the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for August 2013

Black Fire smallThe Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen

published June 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the author

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On a filthy and horrifying Riverboat, young Erzelle has learned to stay hidden. So long as she plays her harp during dinner and stays small, there’s a chance she might stay alive.  Every night the guests arrive, and every night a mutated ghoul from the holds below becomes dinner. Erzelle will never forget her first night on the Riverboat, when it was her parents on that silver platter, their heads still alive.

One evening, a beautiful human woman is a dinner guest. Erzelle fears the woman will become dinner, but instead she joines Erzelle on stage to accompany her with a magical pipe that glows with runes. By dawn, the guests have been run off or slaughtered, Erzelle has been freed from bondage, and the beautiful woman, Olyssa, has realized her lost sister is nowhere to be found on the Riverboat.

Thus begins Mike Allen’s debut novel, The Black Fire Concerto. Exploding with magic, music, and violence, this short novel has the magical feel of an old school suspenseful fantasy adventure as filtered through the eyes of H.R. Giger.

Olyssa takes the orphaned Erzelle under her wing, and the two travel the wasted Earth searching for Olyssa’s sister. Along the way, she teaches Erzelle a concerto for harp and pipe and the child unwittingly becomes the sorcereress’s apprentice. Erzelle came to the Riverboat as a small child, she knows very little of the outside world, and all she saw on board were ghouls and horrors.  She and Olyssa escape a Temple of Grey Ones, befriend the vulpine Reneer, and through visions of an Antlered Man, Erzelle becomes dangerously involved in Olyssa’s family heritage.

Where did the Grey Ones come from? What’s their connection with the Vulpine community nearby? Who is the antlered man who Erzelle keeping seeing in her minds eye? She can’t possibly understand what he’s asking of her. The gift he gives her will save her life as it slowly kills her.

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It’s been a pretty awesome weekend so far.

Friday evening I got to be all loquacious as victim number one in Larry’s “interview other bloggers” series at the OF Blog. He asked some interesting questions, beyond the usual “what books do you like?” easies.  We talked about the Hugo Awards, William Shatner, geeky suddenly being cool, and beating dead horses while in a room crammed with white elephants. I can’t believe he let prattle on that long, I swear I never talk that much! It was a good time, and I hope Larry has many more bloggers lined up for this project.

and then on Saturday? On Saturday I got to see Jim Hines at a booksigning for his newest novel, Codex Born! Squeeee!   He talked a bit about the series, where it’s going, that due to some other projects he’s got going on we’ll have to wait at least a year and a half for the 3rd book, and that he promises not to kill off Smudge, everyone’s favorite pyro-spider.  There was talk of autistic cats, and the proper care and feeding of scowling preteens, and snowstorms. it was wonderfully casual.

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blurry photo is blurry.

Instead of reading from Codex Born, he read a short story instead, one he wrote for the upcoming Unidentified Funny Objects 2 anthology. I wish I could remember the name of the short story, titled Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy (thanks Jim!) it was fucking brilliant.  Inspired by the real-time writings of author friend Jay Lake as he fights stage four cancer, Hines wrote a story story about exactly that: A superhero who has cancer.  It wasn’t an easy story to listen to.  No one knew what to say afterwards.  Cancer is a total fucking buzzkill.  but the story?  damnit, but it was funny. like, laugh out loud oh-god-I-shouldn’t-be-laughing-but-it’s-so-funny Funny.   so we laughed. and then we clapped.  and then many books were autographed and photos were taken.

Isn't that cover art gorgeous? shhhh!  don't tell anyone I grabbed extra bookmarks.

Isn’t that cover art gorgeous? shhhh! don’t tell anyone I grabbed extra bookmarks.

And I psyched myself up to ask Jim Hines if I could do a special littly bloggy project with Libriomancer, and he said it sounded cool, So now i gotta psych myself up to actually do it.

So when I have more details, I’ll let ya know!

Along with a signed copy of Codex Born, I bought The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente and Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis. You know I loves me some Valente short fiction, and the Tregillis has been on my radar for ages.

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And then Saturday night i went on a dinner date with the hubby.  the food was just so-so, but my date was adorable.

Abaddon’s Gate, by James S.A. Corey (book 3 of The Expanse)

published June 2012

where I got it: received review copy from Orbit (thanks!)

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Being a review of the 3rd novel in a series, this review has unavoidable spoilers for Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War.  Also, you really, really need to read this series.

The events at the end of Caliban’s War left Jim Holden’s crew alive and with money in the bank, and a big hole in space out near the edge of the Solar System. During the course of that novel, the alien technology that crashed into Venus was a busy little beaver, building huge structures, changing the chemistry of the planet, plotting who knew what. And then it shot out to the limits of the solar system and ripped a hole into the fabric of space time. A wormhole? A portal? No way of knowing what’s beyond the ring until someone gets out there and goes through the damn thing.

Jim Holden has had plenty of “knowing what’s out there”, thank you very much. He’s happy hauling freight anywhere that’s the opposite direction of the Ring. But thanks to a journalist backed by shadow politics and money, Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are headed exactly where they don’t want to go. The journalist, Monica Stuart, intends to interview the survivors of Eros, and Holden can’t let her find out that Miller’s ghost has been speaking to him more and more lately.

A note on the title of the book: Abaddon is a biblical reference to a place of destruction, a place of the perishing. Keep that in the back of your mind.

While I’d love to have an entire novel that’s just Holden and Naomi and Amos and Alex, James Corey gives us plenty of other point-of-view characters to root for as well. There’s Bull, the shat upon OPA security chief of The Behemoth who can’t help that he was born on Earth; Anna, a Methodist pastor and member of a contingent of religious leaders headed out towards the ring; and Melba, the alias of Clarissa Mao, who is obsessed with destroying Holden the same way he destroyed her father.

I could give you a run down on all the political and plot stuff, but Bull says it much simpler that I ever could:

“We’re heading out to throw gang signs at Earth and Mars while the Ring does a bunch of scary alien mystery stuff. . . .  worst that can happen is we’ll all die.”

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There was a great piece on NPR on Monday morning about how two industries who love books – publishers and libraries – are having a tough time agreeing on how library patrons should check out e-books.

It’s a quick 7 minute story, and well worth the listen:

E-Books Strain Relations Between Libraries, Publishing Houses.

npr libraries

Publishing Houses are businesses.  If they don’t make a profit selling their product – books – they will not be selling books for very long (as Nightshade Books learned the hard way).  Publishers love libraries, and publishers have always sold lots and lots of books to libraries, often at discounted prices. A patron gets the book, loves the book, buys the book, maybe buys a copy for a friend. Or a patron gets on the waiting list for a book, doesn’t want to wait 8 weeks to read the latest bestseller, so they go out and buy the book. Even if every patron isn’t purchasing the book, it’s still a win-win for everyone.

Enter e-books, and the win-win becomes not so much.

With e-books, libraries face the same DRM you and I face, as in they are not buying the e-book, but merely leasing it. An e-book that you purchase for $10 on Amazon might cost a library up to $85, with restrictions on how long it stays in their catalog, or how many times they can lend it out. (those dollar figures are directly from the NPR story, I trust they have done their own fact checking)

Publishers are rightfully concerned that if their e-book makes it to an interlibrary loan site with no restrictions, what’s to stop a state library system from purchasing one copy of the latest bestseller and lending it to thousands of people, all at the same time?

What’s the answer? E-books and e-book lending is too new, so no one really knows yet.

Luckily, the news story mentions some projects that are moving in the right direction:

Simon and Schuster has a one year pilot project with a few public libraries in New York. The project allows an unlimited number of library patrons to check out the e-book when it’s first released, and offers patrons the opportunity to purchase the e-book through the library portal, giving the library a percentage of every sale.  Simon and Schuster is running a giant library fundraiser, and selling their own digital content at the same time.  Will they make a profit on this, proving that it can succeed across the country? I have no idea. Is Simon and Schuster sewing a ton of goodwill and starting a much needed conversation? YES.

Over in Colorado, the Douglas County library system as found a different option that  bypasses much of the troublesome DRM. They purchase what they can afford through the big publishers, but are now working with over 500 smaller and independent publishers, including Smashwords, to build their digital content library.  They may not have that specific best seller title you were looking for, but they certainly have a veritable “stack” of e-books in the same genre. Might libraries be the next big thing for self published authors?

well, what do you think?

if you’ve gotten e-books out of the library, what’s been your experience?

If you work at a library, what’s been your experience sourcing e-books, and getting them into the virtual hands of your patrons?

Two little Star Trek gems entered my life recently:

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The comic book, circa 1986, is a quick and funny little story, about how Kirk and crew outsmart a group of aliens who invade the Enterprise. In command of the Excelsior, Kirk teaches Saavik a little something about humor and hunches, and we get to meet Lt. Naraht the Horta. Comics is the perfect medium for this kind of story, as it’s too light and fluffy  to survive being a filmed tv episode.  Not exactly canon, DC did this series of comics in the mid 80’s, to follow the crew of the Enterprise after Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  But I coulda told you that just by looking at the cover art and flipping through the comic book.

One of the many things I enjoy about the lifespan of Star Trek is what I like to call art-direction-dating. Similar to  carbon dating, the use of Star Trek art-direction-dating allows a fan to date an image, screen shot, film credits intro and uniform by the style of title font, and by Kirk’s hairstyle.

But mostly by Kirk’s hairstyle.

See how his hairstyle goes from late 60’s blonde-ish straight-ish hair with a side part, to 80’s more brown than blonde and curly on top, and then to a 90’s whatever moptop/toupee thing.

See what I mean? can totally date everything by the hair.

See what I mean? can totally date everything by the hair.

Piece of pie to date the comic to mid 80s.

moving on . . . to the second Star Trek goodie.

SAM_3428 Read the rest of this entry »

with this review of Blackout by Mira Grant, I will have finished reviewing all the Hugo nominated novels. Yes, I know voting closed on July 31st, but I did finish Blackout before then, just didn’t get around to writing up the review until now.

Click on the titles to read my reviews of the other Hugo nominated novels, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold, 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, and Redshirts by John Scalzi.

blackoutBlackout, by Mira Grand

published in 2012

where I got it: purchased new

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Blackout is the final volume in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy. This review therefore, is pretty spoilerific when it comes to earlier book in the series, but I’ll try to avoid major spoilers for Blackout. However, all spoilers will be “whited out”, so you can safely scroll around. Wanna know what happens or already know? Just highlight the text with your mouse, and all shall be revealed.

If you’re not familiar with this series, it takes place about 30 years from now, a generation after the zombie apocalypse. The strongest part of Grant’s zombie infected world is the zombie virus itself.  It was borne through two independently developed medical miracles that blended together to create a virus that lives within the human body, and awakens when we die. Our minds die, but our body doesn’t. And the only cure for that is a shot to the head. What remains of humanity lives behind high security, blood testing, and weapons training for middle schoolers. The series follow brother and sister news blogging team Georgia and Shaun Mason. Shaun enjoys poking dead things with sticks, and Georgia makes sure everyone knows the truth.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.