31 May 2012

Wheel-Mouse vs All The Crazy Robots

Ahoy fellow readers! I've been away a bit, slogging though books, trying to avoid real life as much as possible. I wasn't planning on posting this week, but then I saw this:

This is the link to Celyn Lawrence's blog and book. She is the daughter of Mark Lawrence, and is quite sick, All profits from the sale of the book will go to the Children's Hospice Charity, so go and buy your copy now! I have it and I've read it, it's brilliant.

24 May 2012

This is Neil Gaiman giving a commencement speech at Philadelphia's University of the Arts. Watch it. Be inspired.

17 May 2012

New book deal for Wendig!

Chuck Wendig, author of Blackbirds, which we reviewed just yesterday as luck would have it, has just signed a new two book deal with Angry Robot Books.

Via their newsletter:

A New Two-Book Deal for Chuck Wendig!

Angry Robot, the award-winning publisher of cutting-edge SF, F, and WTF?! fiction is delighted to announce that a new deal has been signed and sealed with rising star Chuck Wendig.

About the Deal

Chuck's first Angry Robot novel, Blackbirds, only hit the bookshelves for the first time a few weeks ago, but the response has already been so strong that Angry Robot moved quickly to sign him up for another two books.

The World English Rights deal, negotiated between Angry Robot editor Lee Harris and Stacia Decker of the Donald Maas Literary Agency, is for:

The Blue Blazes - the first in a new urban fantasy series in which lovable thug Mookie Pearl must contend with the criminal underworld, the supernatural underworld, a new drug that makes the invisible visible, and a rebellious teen daughter who opposes him at every turn.

Cormorant - a new tale of Miriam Black, the third book in a series that begins with Blackbirds and continues with Mockingbird (September 2012).

Both new titles are scheduled for publication in 2013.

Congratulations Chuck. I can't wait for the new novels.

16 May 2012

Blackbirds - Chuck Wendig

The Blurb: Miriam Black knows how you are going to die.
She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides. She merely needs to touch you — skin to skin contact — and she knows how and when you’ll die.
But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.
No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try

I’ve been following Chuck Wendig’s blog and twitter feed for some time now. He’s good on both, and his writing advice he regulary offers up on his blog is worth more than it’s weight in gold.  And he’s a funny bastard, which is one of the things that I like to see in an author. When he published Blackbirds, I grabbed it as soon as it was monetary possible for me.

First off, look at that cover. It’s beautiful, attention grabbing and unique. Just like a good cover should be.

As the blurb states, the main character is Miriam Black. She can see anyone’s time and method of death as soon as she touches them. This is a damn bleak idea to base a story on, but I must say, it makes for some real gripping reading and a real interesting story.  It would really suck as a superpower though.

Miriam has a real fatalistic outlook on life, which is understandable and done really well. If you had to see death on a daily basis, it would drive most of us totally insane. Miriam does what she has to do to cope with all this insanity, and that of course includes loads of alcohol and cigarettes. If I was in her shoes, my liver would have exploded years ago.  Since most of the book is from her viewpoint it stood a real chance to spiral deep into depression and self-loathing territory, but her sarcasm and some funny moments in the story made up for this and kept me turning the pages.  

The book does contain loads of swearing and violence, but come on; if you are shocked or bothered by this after reading the blurb then you are an idiot. It all adds to the story, keeping the tension and fear levels right up there.  Any character who can go through this story and not curse isn’t real enough, if that makes sense to  you.

Wendig keeps you in the story. I felt connected to the main characters, felt their pain and hope. I felt invested in the story, and that makes a damn good book in my world. Flashbacks are used liberally throughout the book, but these just reinforce the main storyline, adding extra motivation to actions and extra layers to the characters. It didn’t distract from the story at all.

Is this a book I’ll recommend to anyone? Not really. It’s too dark and murderous for some. Would I recommend it to my friends? I already did. It’s brilliant.

A super solid 9/10.

King of Thorns Fragment XI

From the blog of Mark Lawrence, another deleted teaser for the second book in the Broken Empire series, King of Thorns.

Connie Hux, sixteen, arrow shot, Haunt, east wall.

Daughter of Samath and Greta. Born Hodd Town, Renar.

The speed of the shafts zipping over the walls didn’t scare Connie. It isn’t until you haul the bowstring back for your first shot, until you feel it bite at your fingers through the leather of the guard flap, and your bicep aches with the tension, that you remember just what rides behind the sharp iron of those arrowheads. The arrows didn’t scare her - she scared herself.

Connie loosed six shots into the men streaming to reinforce the enemy’s ram. She knew each one hit, though she didn’t stop to watch. Commonsense dropped her between shots and she’d no desire to see men die. If it were her say the gates would open and the Prince of Arrow could have her oath. But Camson was on the walls, up in arms to defend the Highlands and King Jorg. And it only stands to reason – the more who held the walls alongside him, the less likely Camson would be to get hit.

As Connie stood for her seventh shot, Camson glanced her way, a wild grin on him. Even the winter sun struck gold from his hair.

The day turned darker.

“God no . . .” A voice that creaked with age.

Old Jorna’s fingers hurt her shoulders as he helped her down. The light came flat as before a storm.

“I’m not hit.” She tried to say it.

Across the wall Camson loosed another arrow out toward the ridge, not seeing her, not looking.

 “I’m not hit.” The words wouldn’t come.

“Ah hell . . .” Something more than age cracked Jorna’s voice.

And darkness took her.

14 May 2012

The amazing eLibrary Project

Three weeks ago, my wife and I was driving though the North West Province, and since the scenery isn't really anything to write home about, we discussed some of the different ways how all the people of beautiful South Africa could be helped. This happens quite often, seeing as she a teacher who loves education and kids and I like to argue.

My conclusion was that if every single South African were functionally literate, we would be unstoppable. If you can read and thus expand your mind, you can learn any new skill. If you can read you know what's going on in the country and your community. You can then make informed decisions. The biggest hurdle has always been the costs involved. Let's face facts, books are expensive. If an average person must decide between dinner and a book, 99% would choose the dinner. That is understandable, since you have to eat. Poverty is a bastard.

I have always thought that the Amazon Kindle would be a brilliant device in helping unlock the potential in Africa. I've had one for two years now and they are brilliant.They aren't that expensive, they are easy to use and the battery lasts for months. The eBooks are quite a bit cheaper for the most part as well. I was quite pleasantly surprised when I received an email from a  Kelly Ansara from over at It's a Book Thing this morning, urging me to go and check out the eLibrary Project. It's a project to measure the impact and feasibility of supplying and using eReaders in Education in South Africa.

And they are doing it correctly as far as I can see by testing the impact in an underprivileged school, namely St Francis College in Benoni. I have heard of a few Private Schools where the kids have to buy iPads, but lets face it - if you can attend a Private School your education and future is kind of assured and an iPad a cheap toy. The iPad is being used as a fad. The Kindle is different. The textbooks will be cheaper, freeing up money to use elsewhere. As they say, there is loads of classic novels that's free from Amazon, which makes these eReaders the perfect vehicle for delivery of said knowledge.

If they can get the South African publishers to supply textbooks in electronic format, and maybe get Amazon to supply the needy with refurbished Kindles at a discounted price, we will be well on our way to achieving new heights of readers in South Africa. If some Big Businesses buys into this with sponsorships, it will work. We can't just leave it to Government. Go check them out and help if you can. This project can change the world.

Prince of Thorns Optioned!

From his blog:

"I’m pleased to announce that Stephen Susco, writer of THE GRUDGE, and writer/producer of upcoming films HIGH SCHOOL (June 1st) and THE POSSESSION (Aug 30), has optioned the film and tv rights in Prince of Thorns and the Broken Empire trilogy published by Ace/Berkley in the US and Voyager in the UK."

Now I have absolutely no idea how the TV and movie industry works, and I'm sure this does not mean that we'll see an insane Jorg on small or big screens very soon, but this must be a step in the right direction. Well done Mark!

09 May 2012

The Company - K.J. Parker

The BlurbHoping for a better life, five war veterans colonize an abandoned island. They take with them everything they could possibly need - food, clothes, tools, weapons, even wives. 

But an unanticipated discovery shatters their dream and replaces it with a very different one. The colonists feel sure that their friendship will keep them together. Only then do they begin to realize that they've brought with them rather more than they bargained for.

For one of them, it seems, has been hiding a terrible secret from the rest of the company. And when the truth begins to emerge, it soon becomes clear that the war is far from over. 

I bought this book at a book sale, based on the awesome cover and that I've heard K.J Parker's name mentioned a few times on forums I frequent. It's the first Parker novel that I've read.

The story is centred on A Company, companions in war. Kunessin, a retired general, returns home to convince his old company - Aidi, Muri, Kudei and Fly -  to join him in one more adventure. And by convince I mean order, since they all pack up and leave with him without too much of a worry.

A Company were Linebreakers. They charged ahead of their own Pikemen and smashed a hole in the enemy's formation. The expected lifespan of a Linebreaker is four battles at most. A Company survived years. They are legitimate war heroes, and as with any realistic war hero, they are scary as all hell. This is quite a cool set up, as it cements the Company as badassess, with Kunessin their undisputed leader.  I also like it if an author can come up with an idea that's almost believable and awesome. I'm almost sure that the Linebreaker as depicted here is total fantasy, but imagine how cool it would have been if they existed.

The guys buy a ship and sail out to colonise an island which General Kunessin kindly liberated from the navy. They all get married so that they have wives to drag along, they'll obviously need kids down the line, and they have a bunch of indentured workers to do all the heavy lifting. So pretty well thought out and set up, like a military occupation is meant to be. 

It is quite apparent that A company lives for each other. No one else matters, not even the new wives. As long as they are together and alive, the world is good. That is understandable, seeing their profession in the war and what they must have been through. Parker does manage to inject quite a bit of humour into the novel through this connection. Some of the interactions between the guys are priceless.

The wives and identured men do get enough page space to flesh them out as characters, and this was appreciated. It made the story more rounded.

The novel does drag a bit, but since it's mostly about the Company wanting to make a new life for themselves on the island and to please Kunessin, it's understandable. Farming is boring. It did make it a bit of a difficult read.

Throughout the whole novel we are told how brilliant the A Company is,  how they are the deadliest killers in the history of war, and they never get to show off their prowess. I guess Parker did this on purpose since they are retired and he seems a bit of a tease, and five guys alone against a battalion is not really that realistic. An extra flashback or two wouldn't have hurt the story.

The ending did feel muddled and rushed. I enjoyed the book, and I enjoyed Parker's writing ability enough to read his other books in the future, but the ending really disappointed me. It felt like he was up against the deadline and had to finish quickly, so he took quite the easy way out. It could really have been done better.


07 May 2012

King of Thorns Fragment.

From the blog of Mark Lawrence, another teaser for his upcoming novel, King of Thorns.


Skin, bones, and mischief comprise Brother Gog. Monster born and monster bred but there’s little to mark him from Adam save the stippled crimson-on-black of his hide, the dark wells of his eyes, ebony talons on hand and foot, and the thorny projections starting to grow along his spine. Watch him play and run and laugh, and he seems too at ease to be a crack in the world through which all the fires of hell might pour. Watch him burn though, and you will believe it.

Brother Maical

Brother Maical’s wisdom lies in knowing he is not clever and letting himself be led. The foolishness of mankind is that we do not do the same.


Chaliced Rome, fourteen, arrow shot, Haunt, east wall.

Son of Molly Freerange, father unknown, raised in the Haunt’s shadow.

So many arrows had missed him that Chaliced started to think they all would. He started to think Kelly’s warm kiss, the one she gave behind the stables, really would keep him safe. Even when the arrow came he thought it some kind of mistake. It didn’t look like an arrow, just black flights and an inch of wood standing from his chest. It hadn’t felt sharp, more like a punch. He reached to tug at it but his fingers were too cold to grip. Chaliced turned to ask Old Jorna and something hit him in the neck. 

To fall forty feet from wall-walk to courtyard flagstones takes almost no time, but starting to fall, those moments of imbalance, of flailing arms, of a foot finding nothing but air beneath it, they can take forever. 
Even falling Chaliced didn’t think he would die, or that he could die. Fourteen is too young for it. He wanted . . . too many things. One more kiss would do.

04 May 2012

The Scarab Path – Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Blurb: The war with the Wasp Empire has ended in a bitter stalemate, and Collegium has nothing to show for it but wounded veterans. Cheerwell Maker finds herself crippled in ways no doctor can mend, haunted by ghosts of the past that she cannot appease, seeking for meaning in a city that no longer seems like home.
The Empress Seda is regaining control over those imperial cities who refused to bow the knee to her, but she draws her power from something more sinister than mere armies and war machines. Only her consort, the former spymaster Thalric, knows the truth, and now the assassins are coming and he finds his life and his loyalties under threat yet again.
Out past the desert of the Nem the ancient city of Khanaphes awaits them both, with a terrible secret entombed beneath its stones...

This is the fifth book in Tchaikovsky’s frankly brilliant Shadows of the Apt series. Some old favourite characters are in the fore. Cheerwel Maker, the beetle Kinden takes up centre stage, and my personal favourite, Thalric, the reluctant companion of the Empress Seda, Rekef Major, ex-traitor and all round conflicted Wasp is busy getting slapped around by the world again. Totho, the halfbreed Artificer also features heavily in this book. New peoples are introduced as well.

Adrian made a unique world. There are no traditional dwarves and elves, but human Kinden. Each kinden are a human/insect hybrid. That’s not the correct explanation I’m sure, but it’s the closest I can get. We have Beetles, Wasps, Scorpions, Flies, Mantids and who knows what else running around and causing havoc.

Each of the clearly defined Kinden have their own strenghts and weaknessess, characteristics and quirks. Beetles are slow, Scorpions warlike and Wasps look down on everybody for example. Tchaikovsky is a writer who differentiates each character well enough within each cultural constriction to make and keep them interesting.

In a steampunk-insect world, there are the Apt and Inapt. The Apt can handle and understand technology, the Inapt magic. An Inapt cannot use a crossbow and an Apt does not understand the mystic side of things. This contraint placed on the characters are well done, and this drives a lot of how characters interact with each other. This makes the world and the story an unique one.

I thought his main storyline was done with the ending of the war in the previous book, but now realise that the war was just an introduction to an amazing world and brilliant story.

Tchaikovsky is a very underrated writer. He churns out books at an amazing pace, and each filled to the brim with intruige, character development and world building. It’s an amazing book and worth a read.