavin, Karris and the rest of the Chromeria. While no official description/cover of The Blood Mirror has been released yet, I am sure it will be a great conclusion to the series, and I’m highly looking forward to reading it.

Read my review of The Black Prism (Book 1) here
Read my review of The Blinding Knife (Book 2here

Release Date: Sometime in 2013, potentially.

Possibly being released:

Kingkiller Chronicles Book 3 – Patrick Rothfuss

The story of Kvothe; a young man who has killed kings, spoken to gods and rescued princess. A man who has known the name of the wind, trained with the legendary Adem and has sought out the secrets of the Chandrian.

Readers have followed him on since his days travelled as the Edema Ruh, through University, love and pain, and as he has slowly turned into a figure of legend. In this third book, we see the conclusion to Kvothe’s tale.

Update: This won’t be getting released in 2013. No release date is set yet, but 2013 highly unlikely.

You tell me: What books have I missed from this list? What are you looking forward to reading in 2013?

Keep checking back! I’ll be updating this list frequently over the next couple months as more information on upcoming books is released.

My Travels with Eos by Chris Bemis : Review

What path of evolution would humans take during interstellar travel? Enter the Nyx, a species that has traveled to the far reaches of space. They found Earth, and sent a delegation to share their culture. One such nyx, Eos Cerul, breaks protocol and enters Earth without permission. She takes human form and seeks to experience the quaint nuances of human nature. In the Adirondack State Park, NY, she encounters her first human, Alex Wesley. Eos invites Alex to explore the mysteries of the nyx datastream, where consciousness is translated to waves of energy and the universe can be explored at the speed of light. However, Eos’ transgressions catch up with her, and the pair discover the violent forces at work against them. In a mutual struggle for survival, they come to understand what it means to be Nyx, and what it means to be human. ~ From Amazon.com

My Travels with Eos is an intellectual and addictive début novel by Chris Bemis. Through it, he introduces a strong scientific foundation, with highly intelligent characters which frequently had me searching through Google to get a better understand of the theories and concepts used to help establish and understanding of the Nyx; an interplanetary race.

Interspersed with mythological references,  interstellar and split-conscious travel, nacho and sushi recipes, and compelling characters; My Travels with Eos is an innovative novel which will have your mouth-watering for more.

It’s been a long time since my last foray into the realm of Science Fiction; and in comparison to my recollection of other works, Bemis’ novel may seem overdone with his language and description. However, once a pace has been established (and possibly Google/a dictionary ready to help out at times), his writing is far from overwhelming and is in fact, refreshing and thought-inspiring.. With his attention to detail, and unique descriptions, Bemis offers a new way to describe and think about daily sights and activities. Readers will find it easy to both visualize the worlds he has created, and share the character’s experiences.

I believe a sequel can be expected in the future.. As hinted at, in the back of the novel. “As for Alex, Eos, and Jamie, let’s just say that there’s interesting happenings ahead…”


Chris’s Website: http://chrisbemis.com/


Also: I’m sorry for the long gap since the previous review. I hope that won’t happen again..

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