Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: Spider-man – Grim Hunt

Spider-man has been put through a Gauntlet of his most dangerous foes, all for one purpose – so that he would be a beaten man when the Kravenoff family finally comes hunting for him. Kraven the Hunter was driven mad by his inability to beat Spider-man, and in one of the greatest Spider-man stories ever told, Kraven’s Last Hunt – Kraven took the place of Spider-man, beating a foe Spidey had never been able to defeat, and then took his own life. But Kraven’s family have never forgiven Spider-man for his role in his death, and they’re looking for revenge. And what could be a better form of revenge than using their family’s old enemy’s blood to resurrect their dearly departed patriarch. But first, they’ll use other members of the “Spider-family” to draw him out of hiding, because Spidey is on to their games and wouldn’t be willing to play, except now there’s other innocent lives in jeopardy because of him. It’s funny that I should read this after having just finished The Real Clone Saga, as another clone of Spider-man named Kaine has a very important role in the Grim Hunt. Throughout the course of the main story, we’re shown flashbacks to Kaine’s prior interactions with Kraven the Hunter – giving a deeper insight into both characters and a nice counter-point to where they both wind up (as well as a deeper meaning behind both their fates). I’ve read a lot of reviews that have a problem with the fact that this story essentially undoes one of the best Spider-man stories, Kraven’s Last Hunt. I’m a person who loves that original, but I’ve got to say – I really got a kick out of this story as well. One of the things about Kraven’s Last Hunt is that it proved that even a lame villain (which is what Kraven had been up to that point, a one-note joke) could be made into a great villain in the right hands. Unfortunately, the right hands also killed him, making it impossible for anyone else to use him after creating such a prefect foil for Spider-man. This story brings him back in a perfectly plausible (for a comic book) way, and adds in some new elements linking Spider-man and Kraven together which should lead to some interesting conflict in the future. The artwork has a very grim and gritty feel, perfect for this particular story, and though it was a little painfully obvious that Spider-woman was missing when every other person with a “Spider” in their name, or who ever used the name was present – it still worked really well as a gathering of these two families. I think it also helped (at least for me) that this story avoiding talking about Peter’s personal life and all the changes that have come about from the editorial decision to erase his marriage to MJ – this story is just interested in telling this tale of the Spider-family vs the Kravenoff family, and it’s one that I enjoyed reading very much.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Giveaway! "Sati" by Christopher Pike

Courtesy of Tor Books I have a copy of Sati by Christopher Pike to offer for giveaway.

I once knew this girl who thought she was God. She didn’t give sight to the blind or raise the dead. She didn’t even teach anything, not really, and she never told me anything I probably didn’t already know.

On the other hand, she didn’t expect to be worshipped, nor did she ask for money. Given her high opinion of herself, some might call that a miracle.

I don’t know, maybe she was God. Her name was Sati and she had blonde hair and blue eyes.
For all who meet her, Sati will change everything. Sati may change everything for you.


Just add your information to the form below to enter (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once contest ends) and I will randomly pick one winner by Wednesday May 11th. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere.

Good luck!

**Contest Closed**

Winners! "All the Lives He Led" by Frederik Pohl

Time's up! I need to announce the winners of the giveaway featuring "All the Lives He Led" by Frederik Pohl.

And the winners are:

Rocco Pugliese; Staten Island, NY

and

Chuck Graham; Madison, AL


Congrats to the winners!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Series Review: "The Game of Thrones"

If I had been on-the-fence about whether cable television was taking the place of network television-- I am no longer. While the major networks have been giving us mediocre retreads of moldy-oldies like "Knight Rider" and "Charlie's Angels," HBO has been developing the well-regarded Song of Fire and Ice series by author George R. R. Martin with great success.

The television version of A Game of Thrones is an extremely faithful adaptation of Martin's epic story-- at least so far. The show primarily focuses on the story of three families, the Starks, The Lannisters and the Targaryens. Lord Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) is the head of House Stark and rules in the North in the name of his King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy). After the death of the King's Hand, Robert travels to the Stark home of Winterfell to ask Eddard to be the new Hand of the King and act as his advisor and military commander. The position is fraught with danger and Eddard isn't too willing to go as rumors spread that the former Hand was murdered by the Lannister family-- and the Queen is Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey).

The major intrigues within Robert's court are indeed perpetrated by the Lannister family. His wife Cersei is as conniving as she is beautiful and her twin brother Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is as charming as he is deadly. Their brother Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), known as the "Imp" due to his dwarfism, plays the fool but has a biting intelligence and strong loyalty to his cutthroat family. While they appear willing to ally with the Stark family, even seeming to embrace the betrothal of Sansa Stark to Joffrey Baratheon, one can never be sure where their true motives lie.

But the real wild-card in the story has to belong to the Targaryens. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd) are the children of King Aerys, who was overthrown by Robert before Daenerys was born. Now exiled, the siblings have allied with the Dothraki, a powerful and barbaric race of horse warriors, with the intention of taking back the throne.

"Game of Thrones" is a stunningly beautiful show. The sets are fantastically done and so many scenes feel as if they were lifted directly from the pages of the book. But, as good as the show is visually, it can't begin to compare with the excellent casting.

My favorite cast members have to be that of the Lannister family. Lena Headey is pitch-perfect as the cool Cersei Lannister. She imbues the character with just the right amount of cynical detachment and the amount of complexity she brings to the character-- so quickly-- is amazing. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, as Jamie Lannister, has the same biting sensibility as Headey, but with his own twist on it. His delivery carries a subtle sarcasm that makes him almost likable even as he is despicable. But if there is one actor who cannot be overlooked, it has to be Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister (better known as the "angry elf" in "Elf"). He steals the show right from the start as the slightly self-loathing Tyrion. Never allowed to forget that he is a dwarf, Tyrion both seethes at and takes advantage of his diminutive size by strengthening his mind to further the ambitions of his family while drinking and sleeping his way through every brothel in town. Dinklage is so good. He owns the character right from the start and it's impossible not to captivated by his performance.

That doesn't mean to say the other actors don't hold their own-- this is an exceptionally well cast show. Sean Bean, ("The Lord of the Rings," "National Treasure") is a very good Eddard Stark. Unlike many of Bean's other roles, Eddard is a subdued character who feels the weight of his responsibleness very keenly, and Bean conveys that gravity very well. Emilia Clarke, as Daenerys Targaryen, fits the part of the young, lovely and mysterious Daenerys much better than I would have guessed by looking at stills of the television show. Even the children are uncommonly good actors here-- Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who plays 10-year-old Bran Stark, never comes off as cute or precocious; he just is the part. Same goes with Maisie Williams as Arya Stark. If this show ends up known for anything-- it has to be for doing such a magnificent job in getting the cast right.

I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating; this is an extremely faithful adaptation of George R. R. Martin's series. There were so many scenes that were so evocative of the first book, one I haven't read in several years, that I felt instantly transported back to the first time I read about Arya getting her sword "needle" from her brother Jon; as well as Bran's tragic fall. Oddly, I have read some criticisms of the show claiming that it's "too faithful," but all I can do is shake my head at that. Isn't a show that's "based" on book supposed to stick with the source material? In what kind of crazy world do you complain when the filmmaker actually gets that right?

The first two shows have really done exactly what they should have done. They've established the characters and moved the plot at a nice clip. We know have a good idea of who we can trust and who we like despite ourselves. But most importantly, we want to know what happens next. I'm sure there are, or will, be flaws in this series' execution, but I'm enjoying the set up of the show so much, I'm not seeing any yet. I'll have to get back to you mid-season and report whether "Game of Thrones" continues to live up to its promise.

Here's hoping it does.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Revew: “Cowboy Angels” by Paul McAuley

In 1963, scientists at Brookhaven lab discovered not only the existence of alternate universes, but a way to open a portal and step into these other Earths. For twenty years, the United States from the “real” universe has worked to support other United States governments to become the dominant power in their own timelines – sometimes overtly and sometimes covertly. These agents are called Cowboy Angels, orphans in the “real” timeline with no idea who their parents are, and no way of tracking down their alternate selves in these other timelines.

But all hell breaks loose when one of these agents, Tom Waverly, goes rogue and begins killing the same woman across multiple alternate realities. The only man who might be able to bring him in is retired fellow Cowboy Angel named Adam Stone. Right off the bat Adam knows he’s been set up by the Company that’s brought him back into service, partnering him with Tom’s daughter Linda and refusing to give him the complete story. But Adam is just as highly trained as Tom, and he soon figures out how to get out from under his handlers to meet with Tom and get his side of the story.

Tom is dying, from a form of highly advanced cancer due to radiation exposure, as the mysteries continue to build. But as he commits suicide, with his dying act he sends Adam and Linda on a quest to find an item Tom stole from the Company; something that will answer all of their questions.

I love science fiction, though more often of the space-opera variety – it’s not too often that I look to read alternate history novels. Coyboy Angels sounded intriguing to me though, and I’m very happy to have read this book. Think of it like the TV show Sliders crossed with Stargate, only with a much higher quotient of quantum physics and no tolerance for silly or goofy alternate reality contrivances.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, it’s so tightly wound and every piece fits together so nicely, I wouldn’t do the story justice to go into any further detail than I’ve already done above (and what I’ve outlined above is only maybe the first third of the book). It’s a fast paced thriller, with some exciting action sequences and chase scenes. It’s also a thoughtful science fiction novel, tackling head-on the very recent scientific ideas of the very real possibility of alternate universes (which for so long were just the realm of complete fantasy). But more than either of those things, it becomes a character piece, because it’s only by caring about these characters that you wind up being swept along in the story.

Adam is a very likeable everyman; someone with a good moral compass and high ethical code, but is also willing to do what needs to be done when the time comes. He’s no wimp, he’s not a slacker or loser thrust into a situation beyond his control – he’s a hero, though also a skeptic. Likewise Linda Waverly may be the wet-behind-the-ears agent, but her firm belief in finding a way to redeem her father is something that feels completely normal.

This isn’t really a story with clear-cut bad guys – no James Bond villains or evil alien invaders – just different viewpoints and objectives from different sides in a crash of ideologies. That’s not to say there aren’t characters who are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure their side comes out on top – this kind of culture of infiltration will often bring out ruthless people, one who will kill to keep things secret.

Not surprisingly, the ideas behind a number of the various alternate realities featured in Cowboy Angels are interesting in their own right. There’s an odd sort of breaking point, where the worlds found so far seem to fall into one of two categories. On the one side are the realities where humans never became a dominant life-form. These are almost wilderness preserve planets, where people from the “real” go to live in retirement and hunt rare animals. The other alternate realities all seem to break off from the “real” at around the dawn of the nuclear age – is that because it’s an important turning point in history, or is it just a coincidence of the worlds found so far. And if you’ve noticed that I haven’t mentioned if any of these worlds is the reality we know, yes I’ve done that on purpose – because it’s something you’re meant to wonder as you’re reading along until you start to piece everything together.

In all it’s a very compelling work by an author whose work I’ve never read before, but will certainly seek out again in the future.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guest Blog and Giveaway! "Spellcast" by Barbara Ashford

I love the theater. I remember going to a lot of plays while I was in college-- I frequently volunteered to write reviews for my college newspaper just so I'd have an excuse to go. Maybe it's my love of Shakespeare that makes me think that fantasy and theater are a natural mix, but I've always been drawn to stories that featured bards or travelling troupes. Yet seldom have I seen fantasy that exists within the theater itself. So when I read the blurb for Barbara Ashford's new book, Spellcast, I was interested-- and was lucky enough to get Barbara to say 'yes' when I asked her to write a guest blog for me. And thanks to Penguin Books I also have one copy of "Spellcast" to offer for giveaway to one lucky winner.
~SQT

When Worlds Collide

I never planned on cannibalizing my life to write Spellcast. I was just going to sprinkle in a few memories from my days as an actress to add “flavor.” Like the bats that made appearances inside the Southbury Playhouse (but never during the run of The Passion of Dracula when we would have welcomed them). The roadside grill that we nicknamed the Ptomaine Stand. And the strangely mottled black-and-gray backdrop that we likened to the Shroud of Turin.

Before I knew it, I was pouring my life into my protagonist. Maggie loses her job at a telephone helpline; I worked at one while I was writing for the musical theatre. She grows up in Wilmington, Delaware; so did I. She falls in love during her season in summer stock…well, you can see where this is going.

Sometimes, the line between fact and fiction got so blurred that I had to remind myself that I was writing a novel, not an autobiography. That helped me keep Maggie Graham and Barbara Ashford separate. But Maggie and I share a lot of qualities, including a deep and abiding love for theatre.

One of the memorable lines in All About Eve (one of the best films about theatre ever made) states: “Wherever there's magic and make-believe and an audience – there's theatre.”

In writing Spellcast, I wanted to capture that magic for readers: the joy of stepping out of the everyday world into the imaginary one onstage; the sudden tension as the house lights dim; the excitement of knowing that anything can happen in live theatre.

It’s that excitement and uncertainty and magic that makes the world of the theatre such a perfect setting for a fantasy novel. Take one part theatre magic, throw in a generous portion of the otherworldly variety, and the stage is set to explore what one character in Spellcast calls “the impossible possibilities” of life.

In Spellcast, Maggie Graham encounters more than her share of “impossible possibilities.” I hope readers will enjoy her journey of discovery – and exploring the magical world of the Crossroads Theatre.

To learn more about Spellcast and read an excerpt, visit my Website: BarbaraAshford.com.


When Maggie Graham stumbles on the Crossroads Theatre, reviving her acting career is the last thing on her mind. She’s just looking for a bed and breakfast in Vermont where she can retreat, relax, and regroup after losing her job. But a week later, she’s back in summer stock at a theatre unlike any she’s ever known.

Director Rowan Mackenzie is even odder than the collection of misfits that comprise the cast. What kind of director casts people in the roles they need? And never leaves the grounds of the theatre? And possesses the power to transform a train wreck of a show into something... magical?

There’s a secret at the Crossroads, and Maggie is determined to uncover it before summer’s end. She never imagines that she'll discover secrets about her past – and Rowan's – that will change their lives forever.


To win a copy of "Spellcast" just add your information to form below to enter (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once the contest ends) and I will randomly pick one winner by Thursday May 5th. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere.

Good luck!

**Contest Closed**

Another "Planet of the Apes" Movie?"

I wasn't aware that we liked the last one enough to warrant a sequel. Not that that has ever stopped Hollywood from making sequels....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Game of Thrones" Episode 2 Preview

I finally got a chance to watch the first episode today-- liked it a lot. Looking forward to the next installment.

Angry Star Wars Birds

I just stumbled across this over at The Official Star Wars Blog

It's an Angry Birds/Star Wars mash up-- an it's great! I'd love to see these make their way into an official game.







For more Angry Star Wars Birds-- check out Bite Daily, where they also have Angry Batbirds (here's a sample)

Book Review: "Patient Zero" by Jonathan Maberry


     "Yeah, I know Rude, but it's not like we're talking about the Mark of Cain here."
     He gave me such a long withering look that I wanted to squirm. "No? Look, I'm not pointing a finger at any country, any faith, any political party. This is a failing in the whole species. We, the human race, have committed a terrible and unforgivable sin; and before you embarrass us both by asking-- no, I'm not having a Catholic moment. This is far more fundamental than church or state. This is ours to own because we know better. As a species, we know better. We really do understand right and wrong, same as we really do grasp all the subtle shades of gray. We have had thousands of years of religious leaders and political scientists explaining the cause and effect of destructive behavior. You'd think by now, at the point where we are this technologically advanced and where communication between all races is not only possible but globally instantaneous, that we'd have learned something, that we'd have benefited from all those previous mistakes. You'd think we'd have become more forward-thinking and farsighted. But we're not. With computer modeling we can virtually look into the future and see how things will go if we follow these courses, and yet we don't do a thing to change direction. Maybe the true human flaw is our inability to act as if the next generation matters. We never have. Individually maybe, but not as a nation, not as a species."
~Excerpt from Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

     Zombies, zombies everywhere. You'd think I'd be getting tired of them-- but I'm not. Inexplicably I am still entertained and fascinated by them. If I had to guess I'd say it's because zombies are a surprisingly malleable monster. There are so many ways to write about them. So many ways they can be created and turned into a monster that could really exist-- especially in the modern world of chemical and biological warfare.
     Joe Ledger is a Baltimore detective who has worked on loan to the Department of Homeland Security. He has the useful skill set of speaking a few Middle Eastern languages fairly well and being a complete badass in Jujitsu. Having already been accepted into the FBI training program, Joe is ready to move on to bigger things in his career, but after being approached, and almost forcibly drafted into, a mysterious organization known as the Department of Military Science (DMS), Joe learns that the 9/11 brand of terrorism is nothing compared to the biological and chemical threats that have been created since that fateful day. It isn't about Anthrax anymore. There's a new weapon that can turn people into the walking dead. It's fast-acting, easily spread, and  in the hands of a madman who is ready to unleash it on an unsuspecting America.
     "Patient Zero" is a book that is pretty easy to describe stylistically. Basically all you have to do is take James Bond, make him American and have him fight zombies. I don't know if "Patient Zero" was meant to be a deliberate homage to James Bond since there are several pop-culture references sprinkled throughout the book, but I suspect there was a conscious intention to write a story in the Bond tradition. Joe is a tough-guy with a ruthlessness that makes him nearly unbeatable, but with an ethical code that makes him virtually incorruptible. He has a wise-cracking sense of humor, very little fear of his superiors, and an easy way with women. He even has a mysterious boss, Mr. Church, who has virtually unlimited assets and access to a very Bondian array of gadgets.   If that sounds good to you-- then I expect you'll like this book. I know I did.
     Because of the stylistic set-up "Patient Zero" couldn't be described primarily as a zombie book; they're really just the main threat in this book. The bomb that has to be defused just before the clock counts down to zero. But oh what a threat they are in this particular go-around.
   There were a lot of things I really liked about "Patient Zero." Like a lot of action-oriented books, it isn't a hugely deep story. But Maberry does what I don't see a lot of writers doing right now in the realm of scifi by acknowledging the real-world threats of terrorism that exist right now. He isn't skittish about mentioning 9/11 or Al Qaeda, though he isn't making any political statements by doing so. It's just that the set-up of the story requires us to recognize common motives for attacking the United States and the need for a guy like Joe Ledger. There is a small amount of philosophical musings, like the excerpt quoted at the top of this review, but Maberry does a fantastic job of just telling the story and not pushing a point of view. I also like the science that is used to explain the creation of the zombies that play such a huge role in this book. The details are given in a slight info-dump fashion, but it's easy to forgive as it adds a lot of credibility to narrative by including it as part of the story.
     I'm still debating with myself about whether Joe's character is a little too perfect, and whether it would be a bad thing if he was. He's clearly an idealized hero. An updated, non-sexist James Bond who also has the capability to be a team player. If he has a weakness, I haven't found it yet. At the same time, it was a lot of fun to follow the exploits of a guy like Joe and the fairly black-and-white world of good and evil that exists in this particular story. Sometimes you just want an unambiguous hero who doesn't waste too much time on personal angst. The villains are also somewhat simplistic, but convincing. After all-- how many motives can one really have? Politics, religion and money are all thrown into the mix and it works very well.
     There are times when the dialog feels slightly cliché, as if it was written for a big-screen action film, and the violence has the same over-the-top feel. But "Patient Zero" is clearly written to entertain and it absolutely succeeds on that level. A popcorn flick in book form.

4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: Spider-man - The Real Clone Saga

I apologize for doing another comic book trade paperback review two weeks in a row. I like to do a better job of breaking them up so that I only wind up doing 2 of these a month (usually with one book and one audio book review in between), but I’m just not quite finished reading my current book yet (Cowboy Angels). You can expect a review of that book next Friday, but in the meantime…

What happens when a clone of Spider-man, whom he thought was long-dead, returns from a long self-imposed exile just in time for everything in Peter’s life to go to heck? Well, originally it took years and hundreds of issues to tell the whole story, but since it wasn’t really intended to be quite that long, the original masterminds are given a chance to try again and retell it the way it was planned.

As expected, there are some positive and some negative aspects to this re-working of the story. There’s no way the story was going to be told in a six-issue miniseries without there being some liberties taken – though as someone who only has a passing knowledge of the original story, it wasn’t too jarring for me. In fact, it was downright fun at times – having Ben Riley (the clone) come back was like being able to see Peter interact with a brother again, it works really well for the character and is one of the best parts about the story.

Ben returns because Aunt May is sick – and he’s kept in touch with her all these years because he has all the memories that Peter has, so he feels like she’s his mother as well. Turns out that May’s sickness is part of a bigger plot, one orchestrated by one of Spider-man’s greatest villains – and one that will involve clones… many, many clones. Clones of friends, clones of enemies, and lots of Spider-clones. At the time, people were sick of all the Clones, but in all honesty it’s part of the fun of the story.

The real problem with the original story was that Ben is revealed to be not the clone, but the original – which had readers up in arms (and caused editorial to change everything back and kill off Ben after revealing him to be the clone again). This story uses that plot, but does what should have been done from the very beginning – keeps it much more ambiguous at the end who is really the clone, and keeping Ben alive for future use. I’m hopeful that somehow with all the other changes that have been made to Peter Parker’s past (changing his marital status and so on) in the comic recently, that somehow this Real Clone Saga has replaced the original as the true story, leaving it open that Ben might still be alive.

Either way though, if you’re looking for a self-contained Spider-man story that delivers on a lot of action, and a good dose of humor, this is a good place to start. I’m a long time fan of Spider-man who can’t get into what Marvel has been doing with the character recently – but this throw-back to a time when Spidey was a character I recognize, this I like a lot.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Big Apple

I'm off to New York for a few days with my husband on a business trip that we've decided to extend into a mini-vacation. Internet access is going to be sketchy while I'm gone, so I don't expect to have a new post up until after the weekend (though Jim will likely have his Friday post up). I'm looking forward to our trip. We're going to see "The Addams Family" on Broadway-- so you know I'll have to put up a review for that!

Have a good week everyone and I'll be back soon!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Giveaway! "Shadow Raiders: Book 1 of the Dragon Brigade" by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes

Courtesy of Penguin Books I have a copy of Shadow Raiders: Book 1 of the Dragon Brigade by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes to offer for giveaway.

A new epic military fantasy series-by New York Times bestselling author Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes.

The known world floats upon the Breath of God, a thick gas similar to Earth's oceans, with land masses accessible by airship. The largest of these land masses are ruled by the rival empires of Freya and Rosia. Magic is intrinsic to the functioning of these societies, and is even incorporated into their technological devices. But now a crucial scientific discovery has occurred that could destroy the balance of power-and change the empires forever.


Just add your information to the form below to enter (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once contest ends) and I will randomly pick one winner by Tuesday May 3rd. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere.

Good luck!

**Contest Closed**

Winners!

I need to announce the winners of a couple of contests that have ended.


The winner of a copy of "Hellhole" by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson is:

Doug Kosik: Murphysboro, Il


and the winner of a copy of "Among Thieves" by Douglas Kulick is:

Carol Evans: Wintersville, OH


Congrats to the winners!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Do We Need Our Heroes to Slip?

How perfect do you like your heroes to be?

Me? I like mine to be awesome but imperfect. But what does that mean exactly?

That's a harder question to answer than you think. We have so many kinds of heroes these days. The anti-hero isn't a new notion, but I think we all look for a certain code of ethics when we read a book or watch a movie that has a good vs. evil set-up. If we watch a heist movie, for example, we want to root for the guys who are stealing a boatload of money from some evil fat-cat. But what is the code we want a supernatural hero to follow? How pristine do we want something like a vampire to be?

I was reading a vampire-themed book recently (hence this post) and I realized that a too-perfect vampire is not only unrealistic-- but boring.

In the book I was reading, the hero of the story is a vampire that never, ever gives in to his urge to feed on humans. EVER. How is that possible? It was a strange book to me. The beginning had an incredibly effective set-up in which we really see the horror of a vampire attack and how the insatiable need takes over all reason. Loved ones turn into monsters and the need-to-feed wipes out all notions of familial relationships. I liked it a lot. And then.... nothing. The main character is turned and his grandfather convinces him to suppress his unnatural urges.

I'm not buying it.

I got about three-fourths of the way through the book before I realized the main character was never going to slip and I stopped caring. It's not that I want my heroes to go over to the dark side. I just need to see the effort to overcome a hard struggle. I need to know that the character is human-- even if it isn't. It's all a question of relatability.

Modern heroes are too perfect in my opinion. Everyone is a martial arts expert or, if they are imperfect enough to need a gun, they're the best shot you've ever seen. Regular bad-assery isn't enough. Special effects have taken mundane notions of heroism and made it about being super-human-- but not necessarily interesting.

I suppose it was inevitable that CGI technology would make our on-screen heroes larger-than-life, but I have been shocked to see the trend extend to my favorite books. Though I guess it was also inevitable that a generation that grew up on splashy cinematography might think in terms of what looks cool rather than what is needed for a convincing story. Writing in hopes of a screenplay perhaps?

Personally, I'd like to see popular fiction take a step back. Forget about making the hero bulletproof and remember that we need something to relate to. I'm never going to look like Angelina Jolie-- so the least they can do is make her stumble once in a while. Is that too much to ask?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Review: Thor – The Mighty Avenger vol 1

What happens when a museum curator whose professional life seems to be on the rise while her private life hits the rocks, finds the Norse God Thor is real and in need of her help?

What you get is a modern origin of Thor, told with a very old-school art sensibility. This is a very approachable series for anyone looking to get a little history on Thor before seeing the movie (or afterwards). You don’t need to be deeply steeped in Marvel lore in order to be able to read this, it’s very self-contained and the reader will learn everything they need to know about any characters introduced within.

The artwork inside matches the cover, a wonderful throw-back to an older style, while still providing the kind of impact that comics do today. There’s a nice bit of humor, as Thor reconnects with some of his Norse buddies and goes out for a night on the town – and he gets into some unnecessary brawls, but then that’s part of the fun when dealing with a character like Thor. I liked that Captain Britain puts in an appearance (I’ve always liked his character from my long love of the Excalibur comic series), but there are also a few drawbacks.

One is that this series probably should have been treated as a miniseries from the very beginning. You can tell that they were just trying to make a new ongoing series out of this, but it’s something that was never going to last long-term. This could have been a nice “Man of Steel” type reinvention of Thor’s origin – something for new readers to read and catch up on, so that they could move on to the current stories in his regular comic series. Instead, this seems to be going for a more kid-friendly, alternate take on the character – something that didn’t really pay off as the series was ultimately cancelled with issue #8 (this book collects the first four issues).

I liked the way Thor’s origin tied in with the museum’s collection of Norse antiquities, which ultimately lead him under the care of Jane the curator. She makes for a nice counter-point to Thor’s boisterous personality, though she’s perhaps a little too easily accepting of the fact that he is in fact a Norse God and not just some homeless wacko. But ultimately, this book gave me what I was looking for – a little bit of an origin story for Thor, a character whom I’ve never really followed in Marvel comics but have become interested in due to the upcoming movie. I think it could have better served that purpose had it been planned as that all along, but it still satisfied in that regard. Mostly, reading this has made me all the more ready to both see the movie now, and to read other stories featuring Thor – to see what kinds of adventures he can really get into.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Books Received

Chicks Kick Butt by Rachel Caine and Kerrie L. Hughes (Editors)

Chicks are awesome—and never more so than when they are kicking some serious vampire/werewolf/demon/monster butt.
Chicks Kick Butt is an anthology that features one of the best things about the urban fantasy genre: strong, independent, and intelligent heroines who are quite capable of solving their own problems and slaying their own dragons (or demons, as the case may be).
Edited by Kerrie Hughes and Rachel Caine, Chicks Kick Butt features original stories from thirteen authors, eleven of whom are New York Times bestsellers:
- Rachel Caine (with a story from her bestselling Weather Wardens universe)
- L.A. Banks
- Rachel Vincent
- Karen Chance
- Lilith Saintcrow
- Cheyenne McCray
- Susan Krinard
- Jeanne Stein
- Jenna Black
- Susan Krinard
- Jeanne Stein
- Jenna Black
- Elizabeth Vaughan
- Carole Nelson Douglas
- P.N. Elrod
- Nancy Holder


The Chaos Crystal by Jennifer Fallon

The magical Tide has turned and the Immortal Lords once again have their full power. The Immortal Lord Cayal welcomes this power as a means to an end--his end, preferably. Cayal has wanted to cease his existence for longer than human history and it looks like he might finally get his wish. Rumors swirl that the Chaos Crystal, the mysterious prism that brought the Immortals to the world, has been found. Cayal is determined to seize the gem.

Among those who search for this long-lost object is Cayal’s former lover, the very mortal Lady Arkady. She’s been captured by Jaxyn, a Tide Lord who is decidedly against Cayal and is seeking the Crystal for his own nefarious schemes. Arkady escapes, and is off on her desperate search…for if the gem falls into the hands of the Immortals, what will become of humanity?

The stakes are high, with mortal and immortal fighting to grasp this ultimate prize. Whoever holds the Crystal can decide the fate of the world.


Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance

Cassandra Palmer recently defeated a god, which you'd think would buy a girl a little time off. But it doesn't work that way when your job description is Pythia-the world's chief clairvoyant. Cassie is busier than ever, trying to learn about her power, preparing for her upcoming coronation, and figuring out her relationship with the enigmatic sexy master vampire, Mircea.

But someone doesn't want Cassie to become Pythia, and is willing to go to any lengths to make sure the coronation ceremony never happens- including attacking her mother before Cassie is even born.





Original Sin by Lisa Desrochers

Luc Cain was born and raised in Hell, but he isn’t feeling as demonic as usual lately—thanks to Frannie Cavanaugh and the unique power she never realized she had. But you can’t desert Hell without consequences, and suddenly Frannie and Luc find themselves targeted by the same demons who used to be Luc’s allies.

Left with few options, Frannie and Luc accept the protection of Heaven and one of its most powerful angels, Gabe. Unfortunately, Luc isn’t the only one affected by Frannie, and it isn’t long before Gabe realizes that being around her is too…tempting. Rather than risk losing his wings, he leaves Frannie and Luc under the protection of her recently-acquired guardian angel.

Which would be fine, but Gabe is barely out the door before an assortment of demons appears—and they’re not leaving without dragging Luc back to Hell with them. Hell won’t give up and Heaven won’t give in. Frannie’s guardian exercises all the power he has to keep them away, but the demons are willing to hurt anyone close to Frannie in order to get what they want. It will take everything she has and then some to stay out of Hell’s grasp.

And not everyone will get out of it alive.



I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells

Dan Wells introduced us to John Wayne Cleaver in the chilling novels I Am Not a Serial Killer and Mr. Monster. In I Don't Want to Kill You, Cleaver faces his toughest challenge yet.
John Wayne Cleaver has called a demon---literally called it on the phone---and challenged it to a fight. He’s faced two monsters already, barely escaping with his life, and now he’s done running; he’s taking the fight to them. As he wades through the town’s darkest secrets, searching for any sign of who the demon might be, one thing becomes all too clear: in a game of cat and mouse with a supernatural killer, you are always the mouse.

In I Am Not a Serial Killer we watched a budding sociopath break every rule he had to save his town from evil. In Mr. Monster we held our breath as he fought madly with himself, struggling to stay in control. Now John Wayne Cleaver has mastered his twisted talents and embraced his role as a killer of killers. I Don't Want to Kill You brings his story to a thundering climax of suspicion, mayhem, and death.

It’s time to punish the guilty.
And in a town full of secrets, everyone is guilty of something.



Honeyed Words by J.A. Pitts

Sarah Beauhall is a blacksmith, has a night job as a props manager for a low-budget movie, and spends her free time fighting in a medieval re-enactment group. Her world falls apart when she discovers that dragons are real and live among us as shapeshifters; in fact, it is they who have been the secret masters of our world from time immemorial. On top of all this, it appears that Sarah has managed to reforge an ancient sword that everyone suddenly wants...and those who don’t want the weapon want Sarah to take on her destiny and become humanity’s saviour.

As Sarah tries to make her way in this new world, she discovers just how little she knows of reality. Fairies and dwarves and giants abound, the fault line of the Pacific Northwest is rife with ancient Norse magic. Odin himself appears with ravens at his side and cryptic advice for the fledgling heroine. And the cherry on the sundae? The discovery that Sarah’s girlfriend is from a family that has been battling these forces for generations and they look to Sarah as their last best hope.

What’s a girl to do when the powers of the world decide that you’re responsible for cleaning up the magical mess?


Children of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy

The crib is everywhere . . .

Edie Sha'nim believes she and her bodyguard lover, Finn, could find refuge from the tyranny of the Crib empire by fleeing to the Fringe worlds. But Edie's extraordinary cypherteck ability to manipulate the ecology of evolving planets makes her far too valuable for the empire to lose. Recaptured and forced to cooperate—or else she will watch Finn die—Edie is shocked to discover the Crib's new breed of cypherteck: children. She cannot stand by while the oppressors enslave the innocent, nor can she resist the lure of Scarabaeus, the first world she tried to save, when researchers discover what appears to be an evolving intelligence.

But escape—for Edie, for Finn, and for the exploited young—will require the ultimate sacrifice . . . and a shocking act of rebellion.



Shadow Raiders by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes

A new epic military fantasy series-by New York Times bestselling author Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes.

The known world floats upon the Breath of God, a thick gas similar to Earth's oceans, with land masses accessible by airship. The largest of these land masses are ruled by the rival empires of Freya and Rosia. Magic is intrinsic to the functioning of these societies, and is even incorporated into their technological devices. But now a crucial scientific discovery has occurred that could destroy the balance of power-and change the empires forever.



All the Lives He Led by Frederik Pohl

The year is 2079. In the shadow of Mount Vesuvius a virtual reality theme park has been erected for Il Giubelo — the celebration honoring the 2000th anniversary of the volcano’s great eruption. Tens of thousands of tourists from around the world have converged on the site for the occasion. But trouble is brewing in Pompei. . . .

Brad Sheridan, an indentured servant from a post-disaster United States, has been hired to work as an “authentic” ancient Pompeian wine seller for the event. Brad already has his hands full — with the woman of his dreams, and with troubling events that threaten to cost him his job. But as the fateful day draws near, he uncovers a much bigger nightmare: A terrorist cell is devising a plot to draw attention to their cause by creating a disaster — one so massive it could wipe out humanity.

With his trademark eye for humanity, Frederik Pohl has created a multi-layered story about a group of people caught in the shifting current of political unrest. All the Lives He Led is gripping science fiction — a new masterwork from the Grand Master.



Shadowborn by Alison Sinclair

From the author of Lightborn, the third book in a Regency- flavored fantasy series of magic and manners.

Magic dies with the mage, or so the Darkborn believe. That's why Lady Telmaine Hearne has been condemned to death for sorcery. She's escaped but is now bound with her mageborn allies for the Borders and war. Meanwhile, her husband, Balthasar, has learned of his family connection to the Shadowborn-and is fighting for survival and sanity as magic turns him against everything he holds dear.




The Crippled God by Steven Erikson

Savaged by the K’Chain Nah’Ruk, the Bonehunters march for Kolanse, where waits an unknown fate. Tormented by questions, the army totters on the edge of mutiny, but Adjunct Tavore will not relent. One final act remains, if it is in her power, if she can hold her army together, if the shaky allegiances she has forged can survive all that is to come. A woman with no gifts of magic, deemed plain, unprepossessing, displaying nothing to instill loyalty or confidence, Tavore Paran of House Paran means to challenge the gods – if her own troops don’t kill her first.

Awaiting Tavore and her allies are the Forkrul Assail, the final arbiters of humanity. Drawing upon an alien power terrible in its magnitude, they seek to cleanse the world, to annihilate every human, every civilization, in order to begin anew. They welcome the coming conflagration of slaughter, for it shall be of their own devising, and it pleases them to know that, in the midst of the enemies gathering against them, there shall be betrayal.
In the realm of Kurald Galain, home to the long lost city of Kharkanas, a mass of refugees stand upon the First Shore. Commanded by Yedan Derryg, the Watch, they await the breaching of Lightfall, and the coming of the Tiste Liosan. This is a war they cannot win, and they will die in the name of an empty city and a queen with no subjects.

Elsewhere, the three Elder Gods, Kilmandaros, Errastas and Sechul Lath, work to shatter the chains binding Korabas, the Otataral Dragon, from her eternal prison. Once freed, she will rise as a force of devastation, and against her no mortal can stand. At the Gates of Starvald Demelain, the Azath House sealing the portal is dying. Soon will come the Eleint, and once more, there will be dragons in the world.



Betrayer by C.J. Cherryh

The twelfth book in Hugo Award winner C.J. Cherryh's epic Foreigner series.
The civil war among the alien atevi has ended. Tabini-aiji, powerful ruler of the Western Association, along with Cajeiri his son and heir, and his human paidhi, Bren Cameron, have returned to the Bujavid, their seat of power.
But factions that remain loyal to the opposition are still present, and the danger these rebels pose is far from over.



The Shining City by Fiona Patton


With the three children of prophecy-the seers Spar and Graize, and the warrior Brax-now grown, and the young God Hisar ready to stake his claim to a place in the pantheon of Anavatan, a time of chaos and change is fast approaching. For only if sworn enemies Spar and Graize can come together as Hisar's priests will the God stand any chance of surviving the coming battles with both the hungry spirits seeking to devour him, and the war with the mortal invasion fleet, which is even now sailing for Anavatan.



Eureka: Road Less Traveled by Cris Ramsay

A Global Dynamics researcher has a breakthrough on her project visualizing another dimension. And since GD's experiments have a bad tendency to affect the entire town, Sheriff Jack Carter heads over to check it out. What he sees blows him away. The project has revealed a parallel universe, complete with another Eureka-one in which Carter doesn't exist! But as the two worlds begin to bleed into each other and residents confront their alternate selves, Carter may be the one man who can keep both Eurekas from being destroyed.



Waking Nightmares by Christopher Golden


Peter Octavian, once a vampire, now a powerful mage, has been living a quiet life in San Francisco. But when the barrier that used to prevent demons and monsters from entering the world have fallen, Octavian is compelled to do what he can to hold back the darkness.



Shady Lady by Ann Aguirre


Whenever Corine Solomon touches an object, she immediately knows its history. But the future concerns her more when former ally Kel Ferguson wlaks through her door with a warning for her: the Montoya cartel is coming for her-but they don't just pack guns. They use warlocks, shamans and voodoo priests. And Corine has become enemy number one...


Element Zero by James Knapp


Technologically reanimated corpses are frontline soldiers engaged in a neverending war. Agent Nico Wachalowski uncovered a conspiracy that allowed Samuel Fawkes, the scientist who created them, to control them beyond the grave. And now Fawkes has infected untold thousands with new technology, creating an undetectable army that will obey his every command-a living army that just might represent the future of humanity...


A Magic of Dawn by S.L. Farrell


Kraljica Allesandra sits on the Sun Throne of a much-diminished Holdings empire, while her son Jan rules the rival Coalition of Firenzcia. The schism between them threatens to tear apart the realm when they need solidarity the most. Facing powerful threats, from the rising influence of the Numetodo sect to the fundamentalist preacher Nico Morel-as well as the army of Tehuantin from across the sea- Allesandra and Jan must each find a pathway to survival for themselves and their people.


Deceiver by C.J. Cherryh

The civil war among the alien Atevi has ended and Tabini-aiji, the ruler of the Western Association, has returned to power. Bren Cameron, Tabini's human paidhi, decides to return to his recovered home on the coast, but when Tabini's son Cajeiri, desperate for adventure, flees his responsibilities to join Bren, Tabini sends the boy's great-grandmother to find him.
Even though the war is over, the opposition is still present, and a district once thought to be safe could now be a trap. With Bren, Cajeiri, and his great-grandmother under one roof...a trap is baited.



Alien in the Family by Gini Koch

Super-Being Exterminator Kitty Katt and the Alpha Centaurian she loves, Jeff Martini, should be finalizing their wedding plans. But that was before she discovers Jeff is in line to become Emperor back on his home world. Kitty knows she is everything a royal family wouldn't approve of, and is bracing herself for the worst. As it turns out, the royal family is just the beginning. Especially when extraterrestrial Amazonian terrorists are determined to start and end Kitty and Jeff's nuptial festivities with a bang.


Lady Protector by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

A new novel of Mykella, the young woman introduced in The Lord-Protector’s Daughter. Though a bloody coup has made Mykella ruler of her land, it has left her and her two sisters bereft of family and uncertain of their friends. Worse, an examination of the nation’s accounts reveals that their country is almost destitute. Plus, there are rumblings of war along the borders. With no money and few allies, Mykella is faced with the difficult prospect of rebuilding her nation while trying to hold off a potentially devastating invasion.

Fortunately for Mykella, an old magic has awakened in her; a power that gives her the ability to read the emotions of others and to spy on the movements of her enemies. But the resurgence of this power might herald the return of an ancient enemy, one that Mykella isn’t sure how to face.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to the world of The Corean Chronicles with a novel filled with politics, adventure, magic, and romance.



Dark Jenny by Alex Bledsoe

Alex Bledsoe’s novels featuring detective Eddie LaCrosse have drawn rave reviews for their ingenious blend of classic fantasy and hard-boiled detective fiction. Now with Dark Jenny, Bledsoe returns with an all-new tale of intrigue and murder. . . .

For twenty-five gold pieces a day, plus expenses, Eddie LaCrosse will take on most any case. But the unexpected delivery of a coffin in the dead of winter forces LaCrosse to look back at a bygone chapter in his past—and the premeditated murder of a dream.

Ruled by the noble King Marcus Drake, the island kingdom of Grand Braun is an oasis of peace and justice in an imperfect world. At least until the beautiful Queen Jennifer is accused of adultery and murder. In the wrong castle at the wrong time, Eddie finds himself drafted at sword’s point to solve the mystery. With time running out, and powerful nobles all too eager to pin the murder on Eddie himself, he must untangle a tangled web of palace intrigues, buried secrets, and bewitching women—before the entire kingdom erupts into civil war.
Murder, mystery, and magic—just another day on the job for Eddie LaCrosse.



For Heaven's Eyes Only by Simon R. Green


The fifth Eddie Drood novel from the New York Times bestselling author.

After the murder of the Drood Matriarch, the family finds itself vulnerable to evil. This time, it's a Satanic Conspiracy that could throw humanity directly into the clutches of the Biggest of the Bads...




The Council of Shadows by S. M. Stirling

New from the New York Times bestselling author of A Taint in the Blood.

Adrian Brézé defied his own dark heritage as a near-purebred Shadowspawn for years, until his power-hungry sister Adrienne kidnapped his human lover Ellen.

Now, Adrienne is dead, and the Council of Shadows is gathering its strength. To stop the Council from launching an apocalypse, Adrian and Ellen must ally with the Brotherhood, a resistance group dedicated to breaking the Council's hold on humankind...by any means necessary.
In the coming confrontation, Adrian must fight not only the members of the Council but also his own nature-and, as he will come to suspect, traitors within the Brotherhood itself...


The Neon Court by Kate Griffin

War is coming to London. A daimyo of the Neon Court is dead and all fingers point towards their ancient enemy - The Tribe. And when magicians go to war, everyone loses.

But Matthew Swift has his own concerns. He has been summoned abruptly, body and soul, to a burning tower and to the dead body of Oda, warrior of The Order and known associate of Swift. There's a hole in her heart and the symbol of the Midnight Mayor drawn in her own blood. Except, she is still walking and talking and has a nasty habit of saying 'we' when she means 'I.'
Now, Swift faces the longest night of his life. Lady Neon herself is coming to London and the Tribe is ready to fight. Strange things stalk this night: a rumored 'chosen one,' a monster that burns out the eyes of its enemies, and a walking dead woman. Swift must stop a war, protect his city, and save his friend - if she'll stop trying to kill him long enough for him to try.



Other Kingdoms by Richard Matheson

For over half a century, Richard Matheson has enthralled and terrified readers with such timeless classics as I Am Legend, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Duel, Somewhere in Time, and What Dreams May Come. Now the Grand Master returns with a bewitching tale of erotic suspense and enchantment.…

1918. A young American soldier, recently wounded in the Great War, Alex White comes to Gatford to escape his troubled past. The pastoral English village seems the perfect spot to heal his wounded body and soul. True, the neighboring woods are said to be haunted by capricious, even malevolent spirits, but surely those are just old wives’ tales.
Aren’t they?

A frightening encounter in the forest leads Alex into the arms of Magda Variel, an alluring red-haired widow rumored to be a witch. She warns him to steer clear of the wood and the perilous faerie kingdom it borders, but Alex cannot help himself. Drawn to its verdant mysteries, he finds love, danger…and wonders that will forever change his view of the world.
Other Kingdoms casts a magical spell, as conjured by a truly legendary storyteller.


Demon Song by Cat Adams

In a world where magic is real and the supernatural is almost normal, bodyguard Celia Graves has survived a vampire attack which made her a half-vampire and awakened her latent Siren abilities. She’s battled a Siren Queen and twice faced down a demon that wants to kill her—slowly. She’s also had her heart broken—twice—by her old flame, magician Bruno DeLuca. Now the demon’s coming back for round three, determined this time to destroy Celia and those sworn to protect her.


Hellhole by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Only the most desperate colonists dare to make a new home on Hellhole. Reeling from a recent asteroid impact, tortured with horrific storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and churning volcanic eruptions, the planet is a dumping ground for undesirables, misfits, and charlatans…but also a haven for dreamers and independent pioneers.

Against all odds, an exiled general named Adolphus has turned Hellhole into a place of real opportunity for the desperate colonists who call the planet their home. While the colonists are hard at work developing the planet, General Adolphus secretly builds alliances with the leaders of the other Deep Zone worlds, forming a clandestine coalition against the tyrannical, fossilized government responsible for their exile.

What no one knows is this: the planet Hellhole, though damaged and volatile, hides an amazing secret. Deep beneath its surface lies the remnants of an obliterated alien civilization and the buried memories of its unrecorded past that, when unearthed, could tear the galaxy apart.




Home Fires by Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe takes us to a future North America at once familiar and utterly strange. A young man and woman, Skip and Chelle, fall in love in college and marry, but she is enlisted in the military, there is a war on, and she must serve her tour of duty before they can settle down. But the military is fighting a war with aliens in distant solar systems, and her months in the service will be years in relative time on Earth. Chelle returns to recuperate from severe injuries, after months of service, still a young woman but not necessarily the same person—while Skip is in his forties and a wealthy businessman, but eager for her return.

Still in love (somewhat to his surprise and delight), they go on a Caribbean cruise to resume their marriage. Their vacation rapidly becomes a complex series of challenges, not the least of which are spies, aliens, and battles with pirates who capture the ship for ransom. There is no writer in SF like Gene Wolfe and no SF novel like Home Fires.



A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond Feist

After nearly thirty years and more than two dozen novels, Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar Cycle has become one of the most iconic, beloved, and enduring sagas in modern fantasy. The Riftwars—including the original Riftwar, the Serpentwar, the Darkwar, and the Demonwar—were epic battles between Good and Evil whose ramifications have echoed through generations. The latest entry in the epic, A Kingdom Besieged, ushers in the most fearsome threat the Kingdom has yet faced—the Chaoswar—a magic apocalypse with cataclysmic results.

A Kingdom Besieged

Years ago, the Empire of Great Kesh failed in its attempt to conquer Krondor after the Serpentwar, thanks to the bravery, cunning, and magic of the sorcerer Pug and the Conclave of Shadows. Since then, peace has benefitted both nations, and the Kingdom has been free from the threat of another Keshian invasion. Yet now, the dark clouds of war gather again. . . .

From the Far Coast in the west to the frontier with the Eastern Kingdoms, rumors, uncertainty, and political instability are rampant. Spies have gone missing—some were murdered while others have turned traitor. Factions are rising, powerful legions from the Keshian Confederacy have been mobilized, and an attack on the kingdoms of the Isles and Roldem is all but certain.
As the men of the Western Realm begin to mount a defense, Martin conDoin, the middle son of Lord Henry, Duke of Crydee, finds himself leading the charge against the invaders—like his legendary ancestor, Prince Arutha, who stood firm to the death against the Tsurani invasion. But Arutha had an entire army at his command. Martin has just a ragtag force comprised of a few old men and young boys.

As Kesh's invading hordes once again descend upon the Kingdom, no one is safe—not experienced masters of intrigue Lord James Dasher Jamison and the beguiling and deadly Lady Franciezka; not the brave warrior Knight-Adamant Sandreena and a new generation of loyal yet untested defenders; not even the great Pug himself, the most powerful magician the world of Midkemia has ever known. A threat far more terrifying has arisen, an evil whose burgeoning power portends Midkemia's demise. And soon even the Kingdom's enchanted defender will find himself questioning everything he's ever held abiding, true, and treasured . . . including the loyalty and desires of his beloved son, Magnus.



WWW: Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer

Webmind-the vast consciousness that spontaneously emerged from the infrastructure of the World Wide Web-has proven its worth to humanity by aiding in everything from curing cancer to easing international tensions. But the brass at the Pentagon see Webmind as a threat that needs to be eliminated.

Caitlin Decter-the once-blind sixteen-year-old math genius who discovered, and bonded with, Webmind-wants desperately to protect her friend. And if she doesn't act, everything-Webmind included-may come crashing down.