Thursday, 31 October 2013

'The Abominations of Yondo' - Clark Ashton-Smith

I've pretty much given up on finding a decent copy of 'The Emperor of Dreams' at a price I can actually afford. Who knows what will happen in the future but 2013 (and probably 2014 as well) will not be the year that I spent over a hundred pounds on a book. That record currently stands at £50 by the way; going off topic here but what is the most that you have ever spent on one book?


Thanks to the awesome power of free stuff on the internet though, I can indulge in a little 'Clark Ashton Smith Weirdness' whenever I want. I totally recommend you do the same by the way. There are a lot of tales to get lost in and they are all gorgeously drawn.

Tales like 'The Abominations of Yondo' for example; the recounting of a heretic's misadventures in Yondo after being banished by the Inquisitors of Ong. I love those names by the way. They sound completely made up, whatever the first syllable was that came to Ashton-Smith's mind, but they all seem to work and sound just right. I'm digressing yet again though (sorry)... What lies on the plains of Yondo that is so terrifying it will drive our hero back to the less than tender ministrations of the Inquisitors? The simple answer is... Everything.

This blog post is coming from my phone and that's a real shame as I'm not able to give all the quotes that I want to. It's almost criminal, in fact, as Ashton-Smith's lyrical prose has to be read to get the full affect. Like I said earlier, have a look online and read the story for yourself. For now though, think of a land so close to the edge of the world that you can see ‘fallen asteroids half buried in that abysmal sand’ and ‘the hoary genii of stars abolished and decrepit demons left homeless by the destruction of antiquated hells.’ That doesn’t sound too bad when you first read it. I mean, what’s to be scared of when you’re faced with the prospect of an elderly demon? Sounds like he would much rather settle down with the paper than be of any real threat.
There’s more to it than that though. Ashton-Smith really plays on his character’s fear of the unknown and builds this up into something that resonates with a reader discovering all of this at the same time. The land itself has been bent into terrible shapes (‘the swollen, fulvous, dying and half rotten growths’) and it’s clearly somewhere that not only do you not want to be but you don’t want to hang around to see what happens next.

Our ‘hero’ does hang around though and the creatures that greet him are cleverly arranged, by Ashton-Smith, to rack up the tension; starting with the merely unsettling (the creature by the lake) and ending up with the terrifying (the ‘titanic lich’ with something even worse riding it). The weird shadow that chases our hero deserves a special mention as well, just for that gripping stand-off where no-one knows what will happen next.

And what an image to be left with at the end. Our hero running towards certain death, at the hands of the Inquisitors, with certain death following in his footsteps. A strangely downbeat ending but one that was inevitable. No-one survives Yondo unscathed and there’s no reason why it should be any different here. I’m a bit of a fan of ‘Dying/Dead World’ stories and ‘The Abominations of Yondo’ had everything that I was looking for; namely the remnants of civilisation and the creatures that exist in the ruins, all written in such a way that Yondo will stay in my mind for a while to come. Have a read if you can, it’s glorious.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Free Reading From Abaddon...

More reviews are on the way and will arrive just as soon as I can get them posted. The last couple of days have been busy, to say the least, and I just want to get my breath back a little :o)
What have I got for you in the meantime? Even more free reading? I reckon so... Abaddon think you should be reading their books (they'd be pretty rubbish publishers if they didn't...) and have made a couple available for free. The plan is that you will fork out for the rest of the series but, given the series, I'd recommend you do that anyway. Jonathan Green's 'Unnatural History' kicks off an awesome steampunk series (a favourite of mine) while Simon Spurrier's 'The Culled' is a fine way to open the post-apocalyptic 'Afterblight Chronicles'. Okay, I would have gone with 'Death Got No Mercy' (an excellent read and standalone) but 'The Culled' is still worth the read.

Both books are free on the Abaddon site and most other places too. I don't know how long the offer lasts (I don't think Abaddon know either...) so I'd get in there quick if I were you ;o)

Monday, 28 October 2013

Some Free Reading For Halloween.

If you're after some short, scary reading this Halloween then you should head over to Smashwords where Messrs Keene, Smith, Nicholson and Maberry have all donated short stories, forming a free collection, as part of the 'Spooky Stacks' signed book giveaway. I've downloaded, and read, the collection already; here's a quick summing up of what I thought...

'Fast Zombies Suck' (Brian Keene) - Not scary at all but this story does come with a killer twist that made me chuckle.

'Pizza Face' (Bryan Smith) - A really tense read that features the immortal line, 'Which one of you stupid meth heads thought it would be a good idea to order a pizza right smack in the middle of a home invasion?'

'A Farewell to Arms' (Scott Nicholson) - A sombre tale of the zombie apocalypse and just what one man will do to survive it.

'Cooked' (Jonathan Maberry) - Not the zombie tale I was expecting from Maberry but powerful nonetheless. Sometimes it's just about revenge, no matter what you promise.

Apparently, this collection will only be available for a short time so I'd make the most of it if I were you ;o)

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Some Books That Followed Me Home...

That actually sounds a creepier than how it went in real life (i.e. a review copy and a little birthday shopping the other day) but poetic licence and all that ;o)
This week was a quiet week for books but, given just how many I got rid of the other week, that's just how I like it right now. It gives me a little time to actually concentrate on what's on the shelves rather than what just appeared on the doorstep (and there are a lot of books on my shelves that I really want to get into). Anyway, check out the picture,

I am possibly the only person who won't be reading 'The Last Dark' as I've only read two of the preceding eight books... I did sneak a quick look at the end though, don't ask me why...
Birthday shopping meant that I was able to bend the rules a little and treat myself to another 'Fantasy Masterwork' (with a couple more on their way from Amazon). The closest I've come to Vance's 'Dying Earth' setting was through George R.R. Martin's anthology so I'm looking forward to getting back to the source as it were (and I'll have loads more reading time now I'm commuting again). 'The Queen of Air and Darkness' was a freebie (from 'Any Amount of Books') that I picked up because I haven't read a lot of Poul Anderson's work, just 'The Broken Sword', and I'd like to read more. It looks to be a little more 'sci-fi' and it looks like a very quick read. Once I've finished 'The Iron Wolves' I might pick that one up next.

That's me for today, I've got a few bits and pieces to take care of before work on Monday (like learning how to iron shirts again...) See you all soon and have a great weekend ;o)

Friday, 25 October 2013

One for 2014? 'The Iron Wolves' (Andy Remic)

I don't normally answer quite so emphatically but this time I'm say, "yes, this is definitely one for 2014." While Andy Remic isn't David Gemmell, he's the closest thing we've got and we need to make the most of him while he's writing fantasy. Remic is also the only person I know who can coin the phrase 'Mud-Orcs' and get away with it. Seriously, check out the blurb...

Thirty years ago, the Iron Wolves held back mud-orc hordes at the Pass of Splintered Bones, and led a brutal charge that saw the sorcerer Morkagoth slain. This ended the War of Zakora, and made the Iron Wolves heroes.

Now, a new terror stalks the realm. In hushed whispers, it is claimed the Horse Lady, Orlana the Changer, has escaped from the Chaos Halls and is building an army, twisting horses, lions and bears into terrible, bloody hunters, summoning mud-orcs from then slime and heading north to Vagandrak where, it said, the noble King Yoon has gone insane...

After hearing a prophecy from a blind seer, aged General Dalgoran searches to reunite the heroes of old for what he believes will be the final battle. But as mud-orcs and twisted beasts tear through the land, Dalgoran discovers the Iron Wolves are no longer heroes of legend... Narnok is a violent whoremaster, Kiki a honey-leaf drug peddler, and Prince Zastarte a drinker, a gambler, amoral and decadent: now he likes to hear people scream as they burn...

United in hate, the Iron Wolves travel to the Pass of Splintered Bones; and as half a million mud-orcs gather, General Dalgoran realises his grave error. Together, the Iron Wolves hold a terrible secret which has tortured them for three decades. Now, they only wish to be human again...

Orcs made out of mud or Orcs that live in the mud? Either way, I'm in and will be settling down to read my advance copy about five minutes after I post this :o) I'll let you know how it goes. Angry Robot will be publishing 'The Iron Wolves' on the 2nd January 2014 in the UK and on the 31st December in the US and Canada. Does that make the book 'one for 2013' then? Erm... Too busy reading :o)

Thursday, 24 October 2013

'Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven and The Red Death' - Richard Corben (Dark Horse Comics)

I was already a fan of Richard Corben's art from his brief stint on 'Conan' but it was the chance to see him tackle gothic horror in greater detail, in 'Ragemoor', that really sold me on just how good he is. If you haven't read 'Ragemoor' yet then you really need to do something about that. Trust me :o)

With all this in mind then, I can't think of anyone else more suited to adapt Poe's 'The Raven' and 'The Masque of the Red Death' to a comic book format. If you can then let me know but in the meantime, just pick up this comic book and enjoy some absolutely gorgeous art that really captures what these tales are about.

Corben's work really captures the sense of growing menace in 'The Raven' as well as Arnold's horror when he realises the truth about Lenore and what this means for him personally. While Corben pays homage to the real master behind this work, 'The Raven' is all about his art telling an engrossing story not so much through words but through the expressions on Arnold's face. It's gripping stuff and I found myself holding my breath at times (and that is one scary raven at the end...)You can't deny the power of Poe's verse though and while it is used sparingly here, this approach somehow seems to make those words even more intense.

'The Red Death' really allows Corben to go to town with the stark contrast between Prospero's party and the fate of the peasants outside the abbey. Corben's imagination is really let loose here and you can't help but ask which element of the tale is the more horrifying, the grotesque deaths of the peasantry or the grotesque cartoonish excesses of Prospero's party. All of this builds up to an amazing crescendo where Corben introduces even more horror to the proceedings with the introduction of the Red Death itself. It's a brilliantly executed moment (especially with its aftermath) and you can almost forgive the tale for losing a little impetus after this climax. After all, where else is there to go from here?

I read this adaptation in pdf format but 'The Raven and The Red Death' is so eye catching that I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up buying a copy for my shelf. If you're after a little horror, in your comics, for Halloween then I would totally recommend you pick this book up. As for me, I'm off to read 'Ragemoor' again while I wait for this comic to arrive at Forbidden Planet.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Cover Art! 'The Unremembered Empire' (Dan Abnett)

Sorry for the brief silence here; it's been a pretty hectic last few days with the in-laws visiting, being told that I hadn't made past interview stage, for a contract role, and then...


And breathe... :o) It's been a long time since my last job ended (well over a year) so I'm feeling pretty pleased about things right now. I'm going to have a lot more time for reading (hello 'London Commute') but possibly even less time for blogging. We'll see how it pans out.

In the meantime, have some cover art for a book that I am almost beyond excited about...

If ever a cover encapsulated just what Warhammer 40K fiction is about... Well, I think you're looking at it. A real mixture of glorious pageantry and that note of the sinister underpinning it all (those sunken faced servitors tending to Sanguinius). I found this over at Civilian Reader and you need to follow that link and read his review. What I'm excited about is the possibilities raised by the blurb (I said, follow the link!) and how it could possibly open up a whole new insight into the universe of the Horus Heresy. Maybe I spoke too soon about this being a series that dragged on and on...

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The 'Everyone Else Liked Them' Book Haul!

Starting from today, instead of posting book pictures gratuitously (I've wanted to use that word for a few posts now) it'll be one post a week with all the books that came through the door, this will either be on a Saturday or Sunday. Here's the first picture to kick things off...

If I was going to give this pile of books a name it would be 'Everyone Else Seemed to Like Them so I Wanted Them Too' because a few of the books here do fall under that category. I haven't heard a bad word spoken about 'The Thousand Names' and even though Niall wasn't mad keen on 'The New Girl' he liked it just enough to whet my appetite (and thanks for the heads up Niall!) Liviu wasn't too impressed with 'Ancillary Justice' but he is the only person so far and all the right people have said all the right things so... I want to give it a go :o)

The Iain M. Banks box set is all about me wanting to read/re-read a little more sci-fi and deciding to start with some intelligently written space opera (looking forward to diving into these). 'Behind the Sofa' just appeared this morning and, being a fan of Doctor Who, I will dip into this one soon. 'Last to Rise'...? Well, I still need to read the first two books so you might be waiting a while for a review of this.

But that's enough about books that I really want to read, I need to shoot off and pick up some books that I really need to read right now. Is there anything here that catches your eye?

Friday, 18 October 2013

Some quick thoughts on ‘The Fall of the Governor, Part One’ (Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, Tor UK)

Über-villain Phillip Blake has come a long way. He journeyed from humble beginnings into the dark heart of the zombie apocalypse. And here, he has manoeuvred to become a small town’s self-proclaimed leader. But Woodbury’s residents (those who survive) will live to regret the day Blake, aka the Governor, darkened their doors. For the Governor runs a twisted, violent dictatorship within Woodbury’s ever-tightening barricades. Those that manage to breach those barricades find only misery within, and the terror of the zombie menace without.

I’d normally be looking to write something a little more in-depth but the nature of this book is such that I already covered all the meaty stuff when I reviewed the ‘Walking Dead’ collections (on my old blog). This series has entered the phase where it dovetails with stuff that happened in the comics. I don’t have a big problem with that, it was always going to happen and I always wondered how they would deal with it. Where I have the problem is that Kirkman and Bonansinga dealt with it by basically going into a lot of detail that people who have already read the comics won’t need at all… The side plot with Lilly and Austin balances this out, a bit, and I’m interested to see how that ends. It’s a real spark of optimism albeit signposted a little too heavily in terms of the inevitable tragic ending.

If you are not one of those people who have read the comics then none of the above matters really. If that’s the case then what you’ve got is a story with all the brutality that you will have come to expect from the previous two books. I’d be a little wary though as the book covers Michonne’s rape (by the governor) in some detail. I don’t care if I’ve just given away a spoiler by the way; I think it’s something that you need to be aware of before picking this book up.

I had read the book though and as I finished reading I couldn’t help but think that I’d read all this before, because I had. It felt like a bit of a waste of time really.

If you’re a fan of the comic books and thinking of picking this series up, I’d say definitely read the first two books as they fill in a lot of background detail in some very clever ways. Don’t bother with this one though. I will probably skim the last book to see what happens to Lilly and Austin and to confirm my suspicions about who fires the fatal shots in the prison (I’ve got a pretty good idea). Other than that though, I’m done with this series.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

'The Penitent Damned' - Django Wexler.

I've been hearing a lot of good things about Django Wexler's 'The Thousand Names' and while rooting around for more information came across this free e-book written by the man himself. Have a click Here if you want to download it yourself; I'm a sucker for free reading  so downloaded it straight away. It's only twenty pages long so was just the right size for reading on my phone.

This relative brevity works against 'The Penitent Damned' if you're after a book that sheds more light on the world Wexler has created. There simply isn't enough room for that although some of the hints that Wexler drops have got me eager to be reading 'The Thousand Names' soon (and I now have a copy). No, what 'The Penitent Damned' is all about is delivering a sharp burst of 'Sword and Sorcery' (given the setting, maybe 'Pistol and Sorcery'?) that promises good things from Wexler's longer work.

Alex is a master thief who may just have bitten off more than she can chew with her latest job. Stealing from the headquarters of the Concordat was never going to be easy but it will be practically impossible given that they already know she is coming. Luckily, Alex has a few tricks up her sleeve but so do the agents of the mysterious Black Priests...

'The Penitent Damned' makes for a great way to spend half an hours reading time and has got me fired up for tackling 'The Thousand Names'. It has everything you would expect from a tale of midnight thievery (humour, action and a killer twist right at the end) and it is all delivered very neatly albeit perhaps a little too abruptly. This is where the length of the book really works against itself with Wexler showing off what he can do but not really able to really run with it. Instead, the humour is quickly packed away so the action can be wheeled out, then the action is quickly packed away so Wexler can deliver the twist. Don't get me wrong, I loved that ending; it's just that the speed of the plot felt a little artificial and not in keeping with what was actually happening.

You know what though? I can't really knock a book that shows you what Spiderman would have been like if he lived in a fantasy world and could kill people with his webbing :o) I wonder if we will see Alex again? I hope so as I want to find out what happens to this cocky young thief (it doesn't look good for her, at all). I guess I'll have to make 'The Thousand Names' a priority read. Has anyone here read it?

Monday, 14 October 2013

Cover Art! 'The Copper Promise' (Jen Williams)

I am totally stealing this from Geek Syndicate, I hope they don't mind too much... Anyway, check this cover out,

Doesn't it look great? I love the way the cityscape fools you into thinking it's a historical novel and and then... Bam! You realise there's a dirty great dragon hovering overhead. I'm particularly keen to get stuck into 'The Copper Promise' as I read the original e-book (way back in the day) and read the book again when it was on submission at Hodder. I'm really keen to see how it has ended up. I let you know once I've read it, in the meantime have some blurb,

There are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel…
Some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths.
For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him … and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done.

But sometimes there is truth in rumour.
Soon this reckless trio will be the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.

Remember yesterday when I said that I want to be excited about books? Well, this has got me pretty excited :o)

Sunday, 13 October 2013

'The Quest' - Lord Dunsany

These days, more than any other, I want to be excited about what I read. I'm not going to lie, I'm reading to escape a lot at the moment (from job hunting mostly) and that's why I want excitement. I want to be excited about the prospect of battle between mighty armies, I want to be excited about heading into the dark and unexplored alleyways of a city. 'Unexplored' is the word I think; I want to see that metaphorical horizon (between the covers of a book) and think, 'wow, I need to go there and explore'.

I was flicking through 'Beyond the Fields We Know' and found one of Lord Dunsany's poems that sums up how I feel (and a lot better than I just put it). For someone who tends to steer clear of poetry in genre fiction... Well, that's starting to change. Have a read,

What are those hills so strange that stand
Where I knew none before?
Are they the slopes of Fairyland
Above the fields of yore?

How long, how long, we thought of it
As fabulous and far;
And is it now before me, lit
By light of no known star?

It may be so, I shall not ask
Of any man the way;
Those hills are far beyond our task
And, sought for, fade away.

It is enough that in the change
Of light from sun to moon
I have one moment seen that range
That will float homewards soon.

Homewards to where those towers stand,
And where those mountains rise,
That do not rest in any land,
And know none of our skies.

That is the home I travel t'wards,
Though well this truth is conned,
That if I ever find its swards
My quest will lie beyond.

Lord Dunsay is talking about the horizons that I'm looking towards right now. Unlike him though, it's not enough for me to merely have seen them; I want more than that and that's why I'm always looking for that next horizon (or mountain range) to head for next. If you're anything like me then I reckon you are too. If you stop by, every now and then, to tell me about your travels then I'll keep talking about mine :o)

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The 'Really Excited' Book Haul Post

One day I will eventually get round to making this a weekly post rather than what is starting to feel like every other day... I'm particularly excited about these books though and I think they all deserve a post of their own. Check out what came through the door yesterday :o)

Welcome back Fantasy Masterworks! I have been so excited about the prospect of the Fantasy Masterworks series kicking off again, both in terms of the new books that will be published and the rumours I heard that certain of the old Masterworks will feature in this new series. I'm really hoping that they do re-release some of the older books as the prices on Amazon 'New and Used' are a little prohibitive for me. 'The Dragon Griaule' is the one I'm most looking forward to reading here although 'AEgypt' looks pretty intriguing as well.

I've been trying to track down the 'Jerry Cornelius' books second hand (with some success) and now I don't need to anymore :o) The 'Jerry Cornelius' books are the only 'Eternal Champion' books that I haven't read so I'm looking forward to getting stuck in.
I still need to finish 'Ecko Rising' but what I have read has already got me looking forward to picking up 'Ecko Burning' (later rather than sooner but that's the way it goes). Any of these books take your fancy?

And now I'm off to carry on reading Aaron Dembski-Bowden's 'Betrayer', which is excellent, even though I should be reading 'Soldiers Live'. What? It's the weekend :o)

Friday, 11 October 2013

One for 2014? 'Maul: Lockdown' (Joe Schreiber)

I promise there won't be too many more of these... It's just that my other reading has stalled while I'm finishing the last 'Black Company' book for Ok, I've stalled on that book as well. Oh well, anyway... Check out my latest 'heads up' on a book that I think could be worth looking at next year (January next year to be more precise),

In a tale of retribution and survival set before the events of The Phantom Menace, Darth Plagueis
and Darth Sidious dispatch Sith apprentice Darth Maul on a secret mission to infiltrate a criminal empire operating from inside Cog Hive Seven--a hidden prison teeming with the galaxy's most savage criminals. There, he must contend against the scummiest and most villainous in gladiatorial death matches while carrying out his masters' clandestine commands. Failure is not an option; success will ignite the revenge of the Sith against the Jedi Order.

All my reasons for not reading Star Wars fiction still stand (too many to go into here) but I am prepared to make an exception in this case. Schreiber wrote the excellent 'Death Troopers' and 'Red Harvest' as well as 'No Doors, No Windows' (not a Star Wars book). If he can bring some of the horror and menace to 'Maul: Lockdown' that he did with 'Death Troopers' (both set in prison facilities) then we're in for a Star Wars novel that bucks tradition and actually does something new. Please let that happen... I'll be reading 'Maul: Lockdown' very soon so I'll let you know what I think.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Nostalgic Cover Art Post - 'Neverwhere' (Neil Gaiman)

I've spent the last few days clearing out loads of books that I know I will never read again. It's been hard to let some of them go but if I'm not reading them then it's time isn't it?
One of the good things about this though is that I'm finding books that I had totally forgotten I had but will definitely read now I've remembered them; like this one...

Under the streets of London there's a world most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, and pale girls in black velvet. Richard Mayhew is a young businessman who is about to find out more than he bargained for about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his safe and predictable life and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and yet utterly bizarre. There's a girl named Door, an Angel called Islington, an Earl who holds Court on the carriage of a Tube train, a Beast in a labyrinth, and dangers and delights beyond imagining... And Richard, who only wants to go home, is to find a strange destiny waiting for him below the streets of his native city.

It's not often you find a cover that just fits the book perfectly, this is one of those covers. You've got London Above (with a little hint of foggy magic hiding in that skyline) and London Below looking all dark and mysterious erm... below. What I love about this book is that the cover opens up onto another cover showing a little bit more of those tunnels.

I'd read 'Neverwhere' before moving to London and was more than a little disappointed to find that London wasn't all that magical when I finally moved there. Or is it? Every so often I wonder...
I've got the 'Black Company Re-Read' to finish off but once that's done I reckon I'll be picking up 'Neverwhere' again. Have you read it?

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Latest 'Black Company Re-Read' Post up on

I am almost at the end of the series and as I've said before, am feeling the urge to break into the 'Emergency David Eddings Stash' after working my way through the grim world of the Black Company. There's still one more book to go but, for now, have a click Here to see what I thought of 'Water Sleeps'. To sum up... Amazing when it got going with two sharp punches to the gut right at the very end. If you haven't read these books yet then you really ought to.

Monday, 7 October 2013

One for 2014? 'The Emperor's Blades' (Brian Staveley)

As 2013 starts to look like drawing to a close, advance copies for 2014 start to arrive at the door. I'm still a little behind all the other bloggers talking about these books (like Justin for example) but it's still worth doing a little 'heads up' post here and there; especially with a book like this...

The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy. His son Valyn, training for the empire’s deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. He expected a challenge, but after several ‘accidents’ and a dying soldier’s warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can take action, he must survive the mercenaries’ brutal final initiation.

Meanwhile, the Emperor’s daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father’s murderer in the capital itself. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice. And Kaden, heir to the empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God’s disciples teach their harsh ways – which Kaden must master to unlock their ancient powers. When an imperial delegation arrives, he’s learnt enough to perceive evil intent. But will this keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?

Even though I don't have the time to read as much 'Fat Fantasy' as I used to, I still can't get enough and every time I see a title like this I'm immediately intrigued. Tor UK have good form for fantasy (Tchaikovsky, Newton, Buchanan and Hulick...) so I'll definitely be reading 'The Emperor's Blades' in the next couple of months. If you're wondering, Tor UK will be publishing 'The Emperor's Blades' in January 2014; absolutely no idea when the US edition will arrive (help?)

Is this one for you?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

'Maternal Instinct' - Robert Bloch

'And so it was Jill's dearest and most secret wish came true. She was having a baby with the president.'

The introduction to 'Maternal Instinct', as read in Otto Penzler's 'Zombies' compendium, notes that Bloch 'commonly created a short story by inventing a good pun for the last line, then writing a story to accompany it.' Having read this, I immediately jumped to the last line (of course) but didn't get the joke at all. Then I read 'Maternal Instincts' all the way through and that ending takes on a whole new meaning which left me gasping. I reckon you'd feel the same way.

'Maternal Instinct' charts a debate on how to combat a zombie epidemic but becomes a lot more when said epidemic casts light on a group hiding behind the epidemic and using it for their own ends. I'm trying my hardest not to give too much away here as you should give 'Maternal Instinct' a read and experience that final line for yourself...
To be honest, that little spin really saved the story for me as Jill's introduction and the debate itself came across as a little too dry and rather uninteresting (although Jill's introduction does set up that final line nicely). I don't know if this was done deliberately or not but there was a point where it was only the promise of zombies that kept me going.

I'm glad I did. Bloch offers a nice little spin on the zombie apocalypse and caps it all off with a killer ending that is a lot more graphic when placed in context.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Anyone Fancy A Big Box Of Books (With Tiny Caveat...)?

I'm trying to be a lot more strict with myself about what stays on the shelves these days. If new stuff comes into the house then I'm really trying to balance that out with stuff headed in the other direction. There were loads of books that I realised I would either never re-read or, in some cases, read at all. I want my bookshelves to be all about books that I want to keep coming back to so...

I don't know how many books I've got rid of here but they're all in good condition (like I said, some haven't even been opened) and I reckon they could make someone a pretty good Christmas present. So, would you like this box of books?

Before you get too excited, I did mention something about a caveat... I don't have the money to post this box anywhere so you'll need to come and pick it up (it's worth it). That pretty much limits this to anyone living in London who either has a car or a couple of large suitcases. If you fit the bill, drop me a line at (yep, I need to sort out a new email address) and we'll sort something out. First email gets the box, I'll leave it about a week or so then these books will start going to the charity shop.

And by the way, don't worry about coming to the house of some strange guy from the internet. The worst that can happen is Hope doing her impression of a bouncing bomb (she was watching 'The Dambusters' the other day).

I've just seen some more books that need to go in the box so I'll see you all tomorrow ;o)

Friday, 4 October 2013

The 'Finally Catching My Breath' Update Post (With Gratuitous Book Pictures)!

You would not believe the week I've just had. What? You might? Fair enough, I feel for you though. Do you mind if I just unload a little? Cool :o)

This week has seen me interview for two jobs (didn't get one, waiting on the other), one of which came with 'Added Bee Attack!' as I was walking back to the station.On top of that, I'm trying to get my head round a college course that I've just started while trying to help out my heavily pregnant wife (only a few weeks to go) and my daughter who is dealing with her own stuff right now (really doesn't want to be left on her own at nursery). I wouldn't swap any of it (ok, I would totally swap the mad bee attack) but I am so glad this week is over :o)

Thanks for that, now on to the stuff you're here for... Books! :o)

I haven't been able to get a lot of reading done this week (see above) but this week was the week when what seemed like ALL THE BOOKS turned up at my door. There are books that won't be read so I thought I'd give them a break and show them off with the books that will be read. Have a look at these...

I love knights in armour so 'Heartwood' will definitely be read at some point this month. 'The Deaths of Tao'? It looks brilliant but I'm haven't read the first book and am wondering how much I would need to. Can anyone help me there? 'Pantomime' is a definite read, not only because I don't read enough YA but the phrase 'remnants of a vanished civilization' really caught my eye when reading the blurb (I was already keen when I heard Laura read from the book at her Forbidden Planet signing).

Funny isn't it? I won't be reading 'Harvest' as I haven't read the previous books but I'll more than likely pick up 'Jupiter War' even though I haven't read the first book. I know what Neal Asher's about and I think 'Jupiter War' is just what I'm after. I'll definitely be reading 'The Fall of the Governor' though, just to see how they can flesh out a story that has already been told in the comic book...

I love what Abaddon have come up with, in the past,  so I was really glad to see 'Knight of Shadows' on the doorstep. The blurb promises a nice little spin on a legend and I always thought that Guy of Gisburne had the coolest name in Sherwood Forest so... count me in there :o)
I'm not too sure about 'The Eidolon' though. While I want to give it a go, it's not a priority read like some of the other books here. We'll see what happens.

I might read 'Steelheart' but really don't know. Sanderson has some amazing ideas but there's something about the execution that never sits brilliantly with me. The 'Dwarves War Fighting Manual' will definitely be read though as will 'The Path of Anger'. This last title is particularly intriguing as I have never come across Rouaud's work before (something to do with the fact that my French stops at 'ou est la pomme de terre?') Has anyone else read his books?

Now I love it whenever a Black Library package arrives as not only am I a fan but it's all (generally) very well written and I'm guaranteed at least one good read. I've spoken about 'First and Only' and  two thirds of the 'Salamanders Omnibus' on the old blog so you won't see them mentioned any more here. Well, you might if I decide to read 'Nocturne' (maybe). It's physically impossible for Aaron Dembski-Bowden to write a bad book so I have 'Betrayer' on the go already and I'll be reading 'The Great Betrayal' as the Warhammer fantasy books don't get talked about so much and I want to do something about that.

Any of these books take your fancy? Reviews will happen when they happen but expect to see the bulk of this lot covered at some point. Anyway, that's me done for the day. I'll see you guys tomorrow for some more of the same ;o)

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

'Sharky! Volume 1: When Titans Clash!' - Elliot, Horley (Atomeka/Titan Comics)

I've got two more books to go before finishing my 'Black Company Re-Read' and, with my inevitable sense of timing, am experiencing a severe case of 'series burnout' (amongst other things). Not a good thing, at all, when you are up against the clock and faced with pages of dense prose...

This would explain why short stories and comic books have been featuring heavily here just recently and 'Sharky!' is next up. I'll be honest with you, this is going to be a very short review (more on that in a second) so anyone here who's expecting something a little meatier would be advised to check out any of the other blogs on my blogroll.

The thing is, as much as I enjoyed reading 'Sharky!', I haven't the slightest clue what it is about. I'm seriously wondering whether Elliot and Horley do. Sixteen year old Patrick becomes muscle-bound Sharky whenever his teenage hormones kick in, some gods are scheming and then they all go and fight zombies. And that's it. You catch glimpses of a plot, behind Horley's eyecatching swathes of violence and Amazonian flesh, but it's gone so quickly that you wonder if it was ever there at all.

Luckily the sheer energy and exuberance of the set pieces, and artwork, carry the reader along without too much need for explanation. As I've said, Alex Horley's art demands your attention, both in terms of style and execution.

Would I read volume two? I have to say yes purely because I was left with such a sense of 'what the hell just happened there?' that there is no question of whether I will continue reading. 'Sharky!' was a cool enough way to while away an hour; come back and find me after volume two if you're after something a little more indepth...