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Short Fiction Friday: Chapter Six

Chapter Six by Stephen Graham Jones
 
"Chapter Six", by Stephen Graham Jones, is an anthropological zombie story about Crain, a grad student, who has a theory of mankind’s evolution. As he and his former professor scavenge on bone marrow left behind by the local zombie horde, he makes his well-reasoned argument.


I was really in the mood for some scary fiction, browsing to my reading list for something in those lines and came across Chapter Six by Stephen Graham Jones,  I was really taken by the idea of something antropological. I have read plenty of stories and watched movies where you have a high focus on a zombie invasion but I felt that this story might just give me more. And it did. Very much.

The story of Chapter Six picks up with Crain who is out and about with his professor Dr. Ormon. Yes his professor, Crain is a grad student who is doing research on zombies. It is still possible after an apocalytpic event. Crain and Dr. Ormon are out in the field gathering data about the zombies which will help Crain to write his thesis. Now this might sound like something more in a funny direction but the tone of the story is very serious and when Crain and Dr. Ormon are discussing several things, amongst others Chapter two of Crain thesis some serious subject do pass the review and where both make noteowrhty arguments that will put you to thinking about them yourself.The discussion even go back as far as out own humanity and thus you can quite imagine that the subject is provocative. Now in the end of the story Stephen Graham Jones does the unthinkable. 

It comes down to this:
Crain pinched his pants up at the thighs to squat down, say it right to Dr. Ormon: “We’re not bone suckers, doctor. We’re persistence hunters. I think you’ll come to agree with me here shortly.
I am very taken by the unsetteling dark undertone of this story. But in a good way. This is my first antropological story that adressess some aspects of zombies and will make you see them in the future are more than just mindless creature. 

Give this story a try!


Read the full story here

Book Review: Prudence

Prudence by Gail Carriger, The Custard Protocol #1

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances - names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone's secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

Gail Carriger is best known for her Parasol Protectorate series which has featured five full length books so far and some short stories, as well as being adapted into a manga series. Added to this Gail Garriger started to write prequel series called Finishing School which tells some of the events that led up to the Parasol Protectorate series. And like if that wasn't enough, Gail Carriger once again has something in store for her fans with a completley new series once again: The Custard Protocol. Featuring noneother than the daughter of Alexia Tarraboti. Now I have to be honest. I don't know who that is... I haven't read the Parasol series but from the blogosphere I have gathered that it has been a non stop hit so far. Even though I didn't have any experience with the previous series, I was still looking forward to reading this book a lot. Where I finally had the chance to experience it for myself, and I enjoyed it a lot, with just the first few pages Gail Carriger had me convinced and putting the Parasol Protectorate to order.

What falls to note from the first few sentences of the book is that Gail Carriger is relentless in her writing. She begins the story action packed in such away that she forces you to continue reading, the writing style is fast and highly addictive readily urging you to read this book at any given time. Added to this comes of course the whole promise of the story which only further completes the whole. Steampunk is a very diverse setting and Gail Carriger makes it even more diverse by adding a Urban Fantasy backdrop to it. Her story features werecreatures and vampire and some more. Of course the story is serious in it's own way, Gail Carriger does produce something of a "romp" feeling to it, there are a lot of funny and hilarious moments in the backdrop of a much bigger and serious picture. This change of tone was nicely put and added something hard to describe to the story, something of a nice dynamic and above all a terrific sense of feeling. 

The story in Prudence centers around the young women Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama, for those who find this quite a mouthful, she also accepts to be called Rue. As I said, Gail Garriger begins the story with a fast pace and here you already see the energy that Rue has. But more importantly perhaps is that you see how Rue normally behaves. She is out to have fun. A lot of fun, and of course drink a cup of tea given time as well. And you shouldn't mess with the tea. After a fast paced beginning, Rue receives the control of a dirigible by her stepfather Akledama, one of the vampires of the story. This is the beginning of Rue's adventure as she is tasked to fly with this ship to investigate some serious tea business (as I already mentioned, they are dead serious about there tea!). The ship that Rue receives is dubbed into The Spotted Custard, as next to tea she is also a big fan of said dessert. However the trip to India and once Rue is in India is filled with a lot of adventures. Adventures that will ask a lot of Rue and her friends. She uncovers a big mystery that could impact a lot more, more than just the tea trade...

I really, really liked the whole story that Gail Carriger wrote in Prudence. I have been reading a lot of books with a serious tone lately (yes even though it is fiction it can sound serious). Prudence is right there at the other end of the spectrum, a story filled with a lot of joy and humor all along the way. Witty remarks and reference, boisterous character and as I can't say a lot of laughing out loud moments. Some do reach the level of almost over-the-top. But in the end, given the whole idea behind this book and the other series of Gail Carriger it is just most fitting. It comes to show that Gail Carriger writes the story of Prudence with a lot of passion, it flows from the idea's, the funny moments and the highly energetic character that is Rue herself. 

So for the characters. Rue makes up the main protagonist of Prudence and just like her mother, Rue is also special. She has the gift of being a metanatural, which allows he when she comes into contact with a supernatural being like a werecreature or a vampire, that she is able to steal this gift and temporarily bestow it upon herself. Gaining powers of said supernatural. This is a pretty awesome idea to be honest, haven't encoutenterd this one before and it sure led up to some funny moment right then and there. Added to this comes the personality of Rue which that of a young women out to have fun. She has enough energy to run a couple of marathons a day, has a quick mind and a sharp tongue. But during her new task by her stepfather she is perhaps indirectly forced to grow up as well. I am always a big fan when you see a coming of age that doesn't necesarrily change the character fully but makes him or in this case her, more aware of certain things. I think with Rue, Gail Carriger is on the right track! Next to Rue there are plenty of more secondary characters that you get to meet, some also out of the Parasol Protectorate series and some new. All do feel whole and you can definitely see that Gail Carriger wants to make her characters come out in full colors. Very nice characterization in all. 

If you are looking for something that will get you just as energetic as Rue herself I can only recommend that you read this book. The energetic spirit contained in this young women will surely rub off on you once you delve deeper and deeper into Prudence. Gail Carriger has written a most interesting start to a sequel series to her Parasol Protectorate series. Since I haven't read the series myself I cant be the judge of whether Prudence is just as good as her other books I do can say that I enjoyed Prudence a lot and it did wake me up a lot. Prudence is an action packed, highly humorous romp of a story and with Rue taking the lead you will definitely be going to different places more. Let's see where Gail Carriger will bring her next. Make sure you have a pot of tea when you start reading this book, you won't be able to put it down for sure!


Book Review: Dark Intelligence

Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher, Transformation #1


Thorvald Spear wakes in hospital, where he finds he's been brought back from the dead. What's more, he died in a human vs. alien war which ended a whole century ago. But when he relives his traumatic final moments, he finds the spark to keep on living. That spark is vengeance. Trapped and desperate on a world surrounded by alien Prador forces, Spear had seen a rescue ship arriving. But instead of providing backup, Penny Royal, the AI within the destroyer turned rogue. It annihilated friendly forces in a frenzy of destruction, and, years later, it's still free. Spear vows to track it across worlds and do whatever it takes to bring it down.

Isobel Satomi ran a successful crime syndicate. But after competitors attacked, she needed more power. Yet she got more than she bargained for when she negotiated with Penny Royal. She paid it to turn her part-AI herself, but the upgrades hid a horrifying secret. The Dark AI had triggered a transformation in Isobel that would turn her into a monster, rapidly evolving into something far from human.

Spear hires Isobel to take him to the Penny Royal AI's last known whereabouts. But he cheats her in the process and he becomes a target for her vengeance. And as she is evolves further into a monstrous predator, rage soon wins over reason. Will Spear finish his hunt, before he becomes the hunted?

As you all should know, Neal Asher is one of Britain's leading Science Fiction author, best known for his Polity universe series. Which was kicked off a few years back with Gridlinked. From that moment onwards, Neal Asher has already published over 10 books in this universe. His last books set in the Owner Trilogy had a different universe. Now with Dark Intelligence, Neal Asher once again returns to his high praised and loved by many, Polity Universe. But this is not all, there is more, Dark Intelligence is the first book in a new series. So there will be plenty more where that came from!

The story of Dark Intelligence starts off with the main protagonist Thorvald Spear memories or something along those lines. You first read about his consciousness inside a memory crystal. As Thorvald Spear died over a 100 years ago during an encounter in the Prador war. Now with being awoken all of the memories come flooding back in and also how it actually happened, how Thorvald died. Thorvald and his forces came to Panarchia with a ship and when you read Science Fiction you can guess that ships in those future times have an Artificial Intelligence on board. Well if luck wouldn't have it, the ships AI, who first helped Thorvald turned rogue and killed him and his fellow marines. With these memories flooding back, Thorvald is now hellbent on getting his revenge on Penny Royal once and for all. Thorvald could have opted to have these memories removed, but what is better served cold? Yes, revenge... Now Thorvald is looking for leads to locate Penny Royal, and find it is a hard bargain to get ahead of an AI's thinking, luckily he isn't on his own though. Thorvald being the smart man he is looks for a new crew, and encounters Isobel Satomi, a leader in the criminal underworld who also had a unfavorable encounter with Penny Royal. In a desperate attempt to gain power, Penny Royal tricked Isobel and how she is slowly turning into something more than human... she is becoming AI herself. Becoming, what she despised.. As you can imagine the race is definitely on for Throvald, even though he is helped greatly by Isobel, her transformation into what could be considered ultimate predator could cost him his head...

After I read Gridlinked, I had a great sense of wonder in the world and the story that Neal Asher had written. Now after finishing Dark Intelligence I have this feeling once again. Neal Asher really proves himself that he has a great mind. Writing Science Fiction is more than just incorporating technology, you have to think about them, adapt them, extrapolate current technology and much more, AND make it come over as convincing and for me personally not over the top. Just the right balance to create something believable and in the case of Dark Intelligence something deadly with a definite thriller and horror element. 

Some readers of this book might say, well another story featuring a rogue AI. same of same old. Well you are wrong. By far. Just quickly: this story is awesome. Lets get back on track, as Dark Intelligence doesn't solely focus on Penny Royal, yes it plays a huge part in the plot of the story, but there is a lot more focus on the characters:  in particular on Thorvald Spear and to a certain degree Isobel Satomi, and how they navigate through a hostile universe to get closer to Penny Royal. 

As for the characterization in the book, the story of Dark Intelligence has the leading protagonist of Thorvald who comes back from the dead. However the book isn't told in only Thorvald's narration, each chapter consists of multiple points-of-view, so you also get to read the actions and reactions of some of the secondary characters to the story, which for me was a big plus, as this always broadens the scope of a story much more, of course given that it is used in a good way and doesn't produce infodumps, which I can safely say Neal Asher doesn't. I liked all the characters of the book but Thorvald really leaped out of the story even with his mind set on revenge he still holds a high degree of rationality. His military mindset really seems to help him. AI's always freak me out, Penny Royal in this wasn't an exception. I think when it comes down to describing the actions of AI's in general Neal Asher has to be one of the best. I read and seen lots of movies with AI's but never have those surpassed the sense of doom and dread that I get when I read about his rogue AI's.

All this combined make Dark Intelligence an exciting and very promising start to a new trilogy set in the the Polity universe. If you are a die-hard Neal Asher fan this book is a must read but even if you are new to his books, and have zero prior knowledge, Dark Intelligence is the perfect way to step in to his provocative but overall very cool and action packed universe. Dark Intelligence has everything Science Fiction needs, and much much more. Neal Ahser definitely proves that he is one of the leaders of Science Fiction.

Short FIction Friday: The Museum and the Music Box

The Museum and the Music Box by Noah Keller

A neglected museum gradually succumbs to the elements. A music box rusts beneath a bell of glass. Fragmented texts are pieced together which tell the history of a lost love, the destruction of a civilization, and the origin of the museum.

I have been a big fan of Tor.com's short fiction supply as many who read my Short Fiction Friday feature. I actually just visited the site on a whim, felt like reading something and I was presented with a new story. Let me say this story gave me goosebumps and put a smile on my face at the same time. Yes this story falls in the category of "hauntingly beautiful".

The story never mentions a name of the character that you follow also in the narration you don't glimpse any name which only adds to great something of a more mythical feeling to the it. So the story picks up with the mentioning of the protagonist walking through a museum, not any museum but a abandoned museum where it is the only surviving thing. The protagonist mentions that it misses a certain someone and that one day it will find out just what the history of the it's friend was. They had a close relation as you will also undoubtley make out of the text itself. After this introduction you get an utterly detailed tour of the dilapidated museum that is slowly succumbing on itself. Each time though the protagonist finds memories in objects that reminds it of the past friend and each time you get a very detailed and emotional story behind it, like the dairy and lets not forget the music box named in the title of the story. Until you finally come to the ending of it all and you will be finding yourself rereading the story once again. 

The Museum and the Music Box is a short story with I think it was 7k words, but as any good short story it should be provocative and evocative and this is precisely what Noah Keller managed to achieve in these few words. As I said you will be finding yourself rushing to the beginning of the story to read it once, twice or even more times in the hope of discovering more and more. I do also have to be honest and say that I don't think this story is for everyone. But that you should give it a definite try. 

Read the full story here

Book Review: The Rain-Soaked Bride

The Rain-Soaked Bride by Guy Adams, The Clown Service #2

A number of influential South Korean nationals are committing suicide on UK soil. In all cases they seem to simply drop whatever they're doing and swiftly -- almost vacantly -- end their own lives. An electronics importer falls from the top floor of his high-rise office, the ambassador to the UK shoots his chauffeur and drives his own car off London Bridge, an actor sets fire to himself during a movie premiere...

August and Toby investigate and slowly uncover the ancient force of the Rain-Soaked Bride, a ghostly spirit of vengeance that drags her enemies to their deaths.

Once summoned the spirit cannot be dismissed until it takes the life it is charged with, it will be unstoppable in its pursuit of the mortal it has in its sights. Unfortunately, after getting too close to the source of the spirit, that mortal is now Toby Greene.
 


 About two years ago I was first introduced to Guy Adams' writing in the form of The Good, The Bad and The Infernal, and was immediately taken by his writing style. A year later came something quite different, the first book in the The Clown Service series, The Clown Service, up until that time the Detective genre books were pretty much focused on a completely fantasy setting or completely current setting. The Clown Service was for me a book that marked the change, really giving a cool blend of both, making it just possible that something could exist, or making you wish it did. 


The story of The Rain-Soaked Bride picks up a bit after the events of The Clown Service, a few months have passed in between both books. Toby Greene, the latest addition to the super secret organization known as Section 37, or perhaps better known as The Clown Service, is wrapping up some business in Russia. After this Guy Adams set the focus once again back in London, England. The base of operations of Section 37. Toby, however, doesn't get much time to relax and soon finds himself on another mission. Some very unexplainable murders have been happening to a specific group of people. With unexplainable I mean really unexplainable. The normal authorities are drawing blank in finding ways to figure out just how it all might have happened. When the only thing left behind is a wet spot... Now it is once again up to the new guy Toby Greene and his superior Augustus Shining to find out what is happening. Because the victims in this are special, they are from a South Korean delegation, and this could put a lot of thing at risk. As with many if not all of Guy Adams' books I always have to stop my self from telling too much and even more so when I talk about the The Clown service books as they are non-stop action packed and very funny and humorous books to start with. 

And once again with, The Rain-Soaked Bride, Guy Adams did a very cool job in constructing the story. As I already mentioned above, this is part urban fantasy and a whole lot more. Guy Adams has a lot of creativity which readily comes to show when he build his story and devises the plot line. On the first it all seems rather normal, as it should be, but when you continue in the story the weird things start to pop up, the supernatural influences. In some ways they remain obscure mentionings, which allow you to think about them for yourself, what they could possible mean. But in other Guy Adams explains them in detail with an accompanying theory. Both of these elements work mighty fine together creating one heck of a promising story that delivers. 

The characters that you meet along the story are both recurrent and new. Lets take Toby for starters.Looking back on the first book it readily comes to show that Guy Adams had in mind to establish Toby as the lead character. Toby was placed in The Clown Service and had to deal with it. So basically his development was getting acquainted with the weird things and Section 37 in general. From the start of the story it becomes clear that he has learned many lessons and now is the next fully operational field agent. Toby is confident in what he does and all his actions show this. Also people around have become to trust him and his judgement fully. This gives him a boost in self confidence which gives a tremendous boost to his character. Second up is Augustus Shining, I like his character a lot. He was a bit fatherly in the first book but now gives more space for Toby's development and letting him take the center stage when it comes to making decisions. Augustus in my opinion is the serious side to it all, he like to approach thing more calculated than Toby but also doesn't mind for a joke once in a while. Next to these two established characters there are also newer introductions. To begin with the sister of Augustus. April Shining who is called into action to act as a Korean translator. April doesn't look by far close to August in terms of personality, she moves like a tornado through the story producing some very funny scenes, you don't want to get in an argue with her! Though we already met April in the first book she now has a lot more coverage in The Rain-Soaked Bride, this is also an advantage of a second book, further building out the characters. There was also a brief exposure of a curse specialist Cassandra Grace, who with her brief but powerful page time added a lot of flavour to the story. 

The Clown Service was a terrific start to the series which yes sorry to say Guy Adams continues brilliantly in The Rain-Soaked Bride. Further developing the oftentimes weird and bit eccentric characters and of course showing more and more of his own creativity in setting up this one-of-a-kind urban fantasy slash supernatural espionage series. I haven't heard a lot of new from the blogosphere about The Clown Service books, but this is a underdog guys and girl, beware! I wish more people new about this awesome series. It is. Trust me.

Book Review: The Hidden Masters of Marandur

The Hidden Masters of Marandur by Jack Campbell, The Pillars of Reality #2

Someone wants to kill Mari, a young Steam Mechanic in the Guild that controls all technology. She has learned that her world of Dematr is headed for a catastrophe that will destroy civilization, and that Mages really can alter reality for short periods. Someone also wants to kill Alain, a young Mage who has learned that Mechanics are not frauds as his Guild teaches, and that Mechanic Mari is the only person who can prevent the oncoming disaster.

Narrowly escaping death, the Mechanic and the Mage stay alive thanks to their combined skills, an alliance never before seen. But it becomes clear that both of their Guilds, the most powerful forces in the world, are trying to destroy them. Other powers, like the great Empire and a mysterious secret Order, also seek to kill or capture them, using every weapon from Imperial Legions to Mage-created trolls, dragons, and rocs.

Trying to survive and learn the truth about their world so they will know how to save it, Mari and Alain realize that the answers they seek may lie in the dead city of Marandur. But Marandur is guarded by the legions that have sealed it off from the rest of the world for more than a century. Mari and Alain's only hope may rest with the unseen Masters of Marandur.


In the beginning of this year I listened to the first audiobook in the The Pillars of Reality series of Jack Campbell. I was pleasantly surprised by the originality of the story. Jack Campbell is best known for his hard hitting science fiction space opera's, thus writing in the lines of more traditional epic fantasy is quite something different but Jack Campbell wrote it in a way that it will stick with you. When I was listening to this second installment I came to realize just how much I missed Mari the Mechanic and Alain the Mage. 

The Hidden Masters of Marandur picks up directly after the events of The Dragons of Dorcastle. In the first book you met both Mari and Alain, a Mechanic and a Mage, who previously lived very separate lives, but who now due to very unforeseen events have come very close. Something that shouldn't happen between Mechanics and Mages as they live their lives differently and not to speak of the facts that their respective guilds are sort of at war with each other, they cant stand one another. Call it what you will I think I can call it love at first sight. they have become inseparable, they learned from each other and now the protect one another. Anyway in the end of The Dragons of Dorcastle Alain and Mari were called back to their guild and set with new tasks, being separated once again. This is how the story begins. Mari is tasked with a new mission by her Mechanic Guild and the same happens to Alain by his Mage Guild. But much more is already brewing in the respective Guilds. Because they have certain thoughts about what has actually transpired in Dorcastle. So Alain finds himself once again alone on a mission, one that quickly turns into a mission impossible... because you know Dragons. Soon Mari jumps into the picture yes not out of the back of an caravan. Mari aids Alain and his new friends to the rescue unleashing some devastating Mechanic gadgets. After this it comes to show that Mari was missing Alain and that she used some very clever means to trace to where Alain was heading. During this reunion, both Mari and Alain come to the understanding that they are definite wildfires for their guild and both are sought to be killed, but Alain mentions something of a certain prophecy. A prophecy where Mari may play a crucial role in.

Not only are the Guild looking out to find Mari and Alain. Do you still recall some discoveries that were made in the first book? Pinned on the Dark Mechanics? Well you learn that there are more forces at play here, more importantly a force known as the Order. It was really a cool thing of Jack Campbell to make a confrontation with the Order as this added a completely different perspective to everything. But this is not everything where the emphasize is lain upon. In essence this story now turns into a race to find out what the current world is about and why the power is in the hands of the Mage and Mechanic Guild. When Mari meets up with an old acquaintance of her she uncovers more about what the world is, her talk with a professor who trained teachers her even more. Step by step Maria and Alain uncover more and more questions, yes not answers, but questions. The Mechanic Guild has built magnificent things, but things that were build over a hundred years ago haven't changed, why is this? They must have the brains to further their knowledge, to innovate, why is this called to a halt? There are many more questions like these and only one place to find the answers and that Marandur. A sealed off city that may hold the key to them. The journey to Marandur will see Mari and Alain through hostile lands that are ruled by the Imperials and that is not even mentioning getting into and out of Marandur alive. This quest is paved with troubles. One question that will be answered in the book is if Mari and Alain will be up for this task. 

If I would have to compare The Hidden Masters of Marandur with The Dragons of Dorcastle, I have to say that this sequel is amazing. I had some minor squabbles with the story of The Dragons of Dorcastle, but those are completely absent in this story. jack Campbell has nicely outdone himself with telling the story of The Hidden Masters of Marandur. When I look back on the first story I now see clearly the time that Jack Campbell had invested in setting up the characters and there history was just spot on. From the first moment in this second book he only moves forward. There was already something brewing between Mari and Alain in the first book that now becomes much more appararent. Also Mages are emotionless people where as Mechanics are arrogant people. Mari was really a catalyst in the change of Alain, and I really liked this transformation of him and in the end the interplay that both Mari and Alain have. I think they will be in more surprises of each other! Overall there is a great character development. I liked how Alain warmed up to everything and even started to make his own jokes and how both came to realize that the indoctrination of their Guild is mightily wrong, and how they are trying to persuade others as well. 

I don't know whether this series will be a trilogy but with the track that Jack Campbell is one three books just won't cut it. He has really outdone himself with this second book. Delving much deeper into the history of the Guild and the world of Dematr, raising a lot of questions that aren't answered just yet, so I think I am not the only one who will be saying bring on the third book now!

Once again I also have to give a hand to MacLeod Andrews, I was impressed with the narration he did in the first book, but he just as Jack Campbell did an even finer job with The Hidden Masters of Marandur. What I particularly liked was when the emotions ran high between Mari and Alain. Their "fights" and discussions were really brought to life. It was great to see that they weren't always on one line or that they had different expectations of different events. MacLeod Andrews' narration just added that little extra to make it sound just as real people fight in the real world. You just as I will be taken by it. Not only the discussions and fights though, there are small jokes or quirky remarks that are narrated with the same passion. A great job. No Macleaod Andrews did an amazing job.
 


 

(p)review forecast March part two

(p)review forecast March part two

These are my selections for the second half of March, what will you be reading?

Cheers,
Jasper



1. The Rain-Soaked Bride by Guy Adams, Del Rey UK

A number of influential South Korean nationals are committing suicide on UK soil. In all cases they seem to simply drop whatever they're doing and swiftly -- almost vacantly -- end their own lives. An electronics importer falls from the top floor of his high-rise office, the ambassador to the UK shoots his chauffeur and drives his own car off London Bridge, an actor sets fire to himself during a movie premiere...

August and Toby investigate and slowly uncover the ancient force of the Rain-Soaked Bride, a ghostly spirit of vengeance that drags her enemies to their deaths.

Once summoned the spirit cannot be dismissed until it takes the life it is charged with, it will be unstoppable in its pursuit of the mortal it has in its sights. Unfortunately, after getting too close to the source of the spirit, that mortal is now Toby Greene.


2.  The Hidden Masters of Marandur by Jack Campbell, Audible Inc
 
Someone wants to kill Mari, a young Steam Mechanic in the Guild that controls all technology. She has learned that her world of Dematr is headed for a catastrophe that will destroy civilization, and that Mages really can alter reality for short periods. Someone also wants to kill Alain, a young Mage who has learned that Mechanics are not frauds as his Guild teaches, and that Mechanic Mari is the only person who can prevent the oncoming disaster.

Narrowly escaping death, the Mechanic and the Mage stay alive thanks to their combined skills, an alliance never before seen. But it becomes clear that both of their Guilds, the most powerful forces in the world, are trying to destroy them. Other powers, like the great Empire and a mysterious secret Order, also seek to kill or capture them, using every weapon from Imperial Legions to Mage-created trolls, dragons, and rocs.
 

Trying to survive and learn the truth about their world so they will know how to save it, Mari and Alain realize that the answers they seek may lie in the dead city of Marandur. But Marandur is guarded by the legions that have sealed it off from the rest of the world for more than a century. Mari and Alain's only hope may rest with the unseen Masters of Marandur.

3. Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher, Tor

One man will transcend death to seek vengeance. One woman will transform herself to gain power. And no one will emerge unscathed...

Thorvald Spear wakes in a hospital to find he's been brought back from the dead. What's more, he died in a human vs. alien war that ended a century ago. Spear had been trapped on a world surrounded by hostile Prador forces, but Penny Royal, the AI inside the rescue ship sent to provide backup, turned rogue, annihilating friendly forces in a frenzy of destruction and killing Spear. One hundred years later the AI is still on the loose, and Spear vows for revenge at any cost.

Isobel Satomi ran a successful crime syndicate, but after competitors attacked she needed power and protection. Negotiating with Penny Royal, she got more than she bargained for: Turning part-AI herself gave Isobel frightening power, but the upgrades hid a horrifying secret, and the dark AI triggered a transformation that has been turning her into something far from human…

Spear hires Isobel to track Penny Royal across worlds to its last known whereabouts. But he cheats her in the process and quickly finds himself in her crosshairs. As Isobel continues to evolve into a monstrous predator, it’s clear her rage will eventually win out over reason. Will Spear finish his hunt before he himself becomes the hunted?


4. Prudence by Gail Carriger, Orbit

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances - names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone's secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

5. Unbreakable by W.C. Bauers, Tor

The colonists of the planet Montana are accustomed to being ignored. Situated in the buffer zone between two rival human empires, their world is a backwater: remote, provincial, independently minded. Even as a provisional member of the Republic of Aligned Worlds, Montana merits little consideration—until it becomes the flashpoint in an impending interstellar war.

When pirate raids threaten to destabilize the region, the RAW deploys its mechanized armored infantry to deal with the situation. Leading the assault is Marine Corps Lieutenant and Montanan expatriate Promise Paen of Victor Company. Years earlier, Promise was driven to join the Marines after her father was killed by such a raid. Payback is sweet, but it comes at a tremendous and devastating cost. And Promise is in no way happy to be back on her birthworld, not even when she is hailed as a hero by the planet's populace, including its colorful president. Making matters even worse: Promise is persistently haunted by the voice of her dead mother.

Meanwhile, the RAW's most bitter rival, the Lusitanian Empire, has been watching events unfold in the Montana system with interest. Their forces have been awaiting the right moment to gain a beachhead in Republic territory, and with Promise's Marines decimated, they believe the time to strike is now.
 

Book Review: Knight's Shadow

Knight's Shadow by Sebastien de Castell, Greatcoats #2

Tristia is a nation overcome by intrigue and corruption. The idealistic young King Paelis is dead and the Greatcoats – legendary travelling magistrates who brought justice to the Kingdom – have been branded as traitors. But just before his head was impaled on a spike, the King swore each of his hundred and forty-four Greatcoats to a different mission.

Falcio Val Mond, First Cantor, with the help of fellow Greatcoats Kest and Brasti, has completed his King’s final task: he has found his Charoites – well, one at least, and she was not quite what they expected. Now they must protect the girl from the many who would see her dead, and place her on the throne of a lawless kingdom. That would be simple enough, if it weren’t for the Daishini, an equally legendary band of assassins, getting in their way, not to forget the Dukes who are determined to hold on to their fractured Kingdoms, or the fact that the heir to the throne is only thirteen years old. Oh, and the poison that is slowly killing Falcio.

That’s not even mentioning the Greatcoat’s Lament…


Last year Jo Fletcher published a very highly anticipated debut for many book bloggers and me: Traitor's Blade by Sebatien de Castell. This book was awesome, the synopsis sounded great and in reality it all was even much much better. Sebastien de Castell laid the foundation of a very interesting and dynamic world with some very memorable characters. It was high on some very bold idea's that all came to fruition during the whole book. Traitor's Blade ended in away that I hadn't dared to anticipated but left a of pressure on Sebastien de Castell's shoulders for the sequel... No worries there though as Knight's Shadow is well. it is what I said on twitter. Don't have found the right words yet but wow. It will blow you away. 

The story of Knight's Shadow picks up directly after the events of Traitor's Blade, which introduced us to the last remaining and acting Greatcoats, Falcio Val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats and King's Heart and his friends Kest and Brasti who are also Greatcoats. King Paelis who first called the Greatcoats into action to serve as his own personal magistrates was killed by the Dukes, they killed him and put his head on a pike. Every Greatcoat was tasked with a specific mission, that of Falcio was to finds something special. Well he did it in the end, and found himself in much more trouble than he could have thought of from the beginning. In the end of the first book we were also introduced to the Tailor a mysterious person, the Tailor made the special coats that the greatcoats wear. But the Tailor has more in store. She has plans to completely overthrow the Dukes. 

Falcio still being the Greatcoat he is and serving his task, is no exception in the plans of the Tailor. He and his friends Brasti and Kest are send on very specific missions by the Tailor to further their cause. This is far easier said then done, as Falcio and his friend travel through the world you come to see just how rotten the world has become, especially towards the Tattercloacks, the Trattari, these are curse names for the once magnificent Greatcloacks. The world now is ruled by Dukes and by their Knights. The beginning of the story of Knight's Shadow feels somewhat different than the first book, granted it is a sequel, but where Falcio and his friends were more or less scouring the wastes in the first book looking for clues, they now a burning with a urge to set things right once and for all. They finally have a sense of direction. When they are on the road they encounter a lot of problems and mainly so in the form of Knights. The action in the first half of the book is very intense and lends itself directly for some translations to the big screen. I do have to be honest that for me this was a bit to much, it felt that after the introduction of where the story stood, it was more moving from fighting scene to fighting scene but luckily that changed when Sebastien de Castell dropped to interesting hints and leads and followed them up brilliantly. Because good fantasy wouldn't be good fantasy if there weren't some "door-slamming-in-your-face" plot twists in their. I have to be very cryptic here, sorry guys but you will hate me when I tell things like who the Tailor really is and what her goal is or who actually killed a specific Duke and his family. You will have to find that out for yourself. But what I can say is that the ending is just good, it's grande and put a BIG BIG grin on my face. The part of the Greatcoats Lament with Falcio, the part of Darriana in the end and lets not forget Brasti and his Bastards as well as adding Insult to injury, good stuff, ow wait and I haven't even mention Kest and his struggle of fully becoming the Saint of Swords, both a curse and a blessing that he got by defeating the previous one, Caveil.
 

The story itself is 600 pages long and what I described above doesn't come near to do justice to the whole, Sebastien de Castell has really, really outdone himself with the story of Knight's Shadow. People always say that writing a sequel is hard, well Sebatien de Castell steamrolled right over it. 

As for the characters of the story, you have the once from the first book, Falcio, Brasti and Kest who make a main appearance. The story itself is told from Falcio's prespective, how he sees everything. In my review of Traitor's Blade I mentioned that he makes up a very good and clear perspective, he isn't a rookie soldier who has to elarn the fine ropes of everything but he is a seasoned Greatcoat and knows his weapons, fighting stances and other tactics. So basically you have a very wise and controlled narration. There is a gradual shift though in the way that Falcio tells his story. He is heavily afflicted by the neatha poison in his body, there is no cure and he is going to die. This changed his way of thinking to more of a less caring one, he won't see it anyway. BUT then, when you read this he does know that he isn't fighting for himself but for the future of Tristia, so on the otherhand it is quite complex. Again I loves that Sebatian de Castell used Falcio as the point of narration, every element of the story only resonates so much stronger this way. Now for Kest and Brasti they are the perfect additions to Falcio's team. The three of them are different, they have different skills, Kest is the best swordman, Brasti is the best bowmen and Falcio is the natural born leader. Next to these skills they also have different personalities that is some ways clash but in others fully build on each other. And when the going get though, they wouldn't want to wish any different companions. Now there is a very interesting addition to the character cast. That of the earlier mentioned Darriana, who first joins up as an assassin. (I will stop here, but thing of what I said in that sentence). Darriana is a very complex character and all thoughout the series I wanted to slap her and ask the truth. I already said the ending will amaze you and I was actually saying to myself what... what... what... and it is completely how such things happen. 

The setting of the book is just as with Traitor's Blade but in my sense just a tad darker as Sebastien de Castell delves deeper into the history of the world and some current events take place in dark cellers, also the Greatcoats Lament doesn't really help to make the mood lighter. It is dark bordering on the popular grimdark, but is it necessary, as after these events you will see the future for Tristia on a much more brighter side, however a lot of work has to be done and not everyone believes in this goal. 

I have to give a hand once again to Sebastien de Castell. What he has shown in Knight's Shadow is just amazing. He has really outdone himself this time. Giving you a action packed book to begin with and slowly playing with you emotions. I already felt connecter with Falcio and his Greatcoats, and when I got the the ending of the book, my emotions were torn. It's powerful stuff that Sebastien de Castell wrote in those few chapters. After these events I do see the ray of sunshine at the end of the tunnel for Tristia and it's new ruler but there is a lot of work to be done. However the title of the third book Tyrant's Throne , sounds rather grim as well... I know I probably will have to wait another year for the third book in the series but if I get such a high quality book once again it is definitely worth the wait. The Greatcoats series with Traitor's Blade and Knight's Shadow should be on every reading list. period.

Book Review: Bite

Bite by Nick Louth

Tomorrow should be the greatest day of Erica Stroud-Jones's life. The brilliant young British scientist has found a revolutionary way to beat a deadly tropical disease.

Millions of lives could be saved, a Nobel Prize beckons.


She is in Amsterdam. Tomorrow she presents her secret research to a scientific conference. Watching her will be sceptics and rivals, admirers and enemies. Erica's own eyes will be on sculptor Max Carver, her new American love, to whom she wants to dedicate her achievement.


Tomorrow never comes.


Erica vanishes during the night. Max, a tough former coast guard, is determined to find her. As he digs for clues he finds jealousy, malice and cunning. But even he is shocked by the dark terror he finds at the heart of the woman he loves.


If you come to me with books about gene technology or other biological engineering you are definitely at the right address, so when I was approached for reviewing Bite I couldn't refuse. Bite was first published back in 2007 and Sphere, an imprint of Little Brown and Co. is reissuing this book, with Bite Nick Louth also made his debut in the horror/thriller genre. He is an award winning journalist and has written several pieces for big financial papers. 

When read that the title of this book was Bite and that something scientific was involved my first thought was something either with vampire or with werewolves. It's these two things that make popular introductions in these kind of book but well the getting bitten part in Bite is something different. The first chapter of the book really stands so vividly with me, it's creepy and whenever you are in a plane you will have serious fears. Nick Louth really kicked of his story in a grand way, and an airplane something deadly is released, not a fluid or a bomb is set off, but something that isn't detected by X-rays or any other means of airport security. After this scene though you are left pretty much in the dark of what it might be... The focus then picks up on the scientist Erica Stroud who is about present her research on a conference in Amsterdam on how to deal with the deadly tropical disease malaria. She has found something new on how to fight this disease and win. But Erica goes missing the night before she is to present her findings to the scientific community. One big shot in the field of malaria research claims that Erica's finding couldn't have been real if she "went missing". At the time of the conference something new pops-up as well. Something unheard of in the Netherlands. Yes a new strain of malaria. A strain that is immune against all known anti-malaria cures. I think you can already guess what just might have been on that plane? Anyway, now the whole scientific community is trying to find a way to explain how it got in Amsterdam in the first place but most importantly, how to cure it. Is it coincidence or is it not? On the plane that traveled to Amsterdam a big name in the pharmaceutical industry was present, who got bitten and infected with this new form of malaria. So now something extra is added in the mix. Now Erica wasn't alone in Amsterdam either, she was there with her boyfriend Max who goes on desperate search for her taking him places and he makes discoveries that he rather hadn't made. 

What gave the story of Bite for me an extra edge were the locations of the story and how Nick Louth managed to explore something of the past. As I said with my review of Claire North's Touch, taking the thriller elements to Europe and in Nick Louth's case to The Netherlands, my country, adds completely different view on it. I read plenty of thrillers set in America but reading about things, terrible thing happening in your own backyard is just different. It's more real, more dangerous. I do have to say that Nick Louth conjured up some very vivid images. I can't say that I know Amsterdam like the back of my hand, but Nick Louth did a very fine job just as with the other locations in The Netherlands. Now something that gives yet another dimension to the story was the secondary storyline of Erica in Cental Africa, it's a personal dairy and I can safely say that there is a lot of emotion hidden in this story. It alternates with the current storyline and leaves a very powerful impression. 

All this combined makes Bite a very interesting thriller. Nick Louth produces a very eventful and rollercoaster ride of a story but he also tackles something big in his story about the big companies. A small ethical debate that I know must be present in our current society.Bite is an easy read that you will enjoy, but it carries much more. It will leave an impression on you.

Short Fiction Friday: Cassandra

Cassandra by Ken Liu, Clarkesworld #102

[no synopsis available] 

 A while ago I read Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie and was taken by the emotional and powerful story. It really put me to thinking. I have been following his recent short story publications and found that he recently featured in this Clarkesworld issue 102, a SF/F magazine I only found out recently. So without any pre-knowledge about the story (no synopsis available), I jumped in. And again a winner. Believe me. 

The first thing that I had when I started reading Cassandra was confusion. But confusion in a good way. Ken Liu begins his story with a quote followed by a current event on tv followed by the perspective of the main protagonist of the story. Which I think is called Cassandra, a her. On the tv there is a scene where a superhero (Yes a story about superheroes!) named "Showboat" mention specifically to Cassandra that villainy doesn't pay. Yup, you follow the perspective of a villain in this story. I haven't come across this often, and I really liked this premise of the story. After this introduction you are given the low down on how Cassandra actually became the proposed villain of the story. Which started in the search of some hgihly sought after refreshment in terms of cool air. Her by chance Cassandra develops the power of foresight and well it is obvious that this changes her life. Drastically. She starts to see all that people plan to do, with a focus on the horrible and destructive things in life. Of course it is often said that seeing the future is only seeing it and once seen, it will change. But Cassandra doesn't truly believe in this and starts to take the reigns in her own hands. Yes she stops the persons before they can harm their loved ones or other innocent civilians. I also already mentioned that the story starts of with a superhero Showboat. I think you can imagine that this is an eventful short story! 

Just as with Ken Liu, The Paper Menagerie, there is something mroe going on than meets the proposed surface. Cassandra is a proposed villain of this story but is she really? When the actions of one person will lead to the death of one person, hundreds of persons or even thousands, is she really the villain here? It's a big ethical debate, that must also happen in our current world. Would you kill one man, yet innocent, but his actions will cause a lot of hurt, to save other people? I don't think there is a right answer here and there isn't one given. It's personal believes and your own view and a difficult and heavy subject. 

As I said you have to believe, this is a winner. 

Dont miss out, read the full story on Clarkesworld here


Book Review: Finn Fancy Necromancy

Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson

Finn Gramaraye was framed for the crime of dark necromancy at the age of 15, and exiled to the Other Realm for twenty five years.  But now that he’s free, someone—probably the same someone—is trying to get him sent back.  Finn has only a few days to discover who is so desperate to keep him out of the mortal world, and find evidence to prove it to the Arcane Enforcers.  They are going to be very hard to convince, since he’s already been convicted of trying to kill someone with dark magic.

But Finn has his family: His brother Mort who is running the family necrotorium business now, his brother Pete who believes he’s a werewolf, though he is not, and his sister Samantha who is, unfortunately, allergic to magic.  And he’s got Zeke, a fellow exile and former enforcer, who doesn’t really believe in Finn’s innocence but is willing to follow along in hopes of getting his old job back.


Sometimes I want to read a book just due to it's title. If you hear the title Finn Fancy Necromancy, it already should pull on you interest, it sound pretty cool in my opinion. Add the synopsis of the book and you should be totally taken! Finn Fancy Necromancy is Randy Henderson's debut, and to be honest, the with the level of skill in writing that he shows you wouldn't say that at all. Granted he has written several short fiction stories prior to Finn Fancy Necromancy, that still is different than a full length novel. There are a lot of books published withing the Urban Fantasy genre but I have to say that Finn Fancy (I am going to shorten it) is a truly unique addition to it, having many dark influences but also plenty of humorous additions keeping the storyline highly enjoyable to read, some of the scenes will definitely make you laugh out loud. 

Randy Henderson starts of the story of Finn Fancy in a most interesting way. It starts with Finn returning from his twenty five year long exile in the Other Realm, for a crime he didn't commit. He was exiled in person and not in-person. When you get exiled to the Other Realm, you concious gets exiled and a changeling takes over your body in real life. How COOL is that? So, Finn has aged, the changeling made memories for him. These memories get merged when Finn gets out of exile, however, when the transfer is made there is an interference, well more of an attack on Finn, and something goes wrong. Finn does manage to get back to his body but without the memories made by the changeling... Now being back in his actually body but in a completely different time zone Finn is presented with a terrible culture shock. Added to this comes the fact that this attack on him has raised Finn's own alarms. He was framed twenty five years ago and what could the coincidence be of an attack on him as soon as he sets foot once again in the mortal world? Luckily, even with his long exile, Finn isn't alone, he still has a big family to go to. Just as with Finn, his family also likes to dabble in the dark arts, all his family members has some relation to magic. His brother Mort for one kept up running the family necrotorium. Necromancy in the current world is considered a magical practice of less savory means, it's dabbling with the dead. Finn is the only living person of the Gramaraye family who still has one legal gift, that of being a Talker. Yes Finn is able to communicate with the dead. Could this gift have brought him in trouble? From Finn's return to the current world it is one heck of a wild goosechase for Finn to find out precisely who is out to get him. He has to avoid Fae, changelings, gnomes and Sasquatches on the go. Very eventful!

All that I mention here does point into a dark direction, do trust me when I say that there is enough humor added to it. Somehow it reminds me a bit of the dark humor that Steven Erikson has in his Bauchelain books, though in a more contemporary setting though. As I already mentioned there are a lot of humorous moments in this book, most are owed to the unique world in which this book takes place but also due to the main protagonist, Finn. He has a unique view on the world and lets not forget the culture shock of being imprisoned twenty five years in the Fae world. Somethings do not change though like g-mail. Now don't go thinking of the popular Google mail, no, in the olden days mail was sent via gnomes. (Do you get it Gnome mail = g-mail. there are a lot more of these jokes riddled throughout the book. Come to think of it there is funny moment on every page of the book.  

Now as for the characters. Finn is a terrific character, I loved the guy! He casual approach to certain problems, the issues that he has with women, like the first situation with Dawn and Heather and the follow, it was funny to read but the way that Finn reacted was most manly. Finn also has a lot on his plate. A dysfunctional family, he is hunted by someone or something he doesn't know (which he collectively called "Legion" you have to give it a name don't you?), and a BIG cultural shock, he only knows stuff from the 80's and tries to relate to it, like the Commodore and how he played games on it when he was 15. Next to FInn there is also a nice highlight on several family members of him. Like Pete for example. Pete thinks he is a waerwolf, well he believes it more because his family made him, it goes wayback, but boils down to that Pete still takes a potion to suppress his waer rages. Mort, Finn's brother is also an interesting addition, they have a very brotherly relation, Mort also gave Finn his nickname Finn Fancy Necromancy Pants, so you can see that there is some rapscallion behavior between the two I could clearly see them wrestling on the ground. However Finn doesn't really trust Morts motives at the moment, which adds a nice layer to their relation. Next up there are two women in Finn's live Dawn and Heather. If you met both of them you will seriously stick to that women only bring trouble... All in all a very lively character cast that completely finishes the whole story. 

As I mentioned above Randy Henderson's debut is cool. It's unique, though provoking and a whole lot of fun to read. I read some humorous fiction before by Christopher Moore and Tom Holt, who play into a contemporary setting with fantasy elements and I am happy to add Finn Fancy to the succeeded list. Finn Fancy has everything you could have wished for in such a book. But compared with the others it does has a bit of a darker setting, owing to the necromancy influence. The world that Randy Henderson managed to create is always in motion and luckily Finn never runs out of breath. There are a lot of big and bold ideas hidden within the storyline that for me all worked out. You could clearly see the enthusiasm of Randy Henderson dripping of the pages, though I can imagine that for some it might be to much. My opinion does remain unchanged: Finn Fancy Necromancy is a terrific read, it's dark and gritty and funny at the same time, I had a blast reading it. And I am still smirking about some of the jokes made by Finn!

Short Fiction Friday: Headwater LLC

Headwater LLC by Sequoia Nagamatsu, Lightspeed Magazine #56

 [no synopsis supplied]

I have recently found out that there are several well reputed Science Fiction and Fantasy magazines out there that offer a great wealth of short fiction. Lightspeeds Magazine is just one of those magazines, I read a anthology by John Joseph Adams last year, Dead Man's Hand, that blew me away, I got the same feeling of some of the stories that I read in this magazine so far! 

The story of Headwater LLC picks up directly with a very interesting introduction, the protagonist of the story, Yoko collects water from a special creature called a "kappa" these are creatures from Japanese folklore. Yes Yoko is collecting water from the head of a kappa as it is said to have special powers. She is currently Yoko grew up in a small town village and that has been transformed to serve as the base of operations for Headwater LLC, who bottles the magical water of the kappa and sells it for big profit. This water is said to help with all illnesses. Yoko and Masa, the kappa she has befriended kept the secret of the magical water secret for a long time, but one day at school Yoko desperately wanted to belong to the popular kids at school and she made a bad decisions. She revealed just what kind of power the Kappa have. This is what you read in the remainder of the story. Seeing just how Yoko was used by the other girls, and how she was pushed towards the background and they taking over the company and only using it to exploint and make profit. Yoko is determined to set things right, no matter the cost. 

The story that Sequoia Nagamatsu is really cool. I am a big fan of folklore and like fairytales. I read a few other Japanese inspired stories before this one and I have to say that somehow this just inspires a really mythical feeling to the story. Added to this comes a very clear writing and a interesting setup of the story. It is divided into small chapter wherein everything is explained bit by bit. What completely finishes the story the protagonist Yoko who was captured very nicely by Sequoia Nagamatsu.


Read the full story here