Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Quotes

Posted by Simcha 5:12 AM, under | 5 comments

This week I finished The Bookman and started on The Graveyard Book and I'm still in the middle of listening to Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld. Here are a few of the memorable quotes that I came across, in this week's reads:

The Bookman (Lavie Tidhar)

  • This is the time of myths. They are woven into the present like silk strands from the past, like a mesh wire from the future, creating an interlacing pattern, a grand design, a repeating motif. Don't dismiss myth, boy.

  • "In the real world heroes don't always live to the end. And sometimes, Orphan, no one gets the girl."

The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaimen)

  • “You’re alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you’re dead, it’s gone. Over. You’ve made what you’ve made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished.”

  • Face your life
    Its pain, its pleasure,
    Leave no path untaken

  • "If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar

Posted by Simcha 4:48 PM, under | 5 comments

Do you ever wonder what history would have been like if the British empire had been taken over by giant talking lizards from outer space? No? Well, I haven’t either, but Lavie Tidhar has, and the result is The Bookman, a wild steampunk novel where you’ll find everything from Karl Marx and Martian probes to robots and magical books. The Bookman is Tidhar’s first full length novel, the first in a trilogy, and it certainly doesn’t hold anything back.

The protagonist, Orphan, is a young bookseller in London who writes poetry and occasionally stirs up mischief with the Persons from Porlock group, by boisterously disrupting writers at their work. Orphan has just proposed to the girl he loves, and life seems like it couldn’t get any better- and then Orphan’s fiancĂ© is killed in a horrifying terrorist attack, perpetuated by the legendary Bookman.

But Orphan soon discovers that there may be a possibility of getting Lucy back, though in order to do so he has to track down the elusive Bookman. In his quest to find the Bookman, Orphan is forced to venture outside of his familiar surroundings and to befriend a vast variety of characters, each of whom have their own ulterior motives for assisting the young poet. Along the way, Orphan will also make startling discoveries about himself, his friends, and the mysterious Les LĂ©zards,.

I have read a few other works by Lavie Tidhar, which somewhat prepared me for his unique storytelling style, but I still found myself shaking my head at some of the bizarre elements that he incorporated here. This is also my first steampunk novel and I had some vague idea that this was a subgenre related to science fiction, so I was rather surprised to discover a monarchy of talking lizards. But once I had accepted that this book would be rather different then what I had expected, I had no problem going along with everything else that the story threw at me.

The problems that I did have with the book were largely due to the occasional inconsistencies and the random information that was sometimes thrown into the story, without any explanation.

Here are a few examples, which I don’t think will give away anything from the story that you won’t pick up from the book blurb:

The general assumption that the Bookman was the source of the terrorist attacks when he was supposedly a myth, seemed odd to me, as well as the fact that it’s assumed that he could bring Lucy back to life. There wasn’t any explanation for why people thought that the Bookman was capable of this, and particularly, why the investigating officer would assume this was a possibility. And by the end of the story, when all the other ends were tied up, it was still unclear at to what the connection was between the Bookman and books, an understanding that I was expecting to come by at some point, particularly as the rest of Bookman’s mystery is unraveled.

But what held me back from really loving The Bookman was the character of Orphan, who I never really warmed up to. Based on the information provided about him, I would have expected Orphan to be an appealing character; intelligent and sensitive and with a streak of playfulness, but in actuality he was rather bland and lacking depth. For most of the story he is pulled along by the plots of the different characters who manage to get a hold of him, often by force, going along if it will help get back Lucy. But I was disappointed with Orphan’s passivity and his lack of anger at those who kept manipulating him. Since I had just finished listening to Scott Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies, I couldn’t help comparing Orphan with Locke Lamora, who never failed to express his anger towards those who used him, despite his inability to break free. At least Locke showed some spirit, something I would liked for Orphan to have.

I admit that I had really wanted to love The Bookman. I think the cover is very attractive and the author seems like a really interesting person, but ultimately it didn't happen. While the book was certainly creative and well written, with an interesting mix of literary and historical references, it just didn’t grab me. I felt no urgency to pick up the book, when I would take a break from reading, and I didn’t feel myself caring too much about the fate of the characters. Though I am very curious now as to how The Bookman compares to other steampuk novels and which aspects of the book qualify it as steampunk. Perhaps after reading other books in this subgenre, I will give The Bookman another try and see if my perspective is the same.

The sequel to The Bookman, Camera Obscura, is scheduled to be released in October, and the excerpt included in the back of The Bookman actually sounds pretty intriguing.

You can check out some other reviews of The Bookman at the links below:

The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf

SFF World


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character: King Trent

Posted by Simcha 5:53 PM, under | 3 comments

Favorite Fictional Character

When I was thirteen years old a friend of mine introduced me to Piers Anthony's Xanth books, and I quickly fell in love with Anthony's wonderful world of magic and puns. I followed the series for many years, until it began to grow a bit stale, but I always think back fondly on these books. Xanth was was the first fantasy series that I religiously followed and it really helped kindle my love for the genre.

Xanth is a world of magic where most items grow on trees (including money) and every person has a unique magical talent. Bordering Xanth is Mundania, where the unfortunate population live magic-free lives, completely unaware of the existence of Xanth, just across the invisible barrier.

There are many fun and interesting characters in Xanth, but my favorite is King Trent, who was my first encounter in fantasy with a likable villain.

Trent is introduced in the first book of the series, A Spell for Chameleon, as The Evil Magician. He had been kicked out of Xanth for trying to usurp the throne, and was deported to Mundania where he spent the last 20 years building an army to invade Xanth. When Bink, the protagonist of A Spell for Chameleon, is forced to leave Xanth due to his lack of magical talent, he gets captured by Trent who tries to force his assistance in breaking through Xanth's magical shield. Trent eventually succeeds at manipulating Bink and breaking into Xanth, though he ends up getting captured by the Council of Elders, and in an interesting twist, is crowned king. Trent then goes on to become a wise, compassionate, and much loved ruler of Xanth who comes to love the woman that he was forced by the council to marry, if he wanted to be crowned king.

While Trent is first introduced as villainous character, you eventually come to like him due to his intelligence and engaging personality. In addition, Trent's mourning for his wife, who died of illness in Mundnia, also helps him gain the reader's sympathy. By the end of the book, readers will be rooting for Trent, eager to forgive his earlier transgressions. And although his character takes a backseat in the following books in the series, his is still present and his character continues to mature and develop. I particularly enjoyed watching him and his wife fall in love, despite their initial animosity for each other.

Even though it's been many years since I last picked up a Xanth book, King Trent still stands out in my mind and remains one of my favorite fantasy characters.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Brandon Sanderson talks about The Way of Kings

Posted by Simcha 6:17 PM, under | 6 comments

One of the books that I am looking forward to the most is Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings, which is scheduled to be released in August. I've found each of Sanderson's books to be better then that last, and since the Warbreaker was one of my favorite books last year, I can only imagine how awesome The Way of Kings will be.

And although August still seems to be in the distant future, Sanderson has already begun sharing some information about his forthcoming book, on his blog, to help whet the appetite of eager fans.

    I think KINGS is one of the best books I've ever written.

    I think the characters are incredible, the magic imaginative, the scope and history of the world impressive. I think the story is exciting, and has a depth beyond what I've been able to do before. I'm trying some new, exciting things for me—some nonlinear storytelling, some great internal artwork, and layers of depth to the storytelling.

Now I'm really excited! This book sounds like it is going to be amazing.

Though Sanderson goes on to warn fans to discard his publisher's claims that the book is the equivalent of Frank Herbert's Dune or Tolkein's Lord of the Rings.

    No new novel has the right to claim such a comparison out of the gate. If you go into KINGS expecting the next LORD OF THE RINGS or DUNE, you will be disappointed. I am not Tolkien or Herbert. I am what I am—a largely unproven writer still in the early days of his career.
Frankly I'm relieved to hear this, since I'm not much of a Tolkien fan (I hope that's not the sound of my visitors rushing out the door. Perhaps I should have kept this information to myself).

And finally, Sanderson promises that The Way of Kings will have a variety of magic systems, ( something he excels at) mythology, history and a small group of central characters that readers will come to care about. And it will be BIG (yippy!)

August has never seemed further away, though it gives me plenty of time to figure out who I need to become friends with in order to get an early copy of this book.

Check out Brandon Sanderson's full post at his blog

Monday, March 15, 2010

Diving into the Wreck by Kristine Rusch

Posted by Simcha 8:52 AM, under | 6 comments

While I have been an avid fantasy reader for most of my life, it’s only recently that I’ve begun reading science fiction, and those have been mostly older classics. But after reading a couple of interesting reviews of Kristine Rusch’s Diving into the Wreck, I decided that it was time to expand my horizons and try some more modern SF. I also have no experience with SF space adventures- I've never even watched a single episode of Star Track or any of the Star Wars films- so this was my opportunity to try some space adventuring as well.

Diving into the Wreck is divided into three sections, each of which reads like a short novella, but which build on each other to tell a single story. The first two parts were actually each previously published as separate short stories and each won Asimov’s Readers Choice Award for Best Novella.

Boss, as she is known to her friends and co-workers, is a professional wreck diver who spends her days exploring deep space in search of abandoned spaceships. These ancient discoveries are explored and studied and will often be turned over to museums for preservation or will become sites for tourists to visit. But each night Boss is tormented by nightmares of the day, almost forty years ago, when her mother disappeared into the Room of Lost Souls, leaving behind her young daughter.

Boss’s experiences have turned her into a solitary figure who prefers to live and work alone, except when she requires a team to help her investigate a newly discovered wreck. In the first part of the book, Boss comes across a lost ship, while returning from a salvage operation, which she excitedly tracks down. But when she reached the calculated location, Boss is shocked by her possible discovery, and she rushes home to do some research and put together a diving team.

The story then follows the team’s preparations for the dive and the surprising discoveries that they make- discoveries that come at a severe cost to Boss and her team. In the following two sections, Boss, who is living with the repercussions of her earlier diving adventure, is given the opportunity to explore the place of her nightmares, where her mother had disappeared. But her explorations will uncover some unexpected answers that will lead Boss to take a stand against those who would use her discoveries for dangerous purposes.

Diving into the Wreck is an exciting, fast paced adventure that, once I started, I had a hard time putting down. I have never been deep sea diving, but Rusch’s vivid, and often eerie, descriptions of Boss’s dives into the depths of outer space, almost make me feel like I have.

    I spend most of my time going over and over my equipment looking for flaws. Much as I want to dive this wreck—and I have since the first moment I saw her—I’m scared of the deep and the dark and the unknown. Those first few instances of weightlessness always catch me by surprise, always remind me that what I do is somehow unnatural….Descending into the hatch is trickier than it looks on the recordings. The edges are sharper; I have to be careful about where I put my hands. ...

    Gravity isn’t there to pull at me. I can hear my own breathing, harsh and
    insistent, and I wonder if I shouldn’t have taken Squishy’s advice: a ten/ten/ten split on my first dive instead of a twenty/twenty/twenty. It takes less time to reach the wreck now; we get inside in nine minutes flat. I would’ve had time to do a bit of acclimatizing and to have a productive dive the next time.

Diving into the Wreck is focused largely on Boss, from whose perspective the story is told. She is a complex character who prefers to maintain her distance from others but is also watchful and protective of those in her care. Throughout the story, Boss’s character slowly evolves as she deals with the repercussions of tragic events from the past, and attempts to find a way to right some of those wrongs that she herself participated in.

While Boss is a character that readers can easily connect with, unfortunately the same can’t be said for most of the other characters, who were largely left on the sidelines. The reader is briefly told about the other members of Boss’s team, but I didn’t feel that I really got to know any of them. No personal interactions between the team members are described and no relationships seem to develop, which I thought was odd considering that they spent a substantial amount of time confined together on the ship. Even had Boss herself not participated, just recounting that such interactions occurred would have made the other characters seem more real. There were a couple of exceptions- characters who were fleshed out a bit more fully when the story required them- but I felt the story would have affected me a lot more intensely had I felt a deeper connection to more of the characters.

I also felt that the book lacked a clear explanation of what stealth technology is, which would have been appropriate considering that most of the events in the books were centered around it. While the ancient stealth technology is apparently very dangerous, I didn’t understand how it was different from the stealth technology that was currently in use. While I’m not one who requires extensive scientific explanations of complicated technology, just a bit more of an explanation would have been appreciated.

I will admit that I was surprised by how thoroughly engrossed I was by Diving into the Wreck and that it was a lot more readable and entertaining then I had expected. The events in the story, while taking place 5,000 years in the future, were still believable enough that I had no trouble following along, and I didn’t feel like I missed anything by not having before read space travel books. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a stronger cast of supporting characters, though perhaps in the sequel the rest of the team will get to share the spotlight.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

New Book Releases: Week of March 14th

Posted by Simcha 2:49 PM, under | 3 comments

In order to help keep myself up-to-date on all of the great books that are constantly being released, I've decided to start off each week by providing a list of some of the science fiction and fantasy books that are being published that week. And although it will probably be a while before I actually manage to get around to reading most of these books, at least, now I'll know what I'm missing out on.


Title: The Crucible of Empire
Author: Edric Flint
Release Date: March 16
Publisher: Baen Books

Description: The sequel to the critically acclaimed The Course of the Empire.


Title: Mind over Ship
Author: David Marusek
Release Date: March 16
Publisher: Tor Books

Description: The year is 2135, and the international program to seed the galaxy with human colonies has stalled as greedy, immoral powerbrokers park their starships in Earth’s orbit and begin to convert them into space condos. Ellen Starke’s head, rescued from the fiery crash that killed her mother, struggles to regrow a new body in time to restore her dead mother’s financial empire. And Pre-Singularity AIs conspire to join the human race just as human clones, such as Mary Skarland and her sisters, want nothing more than to leave it.

Welcome to Mind Over Ship, the sequel to Marusek’s stunning debut novel, Counting Heads, which Publishers Weekly called “ferociously smart, simultaneously horrific and funny.”

Title: Oath of Fealty
Author: Elizabeth Moon
Release Date: March 16
Publisher: Del Ray
Description: Elizabeth Moon’s bestselling science fiction novels featuring Kylara Vatta have earned her rave reviews and comparison to such giants as Robert Heinlein and Lois McMaster Bujold. But as Moon’s devoted fans know, she started her career as a fantasy writer. The superb trilogy known as The Deed of Paksenarrion is widely judged to be one of the great post-Tolkien fantasies, a masterpiece of sustained world-building and realistic military action. Now Moon returns to this thrilling realm for the first time in nearly twenty years. The result: another classic in the making.

Thanks to Paks’s courage and sacrifice,
the long-vanished heir to the half-elven kingdom of Lyonya has been revealed as Kieri Phelan, a formidable mercenary captain who earned a title—and enemies—in the neighboring kingdom of Tsaia. Now, as Kieri ascends a throne he never sought, he must come to terms with his own half-elven heritage while protecting his new kingdom from his old enemies—and those he has not yet discovered.

Meanwhile, in Tsaia, Prince Mikeli prepares for his own coronation. But when an assassination attempt nearly succeeds, Mikeli suddenly faces the threat of a coup. Acting swiftly, Mikeli strikes at the powerful family behind the attack: the Verrakaien, magelords possessing ancient sorcery, steeped in death and evil. Mikeli’s survival—and that of Tsaia—depend on the on
ly Verrakai whose magery is not tainted with innocent blood.

Two kings stand at a pivotal point in the history of their worlds. For dark forces are gathering against them, knit in a secret conspiracy more sinister—and far more ancient—than they can imagine. And even Paks may find her gods-given magic and peerless fighting skills stretched to the limit—and beyond.


Title: Secret of the Dragon (Dragonships of Vindras)
Author: Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Release Date: March 16
Publisher: Tor Books
Description: New gods are challenging the old high god, Torval, for rulership of the world. The only way to stop these brash interlopers lies with the five Bones of the Vektia Dragons—the five primal dragons hidden away by the dragon goddess, Vindrash, during the creation of the world. Without these dragons, one of the new gods, Aelon, cannot seize power. The only hope of the Vindrasi lies in finding the dragon bones before the followers of Aelon can use them to destroy the old gods. But the Vindrasi gods have a traitor in their midst…

In the land of mortals, Raegar, a Vindraisi turned Aelon warrior-priest, searches for the spirit bones. The gods have a champion of their own—Skylan Ivorson, sea-raider and high chief of the Vindrasi clans, and sworn enemy to Raegar. But Skylan is a prisoner on his own ship. The ship’s dragon, Kahg, has vanished and s
ome believe he is dead. Skylan and his people are taken as captives to Sinaria, where they must fight in a game known as the Para Dix. The fates of men and gods and are dragons are rushing headlong to destruction. Skylan can stop the calamity, but only if he discovers the secret of the dragon.

Title: The Sorcerer’s House
Author: Gene Wolfe
Release Date: March 16

Publisher: Tor Books
Description: In a contemporary town in the American midwest where he has no connections, Bax, an educated man recently released from prison, is staying in a motel. He writes letters to his brother and to others, including a friend still in jail, to whom he progressively reveals the intriguing pieces of a strange and fantastic narrative. When he meets a real estate agent who tells him he is, to his utter surprise, the heir to a huge old house in town, long empty, he moves in. He is immediately confronted by an array of supernatural creatures and events, by love and danger.

His life is utterly transformed and we read on, because we must know more. We revise our opinions of him, and of others, with each letter, piecing together more of the story as we go. We learn things about magic, and another world, and about the sorcerer Mr. Black, who originally inhabited the house. And then knowing what we now know only in the end, perhaps we read it again.


Title: The Trade of Queens (The Merchant Princes, Book six)
Author: Charles Stross
Release Date: March 16
Publisher: Tor Books
Description: Dissident faction of the Clan, the alternate universe group of families that has traded covertly with our world for a century or more, have carried nuclear devices between the worlds and exploded them in Washington, DC, killing the President of the United States. Now they will exterminate the rest of the Clan and keep Miriam alive only long enough to bear her child, the heir to the throne of their land in the Gruinmarkt world.

The worst and deepest secret is now revealed: behind the horrifying plot is a faction of the US government itself, preparing for a political takeover in the aftermath of disaster. There is no safe place for Miriam and her Clan except, perhaps, in the third alternate world, New Britain--which has just had a revolution and a nuclear incident of its own.

Charles Stross's Merchant Princes series reaches a spectacular climax in this sixth volume. Praised by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman as "great fun," this is state of the art, cutting edge SF grown out of a fantastic premise. View Excerpt


Title: Warriors
Author: George R.R Martin
Release Date: March 16
Publisher: Tor
From George R. R. Martin’s Introduction to Warriors:

“People have been telling stories about warriors for as long as they have been telling stories. Since Homer first sang the wrath of Achilles and the ancient Sumerians set down their tales of Gilgamesh, warriors, soldiers, and fighters have fascinated us; they are a part of every culture, every literary tradition, every genre. All Quiet on the Western Front, From Here to Eternity, and The Red Badge of Courage have become part of our literary canon, taught in classrooms all around the country and the world. Our contributors make up an all-star lineup of award-winning and bestselling writers, representing a dozen different publishers and as many genres. We asked each of them for the same thing—a story about a warrior. Some chose to write in the genre they’re best known for. Some decided to try something different. You will find warriors of every shape, size, and color in these pages, warriors from every epoch of human history, from yesterday and today and tomorrow, and from worlds that never were. Some of the stories will make you sad, some will make you laugh, and many will keep you on the edge of your seat.”

Included are a long novella from the world of Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, a new tale of Lord John by Diana Gabaldon, and an epic of humanity at bay by David Weber. Also present are original tales by David Ball, Peter S. Beagle, Lawrence Block, Gardner Dozois, Joe Haldeman, Robin Hobb, Cecelia Holland, Joe R. Lansdale, David Morrell, Naomi Novik, James Rollins, Steven Saylor, Robert Silverberg, S.M. Stirling, Carrie Vaughn, Howard Waldrop, and Tad Williams.

Many of these writers are bestsellers. All of them are storytellers of the highest quality. Together they make a volume of unforgettable reading.


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