Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Book Review: All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Translated by: Joseph Reeder with Alexander Smith

Pros: great sense of perspective, deals cleverly with repeating days

Cons: starts in the middle of the action so it’s harder to get a grasp of the situation

When Keiji Kiriya dies in his first battle with the alien Mimics he doesn’t expect to wake up the previous morning as if those days were just a dream.  He quickly realizes that time is repeating and decides to train hard and become a great Jacket jockey like Rita Vrataski, aka the Valkyrie, aka the Full Metal Bitch.

This novel was the basis for the film Edge of Tomorrow, which I thought was really well done.  Sure, the ending didn’t make much sense, but it was a fun film.  The ending in the book is different, and does make sense.

You get point of view chapters from both Keiji and, later on, Rita, which help put you into the action and understand why those two act the way they do.  They’re interesting characters, with a lot of supporting characters around them that you get to know fairly well.

There’s enough exposition to understand the armoured suits the soldiers wear (the Jackets) and the alien menace, but beyond that there are only snippets here and there about how the world has coped with the war and how Keiji and Rita ended up enlisting.

While a few days are heavily detailed, the majority are skipped outright, giving you a good impression of time passing and Keiji learning how to fight without becoming boring or repetitive.

It’s an action packed story that’s also a quick read at just under 200 pages.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Shout-Out: Last Song Before Night by Ilana Myer

Her name was Kimbralin Amaristoth: sister to a cruel brother, daughter of a hateful family. But that name she has forsworn, and now she is simply Lin, a musician and lyricist of uncommon ability in a land where women are forbidden to answer such callings-a fugitive who must conceal her identity or risk imprisonment and even death.

On the eve of a great festival, Lin learns that an ancient scourge has returned to the land of Eivar, a pandemic both deadly and unnatural. Its resurgence brings with it the memory of an apocalypse that transformed half a continent. Long ago, magic was everywhere, rising from artistic expression-from song, from verse, from stories. But in Eivar, where poets once wove enchantments from their words and harps, the power was lost. Forbidden experiments in blood divination unleashed the plague that is remembered as the Red Death, killing thousands before it was stopped, and Eivar's connection to the Otherworld from which all enchantment flowed, broken.

The Red Death's return can mean only one thing: someone is spilling innocent blood in order to master dark magic. Now poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a challenge much greater: galvanized by Valanir Ocune, greatest Seer of the age, Lin and several others set out to reclaim their legacy and reopen the way to the Otherworld-a quest that will test their deepest desires, imperil their lives, and decide the future.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

News: Angry Robot Announces Open Door for Submissions in December

Have a polished manuscript and looking for a publisher?  Well, starting December 1 and going until January 31st, Angry Robot Books will open its door to unsolicited manuscript submissions.

From their email:

We are looking for full-length novels. Not novellas, poems, short stories or similar. Please, only full-length novels.

We're pretty broad in our tastes, genre-wise. We love anything science fiction, fantasy or WTF. If it's a spaghetti western set in space with pirates, we're down for that. We aren't down for Young Adult titles at this time. Sorry.
Diverse Voices: We Want You!

Anyone who has written a thoroughly entertaining, full-length science fiction or fantasy novel is more than welcome to submit to us during the open door, um, window.

We do want to mention the following though. We appreciate diversity at Angry Robot. Our track record at AR speaks for itself, but we can do even better. We also know that writers from diverse backgrounds are sometimes hesitant to submit. So we’re saying this in big letters:

We want to explicitly invite writers from diverse backgrounds and lived experiences to submit to this Open Door.

Several of our most commercially and critically-successful books have come from writers speaking from diverse backgrounds and/or about diverse characters.

This genre belongs to everyone, and we at Angry Robot want to be a part of making that maxim true in practice by championing diverse voices and helping them reach a wide audience.

So everyone, send us your best work. Show us worlds real and imagined with all their glorious complexity and diversity, that reflects the reality of today’s culture.

More information, including a FAQ section, will go up on their website soon.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Publisher Spotlight: Evil Girlfriend Media

Established in 2011, Evil Girlfriend Media publishes sci-fi, fantasy and horror.  Their line-up right now includes several short story collections (both by a single author and edited anthologies).  They've got a bunch of short stories published on their website that you can read for free.  While they're currently closed for manuscript submissions, they're open to flash fiction and non-fiction shorts.

Here's a sampling of their current titles:

The Archivist by Tom Wright

In 2052, Artificial Intelligence surpasses humans, and global technology collapses overnight. Thirty years later, primitive communities struggle to survive. Throughout this broken world, a secret organization called The Archives seeks to preserve what knowledge and technology has been left in the ashes. However, a Luddite cult-The Disciples of Earth-is just as determined to ensure there will be no technological rebirth for humankind. 
Retrieval Archivist K’Marr’s mission seems : make contact with a source in a remote port town and trade vital technology that could secure humankind’s future.
But few retrievals are ever easy. 
While keeping his promise to a dying man and avoiding Disciples who seem to know his every move, K’Marr fights to complete his mission and get back home to the woman he loves. Against the odds, The Archivist must do everything he can to return to The Archives.

Women In Practical Armor Edited by Ed Greenwood and Gabrielle Harbowy

Eighteen stories of seasoned women warriors fighting in practical armor. 
Steve Bornstein – “Serendipity”
Cassandra Rose Clarke – “A Night in New Verashtin”
Erik Scott de Bie – “King’s Shield”
Kristy Griffin Green – “The Family Business”
Amy Griswold – “The Raven and the Swans”
Sarah Hendrix – “Hero of Ithar”
Crystal Lynn Hilbert – “Stone Woken”
Chris A. Jackson – “First Command”
Mary Robinette Kowal – “The Bound Man”
Eric Landreneau – “Pride and Joy”
Wunji Lau – “No Better Armor, No Heavier Burden”
Todd McCaffrey – “Golden”
Rhonda Parrish – “Sharp as a Griffin’s Claw”
Anya Penfold – “The Lioness”
Mary Pletsch – “The Blood Axe”
Alex C. Renwick – “Ravenblack”
David Szarzynski – “Armor the Color of War”
Judith Tarr – “Attrition”

Stamps, Vamps & Tramps Edited by Shannon Robinson

Eternally stamped, eternally damned… 
Grecian prostitutes and blood guzzling birds, pickle-sized vampires who wear their hearts on their sleeves, sexy immortals that fear human greed and memories that become tattoos; Stamps, Vamps & Tramps crosses genres to deliver bone-chilling stories that will keep you up at night. 
Sixteen talented authors take you on a journey where stamps aren’t always inked, tramps aren’t always hookers, and vampires aren’t always at the top of the food chain. From the colonnade of ancient Greece to a small town amusement park, from the battlefield to the urban center, this anthology will suck you in to the very end.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Books Received in September 2015

Many thanks again to those who have given me books this past month.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson - This is a brilliant novel that shows how powerful economics really is.  I've already reviewed it.

In Seth Dickinson's highly-anticipated debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a young woman from a conquered people tries to transform an empire in this richly imagined geopolitical fantasy.

Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people-even her soul.

When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire's civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free.

Sent as an Imperial agent to distant Aurdwynn, another conquered country, Baru discovers it's on the brink of rebellion. Drawn by the intriguing duchess Tain Hu into a circle of seditious dukes, Baru may be able to use her position to help. As she pursues a precarious balance between the rebels and a shadowy cabal within the Empire, she orchestrates a do-or-die gambit with freedom as the prize.

But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.

The New Hunger by Isaac Marion - This is a prequel novella to the hit zombie novel (and film) Warm Bodies.

The end of the world didn’t happen overnight.
After years of societal breakdowns, wars and quakes and rising tides, humanity was already near the edge. Then came a final blow no one could have expected: all the world’s corpses rising up to make more.
Born into this bleak and bloody landscape, twelve-year-old Julie struggles to hold on to hope as she and her parents drive across the wastelands of America, a nightmarish road trip in search of a new home.
Hungry, lost, and scared, sixteen-year-old Nora finds herself her brother’s sole guardian after her parents abandon them in the not-quite-empty ruins of Seattle.
And in the darkness of a forest, a dead man opens his eyes. Who is he? What is he? With no clues beyond a red tie and the letter “R,” he must unravel the grim mystery of his existence—right after he learns how to think, how to walk, and how to satisfy the monster howling in his belly.The New Hunger is a glimpse of the past and a path to an astonishing future…

The Apex Book of World SF 4 Edited by Mahvesh Murad - I won this book through a LibraryThing giveaway.  I've heard a lot of great things about this collection and am really looking forward to reading it.

Now firmly established as the benchmark anthology series of international speculative fiction, volume 4 of The Apex Book of World SF sees debut editor Mahvesh Murad bring fresh new eyes to her selection of stories.
From Spanish steampunk and Italian horror to Nigerian science fiction and subverted Japanese folktales, from love in the time of drones to teenagers at the end of the world, the stories in this volume showcase the best of contemporary speculative fiction, wherever it’s written.
Vajra Chandrasekera (Sri Lanka) — "Pockets Full of Stones"
Yukimi Ogawa (Japan) — "In Her Head, In Her Eyes"
Zen Cho (Malaysia) — "The Four Generations of Chang E"
Shimon Adaf (Israel) — "Like a Coin Entrusted in Faith" (Translated by the author)
Celeste Rita Baker (Virgin Islands) — "Single Entry"
Nene Ormes (Sweden) — "The Good Matter" (Translated by Lisa J Isaksson and Nene Ormes)
JY Yang (Singapore) — "Tiger Baby"
Isabel Yap (Philippines) — "A Cup of Salt Tears"
Usman T Malik (Pakistan) — "The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family"
Kuzhali Manickavel (India) — "Six Things We Found During the Autopsy"
Elana Gomel (Israel) — "The Farm"
Haralambi Markov (Bulgaria) — "The Language of Knives"
Sabrina Huang — "Setting Up Home" (Translated by Jeremy Tiang)
Sathya Stone (Sri Lanka) — "Jinki and the Paradox"
Johann Thorsson (Iceland) — "First, Bite a Finger"
Dilman Dila (Uganda) — "How My Father Became a God"
Swabir Silayi (Kenya) — "Colour Me Grey"
Deepak Unnikrishnan (The Emirates) — "Sarama"
Chinelo Onwualu (Nigeria) — "The Gift of Touch"
Saad Z. Hossain (Bangaldesh) — "Djinns Live by the Sea"
Bernardo Fernández (Mexico) — "The Last Hours of the Final Days" (Translated by the author)
Natalia Theodoridou (Greece) — "The Eleven Holy Numbers of the Mechanical Soul"
Samuel Marolla (Italy) — "Black Tea" (Translated by Andrew Tanzi)
Julie Novakova (Czech Republic) — "The Symphony of Ice and Dust"
Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Netherlands) — "The Boy Who Cast No Shadow" (Translated by Laura Vroomen)
Sese Yane (Kenya) — "The Corpse"
Tang Fei — "Pepe" (Translated by John Chu)
Rocío Rincón (Spain) — "The Lady of the Soler Colony" (Translated by James and Marian Womack)

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Words on the Outside: Authors Reading Their Favorite Passages

This is a series put together by Laura Bynum (author of the distopian novel Veracity and currently accepting pre-orders for two other novels on Inkshares, Cancer Nation and The Hide).  The series has authors reading their favorite passage from one of their books.

She started off by reading a passage from Cancer Nation, and has added clips by several other authors (descriptions and links from her blog):

Crutcher, Landon: Monkey Business (Currently available for pre-order on Inkshares) (Comedic Fantasy; Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams)

Gillan, Byron: The Children of the Forest (Currently available for pre-order on Inkshares) (Science Fantasy; Frank Herbert’s Dune)

Grace, Janna: The Talkers are Talking (working title) (Currently available for pre-order on Inkshares) (Science Fiction; 1950s horror films, Richard Matheson’s Born of Man and Woman, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series.

Soldwedel, Steve: Disintegration (Currently available for pre-order on Inkshares) (Science Fiction/Fantasy; Isaac Asimov, Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Star Wars, Star Trek, Arthur C. Clarke)

Lee Moyer, Jaime: Against a Brightening Sky (website here) (Historical Fantasy; Elizabeth Bear, Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, Rae Carson)

You can follow the series on Laura's blog or youtube channel.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Book Review: The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

(Published in the UK as The Traitor)

Pros: economic and political intrigue, utterly fascinating protagonist, interesting pov, keeps you guessing

Cons: not sure the rebel dukes gave their plans proper consideration

Daughter of a huntress, and a blacksmith, and a shield-bearer, Baru Cormorant grew up in Taranoke.  Her world changes when the Empire of Masks uses its trade agreement with Taranoke to slowly conquer the land, educating her and other native children in their schools.  Horrified by what has been done to her homeland but knowing that the Empire is too vast to fight, Baru resolves to destroy it from the inside.  But first she must prove her loyalty and worth to the Empire by using her intelligence to uncover revolt in another conquered land, Aurdwynn.

Before you start reading the book you’re greeted by a map.  After a quick cursory glance I turned the page.  Maps are common in fantasy books and this one wasn’t that detailed or complex.  But something had caught my eye so I turned back and examined the map in more detail.  It’s a map of Aurdwynn, showing the duchies and - more interestingly - Baru’s comments on the various dukes and what each duchy is known for.  There aren’t many comments, but the sheer honesty they portray is refreshing and drew me into the story before it had even begun.  Through the map we learn that the people of Oathsfire have awful beards, Radaszic is a complete moron, and Erebog is probably going to starve.  It’s a clever and fun map that peaked my interest.

The novel starts with Baru’s childhood and education before heading to Aurdwynn where the rest of the book takes place.  This is a book driven by Baru’s character and her attempts to understand, control, and outmaneuver the dukes as she tries to organize the country’s finances while rooting out rebellion.  While there is some fighting, most of the book is concerned with political and economic intrigue.

Baru’s a wiz at economics and seeing the big picture of cause and effect.  Where she falters is in recognizing that individual people have the ability to cause change outside of the larger picture, meaning she sometimes gets blindsided by not taking individual passions and choices into consideration.  It’s a wonderfully tense book with a protagonist who’s always thinking so many moves ahead you’re struggling to understand her current plays.  At one point I had to reread a conversation to figure out what she’d read between the lines during it, in order to understand why she was doing certain things.  It’s a book that will keep you on your toes, second guessing her and everyone else’s motives.

I’ve never read a book that goes over, however briefly, the conquest of a country, so I really appreciated the point of view.  It’s both fascinating and horrifying, how - and how quickly - the Empire gained power in Taranoke.

After thinking about the book for a few days I find myself wondering how much the rebel dukes considered their plans.  They end up making at least once decision that seems to go against their individual interests.  A decision I’m not sure they’d be willing to make.  I’ll discuss it more in the spoiler section.

I’m not sure I agree with one aspect of the ending (more on that in the spoiler section too), but I really enjoyed the book.  I had to read it quickly, but I’d advise taking time to really think about what’s going on - to appreciate the decisions Baru makes and the circumstances she finds herself in.  It’s a fascinating read and I cannot wait to see what happens next.


I’m left wondering why the dukes, who are rebelling so they can return their country to their own power (as it was before the Empire showed up) would be willing to put one individual - and a foreigner at that - in complete control.  Considering the fact that even the Empire couldn’t remove their hereditary ducal positions, why would they want to do that themselves and install a ‘high king’ as it were, above them.  Isn’t that what they’ve already got with the Governor the Empire installed?  Their new system would give them even less power than they currently have - and no real gain except for not being under the Empire’s yoke anymore.  Even if they thought they could use Baru as a puppet figurehead (and if they believed that they weren’t paying close enough attention to her personality and actions), they were still willing to give up a lot of power simply by having such a position created in the first place, having their people rally towards someone other than themselves.  And yes, I understand the whole point was to have a central rallying cry for the rebellion (and picked someone who’d already ingratiated herself to the peasantry via her loans), but surely they could have the troops cry their own dukes’ names, since their army at the end wasn’t integrated.  Basically, I’m not sure that what the dukes were giving up is worth what they were getting, and some of the dukes were wise enough to be able to see that.

With regards to the ending, while I understand that the shadow government has an important - and fatal - secret to hold as blackmail on Baru, I don’t believe they’d allow her into their ranks without something even more powerful to hold over her.  In other words, I believe she failed their last test and they would have killed her as a potential liability (ie, she’s too powerful to let loose without a strong restraint, which they don’t have).  Without more leverage they can’t assure that she won’t work against them.  And while their secret is dangerous for her, I’m not sure it’s enough to keep her in line.  It also occurred to me that this final test was similar to the test the rebels put her to when they demanded she kill the ship captain after stealing the tax money.  Would the shadow government want actual sociopaths working for them?  People with no empathy or consideration at all for others?  Perhaps.  They are dealing in the bigger picture after all.  But it seems there should be a limit of just how cold your operatives can be before they’re more dangerous to the Empire than their worth compensates for.  Then again, considering who else is being courted by the shadow council, maybe sociopaths are what they’re looking for.