GUEST POST: Game of Thrones “The Wars to Come” Review

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As usual, the season premiere of Game of Thrones served primarily to set the table for the next 9 episodes and catch us up with much of the show’s gigantic cast of characters. That doesn’t mean the episode was without incident, though. A slit throat, political scheming, full frontal nudity, a man burned alive and some intriguing new character interactions were more than enough to whet viewers’ appetites alongside all the necessary exposition. Of course, this will contain spoilers so if you haven’t seen it yet it’s best to watch it asap (through platforms like Vudu or DirecTV) and then come back here for the recap.

Like much of the series so far, “The Wars to Come” focused on fan favorite Tyrion Lannister (brilliantly played by Peter Dinklage hot off his Emmy robbery last year), in exile from Westeros after murdering his father Tywin, and in the company of one of the series’ most mysterious and notorious schemers, Varys the Spider (Conleth Hill). As the pair of them recuperate in Pentos, Tyrion seems determined to drink himself into the grave, but Varys aims to convince Tyrion to use his talents in the service of one of the most prominent contenders for the throne: Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons.

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) could use the help, too. Unloved by the nobles of Meereen after sacking their city, freeing all its slaves and taking up residence in its Great Pyramid, the young queen has had to contend with civil unrest, political pressure to reopen the fighting pits, and a surprising inability to control her dragons, who she’s chained up in a large underground dungeon. Her largest dragon, Drogon, has not been seen for weeks since he roasted a farmer’s daughter in the countryside. If there’s two guys who possess the political and tactical savvy to help her out of this mess, it’s Tyrion and Varys.

Meanwhile, Daenerys’ rival for the throne Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is stationed at Castle Black following a spectacular battle in which his army showed up to support the Night’s Watch against 100,000 wildlings led by Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds). Stannis, who wishes to add the wildling forces to his own, offers Mance a choice: bend the knee and swear fealty or be burned alive. Mance, ever a man of principle, chooses the latter, despite the urging of Jon Snow (Kit Harrington). Jon’s respect for Mance runs deep enough that he kills him with an arrow in an act of mercy before the flames can consume him.

The premiere was also notable for who it didn’t show. Brandon Stark, who after a long and arduous journey arrived at a cavern under a weirwood tree and met a powerful wizard, will be nowhere to be seen this season, presumably because the show runners have reached the end of his book storyline, but also because the show needs to make room for the ever growing number of players on its already crowded stage. We haven’t even got to the kingdom of Dorne, where the royalty will be seething over last season’s brutal death of the much-loved prince Oberyn Martell. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), another fan favorite, is en route to the port city of Braavos. And of course there’s Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), the turncloak who betrayed his childhood friend Robb Stark to try to please his father, only to end up in the clutches of the depraved lunatic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon).

As usual, we can expect the unexpected. Game of Thrones excels at visceral and unpredictable storytelling, where we find ourselves rooting for scoundrels and detesting characters we previously loved. No matter what happens, we have an exciting 9 episodes ahead of us. Next Sunday can’t come quick enough.

Guest post by Maria Ramos.

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Maria Ramos will occasionally be joining us (once every month or so) to do a guest post. Many of her posts will be regarding various topics surrounding Game of Thrones.

If you enjoyed her post, please like/comment and make her feel welcome!

-Rebecca L


Update Regarding Hugo Nominations

For those of you who aren’t following Sasquan on Facebook, or aren’t on their mailing list, they announced earlier today that there have been two modifications made to the Hugo ballot, as two of the nominees were ineligible.

  1. In the Best Novelette category, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House) was originally published online in 2013 prior to its appearance in that collection.
    It has been replaced by “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014)
  2. In the Best Professional Artist category, Jon Eno was replaced by Kirk DouPonce. Eno didn’t publish any qualifying artwork in 2014.

The complete ballot with the incorporated changes:


Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots)

  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos (47North)
  • Skin Game by Jim Butcher (Roc Books)

Best Novella (1083 nominating ballots)

  • Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
  • “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, Nov 2014)
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Pale Realms of Shade” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “The Plural of Helen of Troy by John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)

Best Novelette (1031 nominating ballots)

  • “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, May 2014)
  • “Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner (Analog, Sept 2014)
  • “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014)
  • “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn (Analog, June 2014)
  • “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra (Analog, Jul/Aug 2014)

Best Short Story (1174 nominating ballots)

  • “Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet (The End is Now (Apocalypse Triptych Book 2), Broad Reach Publishing)
  • “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014)
  • “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “Totaled” by Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, July 2014)
  • “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)

Best Related Work (1150 nominating ballots)

  • “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
  • Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press)
  • Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts (Baen.com)
  • Wisdom from My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press)

Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots)

  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt (Marvel Comics)
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
  • Saga Volume 3 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
  • The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate by Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (1285 nominating ballots)

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
  • Edge of Tomorrow screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Interstellar screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
  • The Lego Movie written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO Systems A/S Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))

Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (938 nominating ballots)

  • Doctor Who: “Listen” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
  • The Flash: “Pilot” teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW) (Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”, written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC) (GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV)
  • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)

Best Editor (Short Form) (870 nominating ballots)

  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Vox Day
  • Mike Resnick
  • Edmund R. Schubert
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Best Editor (Long Form) (712 nominating ballots)

  • Vox Day
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Jim Minz
  • Anne Sowards
  • Toni Weisskopf

Best Professional Artist (753 nominating ballots)

  • Julie Dillon
  • Kirk DouPonce
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Alan Pollack
  • Carter Reid

Best Semiprozine (660 nominating ballots)

  • Abyss & Apex Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Burtsztynski
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
  • Strange Horizons Niall Harrison Editor-in-Chief

Best Fanzine (576 nominating ballots)

  • Black Gate, edited by John O’Neill
  • Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
  • Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Colin Harris, and Helen Montgomery
  • The Revenge of Hump Day edited by Tim Bolgeo
  • Tangent SF Online, edited by Dave Truesdale

Best Fancast (668 nominating ballots)

  • Adventures in SF Publishing Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
  • Dungeon Crawlers Radio Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • The Sci Phi Show Jason Rennie
  • Tea and Jeopardy Emma Newman and Peter Newman

Best Fan Writer (777 nominating ballots)

  • Dave Freer
  • Amanda S. Green
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Laura J. Mixon
  • Cedar Sanderson

Best Fan Artist (296 nominating ballots)

  • Ninni Aalto
  • Brad Foster
  • Elizabeth Leggett
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating ballots)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2013 or 2014, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

  • Wesley Chu*
  • Jason Cordova
  • Kary English*
  • Rolf Nelson
  • Eric S. Raymond

For more information on Sasquan and the Hugo Awards, go to: http://sasquan.org/hugo-awards/nominations/


Shadows For Silence In The Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson : Review

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When the familiar and seemingly safe turns lethal, therein danger lies. Amid a forest where the shades of the dead linger all around, every homesteader knows to follow the Simple Rules: “Don’t kindle flame, don’t shed the blood of another, don’t run at night. These things draw shades.”

Silence Montane has broken all three rules on more than one occasion. And to protect her family from a murderous gang with high bounties on  their heads, Silence will break every rule again, at the risk of becoming a shade herself.

I wasn’t sure what I would think of Shadows For Silence In The Forests Of Hell when I started reading it, I had heard a little too much about how short it was compared to the rest of Brandon’s stories. While I don’t think it was long enough to justify it being called a novella, the fact that it’s so slow is a testament to Brandon’s skill as a writer. He has taken a very short story and filled it with an impressive amount of character and detail without having the story feel weighted down.

 Silence Montane is a Forescout–those who were the first people to leave the Homeland to explore and settle a new continent. She has learned to survive in a world where the very trees around you seek your blood, and the shades of the dead seek to destroy you. The owner of one of the safest waystop in the Forest, Silence will do whatever it takes to protect her waystop and keep her family safe, even if it means breaking every rule of survival she has learned from birth.

Despite the lack of the interesting magic systems that have become the trademarks of a Brandon Sanderson story, Shadows For Silence In The Forests Of Hell is probably one of the best things I have read this year so far. I did not expect to read one of Brandon’s stories and be glad I left my bedroom light on while I did so, it is truly the creepiest story I have seen him write so far. Threnody may not be one of the more important Shard/Cosmere worlds, but I really hope Brandon chooses to revisit it some time in the near future.

While any fan of Brandon Sanderson would love this story as much as I do, I would really suggest anyone who has not read any of Brandon’s works read it as well. I would be shocked if they were not a die-hard fan by the end of the story.


Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Phantom of Menace, by Ian Doescher

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O Threepio, Threepio, Wherefore art thou, Threepio? 

Join us, good gentles, for a merry reimagining of Star Wars: Episode I as only Shakespeare could have written it. The entire saga starts here, with a thrilling tale featuring a disguised queen, a young hero, and two fearless knights facing a hidden, vengeful enemy. 

‘Tis a true Shakespearean drama, filled with sword fights, soliloquies, and doomed romance…all in glorious iambic pentameter and coupled with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations. Hold on to your midi-chlorians: The play’s the thing, wherein you’ll catch the rise of Anakin! 

We all know there are only three Star Wars movies, but luckily for us Ian Doescher continued his series of plays based off of them with this fourth book, The Phantom of Menace, which was a fantastic read all around.

Moreso than the other translations of the Star Wars movies, this book really expands upon the story, adding new implications, new dialogue, and new perspectives that change your perception of the film. Characters get new interpretations and different emphasis is placed on dialogue to change how the entire film appears to play out. These do much to add depth and tone to the film, in some ways bringing it more in line with the original trilogy and improving on the story overall.

The book had to tackle two main problems: the pod race – how to convey a rather long scene with almost no dialogue and not much way to convey action? – and Jar Jar Binks, considered the most hated animated character of all time. Both of them were handled exceptionally well. The pod race was handled differently from the regular battle scenes, which conveyed it better, in my opinion, allowing for a nice overall picture of how it went that we would not otherwise have gotten. Jar Jar’s character got completely turned around, making him likeable and competent (almost). We get the usual references to other Shakespearean plays and a nice, light-hearted scene poking fun at how different and comparatively old the original trilogy looks compared to the newer movies. Unfortunately, nobody says “Prithee”, but the rest of the dialogue is awesome enough to compensate for that.

I once again implore people to put on a performance of these plays for my entertainment, but until people do, this book is a wonderful read on its own.

Overall rating: 5/5


Interview with Larry Niven

I’ve conducted many interviews over the years of running this blog. Some have been with bigger authors than others, and with each of them I’ve had some feelings of nervousness. I tend to gripe about that to those around me in the hours preceding an interview. With this interview, be glad you weren’t anywhere near me in the days leading up to it.

It’s not so much that I am, or was, terrified of Larry Niven. He’s an absolutely sweet guy and a pleasure to chat with. No, the issue came with the 130 or so people who would be watching this interview. I don’t do public speaking… So, for those of you whom will be listening to the audio, I’d like to apologize in advance for how terribly awkward I was.

[For convenience LN = Larry Niven and RL = Rebecca Lovatt, and TD = Tom Doherty].

RL: I’m Rebecca Lovatt, a fantasy reviewer for the Arched Doorway. I am here with Larry Niven, who probably needs no introduction since you are here anyways.

LN: If you need an introduction, check your program book.

RL: Obviously everyone [here] knows who you are, so could you tell us a story about yourself that we don’t know?

LN: Give me a minute. Hmm. Yes I’ve got stories that you don’t know. I’m just trying to select.. Let me tell you a longish story, ok?

RL: Alright.

LN: There’s a movie out, or it came out a few years ago called Battlefield Earth. Many of you are nodding your head, you’ve all seen it. Here’s my story. I’m a judge for the Writers of the Future and Galaxy Press which are Scientologists and I get along with them mostly. It’s easy and they are doing good in the world. They are giving the first big breaks to a number of science fiction writers and other writers too. Anyone who has a pulpish mind could compete for these. 

The rewards are great, not just money, though there’s money… thanks to me. But publicity also. Ok, they made a movie called Battlefield Earth and they were ready to publicise it in their usual way, which was flamboyant and get it done. They invited several, perhaps all, of the judges of Writers of the Future, and they ran a red carpet up and down Hollywood Boulevard, up and across and back down, and put up stadia and invited a lot of fans to sit in the stadia and watch us walk the red carpet.

So that’s the first time that me and my wife Marilyn had done such a thing. It was fun. We go into Grauman’s Chinese which I had been familiar since I was a kid. Grauman’s Chinese now called something else; pavilion in the front, built in the grand style that was popular when movies were just coming on the scene. We collect free popcorn and soft drinks and look around. There are two more judges and their wives, that is Jerry Pournelle and Roberta Pournelle, and Tim Powers and Serena Powers.

We obviously all gather, we don’t see any other judges and we are waiting for the movie to start and Jerry says “What are we going to tell Joni?” Joni Labaqui is the publicity director for Galaxy Press–and for Battlefield Earth of course. There is no avoiding her because we are going to be crossing the street and have dinner in the building next door. The Galaxy Press building. Jerry says “cause the movies going to be awful” and we all nod our heads. There’s a ghastly silence and I said “I’m going to tell the exact truth” and Tim says ‘that’s horrible idea’, and tells an awful story about rejecting a bad story as a judge and then lying to the guy who had written it.

Now the movie comes on, and many of you have seen it, it’s wild, and Jerry’s position is that the guy who played the head villain was the only big name they actually had, because he’s a Scientologist, and nobody was willing to tell him when he was overacting. So you saw the movie, make your own judgement. The movie ends and we spill toward the restrooms. A young lady intercepted me and says she was Joni’s acolyte and how did I like the movie? And I said, “I came expecting to have a wonderful time and I did.”

We use the restrooms and we spill out into the lobby. I link up with Marilyn, we find Jerry and Roberta outdoors and Jerry says “did Joni’s acolyte get to you?” and I said “Yeah.” and I told him what I said and Jerry laughed. And then Tim and Serena appear, and Tim is distraught; he’s in great distress, Joni’s acolyte got to him and asked him how he liked the movie, and he said “it was the best thing since Shakespeare.” Or some such, he said “it was a wonderful work of art and bound to win an Oscar.” She said she wanted to videotape him. Jerry then says, “Niven is a master of diplomacy” and told Tim what I had said–came expecting to have a wonderful time and I did. That was that, until the next morning because we went to dinner but we didn’t run across Joni.

Joni Labaqui phones me at 10AM at my office at home and she says, “What did you think of the movie?” and I said that “I came expecting to have a wonderful time and I did.” and Joni laughs like a maniac and then she says “that is exactly what Tim Powers told me.” You’re never going to read this story because I don’t dare write it.

RL: Alright thank you for that.

So Ringworld, you returned back to that in 2009 with Ringworld’s children..

LN: Oh okay, I have trouble keeping track. 

RL: So what was it like returning back to that?

LN: Uhm, it went like this–Ringworld in 1970 I think, and then Ringworld Engineer is 10 years later, and then the Ringworld Throne 15 years later, and then Ringworld’s Children not very long after that. A few years, a couple of years, I don’t know. 

Ringworld and Ringworld Engineers… Robert Heinlein said they read like one long novel, which I thought was wonderful. Particularly since it had taken me so long to write the sequel.  This is David Gerrold style, if you guy’s have been following The War Against the Chtorr you probably got old doing it. That’s the way it was with the Ringworld series.

The Ringworld Throne… that’s when Barbara Hambley phoned me and said “I’m putting together an anthology of women vampire stories called Sisters of the Night, and two of my regulars bailed out. Would you give me a vampire story?” I said, “I don’t do vampire stories.”

She said Ringworld vampires from Ringworld Engineers and I started thinking and a whole novel involved, including a novella that was too big for her book so she had to publish a section of it.

Ringworld’s Children emerged from the internet, there’s a website that exists just to discuss my stuff, at least on the surface and they were arguing about ‘Could Seeker have had a child from Teela Brown?’. The answer to that one was no, but they had the wrong answer, you don’t get a story out of me unless you’ve got the wrong answer.

Lets see that’s the story of the Ringworld Sequence up until Ed Firman wanted to write stories that started with the Fleet of Worlds as described in Ringworld. Ed wrote five books essentially with me, but using my stuff and without much input from me in the way of text. The last one followed Ringworld’s Children. You’re up to speed on the Ringworld without those stories, you can read them for fun, they are good, but canonical they are not quite.

RL: Alright thank you, and I believe after almost every one you’ve said you will not be writing more in the series.

LN: That’s correct.

RL: Will you be writing more in the series?

LN: Just like I have been telling you for about 40 years now, I am not going to write more in the series.

RL: Any hints as to when we can look forward to you not writing more in the series?

LN: I have no ambition to write more about the Ringworld. I sent it out of sight, it’s out of reach of known space, and let’s leave it that way.

RL: Alright then, is there anything you are currently working on, or anything we can look forward to from you that’s not Ringworld related?

LN: Sure. You’ve seen the Dream Park series? There are four books in Dream Park and Steven Barnes is tired of them, my collaborator. Steven wanted to write a swords and sorcery novel and that sounded like fun. We set it in the Magic Goes Away series, in which history shows that magic grows less powerful as you approach the present. It’s called the Seascape Tattoo. Let me tell you about the Seascape Tattoo, we’ve got a character who resembles Conan the Sumerian and his name is Aros. Aros has got lot’s of scars, and some of those scars he’s had them tattooed. 

[Larry stood up and began pointing to different parts of his chest at this point. I’m also not sure on the spelling of the character’s name. Aros could be wrong.]

Your first sight of Aros is without a shirt, he’s got a seascape with ships down here, and a sun up here and maybe there are two suns because he got bitten by some spiders once upon a time and that left marks, and he got slashed with a sword. It’s easy to see he got slashed by a sword because that’s the horizon, and ships down here.

Sounds like a detail but we made a good use of the seascape tattoo, and there is some time travel involved and some magic. Aros is one of the main characters and the other is a wizard. They don’t get along too well at first. You’ll be seeing this in maybe a year, we want to fiddle with the ending. What else? You’ve seen Shipstar and The Bowl of Heaven, read The Bowl of Heaven first because this is a two-part novel. Steven, Jerry Pournelle and I are working on a novel. We’re just getting it started. This is set in the Legacy of Heorot universe, I guess this is a good time to apologise for that title, it is my fault.

Jerry and I were going to write a short story with intent to win a Nebula Award, and we chose a high falutin title that only an English student would recognise, and I regret we kept it. But it’s a good series, it’s among the best things I’ve done and we did it with Steven Barnes, and did a lot of lecturing. It was a crazy scene, Steve would appear with a block of text on his computer and Jerry and I would tear into it and rebuild it. And that’s an awful experience, except it’s also an education, and Steve took it as an education.

We did that with what is by now two novels plus a novella called the Secret of Blackship Island that is only on your computer. Plus the one we’ve just started which doesn’t have a name yet.

RL: Alright thank you, I know I for sure am looking forward to those, and I reckon there is probably one or two people in here who are as well. 

As you’re speaking of collaborators… What are some of the challenges that you face when you’re with new authors that you are collaborating with, or just in general when you are doing collaborative works?

LN: I do a lot of collaboration and I like it. But every collaboration is different from all the others. There are a few basic rules and I wrote about them once 20 or 30 years ago and they haven’t changed much. You don’t collaborate with a novice, and you don’t collaborate with someone you don’t trust to come through. You get that trust by talking about a collaboration until you are both sure. That is recreation, you are not doing work until you write text, you’ve got to think of it that way. 

You’re going to do about 80 percent of the work, collaborations are about 160 percent as much work as a solo flight, because of the interaction factor. You’re doing it to get a better book, if you think you can do it better alone you should write it alone. This has worked out for me throughout my entire career.

Including the first novel which was written totally for fun with David Gerrold, the Flying Sorcerer’s, with a title like that you know it’s not intended to be serious. We rebuilt the space program using balloons on another world, a world of two suns.

What was the question again?

RL: What are some of the challenges you face on collaborative works?

LN: Yeah, challenges with collaborators. It’s the communication thing. Let me tell you this, tell you a little long… Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett were within range of me, because they were publicizing Good Omens. A book I highly recommend, it’s wonderful. I have read it more than once, and that’s unusual.

Terry’s plane had been delayed by six hours, I took him home, I didn’t know what we were going to do there but it wound up we started talking collaboration, and we were going to write a book together involving a beanstalk. We had a lot of fun, but at the end of it were weren’t going to write it. Writing it with Terry Pratchett would have been a disaster, he writes so much faster than I do.

He would have run away from me and it would have been all Terry. That is the only challenge I can lay out as something you’ve got to face, if your pacing is different you’re in trouble. If your collaborator gets a stroke you’re in trouble. So you may have to face finishing it yourself, that’s not my story, that’s Arthur Clarke and Frederik Pohl. 

Frederik Pohl finished it for the title. His most recent Frederik Pohl and Arthur C. Clarke, but by then Clarke was not able to write anymore and what Frederick started with was a handful of notes. You’re taking a chance when you start a book of your own as well. You don’t know you’re capable of finishing it, you always could before if you’ve got a record. But your first one, god knows.

My first was a novella that appeared in Worlds Of Tomorrow magazine, and Fred Pohl took it down to Betty Ballantine and suggested it could become a novel. I didn’t know how to expand it into a novel, I didn’t know I could do that. It turned out I could, but it’s just under 60,000 words which is tiny by today’s standards. Writing is a risk, if you’re going to do it, don’t do a collaboration yet if you’re just starting.

Particularly don’t do it with someone who is just starting, because he doesn’t know and you don’t know and it’s a big risk.

RL: Alright, just keeping with that last bit do you have any other advice for people who may be looking to get into writing perhaps? 

LN: Ok. I ran across a woman at a convention party room and she said as follows. When we got into conversation she said ‘I’ve talked to some of the best writers in the field. I’ve talked to Anne McCaffrey, Gordy Dixon and several big names and they gave me advice on how to write and I still can’t seem to produce anything.’ 

And I said tell me a story, and she blocked. If you don’t have a story there is no point in getting good advice. What else could I tell you? There are mechanics you need to understand, and the truth is, I don’t anymore. My memory reaches back to when the tools of a writers trade included a reel of paper and the delusion that you were talented. I got that off a cartoon, but also you needed scissors and scotch tape. You’d use those instead of rewriting a whole page to fix one line. you need lines that were that much apart [he indicated with his fingers] so you’d have room for notes scribbled in. That was for your first draft and intermediate drafts.

Your final draft had to look neat, so you had to do it all over again. Everyone my age remembers whiteout, which is used to erase, and lots of people my age remember the selectric II typewriter, which would do your erasing for you. There were two ribbons, one was whiteout. You would type the whiteout letter over the one you wanted to remove, and it would be blocked, not gone. You could still tell it was there but you could fix it. And Jerry once reminded me that if you hit the wrong letter at the start of a sentence you would spend a few seconds trying to rewrite the sentence trying to start with that letter. I’m reminding some of you, and telling the rest of you that this was the way it was before computers. Computers are wonderful.

Advice for writers? Get yourselves a computer and understand computers. Harlan Ellison still writes with a typewriter but I don’t recommend this. In fact I don’t recommend trying to write like Harlan Ellison. It’s too difficult, and certainly never try to write like Ray Bradbury, it is too difficult.  Ray has ruined a lot of good writers.

RL: Thank you, and can you tell us about Niven’s Law? 

LN: Well, sure, why not? Niven’s Laws have changed over the years, but these are what I figured are basic truths. Not always though, one of the basic truths is to never let a waiter escape. A waiter hovering over your elbows while you’re in deep conversation is rude, don’t do that.  Remember that the waiter doesn’t have to come back, or doesn’t have to come back at your convenience.

But basics, Niven’s Laws One: A and B. Never throw shit at an armed man. Never stand next to somebody who’s throwing shit at an armed man. Most of you probably don’t remember the 1964 democratic national convention in Chicago. Outside there were people called Yippies and they were throwing shit in baggies at the policemen, forgetting that the uniform doesn’t matter if you go straight to the hind frame through the nose. It’s basic.

Lets see… I’m not remembering all of Niven’s Laws, but there is an important one and it’s wordy, sorry about that. Sorry about that, I always try to be as concise as I can, always. But there is no cause so truthful, so good, so clearly virtuous that you cannot find a fool following. Next time you liberals read some quote from Rush Limbaugh remember that there are  conservatives who are as bright as you are. You can always find a fool following a cause you want to denigrate.

Others… well there’s Fuzzy Pink’s Law, my wife’s law is never waste calories. whether you eat that hot fudge sundae is up to your doctor and your dietitian, but whether you eat a bad hot fudge sundae is a violation.

As for the rest of Niven’s Laws you can find them. There is a book called Niven’s Laws that was put out by one of the convention publishers.

RL: Alright thank you very much, and what would you say your proudest moment has been over the course of your writing career?

LN: I’ve been told that I am this year’s Grand Master for the Science Fiction Writers of America. I’m very proud of that, but I was very proud of my first Hugo Award for Neutron Star, and all subsequent Hugo Awards too. I think that stopped around 1975, I haven’t had a Hugo in a dog’s lifetime, in two dog’s lifetimes. But I’ve won other awards, but those I think were the most important. That first Hugo really nailed that for me, I was going to be a writer.

RL: I think by the time you’ve won a Hugo you probably already are a writer.

LN: Yeah, and you wouldn’t think I’d need verification, and you’d be probably right. Getting published was a very proud moment. A check for 25 bucks from Frederick Pohl for the Coldest Place, a story that was obsolete before it was published. Many or most of you know that story–the coldest place in the solar system was supposed to be the back side of Mercury because Mercury was supposed to be a one face world. Facing the sun with just one face as the Moon faces the Earth with just one face, and then some Russian scientist demonstrated that Mercury can’t keep an atmosphere it’s too small. It loses its atmosphere at all times, the difference is that Mercury is close enough to pick up more atmosphere, hydrogen atoms, protons from the solar wind at all times. So there will be an atmosphere to carry heat from the hot side. 

That was the problem till someone else demonstrated that Mercury rotates one and a half times per year so that there aren’t any spaces on Mercury that don’t see sunlight except at the poles.

So, obsolete.

RL: And I’m going to ask you a question that you probably aren’t going to like. Who is your favorite author?

LN: How many people do I want to insult? No I can’t name a favorite author. In particular I have this software problem, or character flaw, I can’t remember peoples names easily. So by the time a new writer has established himself I still haven’t memorized his name. I haven’t memorized his name until he is middle aged author. So I would be ignoring some really good writers. 

There is one called Stephenson? Snow Crash.

RL: Neal Stephenson 

LN: Yeah, I like him very much. Once upon a time, no writer really likes to name all writers he doesn’t like as much as this one. Arthur C. Clarke was in town and do for a party to be held at Jerry Pournelle’s that night, but that morning he was on a radio show and they asked him “who’s your favorite writer?” He said “Larry Niven”, and then he had to apologise to Jerry. In fact he felt called on to apologise to Jerry, who forgave him almost at once. 

RL: Thanks, and my apologies for that. So of all of your books, which one would you say was the most difficult one to write?

LN: That’s easy, there was Destiny’s Road. I had this neat idea for a spacecraft that leaves a colony, winding around to leave a lava surface as a road for future generations and disappears off into the distance and never comes back. 

Pick it up 200 years later with a kid growing up and write a man’s life story. A life story in fiction is likely to be until he is in his 30s or 40s, because you probably don’t want to carry on till his death. I didn’t at any rate, but I flinched from writing a man’s life story. Robert Heinlein did it all the time, I had never done it before.

I turned in Destiny’s Road four years after the contract lapsed, and occasionally it got mentioned by Bob Gleeson and Tom Doherty, but they never nagged me. I guess they had faith I’d come through, or else their business plans included a few failures. At any rate I’m extremely proud of Destiny’s Road, and there was a reviewer who said ‘Niven usually does fireworks. He doesn’t in this book, but without the fireworks going, by god the man could sing.’

As I say I’m proud of it. 

RL: That’s awesome, and you should be proud of it. It’s a good read.

LN: Thank you. 

RL: Which do you prefer, ebooks or paperback?

LN: Ebooks or paperback? Of course there are three choices, the third being hardback.

RL: I just meant physical copies…

LN: I don’t have a preference, I’ll sell it to you in any form. I like ebooks a lot more than the publishers do; the publishers are having trouble with their sales. I’ve talked with Tom Doherty on this and his take is that it’s ruining the field. It’s destroying the bookstores, people used to wander into bookstores because bookstores used to be right next to the bakery or something. 

And if they wandered in they would walk out with a book, they don’t do that anymore. They have to consciously want to buy a book and go looking for it, or something that will suit. That’s Tom’s take and I don’t say he’s wrong.

TD: I didn’t say that ebooks were ruining bookstores, what I said was they served a different need entirely. What they do — if you know what you want they are great. They are not great for discovery, there is too much out there. It’s like finding needles in haystacks, if you don’t know what you want. If you want your backlist, it’s great; you can look there and find it all. But for new authors it’s much harder, there is good stuff out there but there is an awful lot of bad stuff too. 

We get a lot of feedback on Tor.com and people are so disappointed by the last three books they bought, because they bought books from just a couple of lines. They weren’t edited, they weren’t polished, and the person didn’t have a particular talent. Now there’s very talented people out there too, but it’s very hard to take the time to tell the difference on the internet.

LN: If you heard that, good. If not, Tom will be around and he’s going to be on panels so you can get this elaborated. The one thing he said that is well-worth noticing… and what was it? Sorry guys it’s Saturday morning after a Friday night with a lot of music. 

My point however is… I work through my agent Eleanor Wood, who puts my lapsed stories from my backlist onto the internet, and I’m getting 85 percent royalties. I got 4 percent royalties from World of Ptavvs (my first novel), and I’m used to getting 8. It’s hard to fight that Tom.

TD: It’s hard to fight that if you’re Larry Niven, and people are looking for your stuff. 

LN: Yeah, that’s the point I wanted to make. Tom’s point is that if you’re a well-established writer everything is golden for you on the internet. If you are a novice, how are you going to get noticed? Your editor from a magazine isn’t going to run down the street to Betty Ballantine with a something that could become a novel. Betty is in another field now, and the bookstores keep closing, and the publishers need to notice you.

People complain about the editors these days, they aren’t doing as much work to produce a really good book out of something that is the high end of mediocre. They used to do that, well Bob Gleeson still does that, but they don’t all.

RL: Thank you, and I have to say it’s probably quite nice having the person you’re quoting in the audience to correct you as you quote them.

LN: Yeah, I was hoping that would happen.

[The second half of the interview was a Q&A with the audience. If you’d like to listen to that. It starts around the 38:30 mark.]

RL: Alright, thank you everyone for coming to listen, and thank you Mr. Niven!


Review: The Original Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition, by The Brothers Grimm & Jack Zipes

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When Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published their Children’s and Household Tales in 1812, followed by a second volume in 1815, they had no idea that such stories as “Rapunzel”, “Hansel and Gretel”, and “Cinderella” would become the most celebrated in the world. Yet few people today are familiar with the majority of the tales from the two early volumes, since in the next four decades the Grimms would publish six other editions, each extensively revised in content and style. For the very first time, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm makes available all 156 stories from the 1812 and 1815 editions. These narrative gems, newly translated and brought together in one beautiful book, are accompanied by sumptuous illustrations from award-winning artist Andrea Dezsö. 

From “The Frog King” to “The Golden Key,” wondrous worlds unfold – heroes and heroines are rewarded, weaker animals triumph over the strong, and simple bumpkins prove themselves not so simple after all. Esteemed fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes offers accessible translations that retain the spare description and engaging storytelling style of the originals. Indeed, this is what makes the tales from the 1812 and 1815 editions unique – they reflect diverse voices, rooted in oral traditions, that are absent from the Grimms’ later, more embellished collections of tales. Zipes’s introduction gives important historical context, and the book includes the Grimms’ prefaces and notes. 

A delight to read, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm presents these peerless stories to a whole new generation of readers. 

You might think this book is designed for fairy young children, but I’ll tale you, it’s got some Grimm stories in it.

First, a bit of backstory. History has seen a lot of changes in what is viewed as acceptable for children; once believed to be essentially miniature adults, kids were often exposed to the same tales adults were. As time marched on, kids were increasingly sheltered from the harsh realities of life, with people preferring to wait until children were older until introducing them to sex, violence, and death. Perhaps no medium shows this better than fairy tales and their adaptations. Early Disney films, like Snow WhiteCinderella, and Bambi, for all their light-hearted whimsy, were often quite dark. Later movies toned this down; throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s, Disney’s fairy tales became more light-hearted, with fewer darker elements. Newer movies have started to swing away from this trend, but ultimately are still viewed as movies for children first, with parental bonuses being inserted afterwards. Going in the other direction, a large sub-genre in fantasy is the fairy tale for adults: retellings of classic fairy tales intended for mature audiences, with in-depth plots, sex and violence, updated roles for female characters and subversions of classic and expected tropes. These often contain shout-outs to classic fairy tales and introduce themes that aren’t very child-friendly.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm didn’t see fairy tales as being simply for children – they were part of a nation’s heritage and an important literary treasure. For this reason, they made it their job to collect fairy tales from all over Germany and published them in two editions, one in 1812 and the other in 1815. The stories were presented exactly as they were received – the Grimms believed the language used in telling a story was just as important as the story itself. After these two volumes, the books were re-issued, with each new publication toning down some darker stories, deleting a few nasty ones, adding in some they had missed. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm is the first time the original editions have been published since 1815.

The stories in this book are, in a word, mature – sex, violence, death, and punishment grace the pages of every tale. There’s an equal number of evil mothers as there are evil step-mothers, and a good number of evil mothers-in-law. All the stories are variations of basic themes, reusing plot elements and set ups with only the details changed – common in oral stories that change with time. One or two stories are out-right slaughter-fests, with people killing each other being the entire point of the stories. The stories aren’t plotically correct by any means – Jews are obviously evil, beauty equals goodness, and morally corrupt people are ugly or black-skinned – but the shock this gives the reader is part of the delight of reading of the stories. Nevertheless, the stories are immensely relatable, speaking through the ages to give universal morals and relate eternal themes. The editor’s introduction provides a history of the Grimm’s life and work, and the Grimm brothers’ own introductions gives historical context to the stories and the attitude they had when setting out to collect the stories.

Immensely enjoyable and always relatable, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm has a place on every bookshelf.

Overall rating: 5/5


Knight’s Shadow (Greatcoats #2) by Sebastien de Castell : Review

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Tristia is a nation overcome by intrigue and corruption. The idealistic young King Paelis is dead and the Greatcoats – legendary travelling  magistrates who brought justice to the Kingdom – have been branded as traitors. But just before his head was impaled on a spike, the King swore each of his hundred and forty-four Greatcoats to a different mission.

 

When my co-blogger last year told me of a new author and series I might be interested in reading, I found myself intrigued by the story of Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell, then completely blown away by its execution. It had been awhile since I had found what I would consider an exciting adventure story that could keep me on the edge of my seat, and its shocking ending left my completely stunned. I was both eager and apprehensive for the release of the next book in the series, I honestly couldn’t see how it could even compare. I’m glad to say I worried over nothing, Knight’s Shadow was everything I had hoped for and more.

Knight’s Shadow takes place right where Traitor’s Blade left off, Falcio Val Mond has completed the last task given to him by his king, he has found his Charoites– and in doing so has thrown the kingdom into even greater upheaval than it was in before. Now a poisoned Falcio finds himself fighting to survive long enough to help his fellow Greatcoats Kest and Brasti protect their fallen kings daughter, long enough to see her safely on the throne.

A hard enough task on its own, but only made more difficult by the legendary Daishini assassins trying to kill them, or the nations Dukes who are determined to retain their power at all costs.

I don’t know if I can properly convey to people how much I loved this book, it took everything that made the first book in the series so great and just added to it. Sebastien de Castell has created a truly fantastic world and filled it with great characters and concepts. Falcio Val Mond, Kest, and Brasti have turned into three of my all time favorite characters. Despite everything they have gone through, they are still loyal–to each other, to the memory of their king, and to the very kingdom that now condemns them. They and the Greatcoats all seem to be pretty heavily inspired and influenced by the Three Musketeers.

Knight’s Shadow is the best book I have read this year so far and I’m not sure anything coming out this year can hope to top it! I think everyone who enjoys a good story of adventure should pick up their copies of Traitor’s Blade and Knight’s Shadow first chance they get!

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

 


Instinct (Chronicles of Nick #6) By Sherrilyn Kenyon : Review

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Zombies, demons, vampires, shapeshifters— another day in the life of Nick Gautier– and those are just his friends. But now that he’s accepted the demon that lives inside him, he must learn to control it and temper the very emotions that threaten the lives of everyone he cares for. Something that’s hard to do while trying to stay off the menus of those who want his head on a platter. And no one wants him more than the dark gods who created his race. Now that they know where he is, they will stop at nothing to reclaim him. And without knowing it, Nick has just embraced the one person he should never have trusted. The one person who will hand him over to his enemies to get back the life they lost.

Nick has finally accepted his fate, now he must learn to defy his destiny, and the dark, deadly forces that will stop at nothing to destroy everyone he loves so that they can again return to the world of man and own it.

Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon was one of my prize discoveries last year, and while every consecutive book in the series has been better than the last, Kenyon has really stepped up her game with Instinct. It turned out to be one of the best YA books I have read in a long time, placing itself up there with the likes of Riordan’s Percy Jackson, or Sanderson’s Reckoners series.

In the last year Nick Gautier has had to go through more than anyone has had to deal with. He’s fought of zombified high school football players, learned out to look deep into his future, and had to fight off hordes of ghosts and undead. That’s not to mention the demons and dark gods he has had to fight off or make deals with in the hopes of at least making it through high school. The only reason Nick Gautier has survived this long is because of the help his friends and allies have provided, and the protection of his Dark Hunter boss Kyrian. In Instinct Nick must stand on his own to save save the life of not only himself, but those of his friends and everyone else he holds dear.

Instinct was definitely the best book in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Chronicles of Nick so far. It has everything in it that I love about urban fantasy and YA in general. First and foremost it has a great story, the events of the last five books in the series have been building up to something big and I think Instinct is the beginning of the next major story arc. There is a great cast of characters and they make me love them enough I want to go out and start reading the Dark Hunter series just to read about them in their adult life.

The only complaint I have about the book–or any other book in the series really, is that it is way too short and ends on a huge cliff hanger. Just when I am really getting into the book or I am coming to some huge revelation about Nick or his world the book ends. Every damn time. Then I find myself waiting a full year just to find out what happens next, only to find myself left hanging at the end of another book.

The anticipation and the waiting is well worth it though, Kenyon hasn’t disappointed me with a book yet.

Instinct (Chronicles of Nick #6) By Sherrilyn Kenyon is scheduled to be published March 31st, 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin.

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


In Memory of Terry Pratchett

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It’s with a heavy heart that I announce Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series and co-author of The Long Earth series, has died. After being diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2007, he passed away this morning in his bed, surrounded by his family and with his cat next to him.

Terry Pratchett has had a long and immensely successful career. He got his start writing as a young man when he got a job for his village newspaper, where he published short stories for children; his first novel, The Carpet People, was published when he was seventeen. It was the Discworld series, however, that made him a household name. The first book, The Colour of Magic, was published in 1983, and was followed by forty-four other books in the series, with more than a dozen books connected to the series that weren’t directly in it, such as The World of PooWhere’s My Cow?, and the various Discworld diaries, bringing the total number of books to over sixty. Unconnected to Discworld, Terry Pratchett wrote several other books, all with his trademark wit and insight; DodgerA Blink of the ScreenNation, and a re-write of The Carpet People all came out while Discworld was still being published.

During his life, Terry Pratchett also collaborated with many people. With his friend Neil Gaiman, he wrote Good Omens; with Stephen Baxter, he wrote The Long Earth series; Stephen Briggs, who started out as a fan of the Discworld series, collaborated with Terry Pratchett on the Discworld diaries and various other books about Pratchett’s most famous creation. All are masterpieces in their own right, marked with his signature style, and have captivated readers just as strongly as his own fiction.

Terry Pratchett was knighted for services to literature in 2009. One of fantasy’s most beloved authors, he will be fondly remembered and sorely missed. Our hearts go out to his family and friends in this troubled time.

Donations to the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) in his memory can be made here: www.justgiving.com/Terry-Pratchett


Review: Alice in tumblr-Land and Other Fairy Tales for a New Generation, by Tim Manley

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Peter Pan finally has to grow up and get a job, or at least start paying rent. Cinderella swaps her glass slippers for Crocs. The Tortoise an the Hare Facebook stalk each other. Goldilocks goes gluten free. And Rapunzel gets a buzz cut. 

Here are more than one hundred fairy tales, illustrated and reimagined for today. Instead of fairy godmothers, there’s Siri. And rather than big bad wolves, there are creepy dudes on OkCupid. In our brave new world of social networking, YouTube, and texting, fairy tales can once again lead us to “happily ever after” – and have us laughing all the way. 

When I picked up this book for review, I figured there were two ways it could go: it could either be a clever, thoughtful update of the old fairy tales, cleverly integrating modern technology and mores to present their morals in a more relevant context that could be entertaining; or it could be a cheap cash grab with little effort put into it and no real insight into what it was discussing. I’ll save you some time – it was the latter.

Let’s start off with the book’s biggest problem, one that shows up before it’s even had the chance to bore us with its prose: the promise of “over one hundred fairy tales” – 146, to be precise. In reality, there are thirty-one fairy tales in the book – barely a fifth of that promised to us on the dust jacket. How can the publisher justify such a bald-faced lie? Each and every story is broken up into “chapters” of under a hundred words. By this logic, the Harry Potter books are 199 short stories about Harry’s life at Hogwarts fighting Voldemort.

(I hope my readers appreciate the fact that this book was so boring it drove me to do math. Math.)

At first, reading through the book, it looks like it will live up to its promise of over a hundred fairy tales – the “chapters” are presented one to a page, with an illustration either on the facing page or above it. When the reader turns the page, instead of finding the next chapter of the fairy tale, we instead find a completely different fairy tale chapter, and then another one, and another one, all entirely different; the twelve chapters that make up Alice in tumblr-Land each have several pages between them. This essentially ruins any sense of continuity that would otherwise have linked the chapters, and indeed for the first few chapters for each fairy tale, I didn’t even realise they made up one continuous story, and by the time I did I had forgotten so many details from the earlier chapters the later ones had little impact as a result. Not that there are many details to begin with in these fairy tales – most of them could conceivably be told in a Facebook status or tumblr post without being overly long or tedious to read (except for the fact that they’re all quite boring). I’m not sure what drove Manly to break up the stories like this, but it’s safe to say that if he was hoping to frustrate his readers, he succeeded.

Alice in tumblr-Land is classified as a humour book, so you would at least expect it to be amusing. Unfortunately, it isn’t. The “humour” apparently comes from the fact that the stories are told using slang and dropping the names of websites at random throughout the text. Using the phrase “This blows” to sum up a situation can have comedic value – if its use is meant to surprise the reader. If a smart, upstanding and erudite butler to a noble family were to say, after an entire book of speaking The Queen’s English, something along the lines of, “Master, if I may be so bold, my assessment of the situation is that it blows,” that would be funny, or at least vaguely amusing, because it’s subverting our expectations. Rhett’s classic “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” is one of the most famous lines in literature and movie history precisely because of this notion of shocking the audience. Having Gretel sum up her and Hansel’s situation by saying “This blows” fifty words after we’re introduced to the characters has no impact on the reader because no history has been established with these characters. Sure, we wouldn’t expect to hear the phrase in your standard fairy tale, but as it’s often told, Hansel and Gretel has almost no dialogue anyway – most of the classic fairy tales don’t. With no history for any of these characters, the phrase has about as much impact as if a typical fourteen-year-old said it. Similarly, name-dropping Chatroulette in a book isn’t funny, nor is mentioning Instagram, or filters. The Pinocchio chapters don’t even have these attempts at humour to bog them down; each one just has Pinocchio telling another lie, with the “joke” apparently being that, in the accompanying picture, his nose grows longer. (Really, it wasn’t even that big of a plot point in the original book – it came up maybe twice.) And when it grows longer, it breaks things! And this is apparently the whole joke.

Well, at the very least, do the stories offer any insight into the tales on which they’re based? Well, no, not at all. The stories of Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood might as well have been about characters named Jenn and Amanda for all the relation they had to folklore. Robin Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and the story of King Arthur are so far removed from their mythologies that almost no connections can be drawn between them. The Three Billy Goats Gruff seems to think that featuring three goats is enough to say the story was based off of them. Some stories stay truer to their origins, but it doesn’t add much to their quality. The Peter Pan stories still deal with the trials of a kid who doesn’t want to grow up; and in the end, just like in the original book, Peter learns to accept that growing up is inevitable and enters the adult world – so, really, nothing was gained from this that couldn’t be gotten from the original, unless you really, really wanted to hear about Peter’s blog. One or two stories go in a different direction from the source material; instead of Mulan being a girl who pretends to be a boy to serve in the army and protect her father, Mulan is transgender and comes to embrace his new identity as Ping – though very quickly; the story doesn’t even come close to presenting the difficulties transgender people face coming to terms with themselves and living their lives as they really are. Yet other stories take a character trait from their title characters and waters that trait down to make it less interesting. Chicken Little becomes a story about a chick suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder, a serious psychological condition that requires years of medication and behaviour therapy to cure, and yet is never dealt with – on the contrary, it appears to be a source of humour, despite being a truly difficult disorder to live with that can have damaging and lasting effects on a person’s life. Sleeping Beauty is no longer in an enchanted sleep because she pricked herself with a spindle; instead, that’s something that was dealt with off-screen in her past. In the book, she appears to suffer Major Depressive Disorder, a serious mental disorder affecting a full third of the population and yet which faces so much stigma from a society that equates it with general sadness that many people don’t get treated for it. Instead of ignoring it and milking it for jokes like Chicken Little does, the book has Sleeping Beauty deal with and overcome her depression with almost insulting ease – a few YouTube videos of people expressing their deep feelings through song, a heart-felt talk with a friend that makes her realise the true source of her sadness, and suddenly she’s well on the path to recovery. If only real life were so convenient.

Well, at the very least, do the stories make us realise anything about the modern condition and the way we interact with technology? I think the answer to that should be clear by now. At no point are we really forced to confront how we conceive of and use modern technology; it more just mentions it in passing like we would casually mention having a Facebook discussion with a friend. Nor are we forced to confront the morals of the original fairy tales, and nothing said about them inspires us to view them in a new light. This book is a literary non-entity, leaving as much of an impression on me as Under the Skin did; despite finishing it yesterday, I had to look up story elements today for the review. The stories slid out of my mind almost as soon as they entered, and from page one I found my eyes straying back to the first lines of stories I had already read, reading and rereading them three or four times each in a futile effort to stop them from running through my hands like water. To borrow an expression from my late grandmother, these stories go in and out like a fart in a colander, and nothing can make them stick. Perhaps the book’s one high point is that it’s easy to finish; you can read it in an afternoon and as such have it done well within your local bookstore’s return period. You can buy it, read it, then give it back for a full refund and spend your time and money on more worthwhile books, like a collection of Grimm and Anderson’s fairy tales, which, despite their age, are far more applicable to modern life than the thirty-one stories collected here.

Overall rating: 1/5


Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf by R.A. Salvatore : Review

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Bloody war rages across the Forgotten Realms world in the third book of the Companions Codex, the latest series in R.A. Salvatore’s New York Times best-selling saga of dark elf  Drizzt Do’Urden.

In the evolving world of the Forgotten Realms setting, the Sundering has given way to months of cloud-cloaked darkness, and war rages under that oppressive sky. The orcs have  broken a hard-fought treaty that’s held, however tentatively, for a hundred years, and the time to settle old scores has devolved into an all-out brawl for control of the ancient realms of the North.

Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf is the third book in R.A. Salvatore’s Companions Codex and the twenty seventh book featuring the Drow Ranger Drizzt Do’urden. Like with every other book in the Legend of Drizzt I found myself counting down the days till the next installment, and I have to say that Vengeance of the iron Dwarf did not disappoint in the least. Personally I found it to be the best book in the series by at least a decade. It has everything in it that I think makes the Forgotten Realms book so much fun to read.

Vengeance takes up right where Rise of the King leaves off, the Treaty of Garumn’s Gorge has been broken and the orcs are once more waging a proxy war against the people of the Silver Marches. With the orcs destroying or besieging all  of the dwarven kingdoms, it’s up to the Companions to try and free them to give the Silver Marches a fighting chance. But with Regis and Wulfgar trapped in the upper levels of the Underdark, and the rest of companions trapped in Mithril Hall will they be able to do it?

Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf has everything in it that I have come to love about the Legends of Drizzt. Salvatore has always put a great deal of thought and detail into the massive battles and one on one duels that fill the pages of the series, and with Vengeance has taken it to that next level. The Companions are amazing as always with each of them growing in ways I’d have never expected back in the early days of Drizzt Do’Urden. Cattiebrie and Regis stood out in this book the most to me, with Cattiebrie really coming into her own as a powerful mage, and with Regis coming to his friends rescue in miraculous ways instead of the other way around.

The only thing I was really disappointed in with this book was Drizzt himself, he just doesn’t seem to be the self doubting, moralistic drow I have grown to love. It is my hope that time among his friends outside of war will return him to the person he once was!

I think anyone who is a fan of the Forgotten Realms books will enjoy reading these books, as like all the other Drizzt books I think they are going to have repercussions that echo across the entire series. I would only suggest that anyone who has not read any other books in the series start from the very beginning, otherwise they are guaranteed to be confused in every possible way.

 Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf is scheduled to be published March 3, 2015 by Wizards of the Coast.

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


Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs : Review

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For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way…

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

Dead Heat is a good example of why I love Patricia Briggs as much as I do, to me its the perfect example of what paranormal romance should be. It is by far my favorite book in the Alpha and Omega series so far, and one of the best book set in the Mercyverse to date. Patricia Briggs has proven herself to be a master of taking the classic trappings and tropes of urban fantasy and paranormal romance and turning them into something uniquely her own. I would put the world she has created with her Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series right up there with that of Jim Butcher.

When Charles decides its time for his wife Anna to have a horse of her own, they take a trip to Arizona for her birthday to buy one from the herds of his oldest friend. It doesn’t take long for their pleasure trip to turn into one of business when the family of a local werewolf is attacked be someone who stinks of Fae magic. Charles and Anna will have to help protect the children of a small Arizona town while attempting to figure out if this is the act of a single rebel Fae, or the beginnings of a war.

I found this to be the most interesting book about Anna and Charles so far, as it gives us a good look into the personal history of Charles, something that has only been hinted at in the previous books in the series. It’s a little saddening when you realize the sacrifices Charles and all of the werewolves have to make for bearing their curse. They get to watch almost everyone they know grow old and frail before their eyes. Dead Heat shows us just what that means for a werewolf and how it affects their lives.

It will be interesting to see how the events of this book play out across the rest of the series and the Mercy Thompson books, the Fae can be a terrifying people when they want to be.

Patricia Briggs writing is excellent as always, with Dead Heat she has created an amazing story and an interesting mystery for us to try and solve alongside Charles and Anna. She also gives us an interesting look into werewolf politics outside those of the Marrock or Adam’s pack, as well as the introduction of several new characters who I hope to see again in the future. The only thing I didn’t really enjoy was the the strong emphasis on horses, they aren’t something I particularly care much about, and a large portion of the book was dedicated to them.

Overall I would suggest this book to anyone who reads paranormal romance or urban fantasy, though I would strongly suggest that everyone reads the books in order.  It should also be kept in mind that you get a better understanding of whats going on in the world if you read both the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series.

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

Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs is set to be published March 3rd 2015 by Ace.


Empty Rooms By Jeffrey J. Mariotte

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Richie Krebbs is an ex-cop, a walking encyclopedia of crime and criminals who chafes at bureaucracy. Frank Robey quit the FBI and joined the Detroit PD, obsessed with the case of a missing child and unwilling to leave the city before she was found. When Richie unearths a possible clue in one of Detroit’s many abandoned homes, it puts him on a collision course with Frank-and with depths of depravity that neither man could have imagined.

I have to give this book Five Stars…..because any book that’s not in my usual genre, is fraught with trigger issues for me, and still makes me devour it in big, gulping chunks must be a helluva book.

I’m a mother and a teacher, so I have huge issues with child molesters and books that deal with child molesters. Forget vampires and werewolves and other things that go bump in the night — any more, it’s the depravity people show towards the most innocent of us that gets me screaming in the night.  However, when Jeffrey Mariotte offered up an ARC of this book to me, I decided to go ahead and read it for him for review.  Since this is a trigger issue for me, I checked how many chapters there were and decided to read about 8 chapters a day.  It would take me about a week to read it that way, but it would also give me time to find a “happy” book to balance out the intensity.

Night One, I made it through the 8 chapters with no problem.  Still getting the story set up and getting to know the characters.  Missed the next night because of Life, so the following night, I decided to double up, so I wouldn’t mess up the Schedule.  Stopped at an intense part and was tempted to go on, but…. no, Must.  Stick.  To.  The.  Schedule.  Missed the following night (again, Life!), so the next day, determined to only read 16 chapters, I ended up reading…. 32, thus finishing the book.  So much for the Almighty Schedule.

So, what made me devour the book?  It has all the elements of a thriller that I love–suspense, elements that come together in ways that you don’t expect, characters with issues themselves and how they work through them.  It’s an intense novel, tautly written.  Bad things happen, but there’s always a thread of redemption woven through.

The child molestation aspect of this story is handled with sensitivity–no gratuitous depictions, although there is no doubt in your mind what probably goes on.  I also like how Detroit becomes as much a character as Richie or Frank.  Detroit may be in its death throes, but I can’t help but hope that like the legendary phoenix, it, too, will rise from it’s ashes better than it was before (and I learned something new….who knew that there were actual salt mines under the city?  Really, there are!)

Frank Robey and Richie “Maynard” Krebbs work well together.  Frank is a more “old school” detective, who doesn’t get along with his partner (I’d love to see more of that dynamic), and Richie is a former Detroit PD officer who is more interested in the psychology of the criminal mind.  Also in the mix are Richie’s wife, Wendy and Frank’s girlfriend, Marcia.  Both women are frustrated by their men, but recognize that their obsession with this case (more intellectually for Richie, and more personally for Frank–at least at first), is part of who they are.

Upshot of this:  if Jeffrey Mariotte writes another “Robey and Krebbs Casefiles,” you can be sure I’ll be first in line to get my copy.  Yeah, it’s good enough to make me jump genres and dwell in the dark shadows of the human psyche.


Half the World by Joe Abercrombie : Review

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Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.
Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.
Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.
She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh
lessons of blood and deceit.
Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.
Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.
And weapons are made for one purpose.
Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

Half the World is the second book in Joe Abercrombies new Shattered Sea fantasy series. Set three years after the events of the first book in the series, Half the World follows two new characters as they struggle to survive the harsh lifestyle and political turmoil of the kingdom of Gettland.

Thorn Bathu wants nothing more than to be the greatest warrior Gettland has ever seen while avenging the death of her father. But being a warrior is not an easy thing to do on along the Shattered Sea when you are a girl. Brand is as strong as two men and is almost as good as Thorn with a sword, but he does not believe steel is always the answer, and has what the warrior see as the unmanly habit of seeking peace.

A tragic accident during Thorn’s final training session before she stands before her king and takes the warriors oath finds Thorn labeled a murderer and jailed to await execution by those who trained her. When Brand goes to Father Yarvi to tell him the true version of the events that lead to Thorns imprisonment he to finds himself unjustly accused by his trainers an denied his place as a warrior. Thorn and Brand soon find themselves thrown together as they follow Father Yarvi across half the world in search of redemption for themselves, and possible salvation for the Gettland and its people.

I enjoyed this story much more than I did the first book in the series, and I think the reason for that is the characters. In Half a King I found Yarvi and his group of misfits to be a rather unlikable lot, and struggled to really finish the story. That is not the case for Half the World, I loved the characters of Thorn and Brand and found their slowly budding friendship to be the backbone of the entire story.

The only thing I wish we had seen more of was the magic that exists in the world. In Half a King we get a glimpse of the elven ruins, but learn very little of where they came from or what their purpose was. While Half the World does a good job of keeping up this tradition, it does at least introduce us to the artifacts and the brutal blood magic that can be learned from there. I honestly found myself a bit queasy after the first scene in which the magic was introduced.

This is definitely a book you want to read if your a fan of Joe Abercrombie, or of coming of age stories, or if your just a fan of a really good fantasy story. I made the mistake again of starting my read when I had to work early the next morning, and found myself going to work with no sleep at all. It was well worth it.

This book was provided to me free for an honest review.

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie is set to be released on Feb 17 2015 by Del Rey.

 


Review: Mrs. Bradshaw’s Handbook to Travelling Upon the Ankh-Morpork & Sto Plains Hygienic Railway, by Terry Pratchett

Fully Illustrated and replete with useful tidbits 

Mrs. Bradshaw’s Handbook offers a view of the Sto Plains like no other 

Authorized by Mr. Lipwig of the Ankh-Morpork & Sto Plains Hygienic Railway himself, Mrs. Georgina Bradshaw’s invaluable guide to the destinations and diversions of the railway deserves a place in the luggage of any traveller, or indeed armchair traveller, upon the Disc. 

From the twine walk of Great Slack to the souks of Zemphis: edifying sights along the route 

Tickering, nostrums and transporting your swamp dragon: essential hints on the practicalities of travel 

Elegant resorts and quaint inns: respectable and sanitary lodgings for all species and heights 

Terry Pratchett has published three small handbooks like this – The World of Poo came first, followed by Dodger’s Guide to London – that built on previous books and were educational as well as entertaining. The World of Poo explored the history of indoor toilets while telling a story; Dodger’s Guide to London gave fascinating tidbits on the odd and sordid history of England’s most famous city. Mrs. Bradshaw’s Handbook takes more after Dodger’s Guide to London, with each two-page spread being on a different topic. It’s a travelogue for the area around Ankh-Morpork, less than 150 pages, and makes for very nice light reading.

Pratchett was a boy growing up when steam power was being replaced and England’s iconic steam trains began disappearing, and a certain nostalgia for steam is apparent in his writing. The most recent Discworld novel, Raising Steam, is all about steam power coming to the Disc and the transformation the world underwent as a result. Mrs. Bradshaw’s Handbook is almost an extension of Raising Steam, showing us things that the full novel wasn’t able to. In addition, the handbook fleshes out the Disc in new ways, giving us maps, showing where the various city-states of the Sto Plains sit in relation to each other, and exploring the history of the region. The book is filled with as much wit and humour as any other Discworld book, and has a few in-jokes to delight long-time readers. In a nice spin on how things normally are, Mrs. Bradshaw is an old widow who truly loves the new steam technology, instead of turning her nose up at it and wishing for things the way they were.

I can guess what most of you are thinking. “But ARamone,” you say, “it’s just a travelogue for a fictional place – who would enjoy reading it?” In truth, I think every Discworld fan would enjoy reading it. It helps us orient ourselves in the vast geography of the Discworld. It made me want to travel on the Ankh-Morpork railway and see the sights described. The amount of thought and detail put into the book is truly impressive and speaks to Pratchett’s talent as a writer and world-builder. The simple power of Mrs. Bradshaw’s Handbook is how real it makes the Disc, like we could reach out and touch it, and how it does it just as effectively as the novels with so much less space to do it in. Mrs. Bradshaw’s Handbook has a spot on the shelf of every Discworld lover.

Overall rating: 5/5


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