the Little Red Reviewer

This is a most unusual book review, because I am not going to tell you the name of this book, the name of the author, or the year the book was written.  You don’t get any cover art either.  We all judge books by their covers and all that, so I’m curious what everyone’s thoughts will be if I tell you everything you need to know about the book except what you’d see on a bookstore shelf. A deliberate experiment, if you will. And don’t worry, I’ll reveal the author and cover art in a few days.  For those of you who recognize this book, or think you do, please, please don’t reveal the book’s title in the comments.

 

Are any of you familiar with the anime TV shows Sword Art Online or  Log Horizon? In these shows, gamers get transported into the world of their MMO video game, and have to survive. This book has a similar, if simplified premise. A bunch of college kids are in a table-top Role Playing Game club, with a professor as their game master.  I won’t get into the how’s or why’s, but the professor is able to transport the students to the fantasy role playing world, and the students have to survive. What’s really neat here is that while everyone comes through into the fantasy world as their characters (a cleric, or dwarf, or thief,  etc) and with the skills and attributes (strength, speed, dexterity, etc) from their character sheet, they also retain all their knowledge and morals from the real world. One woman depends on her real world travel experiences to help her haggle with traders, there’s even some “innovative” WWF style fighting moves that no one else in the arena had ever seen.

 

At it’s heart, this is a coming-of-age fantasy quest story . The goal is to find the gate between worlds, so they can get home to the real world. But, as we learn, not everyone wants to go home.  Sure, home has modern dentistry, and cars, and our parents, and health insurance. But one guy, if he goes home, the only thing waiting for him is his wheelchair and people pitying him. Here, in the fantasy world, he can walk. He can do all the things he can’t do at home. Another character, this is the first time in his life he’s respected for his knowledge and abilities. If he goes home, it’s back to being the guy everyone makes fun of.   It was neat, how some characters abandon their real world  first names right away to only go by their fantasy role play character names, and how others never take on their characters names because they don’t want to be these fantasy world characters, and how others have an internal conflict as to who they are because they have a compelling reason to be a little bit of both.  The author presents the character’s inner conflicts with subtlety. The author doesn’t shy away from tough subjects either. Like another very popular series, main characters die – usually in shockingly awful ways.

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The next book in Julie Czerneda’s Reunification trilogy, The Gate to Future’s Past, is coming out in September, and I’m super excited to reveal the cover art and talk more about the series all day today.  What’s the gist of the Clan Chronicles, and the newest trilogy in this career spanning series?  I’m glad you asked!

 

The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future with interstellar travel where the Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification will conclude the series and answer, at last, #WhoAreTheClan.

And what will be the fate of all.

 

With stunning cover art by Matt Stawicki, the artwork brings together an epic story told over the course of nearly twenty years.

Julie chatted with Matt Stawicki about incorporating earlier artwork, capturing Sira’s emotions, and more.    Let’s see what they said!

scroll artwork

Ta da! Here it is. The wonderful work of Matthew Stawicki, revealed at last. I’ve been waiting to share this cover with you for the better part of a year, for it was complete well before the book.

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Pardon? you say. How can that be?

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Remember the bricks? This image was one of them, firmly in my mind since I started writing This Gulf of Time and Stars.

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Book #2, Sira, meeting her destiny. Triumphant!
Or is she?

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That’s the magic of an image like this. Knowledge morphs impact, grants new meaning and alters perspective. What you think you see now, before reading The Gate to Futures Past, will change once you have.

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Friends, I’m so thrilled to be hosting author Julie Czerneda today, I can’t even.  I know ya’ll remember when I went absolutely nuts over her Species Imperative trilogy (biology FTW!), when I wrote an accidentally spoilery review of the most recent Clan Chronicles novel This Gulf of Time and Stars, and how much fun we had with hosting her for an AMA.  Her newest Clan Chronicles novel, The Gate to Futures Past doesn’t hit bookstore shelves until September, but today is the big cover art release party!  I’ll be posting throughout the day with more artwork and more inside scoop, but in the meantime, let’s here from the author herself about how she keeps track of this generation and galaxy spanning epic. . .

Author Photo Credit: Roger Czerneda Photography

Author Photo Credit: Roger Czerneda Photography

scroll artwork

Holding Nothing Back

a guest post by
Julie Czerneda

 

 

 

The room could be in any seedy backwater motel. Inside, however, is an open suitcase, its contents strewn over the unmade bed: three hats; four cell phones in their original packaging; a small hatchet, its blade edged in what looks like rust. Oh, and a lab coat, scrunched into a ball.

By the bed is a night stand; on it are pieces of what had been the hotel phone.

Protruding from the bathroom are a pair of dirty boots, toes up. It’s only then you realize they contain feet.

Two things just happened. You guessed what you’re reading: a murder mystery, with clues being presented. And, perhaps without even being aware, you began a story of your own, a plausible scenario based on this room.

And those feet.

Now comes the test. What’s next? If your scenario fits the rest of what you read, for this is a book, it’s gratifying—so long as you didn’t see everything coming. In that case, you’re bored silly and probably won’t finish reading. On the other hand, if there’s an abrupt departure from what you expected, well, that could be fun. After all, who doesn’t like a startling revelation to tingle the imagination and make you read faster and faster—

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caline conspiracyThe Caline Conspiracy, by M.H. Mead

published in 2012

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

 

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Do you like mystery thrillers?  Do you like smartly written characters involved with right around the corner technology? Do you find yourself having to balance day time stuff chaos with family chaos?

 

I just heard a lot of Yeses.   The Caline Conspiracy, part of the Detroit Next series by M.H. Mead, is a book for you! (Check out my interview with Alex Kourvo, who is half of the M.H. Mead writing team)

 

In the near future, messing around with human genetics is frowned upon, but messing with animal genetics is big business. Realizing how much we spend on our pets, the newest and most lucrative trend are genetically modified pets.  Calines, which look like a small dog, but include canine and feline genetics, offer the loyalty of a dog, the intelligence of a young child, the cuddle factor of a cat, and are completely hypoallergenic.  Calines are expensive as heck, but they truly are the perfect pet.

 

Private investigator Aidra Scott’s newest client is the very recently widowed Gloria Frithke. Mrs. Frithke’s husband was found dead in their home, his throat torn out and the family caline standing nearby.  The pet did it, of course. But Gloria is convinced there is something bigger going on. Can Aidra get to the bottom of the mystery before the evidence is destroyed, and Mr. Frithke’s research is lost forever?

 

At first blush, looks like a standard mystery novel with a few speculative fiction elements, right? Well…… Almost.   Along with the expected trappings of your standard mystery thriller, things like great pacing, chapters that end on smartly written cliffhangers, spying on people, and sneaky PI stuff, The Caline Conspiracy has well-presented scifi tech that blends seamlessly into the plot, excellent worldbuilding, and one of my new favorite protagonists: Aidra Scott.

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Alex KourvoA few years ago at ConFusion, I met author Alex Kourvo.  We were on a Book Reviewing panel together, and while the other panelists were fiction reviewers, Alex runs a book review site called Writing Slices, where she reviews “the books that teach you to write”.   She’s reviewed books that focus on writing dialog, books that focus on writing exercises, books for young writers, books that focus on characterization, you name it. If you’re a new writer, a writer who wants to up their game, or just someone interested in craft of writing, Writing Slices can point you in helpful directions.

 

An author and editor, her short fiction has appeared in Fantastical Visions IV and Reflection’s Edge.  Along with her writing partner Harry R. Campion, she is the co-writer of the Detroit Next series of novels and novellas.  The newest book in the Detroit Next series is Living All Day, and if “series” make you nervous, the novels and novellas in this series can be read in any order.   I recent read the first book in the Detroit Next series, The Caline Conspiracy, and it was fantastic. Fast paced, great characters, and a thrilling story that pulled me right in.  Review coming soon!

 

Alex was kind enough to let me pick her brain about just about everything – writing with a partner, the Detroit Next series, the Writing Slices blog, teaching writing workshops, and a lot more.

living all day

LRR: I recently finished the first book in your Detroit Next series, The Caline Conspiracy (it was awesome by the way!), a near future thriller. You co-write this series with author Harry R. Campion. How is writing novels with a partner different than writing on your own? What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing as a team?

AK: Harry and I write short stories separately and I’m working on a solo novel, but our favorite thing is writing together. I couldn’t do this with everyone, but Harry and I share a brain. Often, after the book is published, we can’t remember who wrote which part! When you’re writing with a partner, the first draft goes more quickly, but the editing takes longer. You have to edit for consistency of voice as well as consistency of story. I think we do a good job of blending our voices. That’s why we chose to share the single pen name, “M.H. Mead.”

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There was a neat panel at this year’s PenguiCon about author self promotion. I didn’t make it to the panel, but I wanted to, and I bet a lot of what I bring up in this blog post was mentioned there. Or at least I hope it was.

 

As a blogger, I’m on the receiving end of all that author self promotion. What authors put out there tends to end up in my inbox and in my twitter feed, and allows me to make a snap decision on if I’m going to give them 5 seconds, or a week of my life to read and then write an in depth review of their novel.

 

I’ve been blogging since mid 2010, and on twitter for about five years. I’ve seen plenty of author promotion – some of it effective, and some of it terrible.   Us blogger types can be harsher than slush readers and professional editors and publishers. At least those folks are obligated to read your first few hundred or few thousand words before deciding to read on.  I’ll be making a decision to interact with you (or not) based on the first few sentences of your first interaction with me.

 

(tl;dr:  do: be authentic and friendly . Don’t: be pushy)

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I’ve been on a short stuff kick lately. Short stories, short novels, novellas.  There’s just something about knowing I can get through an entire story with a beginning, middle, and end in a weekend.  It’s not that I’m not reading fatty mcfat doorstopper novels, but these days they don’t hold as much allure  (except this one, of course).

 

Anyhoo, I recently zipped through these new novellas from Tim Powers and K.J. Parker. They were so quick to read in fact, that I was able to read them twice!  Downfall of the Gods by Parker came out from Subterranean Press in late March, and Down and Out in Purgatory will be available in late June from Subterranean Press.  If you’re a fan of either of these authors, watch for these titles!

Downfall_of_the_Gods_by_K_J_Parker

 

Let’s start with the Parker, because of the two, it was my favorite.  Imagine a parallel ancient Rome or Greece, where a pantheon of gods keeps the sun crossing the sky, keeps the crops growing, and occasionally visits Earth in human form for entertainment.  What I most enjoyed about this story is that it’s from a Goddess’s point of view, and how the myths and what the humans believe the immortals do isn’t exactly the truth. The Greek mythology I grew up learning humanizes, but still idealizes Gods and Goddesses.  The Goddess at the center of Downfall of the Gods has her own family issues, the aunts and uncles who hate her, the stupid things she says to her parents. She gets in trouble for forgetting things, she gets “grounded”, she’s bored out of her mind.  I loved her as a character, even if she was a bit of an emo teenager.

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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.