Willful Child by Steven Erikson : Review


These are the voyages of the starship, A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life life-forms, to boldly blow the…

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback – a kind of James T Kirk crossed with ‘American Dad’ – and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space’.

I really wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy Willful Child when I received it, I do not read that much sci-fi, and while I’m in the middle of reading Steven Erikson’s Malazan books, I’m not a huge fan. It took me awhile to get started on the book because of those two facts, and I’m a little upset with myself for waiting so long to start it. The first thing I remember feeling after finishing it, was a little bit of shock at a science fiction book that didn’t take itself too seriously.

One of the most important things to mention here–at least to me, is that Willful Child was nothing like anything Erikson has written before, its hard to believe it was written by the same author. First of all, while it was not a simple book, it was a really easy book to get into and read. You don’t sit there  trying to piece together exactly whats going on in the  world, it’s laid out pretty clearly in the beginning. I was happy to be reading an Erikson book with a learning curve that wasn’t too steep.

Willful Child follows the exploits of the incorrigible Captain Hadrian Sawback and his ill-chosen crew aboard the A.S.F Willful Child on a mission to seek out and stop a smuggling operation in the Blarad System. It only takes you a handful of paragraphs before you realize this book is one giant Star Trek parody, and that is about where I first started laughing so hard I choked. Hadrian Sawback is quite possibly the best and worst starship captain I have ever read about. If the fact that he crewed his ship with a mix of incompetent family members and buxom women doesn’t give you that feeling right away, the suspicion you’ll probably get right away is that he most likely lied and cheated his way through officers school to get his ship probably will.

The best thing I think I can really say about this book is just how funny I found it to be, I laughed my entire read through it. First you have the sexist Captain Hadrian who probably picked his crew out of a modelling catalog. Then there is the ridiculous sounding, yet almost believable technology they use. Instead of using some sort of teleportation device they use the Insisteon, which doesn’t teleport you to another ship, but argues with the universe and insists that: no Captain Hadrian is not on his ship anymore, he is already on that ship, and the universe just needs to accept that fact.

I don’t think there is anyone I wouldn’t recommend this book to, whether or not they are a fan of the genre and author. The cleverly played humor and the well-written story is enough to make Willful Child more than enjoyable by anyone. If Erikson doesn’t make a sequel, I’m going to be more than disappointed, I’ve already checked several times to see if one has been mention yet.

Willful Child is scheduled to be published November 4th by Tor Books.

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Review, SJardine


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Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: War Cry : Review


 A war is raging between the vampire forces of the Red Court and the White Council — a war that the wizards are losing.

So desperate are the Council that they’ve dragooned the experienced and the outcast to reinforce their thinning ranks of Wardens.

One of these draftees is one Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only wizard-for-hire and a guy who’s long been looked upon with suspicion by the supernatural authorities.

Now, he’s one of them, and his first big mission as a Warden is a doozy: take a small team of greenhorns to a frigid town in the middle of nowhere to rescue a handful of mortals who’ve been targeted by the Red Court.

The question is, why exactly are these particular mortals so crucial to the outcome of the war?

The answer will come only if Harry can keep them, and his team, alive for one very long night.

This graphic novel collects the critically acclaimed, five-issue series in one volume, and features a bonus section with Jim Butcher’s original story outline, sketchbook artwork from  Carlos Gomez, cover gallery with roughs from Stjepan Sejic, and more!  

There is no denying my love of the Dresden Files, anyone I know can and will say that I am a fanboy at times. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what it is about the series or author I enjoy so much. I just know that when I pick up any book in the series I’m unable to put it down again until I finish it, not matter how many times I’ve read it before. So add my love of the series to my long time fascination with comic books and it might be possible to get a glimpse of the excitement I felt when I first received this graphic novel.

War Cry by Jim Butcher takes place several months after the events of Dead Beat and covers the events only briefly mentioned in Proven Guilt. In this Dresden Files graphic novel we find Harry Dresden leading a group of rookie Wardens consisting of “Wild Bill”  Meyers, Yoshimo, and Carlos Ramirez on an emergency mission from the White Council. The mission, in typical Dresden fashion, is pretty much a catastrophe from the get-go. When you take a group of power hungry vampires, a Lovecraftian monster, and a group of powerful but inexperienced wizards and mix them all together interesting things are bound to happen.

This story managed to capture my attention as much as any of the books ever has and did a great job of answering some questions that reading Proven Guilty had left me with. If anyone has ever wondered just who the Venatori Umbrorum were, or why the Wardens in the district under Harry’s command respect him so much, they will know by the end of War Cry. We also get a good look at how and why Wardens like Ramirez and Meyers have to mature so fast and take on responsibilities long before they would normally be trusted with them. It is not a good time to be a wizard or a warden of the White Council.

I found the art from the graphic novel to be simply fantastic, the illustrators did such a good job in capturing that almost gritty feeling of the Dresden Files. While I enjoy comics and graphic novels, I don’t usually like them when they are based off of books I enjoy. I usually have a well defined picture in my head of what the characters all look like, and I usually judge someone else’s depictions of them harshly, but they were almost identical to how I pictured them here. Not to mention the biggest thing this graphic novel has going for it: Harry isn’t wearing a hat on the cover! I can’t describe the sense of joy I felt at something so simple as seeing Harry on a cover without that stupid hat.

While I think everyone would benefit from reading the books in the series before they tackle any of the comics or graphic novels, I don’t think it’s strictly necessary for War Cry. You get enough of a background story to figure out just what is going on, why it’s happening, and the laws that govern the magical world in general.  I know for a fact I will be picking up the physical copy of this book to add to my collection the day it releases.

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: War Cry will be release by Dynamite Entertainment on November 11th.

I received a free copy of this publication for an honest review.

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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Review, SJardine


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The Last Mile by Tim Waggoner : Review


All Dan wanted was to be a good husband and father, to provide for his wife and daughter, to keep them fed, warm, and safe. But then the malevolent godlike beings called the Masters arrived, and their darkness spread across the world, reshaping it into a twisted realm of savagery and madness. In exchange for his family’s protection, Dan now serves one of these alien gods, obtaining human sacrifices to feed his Master’s eternal hunger.

Like so many people since the world changed, Alice has had to do unspeakable things to survive. Unfortunately for her, she’s Dan’s choice for his next sacrifice. Now Dan drives along the shattered remnants of an old-world highway, headed for his Master’s lair, Alice bound hand and foot in the backseat of his car. Dan may not like what he’s become, but he’ll do whatever it takes to protect his loved ones. Alice doesn’t intend to relinquish her life so easily, though, and she plans to escape, no matter the cost.

But in the World After, everything—animals, plants, even the land itself—has become a predator, and the journey to the Master’s lair is an almost guaranteed suicide run. But Dan won’t give up, and he won’t stop fighting. Not until he makes it through the Last Mile.

While this isn’t the type of story i normally read, (I tend to avoid end-of-time stories), but with The Last Mile Tim Waggoner has put an interesting twist on the genre. Instead of a devastating natural disaster, or something like a nuclear war triggering the end of civilization, we have the arrival of the Masters. In the World After nature itself seems to have turned on humanity, forcing those who have survived to live in hiding among the ruins of their once great cities, and allowing the Masters to subjugate them further. Dan is a man who has been branded as a thrall by one of the Masters, and in return for his service his family is given some semblance of safety and civilization. All that Dan has to do to keep his family safe is go out and bring back fresh sacrifices for his Master, the Last Mile is the story of one such trip.

Despite what I thought was an interesting plot concept for a dystopian world, I really didn’t enjoy this story all that much. The major focus of The Last Mile seems to be on the characters and not the plot or setting, and I really didn’t find the characters enjoyable at all. There was very little for me to sympathize with in Dan, I found his flash back scenes particularly difficult to get through, there was just too much gratuitous sexual violence. Alice was a little more enjoyable of a character for me, but not by much, some of her choices in the flash back scenes left me scratching my head.

Tim Waggoner has impressed me the few other books of his I have read, and his writing style in this is as good as I remember, but I just could not enjoy it. Maybe someone who enjoys scenes of gratuitous genital mutilation by way of masturbation with kitchen utensils may enjoy it, or someone who can understand remorse free cannibalism and murder. I am disappointed to say though that this story was definitely not for me.

Despite that, I am still looking forward to the rest of Dark Fuse’s releases for September, and I would suggest anyone who hasn’t done so should check out their novella line, or any of Tim Waggoner’s other books and stories.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Last Mile is set to be published on October 21st by Dark Fuse.

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Posted by on October 7, 2014 in Review


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Q&A with Mark Lawrence

Q&A with Mark Lawrence

In which I ask Mark Lawrence, author of the The Broken Empire, and The Red Queen’s War, questions regarding horse-sized mercenary ducks, his writing process, and the future of his writing.




1) Typically, I start off interviews with “Tell us something about yourself that we might not know,” but.. instead, I’m going to ask: “If you were a box of cereal, and a horse-sized mercenary duck wanted to eat you.. How would you convince it not to?”

M: Well I guess the easiest out is to note the word ‘mercenary’ and to assume as a sentient box of cereal I would have made millions on chat shows. So I would just pay the mercenary not to eat me. Simples.

2) Once you’ve finished The Red Queen’s War, will you be writing more in that world, or go for something new? What are your plans for the future?

M: I tend not to have plans for the next page, so having plans for a future so distant is not something I do. It’s not a particularly distant future as it happens, since I’m 95,000 words into the third book of the trilogy, so I should be finished before the year’s out.

At the moment I feel like I’ve spent enough time in the Broken Empire. But who knows what will happen when I look at a blank page. I could return to my weird gunslinger fantasy, Gunlaw, and rework that. I could try some literary fiction. I could do some dystopian YA fiction and make billions… it’s always an exciting time when you put one project to bed.

3) For new readers, would you recommend they start with The Broken Empire? Or can they jump right into The Red Queen’s War?

M:If they think they’d enjoy The Broken Empire trilogy then new readers should pick up Prince of Thorns. If the book looks too dark and violent for their tastes then perhaps Prince of Fools would be the place to start. It certainly has more laughs in it! It’s been reviewed by plenty of people who haven’t read the first trilogy and they all really liked it.

4) Are you more of a discovery writer, or an out-liner? What’s your writing process like?

M: Generally I just start typing without a plan. And that’s the whole of my writing process. For my 6th book – the last book of The Red Queen’s War trilogy I had a go at planning, just writing a rough outline of events. I’ve stuck to it, mostly. The experience hasn’t seemed so different. Most of the excitement for me is on a page by page basis so whether I have a plan or not I’m still surprising and entertaining myself as I write.

5) You’re probably one of the most active authors on social media. You constantly run giveaways and contests, and take the time to respond and engage with your readers. How do you balance the time between that, your personal life, and writing? Is it difficult?

M: I don’t find it difficult. It’s probably because as the sole carer for a very disabled child (my youngest daughter, 10), and having a day-job when she’s at school, and having writing to do at night … I really don’t have the opportunity for much of a personal life!

6) What are your thoughts on The Broken Empire Trilogy hypothetically being adapted for the big (or small) screen?

I’m all for it. I would enjoy the $$$ and it would be interesting to see what they did with it. There have been several approaches from significant figures in Hollywood but I’m told the boot-to-film game involves a lot of dancing around, false starts, and in most cases leads nowhere. Studios like to have a lot of options and keep lots of irons in the fire.

7) Who’s your favourite author?

For fantasy it would be a toss up between JRR Tolkien and GRR Martin – sorry to anyone hoping to discover a new author!

8) What are you currently reading?

The Name of the Wind

Thanks a bunch, Mark! 


Mark Lawrence’s newest novel, Prince of Fools, was released June 3rd.

18191460 POF UK

Check it out on:
Amazon [US], [CA], [UK]

Liar’s Key (Book 2 of The Red Queen’s War) is set to be released June of next year.

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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Interview, RLovatt


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Review: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe

From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd, surprising answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask. 

Millions of people visit each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have an enormous, dedicated following, as do his deeply researched answers to his fans’ strangest questions. The queries he receives range from merely odd to downright diabolical: 

 What if I took a swim in a spent nuclear fuel pool? 

Could you build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns? 

What if a Richter 15 earthquake hit New York City? 

What would happen if someone’s DNA vanished? 

In pursuit of answers, he cheerfully runs computer simulations, digs through declassified military research memos, consults with nuclear reactor operators, times scenes from Star Wars with a stopwatch, calls his mother, and Googles some really freaky-looking animals. His responses are comic gems, accurately and entertainingly explaining everything from your odds of meeting your soul mate to the many horrible ways you could die while building a periodic table out of all the actual elements. 

When Randall Munroe is your guide, science gets really weird really fast. Near-light-speed baseball pitches can level entire city blocks. A mole of moles can suffocate the planet in a blanket of meat. Yoda can use the Force to recharge his electric-model Smart Car. 

This book features the most popular answers from the xkcd’s What If? blog, but many of the questions (51 percent!) are new and answered here for the first time. What If? is an informative feast for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical. 

In addition to reading copious amounts of fiction, I’m quite a fan of non-fiction books as well – depending on the topic. Most of the non-fiction I read (actually, all the non-fiction I read) is science-related. Combine that with the fact that the only webcomic I read is XKCD, which is really the best thing on the Internet (besides a certain blog run by yours truly), and I was quite excited to find out that XKCD creator Randall Munroe was publishing a book.

XKCD’s What if? feature has been running for a couple of years now, and in that time it’s answered some truly odd questions. What If? is no different. It covers everything from global windstorms to Twitter to how well an arrow would fly in zero gravity. The answers are delightfully informative and, often, surprising. Munroe writes with his usual wit, making the articles as funny as they are knowledgeable.

I’d be the first to admit I’m not physics- or math-oriented at all, and a physics-major friend of mine can attest to that, but despite that I had no trouble understanding the science in What If?. It’s no more complex than what you’d get in a typical XKCD comic, making it accessible to readers of all types. As a former roboticist for NASA, Munroe knows his stuff, and it shows in the text; that he can make his explanations so understandable shows how well he understands what he’s talking about. His enthusiasm for all things scientific shines through in the writing to draw the reader in and hold their interest, making for a truly enjoyable read. Interspersed through the articles are sections entitled, “Weird and Worrying Questions from the What If? Inbox”, which covers exactly what you’d expect: the oddest questions he’s ever been asked, which he doesn’t answer but instead responds to with humorous asides. These provide a nice little break from the articles themselves to stop the reader getting bombarded with too much science at a time. Within the articles themselves are relevant, yet funny short comics drawn in the style of XKCD to add humour to the articles, further adding to the enjoyment.

What If? is a great read for anyone, scientifically-oriented or not, and will especially appeal to those who like odd, esoteric, or just plain crazy knowledge.

Overall rating: 5/5

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Posted by on September 30, 2014 in ARamone, Review


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