Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Video: Beyond

I've been watching Mystery Guitar Man's videos for quite some time and like them a lot.  He's recently started directing short film, and this one's got some sci-fi elements.  Though the movie revolves around a paradox, the acting's excellent and there are some great special effects.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Book Review: Nexus by Ramez Naam

Pros: lots of action, interesting characters, thought provoking, accessible science

Cons: some of the characters were underused, not as much emotional connection with characters as I would have liked

Kaden Lane and a small group of other brilliant college students come up with a way to add programmable code to Nexus 3, a drug that allows people to communicated telepathically.  Their still incomplete code, which has the potential to transform humans into transhumans, puts them and their upgraded Nexus 5 on the hit list of the Emerging Risks Directorate, a subsection of Homeland Security, taxed with maintaining laws restricting research into certain areas of science.  Kaden believes in the best of humanity, and knows that Nexus 5 could do great things for people.  ERD officer Samantha Cataranes has seen the worst that mind altering drugs can do, and believes - along with her organization - that Nexus 5 will be horribly abused.

This is a novel that examines the morality of augmenting humans to help them become more than human and how the tools of such augmentation can be used to benefit and harm people.  Both Kaden and Sam start the book firmly entrenched in their positions, but the events of the story make them both question what they believe.  This questioning is thought provoking for the reader, for whom the various pros and cons aren’t immediately obvious, but also allow the characters the chance to grow as individuals.

There’s a fair amount of action, culminating in numerous showdowns at the end of the book.  

I loved that Naam has an ‘extras’ section at the end of the book where he explains the science that he extrapolated from to come up with Nexus and the other scientific advances in the book.  It’s amazing the things we’re currently capable of, and both inspiring and terrifying to see what might come next.  The science contained in the book is clearly and concisely explained.  There are no long expository passages weighing the book down.  It starts fast paced and continues so throughout.

I had two complaints about the book.  The first was that one of the characters was underused, in that I expected interesting things to happen with that person’s storyline but nothing really came of it.  The second is that though you really get into Sam and Kaden’s heads, you don’t feel a close connection to them, or the other people who they interact with in the book.  When the bodies started piling up I didn’t really care about anyone that was dying.  I wasn’t too afraid for Sam and Kaden, mainly due to Sam’s augmentations, but again, I wasn’t as invested in them as I wanted to be. 


This isn’t a subgenre of SFF that I normally read, so I was afraid I’d find the science over my head.  Naam does a great job of making the science accessible and the action fast and furious.  There’s enough down time to appreciate the difficult position Kaden is in while wondering how (and if) he’ll escape it.  It’s a book that makes you think about science and technology and where we’re headed as well as what role governments should play - if any - with regards to regulating the advancements to come.  In other words, it’s a great hard sf novel.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Shout-Out: The Karma Booth by Jeff Pearce

They say that executing a murderer won't bring your loved one back. But what if it could? A new development in modern science has mind-bending repercussions: the Karma Booth can execute a murderer and return one of their victims to life. Ethics consultant Timothy Cale is hired by the US government to investigate this earth-shattering scientific breakthrough. He soon discovers that the returned victims possess unique and disturbing ‘gifts’. When notorious war criminal Viktor Limonov escapes from a Karma Booth execution unharmed and begins murdering returned victims across the globe, Cale realises that the technology may hide a more sinister secret than anybody could have possibly imagined…

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in April, 2015

Once again, this list was compiled using Amazon's Canadian website, meaning it reflects Canadian release dates.  I try to make it as accurate as possible, but if you notice a mistake or a missing book, please mention it in the comments.

Hardcover:

A Few Words for the Dead – Guy Adams
The Silver Witch – Paula Brackston
Tracker – C. J. Cherryh
The Machine Awakes – Adam Christopher
William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace – Ian Doescher
Emissary – Betsy Dornbusch
Grantville Gazette VII – Eric Flint, Ed.
Redemption – Dinah Geof-Craigs & Vincent Wales
Rolling in the Deep – Mira Grant
The Warring States – Aidan Harte
Pirate’s Alley – Suzanne Johnson
Star Wars: Lords of the Sith – Paul Kemp
Of Noble Family – Mary Robinette Kowal
The Grace of Kings – Ken Liu
A Crown for Cold Silver – Alex Marshall
Something Coming Through – Paul McAuley
The Vagrant – Peter Newman
Charm – Sarah Pinborough
Window Wall – Melanie Rawn
Depth – Lev A. C. Rosen
Battlestar Gattica Vault – Paul Ruditis
Was – Geoff Ryman
Trial of Evil – Travis Taylor
Smith of Wootton Major – J. R. R. Tolkien
Joe Steele – Harry Turtledove
The Affinities – Robert Charles Wilson
The Architect of Aeons – John Wright

Trade Paperback:

The Motives Trilogy – Harriet Alder
The End of the End of Everything: Stories – Dale Bailey
Gathering Shadows – Simon Barron
Eden’s Ore Revelations – B. V. Bayly
Disciple of the Wind – Steve Bein
Dave vs the Monsters – John Birmingham
Lucid – Jay Bonansinga
The Girl With All the Gifts – M. R. Carey
The Guardian Interviews Omnibus – Michael Clary
The Outer Harbour – Wayde Compton
Survival of the Fittest – Crawford Cray
The Acolyte – Nick Cutter
Tithe of the Saviours – A. J. Dalton
Resonance – C. L. Davies
Against a Darkening Sky – Lauren Davis
Greatcoat’s Lament – Sebastien de Castell
By Tooth and Claw – Bill Fawcett
Wild West Exodus: Family Blood – Craig Gallant
Cloud & Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales – Greer Gilman
The Revolutions – Felix Gilman
Scripture From the Past – C. J. Gleave
Contagious – Emily Goodwin
The Gemini Effect – Chuck Grossart
New Cthulhu 2 – Paula Guran, Ed.
The Kindred of Darkness – Barbara Hambly
Games Creatures Play – Charlaine Harris & Toni Kelner, Ed.
Alien Wars – Vaughn Heppner
Cyber Rogues – James Hogan
Apocalypse Now Now – Charlie Human
Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements – Walidah Imarisha & Adrienne Maree Brown, Ed.
The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen
Warhammer 40K: Damocles – Phil Kelly, Guy Haley, Ben Counter & Josh Reynolds
Tesseracts Eighteen: Wrestling With Gods – Liana Kerzner & Jerome Stueart, Ed.
Expiration Date – Nancy Kilpatrick, Ed.
Valkyrie’s Song – M. D. Lachlan
Hunting the Shadows – Tanith Lee
Imaginary Things – Andrea Lochen
Channel Blue – Jay Martel
Inspector Hobbes and the Gold Diggers – Wilkie Martin
War of Shadows – Gail Martin
Mage Wars – Will McDermott
Hunt for Valamon – D. K. Mok
The Aftermath – Michela Montgomery
The Cave – Michela Montgomery
Waking Beauty – Sarah Morin
The Night Mayor – Kim Newman
The Unremembered: Author’s Definitive Edition - Peter Orullian
Captive Prince – C. S. Pacat
Garden of Dreams and Desires – Kristen Painter
The Boy With the Porcelain Blade – Den Patrick
The Death House – Sarah Pinborough
The Adjacent – Christopher Priest
The Holy Drinker – Neil Randall
The Wild West Exodus Anthology – Brandon Respond, Ed.
Ritual Crime Unit: Disturbed Earth – E. E. Richardson
Briar Blackwood’s Grimmest of Fairytales – Timothy Roderick
The Imundari Hunt – Brandon Sharp
A Kill in the Morning – Graeme Shimmin
Contagion: Eyre – Alison Sinclair
The Edge of Reason – Melinda Snodgrass
Science Fact and Science Fiction: An Encyclopedia – Brian Stableford
Exigencies – Richard Thomas, Ed.
Warhammer 40K: Angels of Darkness – Gav Thorpe
Warhammer: The Curse of Khaine – Gav Thorpe
Fusion Fire – Kathy Tyers
Warhammer 40K: Legacies of Betrayal – various
Sundogz – Mark von Schlegell
The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk – Sean Wallace
Superposition – David Walton
Clash of Iron – Angus Watson
Children of Arkadia – M. Darusha Wehm
The World to Come – Patrick West & Om Prakash Dwivedi, Ed.
Poisonwell – Jeff Wheeler
Zoo and Crowbar – David Zieroth 

Mass Market Paperback:

Warhammer 40K: The Damnation of Pythos – David Annandale 
The High Druid’s Blade – Terry Brooks
The Lost Fleet: Steadfast – Jack Campbell
Peacemaker – C. J. Cherryh
Star Trek: Crisis of Consciousness – Dave Galanter
Every Breath You Take – Chris Marie Green
A Shiver of Light – Laurell Hamilton
The Witch With No Name – Kim Harrison
Dark Heir – Faith Hunter
Baltic Gambit – E. E. Knight
Darkened Blade – Kelly McCullough
The Hercules Text – Jack McDevitt
Man-Kzin XIV – Larry Niven, creator
Jinn and Juice – Nicole Peeler
The Originals: The Loss – Julie Plec
The Shattered Court – M. J. Scott
Dragon Thief – S. Andrew Swann
Dream Stalkers – Tim Waggoner
Shadow of Freedom – David Weber

eBook:

Lotus Saga – Nimai Agarwal
’Til Undeath Do Us Part – Jessica Alter
Princess – Nicolette Andrews
The Envoy – Ros Baxter
Heroes in Name – F. M. Beasley
Prodigal Star – Nuah Belleton
Wormhole to Heaven or Wormhole to Hell – J. Jack Bergeron
Storm Surge – R. J. Blain
Seeds of a New Power – Orrin Jason Bradford
Savior – A. King Bradley
The Immortalist – Scott Britz
The Day Before – Liana Brooks
The Berserker – E. B. Brown
Going Through the Change – Samantha Bryant
Heir of Hope – Morgan Busse
The Raven’s Oracle – Deborah Cannon
The Deepest Poison – Beth Cato
Dragon of the Stars – Alex Cavanaugh
Saving the Dragon – Sara Cleveland
Seed of Creation – Valmore Daniels
Bound to You – A. R. DeClerck
Demon’s Vengeance: The Complete Final Asylum Tales – Jocelynn Drake
Architects of Destiny – Amy DuBoff
Lake of Stone – K. Eastkott
Lie Down With Dogs – Hailey Edwards
Carnival on Union Station – E. M. Foner
Temporary Human – Craig Shaw Gardner
Beyond the Veil – David Gatwood
Enemies From Within – David Gatwood
Godsquad – Heide Goody & Iain Grant
Desert Rising – Kelley Grant
Monochrome Dream: Apostrophe – S. R. Groberg
Winglight – Sabine Hale
Gallow: Solace – Nathan Hawke
Alien Abattoir and Other Stories – Sean Hazlett
Intrepid – Tony Healey
Victory of the Hawk – Angela Highland
Fortress of Fire – D. K. Holmberg
The Science of Magic – HoneysuckleP
Chains of Water and Stone – Katherine Hurley
Reckoning – Megg Jensen
Intrusions – Wilf Jones
Apex – Aer-ki Jyr
Saira and the Mad Scientist of the North – Moira Katson
The Turning War – Richard Knaak
Fall of Pritu – Ravi Krishnan
The Warlords of Antares – Brian Larson
The Last Quarrel – Duncan Lay
Fire Above – C. H. MacLean
Kal Moonheart Omnibus – Rob May
Sirens Bane – Rob May
Avanaux – P. J. McDermott
Prison of Hope – Steve McHugh
Virtual Reality – Daniel Naylor 
Arrival Day – K. C. Neal
Origins of Power – Neal Noakes
Iron Ghost – Tom Noel-Morgan
The Novice – Tom Noel-Morgan
The Warden – Tom Noel-Morgan
Lake of Sins – L. S. O’Dea
Light Energy – John O’Riley
Bonds, Broken & Silent – Kris Austen Radcliffe
The Keeper – Kaytie Reade
My Favourite Colour is Aubrey – M. W. Rowe
Vigilantes – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
The Dark Road – Rowan Scot-Ryder
Ignite the Shadows – Ingrid Seymour
Secrets of the Tomb – Deva Shore
The Sanctum of the Sphere – Luther Siler
Priestess of the Dragons’ Temple – Amelia Smith
The New Morality – Lance Smith
Redemption – Richard Stephenson
Fresh Blood – Ricardo Steyner
Landon the Time Controller – Fairlie Sweet
Chimera – N. J. Tanger
The Kura – Mary Patterson Thornburg
Veil of the Corrupter – J. L. Tomlinson
Anchors No More – David Edward Wagner
Dreadnought – Michael Wallace
Second Activation – Darren Wearmouth & Marcus Wearmouth 
Monsters of Pittsburgh Omnibus – Kate Whitaker
Grey – Christi Whitney
The Enlightened – Dima Zales

Dwarves in Space – S. E. Zbasnik

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Books Received in February 2015

My thanks to the publishers who sent me books for review this month.  It's such a privilege.  And though I don't have time to read everything I get, I'd really really love to, because there are so many interesting books coming out.

Empire by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard -  This is the second book in the series that started with last year's Conquest, which I reviewed.  I'm curious to see what happens to the 4 teen protagonists, and how the alien and human politics develop.

She is the trophy of a civilization at war with itself.
He is its rebel captive.
Separated by millions of light years, they will fight to be united…
Earth has been conquered and occupied. The war is lost.
The Resistance still fights the invaders, but they are nothing more than an annoyance to the Illyri, an alien race of superior technology and military strength.
When caught, the young rebels are conscripted. Part soldiers, part hostages, they join the Brigades, sent to fight at the edges of the growing Illyri Empire.
Paul Kerr is one such soldier—torn from his home and his beloved Syl Hellais. She is the first alien child born on Earth, a creature of two worlds—and a being possessed of powers beyond imagining. Now both must endure the terrible exile that Syl’s race has deemed just punishment for their love.
But the conquest of Earth is not all it seems.
There is another species involved, known only as the Others, and the Illyri will kill to keep their existence secret.
Light years from Earth and millions of miles apart, Paul and Syl must find a way to reveal the horrifying truth behind the Empire, and save all that they hold dear from the hunger of the Others.
Even at the cost of their own lives…

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear - This book's been getting a lot of positive press, and the plot sure sounds interesting.

“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It's French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, beggin sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber - A 20th Century mystery/spy novel.  Sounds cool.

London, 1882: Queen Victoria appoints Harold Spire of the Metropolitan Police to Special Branch Division Omega. Omega is to secretly investigate paranormal and supernatural events and persons. Spire, a skeptic driven to protect the helpless and see justice done, is the perfect man to lead the department, which employs scholars and scientists, assassins and con men, and a traveling circus. Spire's chief researcher is Rose Everhart, who believes fervently that there is more to the world than can be seen by mortal eyes.

Their first mission: find the Eterna Compound, which grants immortality. Catastrophe destroyed the hidden laboratory in New York City where Eterna was developed, but the Queen is convinced someone escaped—and has a sample of Eterna.

Also searching for Eterna is an American, Clara Templeton, who helped start the project after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln nearly destroyed her nation. Haunted by the ghost of her beloved, she is determined that the Eterna Compound—and the immortality it will convey—will be controlled by the United States, not Great Britain.

Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal - This is the final book in the Glamourist Histories and I'm sorry to see it end.  I've enjoyed the Jane Austen style romance with the addition of magic, and each book shows different parts of the world and has the protagonists deal with new situations and challenges.  And the covers are simply gorgeous.

Jane and Vincent have finally gotten some much-needed rest after their adventures in Italy when Vincent receives word that his estranged father has passed away on one of his properties in the West Indies. His brother, who manages the estate, is overwhelmed, and no one else in his family can go. Grudgingly, out of filial duty the couple decide to go.

The sea voyage is long and Jane spends enough time unable to perform glamour that towards the end of the trip she discovers that she is with child. They are overjoyed, but when they finally arrive at the estate to complete what they expect to be routine legal tasks, they realize that nearly everything they came expecting to find had been a lie. Also, the entire estate is in disarray, with horrifying conditions and tensions with the local slave population so high that they are close to revolt.

Jane and Vincent's sense of peril is screaming out for them to flee, but Vincent cannot stand to leave an estate connected with his family in such a condition. They have survived many grand and terrifying adventures in their time, but this one will test their skills and wits more than any they have ever encountered before, this time with a new life hanging in the balance. 

The Scull Throne by Peter Brett - Out March 31st, I've already read this book and it is definitely worth the wait.  While the books have some grimdark elements, there's such a feeling of hope in the books that they remind me of older fantasy books I read in my teens (think Brooks, Eddings, etc.). The story is complex and there's a great mix of characters from all walks of life.  I'm giving the synopsis for book 1, The Warded Man, so there's no spoilers for those who haven't read the other books.

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.


Footsteps in the Sky by Greg Keyes - It's cool to see an SF book based around native culture.  The press release I got on the book states, "Greg Keyes was introduced at an early age to the cultures and stories of the Native Southwest when his father took a job on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona." This is the first book Keyes wrote and has been re-mastered for publication.

The pueblo people who landed on the Fifth World found it Earthlike, empty, and ready for colonization . . . but a century later, they are about to meet the planet's owners

One hundred years ago, Sand's ancestors made the long, one-way trip to the Fifth World, ready to work ceaselessly to terraform the planet. Descendants of native peoples like the Hopi and Zuni, they wanted to return to the way of life of their forebears, who honored the Kachina spirits.

Now, though, many of the planet's inhabitants have begun to resent their grandparents' decision to strand them in this harsh and forbidding place, and some have turned away from the customs of the Well-Behaved People. Sand has her doubts, but she longs to believe that the Kachina live on beyond the stars and have been readying a new domain for her people.

She may be right. Humans have discovered nine habitable worlds, all with life that shares a genetic code entirely alien to any on Earth. Someone has been seeding planets, bringing life to them. But no other sign of the ancient farmers has ever been discovered—until one day they return to the Fifth World. They do not like what they find.

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman - This is the sequel to last year's Seraphina, which I heard a lot of good things about.

As Seraphina Dombegh travels the Southlands in search of the other half-dragons to help in the war effort, the dragon general Comonot and his Loyalists fight against the upstart Old Guard with the fate of Goredd and the other human countries hanging in the balance.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Shout-Out: Treasure Darkly by Jordan Elizabeth

Seventeen-year-old Clark Treasure assumes the drink he stole off the captain is absinthe… until the chemicals in the liquid give him the ability to awaken the dead.

A great invention for creating perfect soldiers, yes, but Clark wants to live as a miner, not a slave to the army—or the deceased. On the run, Clark turns to his estranged, mining tycoon father for help. The Treasures welcome Clark with open arms, so he jumps at the chance to help them protect their ranch against Senator Horan, a man who hates anyone more powerful than he. 
Sixteen-year-old Amethyst Treasure loathes the idea of spending the summer away from her bustling city life to rot on her father’s ranch, but when a handsome young man shows up claiming to be her secret half-brother, her curiosity is piqued. He’s clever, street smart, and has no qualms jumping into the brawl between the Treasures and Horans. Caught in the middle, Horan kidnaps Amethyst, and all she gets is this lousy bullet through her heart.

When Clark brings her back to life, however, the real action starts, and Amethyst joins him in his fight against the Horan clan—whatever the cost. Defeating the Horans may seem easy at first, but going up against men with the same fighting vengeance as Clark, and a Senator with power he’s obtained by brainwashing the masses?

Well, Amethyst’s boring summer at home has turned into an adventure on the run, chock full of intrigue, danger, love, and a mysterious boy named Clark.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Video: Star Wars: Modern Lightsaber Battle

This is a great video by Mr.TVCow that uses - and surpasses - the new lightsaber design as a Jedi and Sith one up each other before a battle.