Release Day Review: The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

First of all, Happy Book Birthday, Nicky! πŸ™‚

Isn’t that cover absolutely kickass? The first time I saw it I cheered – I was one of the lucky few who got to read the book a good while ago, and the cover was ad remains (in my opinion) perfectly suited to the tale. So, you’ve got the cool mech holding a cool umbrella over a mischievously smiling little girl; you’ve got the captivating title (which does seem at odds with the cover, but isn’t; trust me on this), and you know that Nicky’s publisher, Harper Voyager, publishes some of the very best SF and speculative fiction available.

(By the by, the artwork for the cover was created by Brenoch Adams, and was designed by Owen Corrigan)

So, what did I discover in the book?

What grabbed my attention from the beginning was how well Nicky handled the balance between excellent characterization and inventive world building. Character-wise, you’re going to meet wildly different folks, from wildly different backgrounds, all exuberantly-chillingly-sympathetically written, all having their own unique ‘voice’ and their own very important place in the tale. You’ll meet a teenager on the cusp of what will probably seem to you to be an incredibly weird manhood ritual, a nail technician working in a beauty parlour with a dangerous and awesome secret, a little girl living in a township, a councilman forced to play two roles and really only enjoying one, a pop star on the verge of a breakdown, and a couple of nifty personal robots. These are the main players, and some of their connections won’t be immediately apparent, while others are connected by a very strange drug. What they do, and how they interact, is the meat of the story (as it should be), and Nicky brings them all to vivid life.

In terms of world building, I discovered a South Africa (or Azania, which could actually be damned cool, should that realize; but has no bearing on the novel) which easily overshadows the South Africa Lauren Beukes revealed in Moxyland. In Nicky’s SA, for example, you’ve got personal-assistant robots and genetically engineered and extremely cute pests – you’ll have to discover the rest. The SA of Nicky’s imagination has moved past all the trouble we’re currently having and, though not perfect, is suffused with hope and a still vulnerable trust; the cyberpunk aspects of this book are bright and beautiful and crazy and exciting, though that keen edge of danger and darkness can be sensed glinting between the details. But there are also aspects of Fantasy to this read, and those aspects have an abiding mythic feel, as if we’ve been given a glimpse of a world of gods and motivations we hadn’t even guessed could exist.

But there aren’t only wonderfully captivating characters and excellent world building in this book – there’s heart, humor, empathy, beauty and ugliness, too. And the action scenes are almost Manga-esque in the crazy-cool epicness. That robot and that little girl? You won’t believe what they’re capable of – and I mean ‘won’t believe’ in terms of, “Oh, wow. Oh WOW.”

All in all, Nicky has created not only a world I would love to read an entire saga in, but characters who feel both known and excitingly unique – if this book doesn’t completely capture you and leave you feeling a combination of excitement and utter exhaustion, then you really should dig up a mad scientist and get him to bring you back to life. At the very least, I’m pretty confident that you’ll agree with me that it’s a cool, wild, awesome ride.

‘The Prey of Gods’ was absolutely brilliant. Read it!

10/10

The book should be available almost everywhere right now (except perhaps the Moon; but Musk’s working on giving us an option to get it there), but here are the links you might need:

Amazon USAmazon UK (pre-order for the 27 July release) – Barnes and Noble

And do check out Nicky’s site, too. πŸ™‚

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

Review: Exile and Nandor by Martin Owton

Hey folks, hope you’re all well. πŸ™‚

Today I’ll share my thoughts on Martin Owton’s ‘Exile’ and ‘Nandor’, a dualogy which focuses on Aron of Darien.

Aron is the title’s exile, struggling to survive in a world in which basically everything except his talent with a sword and his sense of duty has been taken from him.

When we meet Aron, he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time – and pays the price for that by being pressed into the local Earl’s service, which not only launches the first novel’s plot and introduces us to most of the tale’s important players, but also gives us a good understanding of Aron. He doesn’t suffer fools, and yet also doesn’t blindly barge into situations which might overwhelm him. He can be headstrong, but also shows empathy and sympathy. He’s the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind getting to know, and the kind of guy who’ll have your back as your friend. His skill with a sword is cool to behold, and most of the time he knows how to navigate politics and intrigue – but his skills don’t help him when it comes to ladies. πŸ˜‰

‘Exile’ gives us a good view of the world Aron lives in – a distant king who seems to not really give a damn; dukes vying for prestige and honours from said king; scattered towns filled with merchants and men-at-arms; slavers and bandits. There are also magicians, and what’s interesting is that they serve, and aren’t served – it’s a refreshing angle to read, especially in Fantasy.

And Exile also sets us up for book two’s events, in which Aron’s quest will culminate, while bringing to a close certain threads begun in the first book. The book has (and maintains) great pace, is peppered with witty dialogue and serious moments, has an important love story, and features great combat, as well as what reads as well-researched knowledge of the kinds of pre-industrial technology present in Aron’s world.

Exile is old school and enjoyable – it doesn’t reinvent anything, but also doesn’t need to. πŸ™‚

9/10

Nandor, the sequel to Exile -and the book which brings and end to Aron’s tale- picks up nineΒ months after Exile’s end; Aron returns to the family he met in Exile when he receives dire news, and decides to lead a rescue mission, which takes him and the people with him into the kind of dangerous territory only hinted at in the first book. the excellent pacing which made Exile tick along is carried through into Nandor, and the characters are really put through their paces, as they find themselves caught up in a war very few people know about. This war, which is also being fought with terrifying magic, forces Aron to make some truly difficult decisions, and no-one escapes unscathed. I was sad when I ended the book, as that meant that Aron’s adventures were done and that we wouldn’t get to explore more of the world Martin created, but you all know what they say about ‘all good things’, right?

8/10

The books are available in a variety of formats:

Kindle (ExileNandor)

and Hardcover (Exile) (as well as signed editions from Tickety Boo Press)

And do check out Martin’s site for more of his work and an exclusive short story featuring Aron.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

Review: Dinosaur Valley – The Archaeologists (Book 1) by K.H. Koehler

Hey everyone. πŸ™‚

From time to time I’ll be posting reviews of books I really enjoyed, in the hope that you’ll also check the books out, and this is the first of those reviews.

Long before Jurassic Park was released (both the book and the movie), my parents bought a bi-weekly magazine called ‘Dinosaurs’, which explored the different species, environments, geological history and much, much more of the time of the dinosaurs – plus I got to build a glow in the dark T-rex skeleton; the parts came with the magazine. πŸ™‚ This was when I was in primary school, and it’s what began my fascination with dinosaurs. When Jurassic Park was published, I basically lost my shit. I read the novel three times before watching the movie, and I think I watched the movie -in the theatres- close to six or seven times. I think that JP is the only movie I’ve watched more than any of the Star Wars movies – it completely blew my mind wide open.

So, any novel including dinosaurs needs big boots to fill the footsteps of JP, and while I don’t think anything like JP will happen again (even the sequel, The Lost World, was brilliant, but couldn’t really match up, in my opinion), I do expect writers to know their stuff and to be respectful (or at least cognizant) of dinosaurs and the vast body of knowledge which is constantly being added to.

Dinosaur Valley isn’t JP, but also doesn’t pretend to be, and that’s one of the reasons this novel was so cool. πŸ™‚

It is, above all, an adventure tale, but what it also does is play with certain tropes and upend or change those tropes in entertaining ways. For example, there’s no damsels in distress – there is a gentleman in distress; and though the book is set in what could be considered theΒ Wild West, there’s none of the stereotypical tobacco-spitting, word-drawling, answers-everything-with-a-quickdraw-standoff Cowboy / Sheriff / Desperado amalgamation (even though there is such a character; just not stereotypically so).

Being an adventure tale, it’s fast-paced and fun, with excellent and thrilling set pieces (from characters being stalked and chased by various dinosaurs, to gun fights), peopled with memorable characters keeping the interesting plot ticking along, and if you like a strong, independent female lead, who doesn’t wait for a man to save her, then you’re going to love Anna Rutherford. πŸ™‚

This book launches the series, The Archaeologists, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next book!

9/10

You can order your copies on Amazon, and check out Severed Press’ site for more cool titles.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

My Favourite Books of 2016 – Part Two

Hey everyone, πŸ™‚ I’m back with my second ‘Favourites of 2016’ post, and in this post I’ll be telling you about books from Alex Marshall, John Burnham Schwartz, Justin Cronin, Christopher Golden and Suzanne Van Rooyen.

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall

This novel, which kicks off what promises to be a rollicking, ass-kicking trilogy, follows a mayor’s wife on her quest for revenge – obviously, she’s much more than initially revealed. πŸ™‚ The novel is by turns incredibly funny, brutal, thoughtful and inventive, with excellent world building and stand-out characters; multiple points of view allow the reader to gain a wide-screen (if I can use that description, which I’ve just done…) understanding of the various conflicts and story lines, while also giving us the gritty, ugly, beautiful detail we Fantasy readers crave. There’s plenty of inventive and interesting magic, battles and skirmishes (skillfully written, brutal and entertaining), and intrigue a-plenty. One also gets the sense that the world Alex has created is absolutely filled with stories we only glimpse, which also serves to make the world live and flex and breathe more deeply. Undeniably, though, the characters of this novel are the stars – Villains without being the quintessential bad guys. πŸ™‚ Highly recommended!

If you’re not aware, Alex Marshall is, in reality, Jesse Bullington. πŸ™‚ Order your copies here.

Next up, Reservation Road by John Burnham Schwartz:

I’m not a fan of literary novels – a term, I have to add, which just doesn’t make sense to me, and smacks of incredible elitism. That being said, when I read something which falls into that bullshit category (which doesn’t happen often), the novel has to be accessible, and by that, I mean that I don’t want to feel as if I should be sipping a too-expensive wine while sitting in a too-expensive chair in my ‘den’. Reservation Road is a novel anyone can read. You don’t have to be part of some inaccessible circle of award-chasers to appreciate this novel. And yes, I watched the movie, years ago, but this novel… I completely forgot about the movie while reading it, and the movie was good. The novel is heart-breakingly sublime. Absolutely unflinching, incredibly emotional. It hits hard, folks – as it should. And I don’t have kids; folks who do have kids and read this might not be able to finish it, but I urge you to stick with it. Order your copies here.

Next up, Justin Cronin‘s ‘The City of Mirrors‘:

The Passage absolutely rocked me back on my heels. It is, to date, the only novel that had made me cry like a baby within the first 30 or so pages, due to Justin’s absolutely incredible prose and ability to evoke emotions. The Twelve continued the epic (and this trilogy truly is epic), ending with an incredible climax, and The City of Mirrors ends it all beautifully. What sets this trilogy apart from most post-apocalyptic Horror sagas is the sheer beauty and strength of the emotional journey the reader embarks on – as with Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead graphic novels, the focus is on the characters; their dreams, their heart aches, their losses and triumphs and decisions, and how who they are and what they do echo down through the years and decades. Yes, Justin has created a world which fell to a terrible, brutal plague, but this world is as filled with beauty and love as it is with terror and grief. And I’ve never truly, deeply sympathised with the ‘bad guy’, but here, I had no choice. Stephen King said that the trilogy “will stand as one of the great achievements in American fantasy fiction.”, and I completely agree. It’s a lyrical, intense, intelligent, brutal and beautiful exploration of relationships, terror, the collapse of society and the stubbornness of true survival. Massively recommended!

Next up, Ararat by Christopher Golden:

I’m a big Horror fan, and I’m also a big fan of novels that tread different genres. I enjoy it when writers are ambitious and take chances, and where they create expectations and proceed to fulfill those expectations in ways the reader (who is also a writer, in this case) could never predict. Ararat is one of those novels. On the face of it, the novel is a story about one of the biggest finds in Biblical and proper, scientific Archeology, to what lengths the characters go to cement their place in history, and what, inevitably, goes wrong. And I don’t mean ‘inevitable’ as one of those ‘people are digging where they shouldn’t and get into shit because of it’ tropes; I mean ‘inevitable’ in the sense that things go wrong, whether between people (relationship-wise), colleagues (who disagree and have varying levels of education and study), or representatives of governments (and the complications involved when these get-togethers are further hampered by religious constraints). Yes, there’s a helluva lot that does go wrong in this novel (and, in effect, goes exactly right), but Christopher doesn’t push for disaster simply to pile up the odds against the characters – there’s reason and sense behind what happens, and varying degrees and levels of disaster, too – emotional, professional, physical, etc. Cause and effect, for sure, but injected with a healthy dose of how the myriad characters would truly react (Humans make dumb decisions for very good reasons, and the opposite also holds true). Christopher also really enjoys tropes, man – in the ‘know the rules and break them’ sense, because what I expected and predicted didn’t happen, but what does is so much better. There’s plenty of menace in this book, coupled with a slowly-creeping sense of ‘oh, shit-shit-shit’, and I’m pretty sure readers will enjoy the hell out of it. Expect to be surprised, expect to feel the cold and experience the claustrophobia and terror, and expect this book to sit in your head for a good long while. Excellent stuff! Pre-order your copies here.

Next up, ‘I Heart Robot‘ by Suzanne Van Rooyen:

I don’t think I ever read a novel quite like this before. I was expecting the quintessential and stereotypical forbidden romance, and instead, what I read was one of the best explorations of humanity (in it’s various forms) I’ve ever encountered. If you want a love story, it’s here – and it’s sweet and dangerous, fraught with mistakes and realizations, constantly tested and evolving… In other words, real. If you want an epic confrontation between humanity and what humanity creates, it’s here – but it’s not Michael Bay-here; it’s Children of Men-here. It’s subtle and powerful and far-reaching, the kind of unfolding clash which really makes you think about what it means to be human, to have feelings and an identity, to seek connection. Suzanne explores the politics behind this clash, the philosophies driving the players, the varying effects of the technology… There’s so much going on in this novel, so much that it deals with, that you’ll probably be re-reading it or, better yet, discussing it in your group after everyone’s read it. And what also helps is Suzanne’s understated, almost invisible prose – damned well written. I’m extremely jealous. Read it.

***

That’s it for now – next week I’ll have some more of my favourites for you. πŸ™‚ Until then,

Be EPIC!

 

 

My Favourite Books of 2016 – Part One

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well, and that 2017 has been good to you so far. πŸ™‚

I’ve been busy editing novels and writing them, plus we had an internet-outage that lasted just over 6 weeks… I was, understandably, pissed off.

Anyway, that’s all done with, and I thought I’d kick off this year (in the second month of the year, no less…) with a post of books I read during last year (which aren’t many) and why I enjoyed them.

Let’s head a year back, to Weston Ochse‘s ‘Halfway House‘:

Halfway_House-423x628

Now, first of all, Weston is a damned deserving winner of the Bram Stoker Award. He writes Horror that clings like the odour of a three-weeks unwashed body… I read Halfway House a little more than a year ago (and received it to review from Weston some time before that), and the novel is still fresh in my mind. It’s the kind of tale that works on many different levels, and for many different reasons; it’s a story of emptiness-filling, primarily, but it’s also a story that looks at the seedy underbelly of Hollywood, the lives of surfers and the homeless, grief and how differently everyone deals with it (or tries to), and much more that I hope you’ll discover on your own. Here’s a link to order the book.

Next up, Jon Sprunk‘s ‘Shadow’s Lure‘:

Shadows-Lure_cover-199x300

Shadow’s Son‘ was a damned good debut – Jon managed to not only keep the story tightly character-focused, but also managed to bring in interesting world-building, magic, politics and damned cool combat. So, I was a bit worried that the second book in the trilogy wouldn’t be able to build on the first – but it did, and kickassingly so. Caim is tested even further – not only physically, but psychologically, and we find out more about his world and the various cultures and factions wrestling for dominance. We also find out more about Caim’s companion (surely one of the most mysterious characters in the trilogy), and events push toward a satisfying and hard-hitting climax, which not only ties up some of the story lines and mysteries from book 1 and 2, but also preps the reader for what’s coming in book 3, ‘Shadow’s Master‘, which I still need to read. These books are truly cool, fast-paced and clever, and I can tell that Jon really enjoys playing with the expected tropes and putting his own spin on them. Highly recommended for anyone who loves Fantasy. For more info, and to order the books, follow this link.

Next up, Karen Miller‘s ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth‘, the first book in the Gambit duology, and sadly, not Canon.

Clone Wars Gambit 1

The fact that Karen is a damned good writer and storyteller doesn’t have to be discussed or explained; her Empress trilogy really impressed me, and (as I’ve said to many people) The Falcon Throne is, in my honest opinion, better than what GRRM has given us with ASoIaF. And Karen has written more than one Star Wars novel (The Clone Wars: Wild Space, was her first) and I really enjoyed what she did with Obi-Wan and Bail Organa, but damn, in Stealth, Karen really opened up – I haven’t read any other Star Wars novel which so deeply explores and explains the characters of Obi-Wan and Anakin. Not only is the tale fast-paced, with great action scenes, thrills and intrigue, and true Star Wars-moments, but Karen managed to make it really clear why Obi-Wan and Anakin respected and trusted each other so much, as well as showing us the depth of their bond. When I finished the book (and I still have to read Siege), I was struck with an incredible sadness, because the betrayal’s of Revenge of the Sith hit harder than even George Lucas could achieve (and I’m a huge fan of GL). I kind of wanted to somehow travel to Obi-Wan and Anakin and beg them to disappear, to leave the war and everything else behind. πŸ™ Damned good book, and right up there with Star by Star and Traitor. To order the book, follow this link.

Next up, Greg Rucka‘s ‘Alpha‘:

Alpha

Greg first came to my attention with his runs on Batman and Detective Comics, which I enjoyed immensely – so I was really interested to read one of his novels, and I wasn’t disappointed. Alpha stars Jad Bell and follows his efforts to take on a group of damned dangerous terrorists who take over the US’s biggest theme park – not Disneyland, but a fictional stand-in, which serves just as well. Greg managed to balance a racing plot with political intrigue, hectic action and surprises, while putting his hero through his paces. Plenty of thought went into how a terrorist attack on a theme park would unfold, and it’s obvious, too, that Greg knows combat and weapons, too. Alpha is a quick read (these action thrillers usually are), and resolves the plot while opening up the main character, Jad, to a world of danger he’s just beginning to find out about. I have no idea when I’ll read the next book, Bravo, but it’s definitely on my list. Order the book at this link.

That’s it for part one. πŸ™‚ In my next post I’ll be sharing my thoughts on work from Alex Marshall, John Burnham Schwartz, Justin Cronin and Christopher Golden. πŸ™‚

Until then,

Be EPIC!