29 March 2012

26 March 2012

Caliban's War - Sample

Here's a sample of the first chapter of Caliban's war, the second book in the frankly brilliant Expanse Saga.



“Snoopy’s out again,” Private Hillman said. “I think his CO must be pissed at him.”

Gunnery Sergeant Roberta Draper of the Martian Marine Corps upped the magnification on her armor’s heads‑up display and looked in the direction Hillman was pointing. Twenty-five hundred meters away, a squad of four United Nations Marines were tromping around their outpost, backlit by the giant greenhouse dome they were guarding. A greenhouse dome identical in nearly all respects to the dome her own squad was currently guarding.


One of the four UN Marines had black smudges on the sides of his helmet that looked like beagle ears.

“Yep, that’s Snoopy,” Bobbie said. “Been on every patrol detail so far today. Wonder what he did.”

Guard duty around the greenhouses on Ganymede meant doing what you could to keep your mind occupied. Including speculating on the lives of the Marines on the other side.


The other side. Eighteen months before, there hadn’t been sides. The inner planets had all been one big, happy, slightly dysfunctional family. Then Eros, and now the two superpowers were dividing up the solar system between them, and the one moon neither side was willing to give up was Ganymede, breadbasket of the Jovian system.


As the only moon with any magnetosphere, it was the only place where dome-grown crops stood a chance in Jupiter’s harsh radiation belt, and even then the domes and habitats still had to be shielded to protect civilians from the eight rems a day burning off Jupiter and onto the moon’s surface.

Bobbie’s armor had been designed to let a soldier walk through a nuclear bomb crater minutes after the blast. It also worked well at keeping Jupiter from frying Martian Marines.

Behind the Earth soldiers on patrol, their dome glowed in a shaft of weak sunlight captured by enormous orbital mirrors. Even with the mirrors, most terrestrial plants would have died, starved of sunlight. Only the heavily modified versions the Ganymede scientists cranked out could hope to survive in the trickle of light the mirrors fed them.

“Be sunset soon,” Bobbie said, still watching the Earth Marines outside their little guard hut, knowing they were watching her too. In addition to Snoopy, she spotted the one they called Stumpy because he or she couldn’t be much over a meter and a quarter tall. She wondered what their nickname for her was. Maybe Big Red. Her armor still had the Martian surface camouflage on it. She hadn’t been on Ganymede long enough to get it resurfaced with mottled gray and white.

One by one over the course of five minutes, the orbital mirrors winked out as Ganymede passed behind Jupiter for a few hours. The glow from the greenhouse behind her changed to actinic blue as the artificial lights came on. While the overall light level didn’t go down much, the shadows shifted in strange and subtle ways. Above, the sun—not even a disk from here as much as the brightest star—flashed as it passed behind Jupiter’s limb, and for a moment the planet’s faint ring system was visible.

“They’re going back in,” Corporal Travis said. “Snoop’s bringing up the rear. Poor guy. Can we bail too?”

Bobbie looked around at the featureless dirty ice of Ganymede. Even in her high-tech armor she could feel the moon’s chill.

“Nope.”

Her squad grumbled but fell in line as she led them on a slow low-gravity shuffle around the dome. In addition to Hillman and Travis, she had a green private named Gourab on this particular patrol. And even though he’d been in the Marines all of about a minute and a half, he grumbled just as loud as the other two in his Mariner Valley drawl.

She couldn’t blame them. It was make-work. Something for the Martian soldiers on Ganymede to do to keep them busy. If Earth decided it needed Ganymede all to itself, four grunts walking around the greenhouse dome wouldn’t stop them. With dozens of Earth and Mars warships in a tense standoff in orbit, if hostilities broke out the ground pounders would probably find out only when the surface bombardment began.

To her left, the dome rose to almost half a kilometer: triangular glass panels separated by gleaming copper-colored struts that turned the entire structure into a massive Faraday cage. Bobbie had never been inside one of the greenhouse domes. She’d been sent out from Mars as part of a surge in troops to the outer planets and had been walking patrols on the surface almost since day one. Ganymede to her was a spaceport, a small Marine base, and the even smaller guard outpost she currently called home.

As they shuffled around the dome, Bobbie watched the unremarkable landscape. Ganymede didn’t change much without a catastrophic event. The surface was mostly silicate rock and water ice a few degrees warmer than space. The atmosphere was oxygen so thin it could pass as an industrial vacuum. Ganymede didn’t erode or weather. It changed when rocks fell on it from space, or when warm water from the liquid core forced itself onto the surface and created short-lived lakes. Neither thing happened all that often. At home on Mars, wind and dust changed the landscape hourly. Here, she was walking through the footsteps of the day before and the day before and the day before. And if she never came back, those footprints would outlive her. Privately, she thought it was sort of creepy.

A rhythmic squeaking started to cut through the normally smooth hiss and thump sounds her powered armor made. She usually kept the suit’s HUD minimized. It got so crowded with information that a marine knew everything except what was actually in front of her. Now she pulled it up, using blinks and eye movements to page over to the suit diagnostic screen. A yellow telltale warned her that the suit’s left knee actuator was low on hydraulic fluid. Must be a leak somewhere, but a slow one, because the suit couldn’t find it.

“Hey, guys, hold up a minute,” Bobbie said. “Hilly, you have any extra hydraulic fluid in your pack?”

“Yep,” said Hillman, already pulling it out.

“Give my left knee a squirt, would you?”

While Hillman crouched in front of her, working on her suit, Gourab and Travis began an argument that seemed to be about sports. Bobbie tuned it out.

“This suit is ancient,” Hillman said. “You really oughta upgrade. This sort of thing is just going to happen more and more often, you know.”

“Yeah, I should,” Bobbie said. But the truth was that was easier said than done. Bobbie was not the right shape to fit into one of the standard suits, and the Marines made her jump through a series of flaming hoops every time she requisitioned a new custom one. At a bit over two meters tall, she was only slightly above average height for a Martian male, but thanks in part to her Polynesian ancestry, she weighed in at over a hundred kilos at one g. None of it was fat, but her muscles seemed to get bigger every time she even walked through a weight room. As a marine, she trained all the time.

The suit she had now was the first one in twelve years of active duty that actually fit well. And even though it was beginning to show its age, it was just easier to try to keep it running than beg and plead for a new one.

Hillman was starting to put his tools away when Bobbie’s radio crackled to life.

“Outpost four to stickman. Come in, stickman.”

“Roger four,” Bobbie replied. “This is stickman one. Go ahead.”

“Stickman one, where are you guys? You’re half an hour late and some shit is going down over here.”

“Sorry, four, equipment trouble,” Bobbie said, wondering what sort of shit might be going down, but not enough to ask about it over an open frequency.

“Return to the outpost immediately. We have shots fired at the UN outpost. We’re going into lockdown.”

It took Bobbie a moment to parse that. She could see her men staring at her, their faces a mix of puzzlement and fear.

“Uh, the Earth guys are shooting at you?” she finally asked.

“Not yet, but they’re shooting. Get your asses back here.”

Hillman pushed to his feet. Bobbie flexed her knee once and got greens on her diagnostic. She gave Hilly a nod of thanks, then said, “Double-time it back to the outpost. Go.”

The rest can be read over here. The book will be released 26 June 2012. Leviathan Wakes was my best book of 2011, so I can't wait for this!





19 March 2012

16 March 2012

Shadow Ops Challenge Coin

Look what came in the mail yesterday:



I find it quite ironic that the signed copy and Challenge Coin showed up on the same day that I posted my review of the book.

The Challenge coin is a thing of beauty. It seems it's a military tradition, and with Mr. Cole's military history it adds something awesome to the fans. He swops them for other challenge coins over on his website, so if you have something similar contact him. It now has a prized place on my bookcase.


15 March 2012

Shadow Ops: Control Point - Myke Cole


The Blurb: Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.

Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with mag­ical tal­ents. Untrained and pan­icked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set every­thing they touch ablaze.
Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieu­tenant attached to the military’s Super­nat­ural Oper­a­tions Corps, his mis­sion is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly man­i­fests a rare and pro­hib­ited mag­ical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.
The SOC knows how to handle this kind of sit­u­a­tion: hunt him down–and take him out. Driven into an under­ground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.
I've been hearing rumours about this book since about August 2011. And those rumours were all good. So, naturally, I had to buy it. The first problem I encountered was that it hasn't being released in South Africa yet. Off to Amazon I went and lo and behold, since the book isn't being released in my local market, I can't buy the e-book. Now that was a bit of a problem, but not insurmountable. I scrounged around and ordered one from Exclusive Books, our biggest local book seller who bought a copy directly from the US publishers. Then, to put the cherry on the cake, I won a copy on Peter V. Brett's website the next day. So I have a feeling I own the only two copies in South Africa. Well, I will as soon as the signed copy shows up!
Now my first impressions of the book. I like the cover.  It sets you up for the whole novel, namely  magic use in the modern USA military. It's not cheesy, and it looks good against all the hooded men covers we have these days. The magic in the military is certainly the basic outline, but it isn't the whole story, not by a long shot. 
People have started randomly manifesting magical abilities for no apparent reason. These abilities are quite specific, if you can fly you cannot use fire etc, and thus these new magic users are divided into different Schools. Now, since this started happening, a few laws has been passed in the USA. If you manifest, you join the Army or you die. 
I can honestly see that happening in real life. 
Some magical abilities are permitted. Most are prohibited, by order of some committee somewhere most probably. The prohibition isn't really explained, and that irritated me a little bit. But, since you are in the Military, you do as you are told, it made sense that it was left out. 
The novel starts with a fight. The Supernatural Operations Corps gets a call to to a school where two kids are using unauthorised magic to destroy their school, with their classmates still in it of course. They go in support of a Aeromancer - means he can fly and play with lightning - who was sent in to take them out. It took me a little while to get into the rhythm and the language used, since Military is littered with acronyms and slang. And most of the characters are quite robotic to start off with, since you have to follow the rulesand regulations in the Military. Once I got into the groove it was a fun, fast paced book.
Our main dude, Britton, who is a helicopter pilot for the SOC, manifests in a forbidden school just after the incident and all hell breaks loose for the rest of the novel. I'm not going to go into it, since I do not want to spoil the story, but there are enough fight scenes, explosions and action present for two Michael Bay movies. And they are done bloody well.
The whole story is about the US military, but some mention of the rest of the world would have been nice. There's a passing reference that the rest of the world also have magic, but not how it is regulated or if it's as militarized as the poor guys in the USA. Hopefully it gets explored in the later books. 
The characters really grew on me as the story progressed. They evolved as characters, being influenced by those around them as well as what they go through. The choices they make are explained and make sense, and they all have their own unique voices, which made me invested in their stories, which is one of the signs of a good book.
The concept behind the book is thought out well. It's implemented well. There is a load of murder and mayhem, but since this is a fantasy about magicians in the military, it's to be expected. The action is delivered in a brilliant way. Fast paced and chaotic, with the military training leading our characters to act calm and collected during all the action. 
As a debut novel, it's a gem. It's unique. It's bloody, gritty and gory. Myke Cole delivered on the promises of all those rumours, and then some.
8/10

14 March 2012

King of Thorns fragment

Here's another teaser from Mark Lawrence.


"Martel Harris, twenty-three, sword blow. Blue Moon Valley, west of the Haunt. 


 Son of Martel and Hela, born above the Falling Angel’s barroom, Crath City, Ancrath. 


 Find something worth following and stick to it, son. Martel took his father’s advice along with his name, and both served him well. He followed into the Forest Watch, followed the Forest Watch into the Renar Highlands. He followed the son as he had the father. Just don’t put a foot wrong. Another gem of Harris the Elder’s wisdom. Martel put a foot wrong in Blue Moon Valley. You can’t follow on a turned ankle. He drew his sword and chose his spot amidst the broken rock. Kenna and Justin tried to stay with him. The first time anyone ever tried to follow Martel Harris. He saw them off with curses and threats. A tear ran hot on his cheek in the coldness of the wind. He watched the men of Arrow over the bright line of his blade. “I may have followed, but I wasn’t led.”"

12 March 2012

Avengers!

Now I do not usually post movie stuff on here, but bloody hell this looks as if it's going to be bloody good!


The Avengers!

05 March 2012

King of Thorns - Fragments part 4

Publised on Mr. Lawrence's blog:


"Brother Makin has high ideals. If he kept to them, we would be enemies. If he nursed his failure, we would not be friends."


Makin was one of my favourites in Prince of Thorns. I can't wait!

01 March 2012

The ocean replenishes the soul, as does Harry Dresden

So I'm back from a too short holiday on the South Coast of Kwazulu Natal. Five days  just aren't enough to get a good laze going. It was well deserved and helped recharge my batteries.

We went to San Lameer, a private resort with beautiful houses, beach and cocktails.


That picture is from Wikipedia, since my wife and I are terrible at remembering to take pictures. Whole holidays will live forever in my mind with no photographic proof. That is just to give you an idea of the beauty of it all.

I lost 22 golf balls over 18 holes, a new personal record. My dad thought it hilarious. It was quite frustrating, but I do enjoy trying to play golf for some or other weird reason.

After scaring all local wildlife with my wayward shots, I decided a book or two needs to be read in order for it to count as a holiday. Off to a local small bookshop we went, and they had a sale. On that sale, they had this:


I've heard good things about Mr Butcher and Harry Dresden, and since it was on sale, I bought it. This was my first Harry Dresden novel and certainly not my last. I polished off Changes and immediately bought the first book, Storm Front as well as Fool Moon. I'm enjoying them too much to write reviews just yet, but they will be on the way next week. The magic, the dialogue, demons and the urban setting is done beautifully.