Friday, August 9, 2013

Winds of Change

I just hit the "PAUSE" button.

I'll be blogging only on Speculative Book Review for a while.

Thank you.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Crash by Guy Haley

"Dariusz is an engineer whose career ended years ago; now, a man he’s never met sits in a bar that doesn’t exist and offers him a fresh start... at a price. Cassandra – ‘Sand,’ to her friends – is a space pilot, who itches to get her hands on the controls and actually fly a ship, rather than watch computers do it for her.

The ‘Pointers’ – the elite 0.01% who control virtually all wealth – have seen the limitations of a plundered Earth and set their eyes on the stars. And now Dariusz and Sand, and a half-million ambitious men and women just like them, are sent out to extend the Pointers’ and the Market’s influence across the galaxy.

But the colony fleet is sabotaged and the ESS Adam Mickiewicz crashes, on an alien planet where one hemisphere is seared by perpetual daylight and the other shrouded in eternal night. The castaways have the chance to create society from scratch... if they're not destroyed by the hostile planet – or their own leaders – before they can even begin."

"Why do you read fiction?" When I turned the barrel of this question to myself, my immediate answer was: "to be entertained". In fiction, entertainment is what I'm looking for and the overall experience is what I value the most. To qoute Jojen Reeds from Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire: "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." So, when I turned the first page of Crash, I was looking to put another notch on the hilt of that sword.

Crash opens with a prologue that immediately hooks the reader.
"At first, Dariusz Szczeciński was dead, then he was not.
Machines hurried him to life more quickly than they should. Preservative fluids were sucked from his circulatory system with haste, warmed blood pumped in their place..."

The main protagonish, Dariusz Szczeciński, wakes up after, what appears to be, a crash. The dozen-page prologue is perfect to whet the reader's appetite.

Then, the author takes us to 22nd-century Earth where the reader remains throughout the first quarter of the book. Here Haley paints a very probable picture of our hurting planet that is damaged beyond repair. In that future, a handful of people forming the elite of the society, the pointers, live a dream life while 99% of the human population can barely survive. In this first part, the reader gets to know the backstory of the main protagonist Dariusz as well as some other important characters.

Maybe it comes with the age but as I grow older I lose my faith in humanity. We are not doing enough to protect our planet, we are wasting precious resources, in the name of dogma we are not educating our people in family planning. And one of the projections of our planet's current state could very well match what Haley describes in this first part of Crash. That probable realism glued the book to my hands.

And in the second part of the book the reader find herself back to the crash and the very important events surrounding it. That's where the story picks up more speed.

Unfortunately I hadn't read any of Haley's work before therefore I won't be able to compare Crash to his previous novels however I really liked his smooth, flowing style. The structure and the construction of the story is skilfully realised and Crash is somewhat reminiscent of some of Eric Brown's work. One or two characters failed to make an impression on me however, in general, I didn't have much difficulty in relating to them.

Crash is an action-packed, enthralling novel. I loved Guy Haley's storytelling and in Crash he gives us an adventure well-worth following. I am really looking forward to reading the sequel. And when I turned Crash's last page I knew I was going to read one of Haley's previous works very soon, while waiting for its sequel to be published. A copy of Champion of Mars is already waiting for me on my desk.

Plot: ............. 8
Characters: ... 7
Style: ............ 8

Overall: ....... 8.5/10

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Cover Art: The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley

We keep saying "don't judge a book by its cover" and we strive to be less superficial. Nevertheless, a first impression remains a very strong feeling. The covers that have the power to move each individual may be different but they are still powerful.

Obviously I missed the cover reveal a while back. But when I first saw the cover of The Emperor's Blades, I felt I had to drop everything I was doing to read the book. It seems to me that the cover alone wants to tell us a story that is worth listening to. Needless to say, I was very disappointed to see that we were 6 months away from the publication date (14 Jan 2014). Well... That's something to look forward to in the new year.


When the emperor of Annur is murdered, his children must fight to uncover the conspiracy—and the ancient enemy—that effected his death.

Kaden, the heir apparent, was for eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, where he learned the inscrutable discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power which Kaden must master before it’s too late. When an imperial delegation arrives to usher him back to the capital for his coronation, he has learned just enough to realize that they are not what they seem—and enough, perhaps, to successfully fight back.

Meanwhile, in the capital, his sister Adare, master politician and Minister of Finance, struggles against the religious conspiracy that seems to be responsible for the emperor’s murder. Amid murky politics, she’s determined to have justice—but she may be condemning the wrong man.

Their brother Valyn is struggling to stay alive. He knew his training to join the Kettral— deadly warriors who fly massive birds into battle—would be arduous. But after a number of strange apparent accidents, and the last desperate warning of a dying guard, he’s convinced his father’s murderers are trying to kill him, and then his brother. He must escape north to warn Kaden—if he can first survive the brutal final test of the Kettral.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Best Foreword Ever Is In Unfettered

Before asking you whether you read forewords or not, I'd like to say I do read them. I probably get that habit from reading technical books (mostly for work).

In my humble opinion they are important. A foreword is usually not my first impression of a book because that burden falls on the cover and the blurb. However it sets a certain tone, gives the background of the book that we're holding in our hands and, in a way, completes the book's own story.

Now... the main reason why I'm here is to tell you about the brilliant foreword that Patrick Rothfuss wrote for Unfettered edited by Shawn Speakman. I'm probably not allowed to copy it fully here but you can, as I did, go on Amazon and Look Inside.

While we're all here, I'd like to point out that the stories in Unfettered are all donated for a great cause.

Lacking health insurance and diagnosed with Hogdkin’s lymphoma in 2011, Shawn quickly accrued a massive medical debt that he did not have the ability to pay. That’s when New York Times best-selling author Terry Brooks offered to donate a short story Shawn could sell toward alleviating those bills—and suggested Shawn ask the same of his other friends.

Unfettered is the result, an anthology built to relieve that debt, featuring short stories by some of the best fantasy writers in the genre.

Any one of the contributing authors' names would easily justify the purchase of a bestseller but bringing them altogether in one book makes Unfettered inescapable. Just check the list below. I bet you're going to go and order your copy ;).

  • The Shade of Allanon by Terry Brooks (a Shannara tale)
  • Imaginary Friends by Terry Brooks (a precursor to the Word/Void trilogy)
  • How Old Holly Came To Be by Patrick Rothfuss (a Four Corners tale)
  • River of Souls by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (a Wheel of Time tale)
  • The Old Scale Game by Tad Williams
  • Martyr of the Roses by Jacqueline Carey (a precursor to the Kushiel series)
  • Dogs by Daniel Abraham
  • Mudboy by Peter V. Brett (a Demon Cycle tale)
  • Nocturne by Robert V. S. Redick
  • The Sound of Broken Absolutes by Peter Orullian (a Vault of Heaven tale)
  • Untitled by Geno & R.A. Salvatore
  • Keeper of Memory by Todd Lockwood (a Summer Dragon tale)
  • Game of Chance by Carrie Vaughn
  • The Lasting Doubts of Joaquin Lopez by Blake Charlton
  • The Chapel Perilous by Kevin Hearne (an Iron Druid tale)
  • Select Mode by Mark Lawrence (a Broken Empire tale)
  • All the Girls Love Michael Stein by David Anthony Durham
  • Strange Rain by Jennifer Bosworth (a Struck epilogue tale)
  • Unbowed by Eldon Thompson (a Legend of Asahiel tale)
  • Untitled by Naomi Novik (a Temeraire tale)
  • The Jester by Michael J. Sullivan (a Riyria Chronicles tale)
  • The Duel by Lev Grossman (a Magicians tale)
  • The Unfettered Knight by Shawn Speakman (an Annwn Cycle tale)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Short Story: Fire Above, Fire Below by Garth Nix

I'm not a big fan of dragons. There's no need to elaborate on my reasons however this doesn't mean that I don't enjoy good stories involving dragons.

Last week Tor published a short story called Fire Above, Fire Below written by Garth Nix. I really liked it. I think you'll like it too if you decide to give it a try.

My love for short stories has been steadily growing especially thanks to some great books published by Solaris. I believe that reading a good short story is like watching a 100-metre dash. It's explosive and packed with emotions. And if you're too busy to sit down for hours to enjoy a long book it is definitely a great format to enjoy the beginning and the end of a story in one sitting.

Let me know if you have a short story that you'd recommend. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cover Reveal - The Path Of Anger by Antoine Rouaud

Gollancz just revealed the cover art of one of their 2013 debuts novels: The Path Of Anger by Antoine Rouaud. This is going to be the first book of a trilogy entitled The Book And The Sword (called originally Le Livre Et L'Epée). The debut novel of Antoine Rouaud, a rising name in French fantasy, will be published simultaneously in many European countries in October 2013.

We don't see many cover reveals in animated GIF, mostly because GIF is a very restrictive format regarding the color palette. However this one looks pretty nice.

Dun-Cadal has been drinking his life away for years. Betrayed by his friends - who turned their back on their ideals in favour of a new republic - and grief stricken at the loss of his apprentice, who saved his life on the battlefield and whom he trained as a knight in exchange, he's done with politics, with adventure, and with people.

But people aren't finished with him - not yet. Viola is a young historian looking for the last Emperor's sword, and her search not only brings her to Dun-Cadal, it's also going to embroil them both in a series of assassinations. Because Dun-Cadal's turncoat friends are being murdered, one by one . . . by someone who kills in the unmistakable style of an Imperial assassin . . .

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cover Reveal: Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon

"Zenn Scarlett is a bright, determined, occasionally a-little-too-smart-for-her-own-good 17-year-old girl training hard to become an exoveterinarian. That means she’s specializing in the treatment of exotic alien life forms, mostly large and generally dangerous. Her novice year of training at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars will find her working with alien patients from whalehounds the size of a hay barn to a baby Kiran Sunkiller, a colossal floating creature that will grow up to carry a whole sky-city on its back.

But after a series of inexplicable animal escapes from the school and other near-disasters, the Cloister is in real danger of being shut down by a group of alien-hating officials. If that happens, Zenn knows only too well the grim fate awaiting the creatures she loves.

Now, she must unravel the baffling events plaguing her school, before someone is hurt or killed, before everything she cares about is ripped away from her and her family forever. To solve this mystery – and live to tell about it – Zenn will have to put her new exovet skills to work in ways she never imagined, and in the process learn just how powerful compassion and empathy can be.

Zen Scarlett will be available on 2 May 2013 in the UK, on 30 Apr 2013 in the US. The e-book version will be released on 30 Apr 2013 as well.

Early praise for Zenn Scarlett:

"Christian Schoon knows his xenobiology! ZENN SCARLETT has everything a sci-fi lover craves, from exotic alien life forms to quantum entanglement, all grounded by a stellar YA heroine. Zenn’s moxie and determination make this a debut to remember. Highly recommended!" – Phoebe North, author of Starglass

"Reading Zenn Scarlett is like venturing into a gargantuan alien animal in one of the in-soma pods Zenn uses to provide veterinary care: delightful, bizarre, and occasionally terrifying." – Mike Mullin, author of ASHFALL

"Many young people want to become veterinarians because they love animals. All future veterinarians will want to read Zenn Scarlett and her adventures with veterinary medicine on alien animals." – Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

"Mars, monsters, and mysteries: Zenn Scarlett is a thoughtful and thrilling science fiction adventure that’s perfect for readers who think they’ve seen it all! It’s refreshing to encounter an original young adult story that defies expectations, and the breathtaking conclusion will leave you desperate for more." – E C Myers, author of FAIR COIN and QUANTUM COIN

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cover Reveal: Saxon's Bane by Geoffrey Gudgion

"Fergus Sheppard’s world changes for ever the day his car crashes near the remote village of Allingley.

Traumatised by his near-death experience, he returns to thank the villagers who rescued him, and stays to work at the local stables as he recovers from his injuries. He will discover a gentler pace of life, fall in love – and be targeted for human sacrifice. Clare Harvey’s life will never be the same either. The young archaeologist’s dream find – the peat-preserved body of a Saxon warrior – is giving her nightmares. She can tell that the warrior had been ritually murdered, and that the partial skeleton lying nearby is that of a young woman. And their tragic story is unfolding in her head every time she goes to sleep.

Fergus discovers that his crash is uncannily linked to the excavation, and that the smiling and beautiful countryside harbours some very dark secrets. As the pagan festival of Beltane approaches, and Clare’s investigation reveals the full horror of a Dark Age war crime, Fergus and Clare seem destined to share the Saxon couple’s bloody fate!

Saxon's Bane will be published by Solaris in September 2013.

Early praise for Saxon's Bane:

"An astonishingly accomplished debut novel that blurs the line between genres. Imagine Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth but in the dark shadow of Denis Wheatley, with elements of The Wicker Man…" - Ian Drury, Sheil Land Associates, Literary Agents

"It’s a rare occasion when a submission comes in that I have to read right the way through in one go. Saxon’s Bane was such a book." - Jonathan Oliver, Editor-in-Chief, Solaris

Thursday, February 21, 2013

100 books, 100 offers, 25 hours

The Book Depository is running another great promotion day. This time, it looks like they increase the scope and the size of the offers.

Starting at 12:00 noon GMT (7:00 AM EST), they are going to push a new book offer every 15 minutes.

I usually buy one or two books during their book-offer days. Let's see what gems I'm going to bring home today.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Game Review: ORC: Vengeance

I usually don't blog about games. Mostly because I'm not a serious gamer (or I should say I ceased to be one some time ago). But I consider myself a casual gamer, especially since the beginning of the smartphone era. The games I play on my phone or on my tablet are generally puzzle or strategy type of games that I can play 5 mins here and 10 mins there.

However every now and then I discover a game and I totally get glued to it until I finish it (or it finishes me - that's another kinda-long story when, years ago, I succumbed after sleepless days of playing an awesome game). The game that I absolutely loved and that I wanted to tell you about is called Orc: The Vengeance.

Please visit Speculative Book Review to read the rest of this review...