Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Adventures in Charity Shops, an occasional series…

Warning: This post isn't as exciting as the title makes it look. Anyone who used to watch 'Mr Benn' as a kid should pay particular attention to this warning...

If I found ten pounds on the floor (oh I wish I could find ten pounds on the floor…) you would see me heading off to either a charity shop or second hand book shop to see what I could find. I don't have anything against Waterstones etc but as I've got older I find myself drawn to slightly less obvious places to find my books. I could stay out of Waterstones for weeks and still be able to tell you what's on the shelves, almost book for book. Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation shop (amongst others) though? Not a clue and that's what I love about book shopping in these places; I have no idea about what I'll find until I find it. How cool is that? Much better than going into a bookshop with a 'get in, get the book and get out' plan in mind. Where's the fun in that? I'm all about browsing these days, how about you?

Yesterday say me take a little wander up Bromley High Street in search of a couple of 'Horus Heresy' books, that I fancy reading again, but also with an eye open for anything that stood out. Little did I realise that by the time I got back to my desk my Fantasy Masterworks collection would have grown by one and I'd have my own copy of a sci-fi classic that I hadn't read since high school. Have a look at the picture,

'Voice of Our Shadow' is a book where I'm actually really glad that I never found a copy of the Masterwork edition. It's slightly defaced (thanks to an overly sticky price tag…) but look at that bird and how well drawn it is, much more detailed than the Masterworks edition (Google it). I've been looking for a spooky book to read on Halloween and it's currently a tie between this and Joe Hill's 'N0S4R2'.

The last time I read 'Fahrenheit 451' was way back in high school, possibly for GCSE but more likely because I absolutely tore through the sci-fi shelves in our school library. It was either that or play football and have you ever seen me play football? Reading sci-fi it was then… I've got vague memories of a hard going old read, I'll be interested to see if my mind changes now.

So, charity shops all the way then in terms of amazing surprise book finds :o) Please feel free to use the comments bit to tell me about anything cool that you've found in a charity shop recently. Just so long as it isn't 'Know No Fear', that was the book I was looking for and I'll get all jealous if you've bought that already...

Saturday, 25 October 2014

'Avengers: Age of Ultron' Trailer

I know the whole internet has seen this already but it is still awesome enough to post all over again. How many days to go until we can see the whole thing...?

And as a bonus, here's the 'Honest Trailer' for 'X-Men: Days of Future Past', just because it made me laugh. You're welcome :o)

Friday, 24 October 2014

'The Flame Knife' - Robert E. Howard & L. Sprague de Camp

Well, I was going to try and break things up a little bit but if I'm being absolutely honest, 'The Flame Knife' looked like another quick read that would give me time to get in a couple of extra games of 'Frozen Free Fall' before I got to work. I've been filling up my phone with 'Frozen' stuff just recently, Hope is really into it (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it), and some of the apps I've found are a real testament to just how far developers will go to jam an idea into a concept. I can just about get my head around the whole 'look after baby Ana and Elsa' app (cos' they were babies once upon a time) but the 'stitch up the large gash on Ana's face' app…? Nope, me neither. Hope loves it though, she's bloodthirsty like that…

But, 'The Flame Knife'…
A little digging (thanks 'Conan Wiki'!) revealed that 'The Flame Knife' was originally an El Borak tale that De Camp reworked (extensively too) into a 'new' Howard story for publication in 1955. This feels more than a little harsh to me; poor El Borak and poor everyone else who thought that they were getting a brand new tale. It's not as if the tale was worked from a fragment either, it's a re-jigging of something that was already doing the rounds. Like I said, poor El Borak… I couldn't help but have this at the back of my mind while I was reading 'The Flame Knife' which is a bit of a shame because it's a very entertaining read.

Now leader of a group of kozaki, Conan, on the run from the displeased king of Iranistan, finds himself in the demon-infested mountain ranges of Drujistan where he discovers a hidden city and the secrets of the cultish Hidden Ones. 

The danger of following one 'Conan' review with another 'Conan' review is that you don't really leave yourself with room to say anything new; especially when the second tale is written by the same author who wrote the first one. You don't have to feel sorry for me or anything but, well… Maybe feel a little bit sorry for me. It's a tough line to walk though. The length of 'The Flame Knife' gives De Camp more room to explore the world of Conan and the reader gets to follow Conan through some gloriously bleak desert landscapes as a result. Or is it El Borak? I'll stop with that now…

Whoever and whatever, 'The Flame Knife' has all the hallmarks of a classic Conan tale; more than likely because Howard's hand is more evident in the proceedings rather than 'just being the muse' as he was for 'Black Tears'. All the usual ingredients are there (I loved the bit with the obligatory huge monster that Conan has to defeat) but there just seems to be more zest and energy to the proceedings. As it happened, I ended up giving 'Frozen Free Fall' a miss so I could finish reading 'The Flame Knife' and that says it all really (given that my attention span has shrunk to the size of my phone screen). 'The Flame Knife' can be found in 'Conan the Wanderer'. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

'Black Tears' - L.Sprague De Camp & Lin Carter

Me: "Hey blog, how's it going?"
Blog: "…"
Me: "Come on, don't be like that. You know how the last couple of weeks have been; the only books I managed to read were for the kids bedtime and I couldn't exactly post about 'Snugglebunny' could I?"

Blog: *Accusing Face*
Me: "No, just no. As brilliant as 'Snugglebunny' is, it has no business being on a genre blog."
Blog: *sniff*
Me: "I know you're upset but I managed to do a little reading on the bus this morning and it was 'Conan'. We both like 'Conan' don't we?"

Blog: *Hopeful Eyes*
Me: "Lets post something about that and see where we go next. I've got some David Gemmell to read and the new Sam Sykes is looking pretty promising as well. It's going to be good, I promise."

Blog: *Slighty Teary Smile*
Me: "Come on, lets do it."

Now the slightly awkward reconciliation is out of the way (I'm sorry you had to see that…) lets get on with business. A little while ago, I picked up a load of old 'Conan' paperbacks so I could get other writers takes on the iconic barbarian. Most of what I've had a chance to read so far is by De Camp and Carter, both of whom played a large part in keeping Robert E. Howard's Work in print, be it completed stories or fragments.

From my own limited knowledge (correct me if I'm wrong guys), 'Black Tears' is an original piece by De Camp and Carter that fills in one of the many gaps that appear between Howard's own tales. There's clearly a lot of fertile ground here to really bring Conan to life but it's up in the air as to whether De Camp and Carter actually manage it. 'Black Tears' is a solid enough read but…

'Black Tears' has Conan pursuing a traitor into the desert after foiling an ambush by a Turanian army. What lies at the heart of the desert is so fearsome that Conan's Zuagir tribesmen would rather drug him and flee than face it themselves. Not only a traitor awaits in the city of Akhlat the Accursed, there is also a demon that prophecy says only Conan can kill…

Like I said to the blog just now, 'Black Tears' was a tale that I read over the course of one bus journey with more than enough happening to keep my interest. I'm not sure of the thought process that led Conan to kill the demon at the end (it's not a spoiler, everyone knows how Conan stories have to end…) but there's a lot of power behind these scenes to pull you past those moments of doubt just before you realise that they are there. Sword fights, beautiful women and a monster to be killed; it's a typical Conan story and this realisation casts its own shadow over the tale.

Conan is Howard's own creation and once you read Howard's stories, you realise that all any other writers can do is borrow Conan for a while before putting him back where he belongs. If you follow the formula then you are 'aping' Howard but if you don't follow the formula you have the shadow of a master storyteller hanging over you; a shadow that it's pretty much impossible to emerge from (especially if you have borrowed arguably his greatest creation). Karl Edward Wagner came closest to achieving that impossible goal, with 'The Road of Kings', but he didn't quite make it; De Camp and Carter appear to opt for playing it safe and are quiet happy to sit under that shadow in the meantime. That's fair enough but Conan is a character who's never afraid to take a chance, it would be nice to see a writer/writers who would do the same.

Maybe it's unfair to ask that though. Maybe we should just be happy that there are writers out there who were prepared to try and give us a little more of something amazing, even if they were never quite going to manage it. I don't know what that means for future posts here about Conan stories, I have a few still to read, I think I'll probably just enjoy them for what they are and post 'as and when'.

If you want to read 'Black Tears' you can find it in old copies of 'Conan the Wanderer' or Orbit's (not quite as old but still getting on a bit) 'The Conan Chronicles 2'.

Friday, 10 October 2014

'The Old Scale Game' (From 'The Very Best of Tad Williams' - Tachyon Press)

I'm always a little bit wary of titles like 'The Best of', 'The Very Bestof…', 'Even Better than the Very Best of…' (well, you know what I mean)because it always feels like the book is either setting itself up for a
fall or, perhaps even worse, setting the reader for a fall. It's a nice thing to put in a title but it just feels like asking for trouble. Even with a writer like Tad Williams, I found myself looking at the table of
contents and thinking to myself, 'No 'The Burning Man'? Really?'

It's a good thing then that this particular book is all about work by Tad Williams because even if it's missing a favourite or two you're still pretty certain of coming across some very good storytelling. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm a fan (so take my words as you will) but it's hard not to be when the quality of what I've read is so consistent and
also that Williams is prepared to turn his hand to anything. I came to Tad Williams through his 'Osten Ard' books and, as a result, I've always kept an eye open for anything of his that is fantasy based. Not only was 'The Old Scale Game' the first tale in the collection but it has dragons and all sorts of monsters in its eighteen pages. I was sold right from the start.

'The Old Scale Game' takes a simple premise and shows the reader what could happen if a scheme is a little* too* successful and everyone wants in on it. What originally begins as a 'one man, one dragon' operation leads to any number of mythical beasts wanting to get involved, resulting in depression and spiralling alcoholism for one of the original conspirators. I found myself in the position where I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for Guldhogg and Sir Blivet, even though a blatant lack of forethought had led them to this in the first place. Everything works out though (it had to, given the note of gently humour that runs through the piece) and all credit to Williams for taking a thoroughly twentieth century concept and having it sit very comfortably in a tenth century setting (although if the reader is asked to believe in dragons then it's not a huge leap to believe in a dragon that… that would be telling).

I'm still not sold on the title of this collection but I bought 'The Very Best of Tad Williams' with the sole intention of having a lot of fun with the stories inside. 'The Old Scale Game' ended up being a great way to kick
that off (I knew it would).

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

'The Free' - Brian Ruckley (Orbit)

They are the most feared mercenary company the kingdom has ever known.
Led by Yulan, their charismatic captain, the Free have spent years selling their martial and magical skills to the highest bidder - winning countless victories that shook the foundations of the world. Now they finally plan to lay down their swords.
Yet when Yulan is offered a final contract, he cannot refuse - for the mission offers him the chance to erase the memories of the Free's darkest hour, which have haunted him for years.
As The Free embark on their last mission, a potent mix of loyalty and vengeance is building to a storm. Freedom, it seems, carries a deadly price.

I can't remember why I never carried on with Ruckley's 'Godless World' books after thoroughly enjoying 'Winterbirth'; somehow the time was never quite right I guess. The premise of 'The Edinburgh Dead' never quite appealed to me either and so it has been a few years since I've read anything by Brian Ruckley. The prospect of a new fantasy novel piqued my interest though, especially when I realised it was standalone and there were no worries about committing to a series (I have HUGE 'series commitment' issues right now…) And it was about mercenaries as well! I always enjoy reading military sci-fi/fantasy as the whole 'band of brothers' theme is one that's rich for exploring characters and seeing just what people will do to survive the battlefields of speculative fiction. On the face of it then, 'The Free' looked like it had everything I look for in a book and written by a guy with good form for writing fantasy. It couldn't really go wrong… Could it?

Well, could it…?

The good news is that nothing went wrong, nothing at all. The only criticism I'd level is that every now and then, Ruckley's prose doesn't quite match the high standards he has obviously set himself in terms of world building, exploration and characterisation. There were times when the prose didn't grab me in the way that it was clearly meant to and I was left reading in order to get to the next good bit rather than reading because I really wanted to. If you know what I mean.

What didn't grab me though may end up grabbing you by something vital, and refusing to let go, so don't let me put you off on that score because there is still one heck of a lot to recommend 'The Free'.

'The Free' is an engaging mix of action and introspection with panoramic scenes combat broken up with characters reflecting on it all. Fair play to Ruckley for avoiding what could have become an issue of 'ebb and flow' with the pacing of the novel. There is just as much weight given to Yulan's issues surrounding leadership of the Free, and Drann's unique perspective on it all as contract bearer, as there are to each of the battles. All of these have a suitably climactic feel to them by the way; you may only be a hundred pages into the book (with clearly a lot more plot to go) but you can't escape the feeling that a lot rides on each confrontation. It all makes for a gripping read.
Ruckley's treatment of the Free initially casts them in a familiar light to most other mercenary companies etc that you will come across in speculative fiction. A hard-bitten crew, very good at what they do and with loads of enemies because of it. Dig a little deeper though and their feeling of shared responsibility, over one of the darker moments in the history of the Free, is an intriguing hook that will have you rooting for them all. That and Ruckleys exploration of his magic system, the Entelech, and how it can result in 'permanences' that are as likely to kill allies as well as enemies (and wouldn't we all secretly want to own something like the Clamour? I would)

Seeing all of this through the eyes of Drann, a young man who can just about hold a spear and found himself in the right place at the wrong time, also makes for compelling reading at times as we see not only his preconceptions of the Free both shattered and confirmed but we also see his character tempered in the warfare that follows the Free. He is not the same character who starts the story and that's as it should be when coming out of a journey like the one he has made.

'The Free' is a lot of fun to read and gives its readers a lot to chew on, all wrapped up in a world that I for one would like to see more of. Given the ending, it is highly unlikely that we will see any more of the Free but I can but hope… Look out for 'The Free' around October 14th and when you see it, buy it.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Books in the Post! 'Long Overdue' Edition…

As you can see by the pile of books below, it's been a while since I've done one of these posts… :o) This isn't one of those 'Update' posts though as updates have been crept into the last couple of posts and you can have too much of a good/bad thing ;o) Nope, we're all about the books today; check 'em out,

This is the shelf where all my comic books used to sit until I realised I wasn't going to read them again (and away they went!) Some of the money that I made off them went on…

'Gridlinked' (Neal Asher) - Because I got such a kick out of 'The Departure' that I figured it was time to give the 'Polity' books another go as well.
'Darkness Weaves' (Karl Edward Wagner) - My hunt for the 'Kane' books is a slow and steady one that pays off every now and then. Two down, three more to go (I think)
'Sharps' (K.J. Parker) - I've never quite managed to 'get' Parker's books and I really want to. I never got round to reading 'Sharps' when it first came out so am going to give it another try after I've got another couple of books out of the way first.
'The Fire Prince' (Emily Gee) - No idea, possibly because the guy on the cover looks really worried.
'Blood & Bone' (Ian Cameron Esslemont) - The only Esslemont book that I didn't have on my shelves, now all I have to do is read them all...
'The Fifth Head of Cerebus' (Gene Wolfe) - I have a weakness for the old 'SF Masterworks' books (the black cover looks a lot nicer than the new yellow one) and I've been meaning to read more by Wolfe.
'Mockingbird' (Walter Tevis) - As above really, only substituting Tevis for Wolfe.
'The Crown of the Blood' (Gav Thorpe) - It doesn't happen often but every now and then I have to buy a book before leaving a bookshop (feel like I've failed somehow if I don't) and 'The Crown of the Blood' was that book a couple of weeks ago. Looks good though and will be saved for those precious moments when I've got time to get stuck into something a bit thicker than normal.

Did I tell you that it was my birthday the other day? I didn't? Well, it was and here's what I treated myself to…
'Revelation Space' (Alastair Reynolds) The last time I read this book (years ago) I was high on morphine (legitimately high, I was in hospital) and had some really weird dreams. No anaesthetic this time, we'll see how it goes.
'Chasm City' (Alastair Reynolds) - Again, it's been years since I read 'Chasm City' and buying 'Revelation Space' got me all interested again.
'The Sentinel Mage' (Emily Gee) - Because I'd already bought 'The Fire Prince' by this point and 'The Sentinel Mage' precedes it.It would have been kind of weird not to buy it...
For some odd reason Patricia McKillip's 'Ombria in Shadow' didn't make it into the picture. It should have done (buying it was the first thing I did once the birthday money cleared in my account)

It has been more of a time for 'books bought' rather than 'review copies received' and I'm happy with that. I'd forgotten how satisfying buying books could be (online or in the store). A few turned up from publishers, mostly because I asked for them (just as satisfying albeit for different reasons) :-)
'Zero Point' (Neal Asher) - As I said above, I enjoyed 'The Departure' enough to want to read more and Tor UK very kindly agreed to help out.
'Jupiter War' (Neal Asher) - Because if I'm going to read the first two books in a trilogy then I would be dumb not to pick up the last one (unless 'Zero Point' is awful but I don't think it will be)
'The Knight' (Pierre Pevel) - I don't know if it's my watching 'Game of Thrones' but I'm really into knights at the moment so the title pretty much sold itself.

A nice load of books to get stuck into then; I can see Asher's books being read first, possibly followed by 'Sharps' then… Whatever comes next :o) Anything there catch your eye?

Friday, 3 October 2014

Did not finish… 'The Wolves of London' - Mark Morris (Titan Books)

Alex Locke is a reformed ex-con forced into London's criminal underworld for one more job. He agrees to steal a priceless artefact - a human heart carved from the blackest obsidian - but when the burglary goes horribly wrong, Alex is plunged into the nightmarish world of the Wolves of London, unearthly assassins who will stop at nothing to reclaim the heart. As he races to unlock the secrets of the mysterious object, Alex must learn to wield its dark power - or be destroyed by it.

So, the first post for October is a 'did not finish'… If I'd got my act together this post would have probably featured around the middle of last month but a heck of a lot has been happening and the blog has suffered the most in terms of what has my attention (probably because, out of everything, the blog really doesn't care if I ignore it for a few days and that's the way it should be). I'm also finding it really difficult to focus on more than a few pages at a time (which is killing me, I love reading) which isn't really conducive to blog posting either. I keep plugging away though :o)

But the book, the book… I picked up 'The Wolves of London' with high hopes that eventually came to nothing and resulted in a 'did not finish'.
I live in London and it's a place that was made to be an Urban Fantasy/Horror setting with its haphazard sprawl and attendant myths and legends all helping to provide a setting full of inspiration. Hence the high hopes then and, to begin with, 'Wolves' looked like it was going to deliver with an engaging lead and a set of intriguing questions punctuated with otherworldly violence. All good, right? 

Well, it would have been all good if Morris could have kept up that early promise of fast paced action with his own slightly weird (but very unsettling) take on Urban Fantasy. If he had, this would be an entirely different post. This is the post it is though and some moments of really intense and creepy fear were cancelled out, for me, by a tendency for the prose to linger (where it needed to keep that frantic pace) and an inescapable feeling that 'Wolves' was treading overly familiar ground in terms of this particular sub-genre. I try to be forgiving of things like that but that forgiveness only goes so far when I want a book to hold my attention (instead of feeling like I'm reading the same book over and over again...) 

I read the first couple of hundred pages (well, more like the first hundred and then skimmed the next hundred...) and there is evidence of a read that will suit fans of Urban Fantasy mixed with a hint of horror. Just not me though; the days are long gone where I would have torn through this and had a review up the next day. I need a little more from my reading and 'The Wolves of London' didn't quite make that leap into 'must finish' territory.

Oh well, onto the next book (which is Brian Ruckley's 'The Free' in case you were wondering)...

Friday, 26 September 2014

'The Departure' - Neal Asher (Tor UK)

The Argus Space Station looks down on a nightmarish Earth. And from this safe distance, the Committee enforces its despotic rule. There are too many people and too few resources, and they need twelve billion to die before Earth can be stabilised. So corruption is rife, people starve, and the poor are policed by mechanised overseers and identity-reader guns. Citizens already fear the brutal Inspectorate with its pain inducers. But to reach its goals, the Committee will unleash satellite laser weaponry, taking carnage to a new level.
This is the world Alan Saul wakes to, travelling in a crate destined for the Calais incinerator. How he got there he doesn’t know, but he remembers pain and his tormentor’s face. He also has company: Janus, a rogue intelligence inhabiting forbidden hardware in his skull. As Janus shows Saul an Earth stripped of hope, he resolves to annihilate the Committee and their regime. Once he’s discovered who he was, and killed his interrogator . . .

Neal Asher is one of those authors where I really feel like I should have read more of his books than I actually have done (three or four so far, in case you're wondering). I have a natural aversion to long running science fiction series if I haven't been reading them from the start, too much time and investment required, and this is the case with Asher's 'Polity' works. (Apropos of nothing, I have absolutely no qualms diving into long running fantasy series; that's how I roll).
A bit of birthday money and what looks like a completed trilogy ('The Owner' trilogy) looked like a great way to address this, I've been in the mood for a little space opera just recently, so I did the only thing I could. I started reading :o)

'The Owner' books are a 'departure' (pun not intended originally but I'm running with it) from Asher's 'Polity' books, taking place on an Earth reminiscent of 'Blake's 7' with a totalitarian government stamping down hard on the general populace. I couldn't help but wonder if Asher's politics were showing a little too clearly in the plot (with some of the background prose perhaps being a little too opinionated in terms of the actions of government) but the overall affect is compelling with Asher killing off vast swathes of humanity with almost gleeful abandon (in marked contrast to the chilling statistics delivered by an increasingly impersonal Alan Saul) using weaponry apt for such a vicious regime. The Shepherds make me shiver a little just writing about them. There is a lot of scope here for full on 'sci-fi violence' and Asher makes the most of every chance he gets. The body count is astronomical although the heavy numbers all happen 'off the page' as it were. What you do see though is hard hitting enough. No-one is safe from the guns of the Committee or Saul's robot army. Certain characters are guaranteed to make it through but don't get too attached to any of the supporting cast, that's all I'm saying…

A key theme of 'The Departure' is Saul's transition from man into a post-human man/machine hybrid. For the most part Asher handles this transition very well with some interesting insights into just what it means to gradually surrender your humanity. Saul's conflict with Director Smith is also a high point as far as this theme goes with Asher showing the fight on two fronts with blows dealt in cyberspace and some stunning sequences taking place between opposing armies of robots on a space station (worth the price of entry). Metal stuff gets blown up and/or ripped to pieces by other metal stuff and there are times when you can't ask for much more than that. Where Asher fell down for me, exploring this theme, was that there were times where he made Saul a little too impersonal. I can understand the approach but some of the resulting descriptive passages came across as rather dull, I'm thinking of Saul's view of the Argus space station which I ended up skimming just to get to the good bits.

On the whole, 'The Departure' is a fast paced affair with a mix of big explosions, an 'evil empire' and a flawed anti-hero; more than enough to make me want to read the next book in the series. Having said all that though, 'The Departure' is also a book that can feel like it's talking in a monotone at the most inappropriate times; I'm hoping for good things from 'Zero Point' but will approach it with some caution...

Thursday, 25 September 2014

'Elric Volume 1: The Ruby Throne' - Moorcock, Blondel, Poli, Recht, Bastide (Titan Comics)

The laptop is working again! This blog might just see a little more activity from here on in...

It's a fact long ago established, on blogs other than this one, that I will read pretty much anything 'Eternal Champion' related that Michael Moorcock has written. Which means pretty much everything he has written doesn't it? I mean, from what I've seen it all ties together at one level or another. I have a lot of reading to get through yet then…

In the meantime though, it's the 'Eternal Champion' books 'proper' that provide an element of the comfort read but with characterisation and an 'edge' that really forces me to engage with what is in front of me. Elric may not be my favourite of the Champions (this changes between Corum and Hawkmoon with a little Bastable thrown in for variety) but, of all of them, he is the one with the tale that is really worth staying the course for.

That's the reason why then that you will see Elric pop up a little more in other mediums than the likes of Erekose etc. Especially in comics which offer the kind of 'wide screen' format that really suit Elric's sprawling, multi-dimensional adventures. All of which leads us to the latest comic book iteration of Elric's adventures…

The story itself will be familiar to fans with Elric battling the human side of his nature as well as his vicious cousin, Yyrkoon, who wishes to rule Melnibone and restore it to its old cruel glories. What is surprising though is the amount of backstory (and 'front story' too, if 'front story' is a term…) that has been taken out. This is a very much stripped down version of the tale with only the key moments happening and that's fair enough if you're a first time 'Elric reader' wanting to get a feel for things. Longer term readers may feel like there's a little too much missing for the read to be truly satisfying. That was how I found it anyway. The important bits are all there and the story itself doesn't feel disjointed in any way, just lacking the depth of the novel.

The artwork though… The artwork almost makes up for the skeletal plot with Robin Recht and Didier Poli combining to give the reader some quite frankly awesome depictions of Melnibone and its decadent inhabitants. Recht and Poli don't pull any punches when showing the readers the cruel and yet somehow strangely lazy excesses of Melnibone; this is not a book for younger readers (just in case you were wondering) with explicit scenes of torture that are exactly what Melnibone is all about. And those last scenes where Arioch makes his first appearance… You can almost hear his entrance, the artwork is that good.

I'm not sure where 'The Ruby Throne' falls then as the plot is a little too flimsy for the long term fan while the art might put off newcomers (it worked for me but I can see it being a little too evocative for some…) I enjoyed it for what it was though and am looking forward to reading 'Stormbringer' when it is published; just hoping there's a little more meat on that one...

Friday, 19 September 2014

'Guinea Pigs ate my Laptop!' A Quick Update...

Hi y'all :o)

Apologies for the extended period of silence on the blog, it's been a crazy couple of weeks what with one thing and another (and another and another…)
Work has been full on every single day, easily the most high pressured job that I've ever found myself in. It's good though and it sure beats the alternative; yep, I still remember what is was like to be out of work for over a year and I never want to find myself in that place again. The internet access here is severely restricted so I can't even pop on for a
quick post at lunchtimes.

As far as home goes, well… Maybe I'll tell you more about that another time. Suffice it to say that internet access is fine but the fact that the guinea pigs chewed through the adaptor lead, on the laptop (still needs to be replaced at time of writing) led to other problems. My money is on 'Big Red Fire' (yes, we let Hope choose his name) having done the deed.

And as far as reading goes, I haven't really done an awful lot to be honest. Busy at work, busy at home and the anti-depressants that I'm taking can make it difficult to stay focussed on anything heavier going than a Doctor Who book (which is why I've been reading them!) I've read a few books though and, rather than wait until I've got hold of a new adaptor for the laptop, figured I'd sum them up here. Nothing in depth, just a few quick thoughts.

Here goes...

'The Crimson Campaign' - Brian McClellan (Orbit Books)

Tamas's invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy's best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through
northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god.

In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the truth is darker than he could have imagined.

With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself alongside the god Mihali as the last line of defence against Kresimir's advancing army. Tamas's generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye.

I loved 'Promise of Blood' and read 'The Crimson Campaign' over two coach journeys to/from Plymouth. It's hard not to say anything that I haven't
already said about the first book; plotting, pace and moments of spectacle here are all on the money as per the last book. 'If it isn't broken…' and all that… The forced march of Tamas' army does add something new to the mix in terms of seeing Tamas as renowned soldier as well as Tamas 'the soldier who killed all the nobility and took power'. I love it when a writer takes time to flesh out their characters and there is a lot of that in 'The Crimson Campaign'. There is also a really good mix of warfare on the front line (go Taniel!) and arguably dirtier warfare in the back streets of the capitol; a lot of intrigue balanced neatly with moments of  mayhem and bloody violence. This is a series that has already ticked all the boxes that I want ticking, for must read fantasy, bring on 'The Autumn
War'. Bring it on now!

'The White Towers' - Andy Remic (Angry Robot Books)

Vagandrak is broken, and a new threat has arisen that threatens to defeat even the mighty Iron Wolves. The twisted, deviant Elf Rats have gathered in the toxic realm beyond the White Lion Mountains... swiftly they invade the troubled land of Vagandrak, killing for profit and pleasure. The
now-disgraced Iron Wolves are the realm's only hope, but there's a problem: they've been sentenced to death by the insane King Yoon for the dark sorcery in their blood. In the mountains of Zalazar lie the White Towers, pillars of legend said to contain the Heart of the Elves. The Iron Wolves
must journey north to steal the Heart, and purify the evil in the land, but the land belongs to the Elves and they won't give it up without a fight!

In a parallel dimension, David Gemmell was writing one day and all of sudden thought, "f*** this s***, I'm done with writing about redemption and honour; it's time to just focus on nasty b******s doing evil things in the name of… I don't know, I'll add more spilled entrails to those passages." A dimensional rift bought the parallel universe David over to our dimension where he currently writes under the pseudonym of Andy Remic.

Seriously though, Remic is what David Gemmell would have been if Grimdark had been more of a thing (or a thing at all) back in the eighties. Remic being Remic though, the grimdark is dialled up to a level beyond parody and becomes a whole new cartoonish realm of fantasy altogether. Not being easily offended myself, I had a great time reading 'The White Towers' with its intoxicating mix of high octane action and more thoughtful moments on what it means to be an Iron Wolf and loathe your comrades, even though they're the closest thing to friends that you have. It looks like there's at least one more book in this series and I personally am well up for it. 'The White Towers' may not be doing anything new but Remic is enjoying himself too much to care and when the author is enjoying his story you can't help but enjoy it with him.
'The Return of Conan' - Bjorn Nyberg (1957)
I've been collecting the old Conan books, mostly to pick up stories that I haven't read yet but also (if I'm being completely honest with myself) because I have a real soft spot for the 'old school' cover art. I'm in two minds over 'The Return of Conan'; it's a book that represents the worst of formulaic and linear plotting (Conan has a fight, makes love to a princess and repeat…) but at the same time I love the way that Conan's mission becomes a 'Reunion Tour' of sorts where he keeps bumping into old friends and settling old scores. It's like Nyberg took it upon himself to tie up loose threads left by Howard, perhaps a little presumptuous but you have to admire his nerve in terms of building upon what Howard had left behind. And the sword fights were good too, even if they were a little one sided and lacking in any kind of narrative tension.

'The Return of Conan' made for a nice little palate cleanser then (every time I couldn't get into something heavier) and another title that I can tick off my list of books to read. Anything more than that though? Eminently forgettable just about covers it.

So that's the books I've been reading just recently. When I can find a cheap laptop adaptor, I'll let you know about the comics as well... ;o)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Cover Art & Blurb - 'The Hive Construct' (Alexander Maskill)

While I try to wean myself off 'retro-comfort reading' (and try to remember enough about 'The Crimson Campaign' to be able to write a review...) have a look at the cover art for 'The Hive Construct'...

How can a cover have so much going on but be so bland at the same time? It actually takes a level of genius to come up with the kind of cover that says 'I'm safe, read me and no-one will ever know what you are reading about...' Shame really as the blurb looks promising,

Situated deep in the Sahara Desert, New Cairo is a city built on technology - from the huge, life-giving solar panels that keep it functioning in a radically changed, resource-scarce world to the artificial implants that have become the answer to all and any of mankind's medical problems.

But it is also a divided city, dominated by a handful of omnipotent corporate dynasties.

And when a devastating new computer virus begins to spread through the poorest districts, shutting down the life-giving implants that enable so many to survive, the city begins to slide into the anarchy of violent class struggle.

Hiding amidst the chaos is Zala Ulora. A gifted hacker and fugitive from justice, she believes she might be able to earn her life back by tracing the virus to its source and destroying it before it destroys the city. Or before the city destroys itself . . .

'The Hive Construct' won the 2013 Terry Pratchett Prize  and will be published early next month. The cover art for 'The Hive Construct' will win no prizes whatsoever but does have my grudging respect (for what it's worth).

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

'Doctor Who And The Image Of The Fendhal' - Terrance Dicks (Target)

 If there is anything that looks more dated than old Doctor Who cover art I have yet to see it...  :o)

A sonic time scan draws the TARDIS to the Fetch Priory on Earth. There, the Doctor and Leela discover an impossibly old human skull that is the key to a nightmare from the Time Lords’ past.
A murderous monster stalks the priory grounds; and within, someone is intent on unleashing a malevolent creature that feeds on death itself... 

I think this is likely to be the last 'Doctor Who' book (well, Target novelisation) spoken about here for a very long time. I've done enough comfort reading around Doctor Who anyway and there's also the inescapable fact that the more of these books I talk about, the less I have to say. They all follow the same lines structurally and thematically which doesn't leave you a lot else to talk about. One day, I'm considering copying an old review (just swapping the title for something different) and seeing if anyone notices… ;o)

But in the meantime, 'The Image of the Fendhal'. If 'The Curse of Fenric' was the story that scared me as a teenager then 'The Image of the Fendhal' is very much the book that scared the life out of me as a child. The opening scenes, which cut between an experiment that takes an unexpected turn and the resulting death of a hitch hiker build up tension very nicely to a well placed climactic scene which pushes you headlong into the rest of the plot. 

'The Image of the Fendhal' is another Doctor Who story simply told and very formulaic. You certainly get what you pay for here (in this case, a penny via Amazon New and Used…) Making up for this though is a really dark undertone of horror that props the story up. When even the Doctor is scared of the Fendhal you know that they are an enemy who will take some defeating. And you really feel the rising terror in the characters when they find their legs refusing to move as the Fendhaleen bears down on them… It's moments like this that make the story worth reading and I wouldn't mind tracking down the DVD to see how the story comes across on screen. 'The Image of the Fendhal' is a simple tale but also a dark one that taps into Doctor Who in a way that I don't normally find with the TV show. Are all Fourth Doctor stories like this (I seem to remember reading a few like this as a kid)?

I'm not sure I'll be in a mad hurry to re-read 'The Image of the Fendhal' (nostalgia will only take you so far after all) but it was fun while it lasted and still had the capacity to make the hairs on my arms stand up. Can't ask for a lot more than that really.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

My Favourite 'Book Place' in Lewisham

Books are great; as a child some of my very best friends were books (not that I didn't have real friends but, you know what I mean) and there are still some dog-eared books on my shelves that I'll never get rid of because... I feel like I owe them a bit more than that.

All the other books though...

One of my first jobs, when we moved to London, was to go into the homes of the recently deceased and sift through their belongings, looking for information on next of kin and how they could be contacted. Seriously, it is a job that people do.
One thing I realised, fairly recently, is that I don't want to be the book equivalent of the dead guy who we found had filled his house full of thousands upon thousands of biros. I'm also getting to a point now where if I'm never going to go back to a book then it needs to go somewhere it will feel appreciated again. It's only fair after all.

A lot of books are leaving the house then and I wanted to show you where they're all going, just because I think it's a great idea and more people should do stuff like this.
I take a ten minute walk up the hill, from my house, and leave my old books here...

Yep, it's the 'micro-library' I've mentioned here a couple of times. It operates a 'take a book, leave one behind' policy which I've turned into a 'take one occasionally, leave thirty or forty books behind whenever I happen to be passing'; I'm sure they don't mind. I know I used to donate my books to charity and I do feel a little guilty that I'm not doing that now. There's something really cool though about a community coming together and sharing their books via an old phone box that would have been removed. Like I said, it would be great if we could see more of this happening.

I dropped some books off last night and this was what I was greeted with when I opened the door,

Maybe not the most inspiring sight for a fan of SFF fiction but funnily enough, that's what I like most about this phone box full of books - you never know what you will find until you pay it a visit. I went a few weeks ago and someone had filled an entire shelf full of old crime books; there were comics to be had a few weeks before that. While I'll always know what to expect from a bookshop (and that's not a bad thing) there's something a little magical about stepping into this phone box and not knowing what you will find once you are there. If it comes down to it, I know which side I'd choose.

That's me then, other than to say that there are some good books, waiting in the micro-library, for someone just like you you to pass by. I should know, I left loads there last night. If you pick one up, happy reading :o)

Friday, 5 September 2014

Cover Art and Blurb, 'The Lady' - K.V. Johansen (Pyr)

Just because, Raymond Swanland :o)

It is my firm belief that Raymond Swanland couldn't do bad cover art if he tried. The guy clearly has the talent of ten lesser artists coursing through his veins which must be the reason why I can't draw at all... Well, that's my reason and I'm sticking to it.
And here's the blurb,

Possessed by a ghost who feeds on death, the undying assassin Ahjvar the Leopard has been captured by the Lady of Marakand, enslaved by necromancy to be captain of her Red Masks. His shield-bearer Ghu, a former slave with an uncanny ability to free the captive dead, follows Ahjvar into the war-torn lands of the Duina Catairna to release him, even if that means destroying what is left of Ahj’s tormented soul.
Deyandara, the last surviving heir of the Catairnan queen, rides into a land ravaged by disease and war, seeking the allies she abandoned months before, though they have no hope of standing against the army led by the invulnerable Red Masks of Marakand and the divine terror of the Lady.
In the city of Marakand, former enemies ally and old friends seek one another’s deaths as loyalists of the entombed gods Gurhan and Ilbialla raise a revolt, spearheaded by the Grasslander wizard Ivah, the shapeshifting Blackdog, and the bear-demon Mikki. The Lady’s defenses are not easily breached, though, and the one enemy who might withstand her, the Northron wanderer Moth, bearer of the sword Lakkariss, has vanished.

I really want to read this but although I have a copy of 'The Leopard' to hand, I've never read 'Black Dog' and am wary about doing a big ol' catch up (my life is a big ol' catch up right now and I haven't got any time for more of the same). Can anyone set my mind at rest/confirm my fears...?

'The Lady' will be published by Pyr in January next year.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

'Ladyhawke' - Joan D. Vinge (Piccolo Books)

Captain Etienne Navarre is a man on whose shoulders lie a cruel curse. Punished for loving each other, Navarre must become a wolf by night whilst
his lover, Lady Isabeau, takes the form of a hawk by day. Together, with the thief Philippe Gaston, they must try to overthrow the corrupt Bishop and in doing so break the spell...

So, am I comfort reading again? Yes, yes I am. The way things are at the moment, this blog would be a desolate and empty place if I left all the comfort reading out. Just bear with me a little longer and I'll be back to the good stuff before you know it (and I'll spare you the childhood reminiscing this time round, I supect there's only so much about cheese on toast that anyone can reasonably be expected to hear).


Did you watch the film or read the book first? As far as I was concerned, I didn't even realise that there was a film until some years later and, looking back, I think that was a good thing. Yep, I'm talking about the awful eighties 'disco' soundtrack that accompanies Rutger Hauer fighting the Bishop's Guard (trying his manful best to ignore it as he does so) I'm sure a little piece of me died when I saw the film for the first time and the music started playing. But the book though…

I've had my copy of 'Ladyhawke' for almost thirty years and it still hasn't lost its power to utterly captivate me. I start reading and that's it, I'm in the story until it finishes. 'Ladyhawke' is by no means a classic and doesn't do an awful lot that is different. A curse is a curse wherever you go and this is very much the deal here. Where Vinge makes things shine though is her characterisation and how this shows through when you actually see Navarre and Isbeau have that 'almost together' moment on the cusp of dawn. There's a part of me that is an old romantic and it never fails to make me well up a little to see two people in love who can't be together
because of evil magic. Vinge also has a happy knack of being able to get inside her characters heads and really lay them bare in such a way that you can't help but will them on. Navarre comes across as one dimensional initially but he is anything but once Vinge lets you into his head.

But I was saying, two lovers that can never be together... What was I talking about? Of course they will be together! I told you that this is a book that doesn't do an awful lot differently and the outcome is never really in doubt (hence the comfort read) despite some moments where you wonder what could happen. The final chapters are stirring affairs that rush the reader headlong into the final outcome whilst still giving the reader a feeling of doubt (especially when the bells ring, you'll know what I mean if you've read the book/seen the film). It's a heady mixture that still keeps my eyes on the page, even though this is a book that I must have read
dozens of times now.

It's no secret then (and definitely not a spoiler) that the ending is a happy one; like a medieval fairy tale with loads of grim bits but a hefty dose of morals at the end. Everyone gets what they deserve and this kind of ending doesn't really gel with the 'grimdark' tone of todays fantasy fiction. There's still a place for it though and I'd say a very necessary one. Our world may not be one for happy endings but fiction tells us that happy endings can happen and it's important for us to know this. 'Ladyhawke' does this very well indeed and there are enough second hand
copies floating about out there for you to get some of those good vibes
too. I'd thoroughly recommend it in fact.

Monday, 1 September 2014

'Couldn't Even Really Get Started, Let Alone Finish It…', 'The Black Guard' - A.J. Smith (Head of Zeus)

The city of Ro Canarn burns. With their father's blood fresh upon the headsman's sword, Lord Bromvy and Lady Bronwyn, the last scions of thehouse of Canarn, face fugitive exile or death. 

In the court of Ro Tiris, men fear to speak their minds. The Army of the Red marches upon the North. Strange accidents befall those who dare question the King's new advisors. Those foolish enough to speak their names call them the Seven Sisters: witches of the fire god; each as beautiful and as dangerous as a flame. 

And, called from the long ages of deep time by war and sacrifice, the children of a dead god are waking with a pitiless cry. 

All that was dead will rise. 
All that now lives will fall... 

Look at that blurb and bask in the glorious promise of epic fantasy… Cities with stirring names? Check. A Lord and Lady on the run? Double check. Attractive ladies who get up to all sorts of machinations in the name of their 'fire god'? And what about an ages old threat waking up to lay waste to the world of the living? Check and Check.

It's a blurb that really wants people to think that it's the next 'Song of Ice and Fire' and I really wish that's what 'The Black Guard' had been. If it had been then I'd still be reading it instead of casting about looking
for something to take its place. As it is, I will go back to 'The Black Guard' at some point as there is a lot of potential in what I've read. It's just a real shame that I made it about two hundred pages into the book and found that the story was still to get going… Slow and steady may win the day but 'too slow and steady' has a nasty habit of sending me to sleep
these days. Reading that first chunk of of 'The Black Guard' was like wading through treacle; really sweet but ultimately tiring.

While there is an argument to be made that a lot of epic fantasies take time to get going, you could look at any of these series and it would be really apparent how they have worked round this issue. Compelling characters, ominous foreshadowing, even a dirty great battle where the aftermath can be explored. 'The Black Guard' has none of these things, preferring instead to weave its narrative around the edges of the plot and give you tantalising glimpses of what is to come. Well, that is the idea anyway; it never quite worked for me, mainly because the plot is so slow but also because Smith plays his cards a little too close to his chest and you never really get much of a glimpse of anything.

But you know what? I'll be going back to 'The Black Guard' and powering my way through the rest, probably when the insomnia really kicks in and I know that I've got a couple of hours to myself to really get stuck in. Is that slow pacing deliberate then? Is 'The Black Guard' a book that forces you to
take your time and really get a feel for the setting? I'm thinking it's more like David Bilsborough's 'The Wanderer's Tale' but I'm happy to be proved wrong when I give it another go. In the meantime, has anyone else here read 'The Black Guard'? Did you make it any further than a couple of
hundred pages? If so, what did you think?

Saturday, 30 August 2014

'Doctor Who and the Stones of Blood' - Terrance Dicks (Target)

Searching for the third segment to the Key to Time brings the Doctor and Romana to present-day Earth, where the travellers have to contend with stone circles, Druidic rituals and a not-so-mythical goddess known as the Cailleach. 

Unsurprisingly at the moment, it's all about comfort reading for me right now (which explains why it has taken me weeks to get to where I am with A.J. Smith's 'The Black Guard' but more on that another time…) and it struck me how the term doesn't quite gel with a lot of genre fiction. For example, last night I was after a comfort read and, at one point, it came down to a choice between 'A Game of Thrones' and 'The Stand'… I guess 'comfort reading', in this case, is more about familiar settings and
characters rather than the story itself and that's why you're looking at another Doctor Who post today :o) The Target novelizations are all about
comfort reading for me; familiar stories that I either read or saw on the TV, all wrapped up in cosy memories of cheese on toast for tea and lunchtime trips to the mobile library that used to park outside the shopping centre. And where is that shopping centre now, eh? It’s the foundations of an Asda, that's where it is. But anyway…

I never saw 'The Stones of Blood' on TV but borrowed it from the library, as a kid, and was scared by it just enough to make me pick up a copy again from the local comic book store (which is incredibly well stocked on Doctor Who books, I sense the possibility of another collection starting up…) and see what how the intervening years had treated it. These days, a Doctor Who book is normally good for a bus ride to work and back and 'The Stones of Blood' proved no different in this regard. It still had the power to scare as well, mostly through what is implied rather than what you actually see happen. The note of fear in De Vries' voice, coupled with the keen timing of the Ogri attack, makes for a nerve wracking passage and there are more of these interspersed throughout the book.

I'm at the point now, with the Target novelizations, where it almost goes without saying that 'The Stones of Blood' is, for the most part, a 'by the numbers' retelling of what viewers would have seen on the TV. Dicks does take time though to capture that quirky sense of two mildly eccentric
people bouncing off each other (the Doctor and Professor Rumford) although I wasn't so keen on the way he basically gave away the identity of the main villain very early on. I know people would have seen the show before reading the book (so it wouldn't have been much of a surprise anyway) but
it still felt a little clumsy, in terms of structuring a book, to do the 'big reveal' so early.

There's also a slightly disjointed feel to the book in terms of how it slips from 'slightly Gothic horror' on the Moors to the overtly sci-fi element of the tale. When each piece is taken on its own though, both are done very well in terms of atmosphere (my personal favourites were all the bits set on Earth, just on case you hadn't worked it out already).

A nice little read then. It goes without saying (so I should probably stop saying it…) that fans of the TV show will get the most out of 'The Stones of Blood' and that is probably why I enjoyed it as much as I did. I do wonder why BBC Books aren't republishing these books in omnibus editions or
something like that...

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Things that the Discworld books have taught me...

A Wizard's staff has a knob on the end.
The hedgehog is a particularly lucky animal :o)

There, now we've got those out of the way... (And yep, I made up at least two verses to the 'Hedgehog Song' when I was a teenager. I'll bet you did too)

I haven't picked up a 'Discworld' book in a few years now (whenever I reviewed 'Unseen Academicals' on the old blog, that was the last time) but I still remember some of the things that I learned through laughter. Genre fiction takes itself far too seriously and needs a little fun poked at it from time to time. The series as a whole wouldn't miss 'The Colour of Magic' at all. If you laugh with a character (no matter who they are) then you'll want to follow them right to the bitter end. And sometimes, it's ok to admit that the jokes just aren't tickling you any more and that new laughs are waiting over the horizon.

The thing that has struck me just recently though is how Pratchett does away with the whole notion of good and evil. People are just people, trying to do their thing and continuously running smack bang into other people who are just trying to do their thing. Trying to create something for themselves out of the raw stuff of daily life. What really scares Pratchett though (or at least, what he thinks should scare us) is the grey conformity of the Auditors where creation and growth are stifled and there is nothing left to do but exist (and don't you just feel the note of despair in those passages).

I'm in a grey area right now and have been for a long time. The greyness of depression played a part in my old blog finishing and it's doing its level best to tread all over this one too (hence the lack of posts just recently). It's hard to muster up the energy to do anything other than just exist sometimes.
I'm not done yet though (not quite yet) and if you're feeling anything like me then hang in there for a bit longer. If you can, be a Terry Pratchett character trying to create a little something for themselves out of the raw stuff of daily life. Even if it's just writing a sentence or two; once you've done it then depression can't take it back, no matter how much it wants to. It's all yours and you can be damn proud of what you've done.

I'm rambling a bit now so will stop just about here before all meaning is lost. I just wanted to let you know that depression is a bitch but I've got your back. And read 'Guards! Guards!' One of the older Discworld books but still the best of a pretty amazing bunch ;o)

Friday, 22 August 2014

Books 'Not in the Post' - 'Huge Spider!' Edition

Ok, maybe it wasn't such a huge spider but it scared the **** out of me when I looked up and saw it above the doorframe… Of course, Hope wanted to keep it so she could 'teach Mummy not to be scared of spiders'. No chance of that; at about half six yesterday morning Hope and I stood outside the house, waving goodbye to the spider as it was released from its pint glass prison and strolled off down the street. Seriously, it strolled; no-one was going to mess with this beast and it knew it.
But anyway, the books!
I've pretty much cleared my comic book shelf these past couple of weeks (if I'm not going to read them…) and made a few quid out of the deal. Most of that was spent yesterday as I browsed some second hand bookshops on the way to meet Sue and the girls from the station. Check em' out,
I've got most of the 'Conan' stories already so 'Conan' and 'Conan the Adventurer' were pure indulgence, bought mostly for the covers and to see how Lin Carter added to a couple of the unfinished tales. But mostly for the covers :)

I've read a few of the Vlad Taltos books (well, more like a couple) and really enjoyde them so 'Dzur' being a book that I hadn't read and only costing a pound was a good combination. It looks like it could be a good read for the bus when I'm commuting, anyone here read it?
The slightly blurred looking book, top right, is a rather well kept advance copy of Jeff Vandermeer's 'Acceptance', concluding book in the 'Southern Reach' trilogy. I haven't read 'Authority' yet, no excuse really, but it still didn't take much to persuade me to part with a little more cash. It will be a little while before you see a review here but you can expect one, definitely.

And the final book? I had just enough money left for either 'The Very Best of Tad Williams' or Erikson's 'The Wurms of Blearmouth'. The winner is obvious (clue, it wasn't 'The Wurms of Blearmouth'…) and I'll be dipping in and out of it every time full length novels feel a little too much like hard work ;o)

And that's that! Anything there catch your eye?