Sunday, December 30, 2012

Looking Back at 2012

As 2012 draws to a close it’s time to look back and ponder the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything or at the very least the books I’ve read. 2012 was a very slow year for me. Reading 122 books in 2011 induced a severe case of reading burn-out which I just couldn’t seem to shake no matter how hard I tried. With all the great science fiction books released this year my TBR-pile kept growing while I was frantically trying to take things one page at a time. A battle I simply couldn’t win.

I only managed to read 41 books this year which came as quite a shock since I initially planned to try to beat my 2011 total. One good thing that came out of my burn-out is that I discovered a newfound love for short stories. Before this I never read much short fiction, choosing to stick to those epic tomes you need to lug around in a cart. The short stories were a breath of fresh air which got me through those tough times when I didn’t feel like reading anything. Surprisingly enough I ended up reading a total of 133 short stories/novellas. I’ll definitely be making some time for more short fiction in 2013, dynamite comes in small packages and some of the stories packed quite a wallop.

Top reads of 2012


Since I didn’t get to many of the big releases of 2012 it would be a bit counterproductive to try to compile a ‘best of 2012’ list, but I do want to highlight 2 novels I’d pick as my top reads of the year.



A superbly written, optimistic view of humanity’s future in space. The novel is brimful of stunning ideas and believable near-future technology that kept me engrossed to the very last page.



A completely engrossing read that just brought the characters and their environment to vivid life. I just couldn’t get enough.

***

I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all the publishers - Jonathan Ball, Pan Macmillan South Africa and Penguin Books South Africa for their encouragement and continued support.

I didn’t read as much as I wanted to, I neglected the blog far too much and I didn’t catch up on the series I intended to, but overall 2012 was a pretty good year. Pretty darn good.

Happy New Year! I hope that 2013 will be filled with tons of books, but more importantly, that you will have enough time to read them all.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Apocalypse Averted eBook Giveaway

Since the Mayan apocalypse didn't happen as predicted the kind folks at Night Shade Books are giving away 3 apocalyptic themed ebooks. The titles included are:


Osiris by E.J. Swift


Seed by Rob Ziegler


Wastelands edited by John Joseph Adams

Here's how to get them:

Email StillHere@nightshadebooks.com and you'll receive an auto response from us with a username, password and link to our download site where you'll be able to download the .epub or .mobi files of some of our most exciting and appropriately apocalyptic titles.

You are automatically added to their mailing list, but you can unsubscribe at any time should you wish to do so.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cover Reveal: Earth Afire

The cover and synopsis for Earth Afire, the second novel in the First Formic War series, co-authored by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston has been revealed. I was completely drawn in by Earth Unaware (reviewed here) and can't wait for this one to be released.

WARNING: If you haven't read Earth Unaware yet, you might want to skip the synopsis below since it contains some spoilers.



EARTH AFIRE
Release date - June 2013
ISBN: 9780765329059
Pre-order from The Book Depository

100 years before Ender's Game, the aliens arrived on Earth with fire and death. This is the story of the First Formic War.

Victor Delgado beat the alien ship to Earth, but just barely. Not soon enough to convince skeptical governments that there was a threat. They didn’t believe that until space stations and ships and colonies went up in sudden flame.

And when that happened, only Mazer Rackham and the Mobile Operations Police could move fast enough to meet the threat.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

3 Free Fantasy eBooks from Night Shade Books

To celebrate thanksgiving the folks at Night Shade Books are giving away 3 of their most popular ebooks.


 The titles included are:

Agatha H and the Airship City by Phil and Kaja Foglio
Of Blood and Honey by Stin Leicht
The Emperors Knife by Mazarkis williams

Here's how to get them:
Email happythanksgiving@nightshadebooks.com and you'll receive an auto response from us with a username, password and link to our download site where you'll be able to download the .epub or .mobi files

You are automatically added to their mailing list, but you can unsubscribe at any time should you wish to do so.

Monday, November 19, 2012

New Arrivals

It's been ages since I did one of these, but that's an unintended result of cutting back on book purchases. I must say I'm weirdly proud of myself for lasting this long. I think I've only bought about half the number of books I did last year. A small triumph in that eternal battle against the TBR-pile.

Books Bought


My pre-order of The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks finally arrived. I loved The Black Prism, so I'm really looking forward to delving into the second installment in the series.

I also managed to set foot in an actual brick-and-mortar bookshop, which was quite an experience for a geographically disadvantaged lad like me. My closest bookshop is almost 260 kilometers away so I have to depend on online purchases for all my bookish needs. I couldn't leave without at least buying a couple of books so I got October Skies by Alex Scarrow and The Night Eternal by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

If the shop was better organised and I had a bit more time I would've left with loads more, but I guess I'll have to count it as blessing that I was pressed for time and that finding anything appealing was a bit of a chore.


For Review


The awesome folks at Jonathan Ball Publishers sent me The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King, Trinity Rising by Elspeth Cooper and City of Dragons by Robin Hobb to review.

I'll first have to get the earlier novels in the Rain Wild Chronicles and The Wild Hunt series before I can get to these, but I'm definitely putting The Wind Through the Keyhole next on my reading list. Thanks Andrea!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cover Reveal: The Shoal Trilogy Reissued

TOR UK has revealed the revamped covers for the reissue editions of Gary Gibson's Shoal Trilogy and they are amazing. I like these far more than the old covers (which are still waiting patiently on my TBR-pile). Had I known these were in the pipeline I would've waited a bit longer to buy them.


STEALING LIGHT
Release date - May 2013
ISBN: 9781447224099
Pre-order from The Book Depository

The secrets of the past will fan the flames of war ...

For a hundred and fifty thousand years, the alien Shoal have been hiding a terrible secret behind a façade of power. In the twenty-fifth century, they dominate the galaxy and control all trade and exploration, possessing the secret of faster-than-light travel. Mankind has established just a handful of interstellar colonies; their freedom and knowledge of the galaxy limited by the Shoal’s punitive colonial charter.

Dakota Merrick is a machine-head pilot on the run from one of the Consortium’s most powerful criminals. Desperate for escape, she contracts to ferry an expert team to a remote star system. Her passengers hope to scavenge a functioning FTL-drive from a derelict starship – rumoured to pre-date the Shoal. But they’ll expose an ancient genocide the Shoal will do anything to hide. And Dakota will be forced to face demons from her own military past.


NOVA WAR
Release date - May 2013
ISBN: 9781447224105
Pre-order from The Book Depository

One woman and a terrifying secret stand between us and destruction ...

Found adrift far from Consortium space, pilot Dakota Merrick and Lucas Corso are taken prisoner by the alien Bandati. There, Dakota discovers that humanity’s knowledge of the galaxy is frighteningly inaccurate. The Shoal has apparently been fighting a frontier war with a rival species, the Emissaries, for thousands of years. As yet, the latter seem unaware of their FTL technology’s full destructive capabilities. But the Bandati now have this information, and they will use it for profit.


Dakota realises, to her shock, that the Shoal may therefore hold the Galaxy’s best chance for peace. Forging an alliance with Trader, a Shoal-member, she’s determined to prevent the Bandati’s deadly knowledge from reaching the Emissaries. Yet despite her efforts, a nova war now seems inevitable – a war that will destroy millions of inhabited worlds.



EMPIRE OF LIGHT
Release date - May 2013
ISBN: 9781447224112
Pre-order from The Book Depository

One man has the skills to rally their cause – if he can stay alive ...

The nova war spreads across the galaxy, as the Emissaries wage a fierce and reckless campaign. They’ve already reached human-occupied space and forced the alien Shoal into a desperate retreat. And when Dakota leaves to pursue a lead, Corso’s luck turns bad. Now commanding a fleet of human-piloted Magi ships, his authority crumbles before assassination attempts and politically motivated sabotage. Their best hope lies with Ty Whitecloud, currently light-years beyond Consortium borders. Only Ty can decipher messages left behind by ancient star travellers – which could be crucial to their cause.

But Whitecloud is imprisoned onboard a dying coreship, awaiting execution for war crimes against Corso’s own people. For humanity’s very survival, Corso must get to Whitecloud and keep him alive … if Dakota doesn’t kill him first.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

24 Hours of Offers

I'm back! Hopefully.

You see, I've been on a forced hiatus due to technical issues. My internet connection decided it wanted to compete with a piece of string to see which one could provide the highest bandwidth - the piece of string won.

After weeks of teeth gnashing, banging my head against a wall and sacrificing to the technological gods, the ADSL line finally got fixed. Unfortunately my woes continue since my ISP decided to move to a new backhaul provider and saying they are having some teething problems would be a very, very kind way of putting it.

Now if your eyes haven't glazed over yet, here's some exciting news.



The Book Depository is holding another '24 hours of offers' sale on Thursday, 8th November from 12:00 GMT. Each hour will see a new book being put on offer. You might be able to get great deals on some early Christmas shopping, so be sure not to miss out.

You can find more details over here.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Three Greats of British Science Fiction

I'm in a bit of a reading rut (again!) so I've been focusing on some other things. I'm hoping that as the weather changes I'll be able to get back to reading again. There are some great science fiction books being released in the coming months, so I definitely have to get myself back on track as soon as possible.

Google Play recently hosted a Google hangout with three of the bestselling British science fiction authors, Iain M. Banks, Alastair Reynolds, and Peter F. Hamilton - all authors I'm a huge fan of. If you missed the live hangout there's now a video available on Youtube.



It was interesting to see these huge names in science fiction and how they interact with each other and fans. Their views on the genre and writing in general were also very interesting. Be sure to check it out if you've got an hour to spare. Definitely worth it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cover Reveal: The David Brin Makeover

Orbit has just revealed the cover for the paperback version of David Brin's Existence as well as the amazing revamped covers for some of his backlist.


EXISTENCE
Release date - 1st November 2012.
ISBN: 9780356501734
Pre-order from The Book Depository

We’ve always wanted to know our destiny. But when the end seems in sight, how will the world react?

An alien artefact plucked from Earth’s orbit throws the world into chaos with both warning and a promise. For the movie mogul with a talent for spinning facts, the public doesn’t know what’s best for them. And for the reporter determined to discover the truth, the world needs to know what’s at stake.

All are determined to hold off Armageddon. All will play their part in what’s to come.


UPLIFT: The Complete Original Trilogy
(Contains SUNDIVER, STARTIDE RISING and THE UPLIFT WAR)
Release date - 6th December 2012
ISBN: 9781841494890
Pre-order from The Book Depository

Circling the Sun, under the caverns of Mercury, Expedition Sundiver prepares for the most momentous voyage in our history. A journey into the boiling inferno of the sun, to seek our destiny in the cosmic order of life.

For in a universe in which no species can reach sentience without being ‘uplifted’ by a patron race, it seems that only mankind has reached for the stars unaided. And now, the greatest mystery of all may be explained . . .


EXILES: The Second Uplift Omnibus 
(Contains BRIGHTNESS REEF, INFINITY’S SHORE and HEAVEN’S REACH)
Release date 17th January 2013
ISBN: 9781841494906
Pre-order from The Book Depository

On the distant planet of Jijo, six exiled races live side by side. Only ancient relics from their home planets remind the dispossessed of a more noble past, when they were full citizens of the Five Galaxies. The races of Jijo, it seems, have been forgotten, along with whatever crimes they committed. But for how long?

It is at the time of the Gathering, the council of the sages, when the spacecraft is first spotted. For some, it offers a new hope. For others, it heralds a time of reckoning.


EARTH 
Release date - 1st November 2012
ISBN: 9780356501765
Pre-order from The Book Depository

Decades from now, an artifically-created black hole has accidentally fallen into the earth’s core. As scientists frantically work to prevent a disaster, they discover the entire planet could be destroyed within two years.

But while they look for an answer, others argue that the only way to save the Earth is to let its human inhabitants become extinct: to let the million-year evolutionary clock rewind and start over.

Earth is the Hugo and Locus Award-nominated novel that accurately predicted numerous future trends and earned David Brin a reputation as a visionary futurologist.


THE POSTMAN 
Release date 1st November 2012
ISBN: 9780356501758
Pre-order from The Book Depository

He was a survivor – a wanderer who traded tales for food and shelter in the dark and savage aftermath of a devastating war.

But when he borrows the jacket of a long-dead postal worker, his life changes for ever. As he journeys from one isolated community to the next, the old, worn uniform becomes far more than a protection against the unrelenting cold: it becomes a reminder of how things were before the world collapsed – and a symbol for how things might be again. And his story becomes one of a lie that turns into the most important kind of truth.

Against a background of global failure, THE POSTMAN is a powerful and affecting novel of the survival of the human spirit.

***

I'm definitely adding these to my Christmas wishlist. Now if only I could find an obliging Santa...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Trailer: Earth Unaware

Tor has just released a trailer for Earth Unaware co-authored by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston which tells the tale of humanity's first encounter with the Formics.



Read my review of Earth Unaware.

If you are a fan of Ender's Game then this should be on the top of your reading list.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

New Arrivals

As you might have noticed I've been cutting back on my book buying. It's been tough, but I've largely succeeded with the exception of some pre-orders here and there. One of the main reasons for this cutback (aside from my TBR-mountain) is that I have run out of bookshelf space.

I'm working on getting a new bookshelf made, but that seems to be taking far too long.

Books Bought


2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson and Blackout by Mira Grant were pre-orders I placed at the start of the year. I also got The Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook which is the first omnibus edition in the series. I already have the fourth omnibus, The Many Deaths of the Black Company, so I'm trying to get my hands on the rest.

For Review


Pan Macmillan SA sent me the absolutely gorgeous hardcover edition of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff for review. I absolutely love the cover and I can't wait to get to it once I catch up with the rest of my TBR pile. Thanks Kelly!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: Earth Unaware

Title: Earth Unaware
Author: Orson Scott Card, Aaron Johnston
Pages: 368
ISBN: 9780765329042
Series: The First Formic War #1
Publisher: Tor
Published: 2012
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: eArc from publisher


Buy it from:
The Book Depository
Amazon.com
Kalahari.com
Exclus1ves.co.za

A hundred years before Ender's Game, humans thought they were alone in the galaxy. Humanity was slowly making their way out from Earth to the planets and asteroids of the Solar System, exploring and mining and founding colonies.

The mining ship El Cavador is far out from Earth, in the deeps of the Kuiper Belt, beyond Pluto. Other mining ships, and the families that live on them, are few and far between this far out. So when El Cavador’s telescopes pick up a fast-moving object coming in-system, it’s hard to know what to make of it. It’s massive and moving at a significant fraction of the speed of light.

But the ship has other problems. Their systems are old and failing. The family is getting too big. There are claim-jumping corporates bringing Asteroid Belt tactics to the Kuiper Belt. Worrying about a distant object that might or might not be an alien ship seems…not important.

They're wrong. It's the most important thing that has happened to the human race in a million years. This is humanity's first contact with an alien race. The First Formic War is about to begin.
In Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game we never got the complete backstory of how humanity found itself in a situation so desperate that it became acceptable to use children in war. There were hints and brief references to the Formic Wars, but the details were largely left to the readers’ own imagination. In Earth Unaware, co-authored by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston, we finally get to see how it all began. Buckle up, double-check your spacesuit, clip on your lifeline and prepare yourself - the buggers are coming and it’s going to be one hell of a ride!

Earth Unaware follows three main story lines. The first, and most important, is that of seventeen year old Victor Delgado onboard the El Cavador, a family-run mining ship eking out an existence in the Kuiper Belt. Then there’s the ruthless Lem Jukes onboard the Makarhu who will stop at nothing to prove himself to his father, the founder of Jukes Enterprises, the largest space-mining corporation in the solar system. Lastly, back on Earth, there’s Wit O’ Toole, the leader of the Mobile Operations Police - an elite peace keeping force tasked with training for any eventuality.

It took me only 19 pages to be completely engrossed in the story. Card and Johnston manages to fill the novel with such well-crafted and believable characters that you are emotionally invested in their lives almost immediately. The novel kicks off with a pivotal moment in Victor’s life when Alejandra, his second cousin and childhood friend, is sent away due to fears that they might be falling in love.
“It was as if the boundary between friendship and love was so thin and imperceptible that one could cross it without even knowing it was there.”
(p 16)
From that point onward I was completely hooked. Why? It’s simple - the attention to detail which brings the whole world to life. The authors went so far as to imagine how relationships/marriages would work for these isolated miner families. Inbreeding is seen as the ultimate taboo which, should it be allowed, would put the entire family into disrepute and make them outcasts amongst the miner community.

The world-building is top-notch and the amount of thought that went into portraying the dangerous and isolated life onboard a space-mining ship and the entire infrastructure needed to sustain the miners really stood out. The vastness of space is used to great effect and throughout the novel you are constantly reminded of just how perilous life at the fringe of the solar system is.

After the El Cavador detects a mysterious object entering the solar system things come to a head and the pace picks up considerably. There’s never a dull moment and the action sequences, especially those with the Formic encounters, will have your heart pounding. The pages just flew by and towards the end I reached a stage where I slowed my reading just to make the novel last a little bit longer.

Ultimately this is the story of how a disparate group of individuals facing insurmountable odds band together in order to ensure the survival of the rest of the human race. They don’t hesitate to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. To borrow from the afterword – “We knew from the get-go that we weren’t writing Ender’s Game. This wouldn’t be the story of a single hero; it would be the story of many”. And that’s precisely what it is.

Since this is the first novel in a trilogy the ending leaves lots of things unresolved, but there is enough closure to make it a satisfying read. Earth Unaware stands well on its own and with the Ender’s Game movie currently in production it might just be a good entry point for a new generation of Ender fans.

My only complaint is that there seems to be the potential for a rather large discrepancy in continuity with the events in Ender’s Game, but I’ll have to wait to see what happens in the rest of the trilogy before I can tell if that’s in fact the case.

The Verdict:
Earth Unaware is a stunning read filled with fascinating characters, lots of suspense and emotional turmoil that will have you at the edge of your seat. You don’t need to have read Ender’s Game to enjoy this, but for fans this will be a welcome return to the Enderverse. If you read only one science fiction novel this year it should be this one.

Highly recommended!

The Rating: 8/10

Earth Unaware will be released on 4 June 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cover Reveal: Halo: Silentium

Tor has unveiled the title and cover for the final installment in the Forerunner Saga written by Greg Bear. Based on the popular Halo videogame franchise, the novels tell the story of the Forerunners, the original creators of the Halos.

I enjoyed both Halo: Cryptum and Halo: Primordium and can't wait to see how things finally turn out.


No actual synopsis has been released yet, but here's what Tor had to say about the storyline:
In Halo: Cryptum, Greg Bear began a three-book arc set in the era of the Forerunners, the ancient and enigmatic creators and builders of the Halos, which continued in Halo: Primordium. Now, in the last years of the Forerunner empire, chaos rules. The Flood—a horrifying shape-changing parasite—has arrived in force, aided by unexpected allies. Internal strife within the ecumene has desperately weakened Forerunner defenses.

Only the Ur-Didact and the Librarian—husband and wife pushed into desperate conflict—hold the keys to salvation. Facing the consequences of a mythic tragedy, one of them must now commit the greatest atrocity of all time—to prevent an unmatched evil from dominating the entire universe.

Halo: Silentium will be released on January 8, 2013.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cover Reveal: Red Country

It seems I just can't keep up with all the great books being released in the coming months.

Gollancz unveiled the UK cover for Joe Abercrombie's Red Country today.

Stylistically it fits perfectly with the rest of the books in the series. Those blood-spattered, weapon-laden maps just shout Abercrombie and they have become somewhat of a signature for his books (at least for the UK versions).


They burned her home.

They stole her brother and sister.

But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own, and out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust. . .

The past never stays buried . . .

Red Country
will be released in October and is currently available for pre-order.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: The War of the Dwarves

Title: The War of the Dwarves
Author: Markus Heitz
Pages: 716
ISBN: 9781841495736
Series: The Dwarves #2
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 2010
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased


Buy it from:
The Book Depository
Amazon.com
Kalahari.com

The dwarves have gone to battle and they have been victorious. But outside the realm, dark forces are at work...

A secret army of Orcs, made immortal by the hidden powers of the Black Water, now marches towards Girdlegard, set to unleash its fury upon the kingdom. Sooner than they realize, Tungdil and his comrades will need to summon all their courage to do battle against this bloodthirsty horde.

But the Orcs are not the only threat. An unspeakable new power is growing and threatens the very existence of the dwarves. But both enemies have forgotten one very important truth: a dwarf is never more dangerous than when total obliteration seems inevitable ...
Starting a new series is like getting a brand new toy. The pages sparkle with infinite potential – a new world, new characters and new conflicts await discovery. You devour the pages at a frantic pace and all too soon you reach the end. By the time you get to the second book the sparkle has faded and the world is no longer quite so exciting. Without the benefit of rose-tinted glasses you start noticing the cracks in the pavement, the dust swept into the corners and the hastily patched holes in the furniture.

Unfortunately that was the case with The War of the Dwarves. While I enjoyed the first installment the sequel just didn’t measure up. It took me just over a month of active reading to finish the 716 pages. Normally I’m a fast reader, but lately I’ve been suffering from reading fatigue so I read this on a sporadic basis. The thing is, up until the last 100 pages, I was never engaged to such an extent that I couldn’t put the book down and continue with something else – never a good sign.

As with The Dwarves, the plot is pretty straightforward and the few twists are fairly predictable. I can see how this might make the story more accessible to casual readers, but serious fantasy fans will find it a tad too simplistic. Where the novel really disappoints this time round is with the characters. They seem emotionally stunted to an infuriating degree and, for the most part, their actions (and reactions) just didn’t ring true. It felt as if the characters were being dragged along to fit the plot, and not that the plot developed in response to the characters actions. One example of this is where Tungdil is betrayed by someone and he just shrugs it off in order to face the threat to Girdlegard. This is no small betrayal and I would have expected him to be completely devastated as a result. Century old feuds, which played a large role in the first instalment, are also set aside far too easily for my liking.

Heitz follows in the footsteps of George R.R. Martin by killing off some major characters, but in this case it’s used as an easy way out of resolving conflicts. The deaths don’t seem to have much of an emotional impact on the rest of the characters or, with the exception of one or two, the reader.

The last 100 pages or so offers a much needed redemption for the rest of the novel. The ending is riveting and action-packed. It ends on a happy note with a truly poignant moment or two. I only wish there was more of this earlier in the novel.

The Verdict:
The War of the Dwarves isn’t a bad novel as such. It has its moments and turned out to be an enjoyable read overall. It feels geared more to the casual reader. If you are looking for a light, entertaining escape into fantasy this might be for you.

The rating: 5/10 (Average)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cover Reveal: The Hydrogen Sonata

I'm slowly clawing my way back out of the reading fatigue I've been suffering from for the last couple of months. Trying to catch up on everything that has happened in the world of science fiction and fantasy is no easy task, but I'm getting there.

One forthcoming release I'm extremely excited about is the new Culture novel from Iain M. Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata, which will be released in October.

The cover looks fantastic (I'm a sucker for a good space scape) and the premise seems interesting.

The Scavenger species are circling. It is, truly, the End Days for the Gzilt civilization.

An ancient people, organized on military principles and yet almost perversely peaceful, the Gzilt helped set up the Culture ten thousand years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they’ve made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations; they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence.

Amid preparations though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed. Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont appears to have been involved, and she is now wanted — dead, not alive. Aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android and a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command. She must find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over nine thousand years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago. It seems that the final days of the Gzilt civilization are likely to prove its most perilous.

This one is definitely going on my wishlist.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Another 24 hours of great deals on books

24h offer. up to 80% off. Great Discounts at The book Depository

I'm taking a quick break from Diablo land to remind you guys of the 24 hours sale The Book Depository is having tomorrow, 20th of June from 12:00 (noon, GMT+1). As in the past they will have a selection of 24 books with a new offer going on sale every hour. Quantities are limited and tend to sell out fast.

In the past they had some great and some not-so-great deals (that's unless you love cupcakes of course!). Half the fun is seeing what's on offer, especially those that come up in the early hours of the morning.

So, set your alarm clocks; prepare a flask of coffee and get settled in.

I'm hoping they include some great science fiction and fantasy books this time round. My TBR-pile is already at skyscraper height, but a few books more can't do any harm...

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Diablo III Hiatus


The time has finally come. Evil is back and hordes of hellspawn once again ravage the lands. I must heed the call to arms. It is with a heavy heart that I abandon my beloved tomes and the safety of my sanctuary, but evil cannot be allowed to go unopposed.

I will stand! I will fight! I will triumph!

Fear not, though my journey will be fraught with dangers I will return...


***

If all goes to plans I should have my copy of Diablo III in my hands by Tuesday evening. I've been waiting for this release for ages and I can't believe that it's finally here. *Does happy dance*

Unfortunately this means that I will most likely be neglecting the blog (and my reading) for quite some time, so don't be alarmed if you spot a cobweb or two. Things should return to normal once I get Diablo III out of my system.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: The Best Horror of the Year Volume Four

Title: The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Four
Edited by: Ellen Datlow
Pages: 400
ISBN: 9781597803991
Series: Best Horror of the Year: Volume #4
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Published: May 2012
Genre: Horror / Anthology
Source: eARC from publisher


Buy it from:
The Book Depository
Baen Ebooks ($6.00, DRM-Free)
Kalahari.com
Amazon.com

Fear is the oldest human emotion.
The most primal. We like to think we're civilized. We tell ourselves we're not afraid. And every year, we skim our fingers across nightmares, desperately pitting our courage against shivering dread.

A paraplegic millionaire hires a priest to exorcise his pain; a failing marriage is put to the ultimate test; hunters become the hunted as a small group of men ventures deep into a forest; a psychic struggles for her life on national television; a soldier strikes a grisly bargain with his sister's killer; ravens answer a child's wish for magic; two mercenaries accept a strangely simplistic assignment; a desperate woman in an occupied land makes a terrible choice...

What scares you? What frightens you? Horror wears new faces in these carefully selected stories. The details may change. But the fear remains.

The Best Horror of the Year Volume Four edited by Ellen Datlow brings together an eclectic collection of some of the best horror short stories and novellas of 2011. The 18 stories and novelettes included in the anthology are diverse, ranging from the plain weird to the utterly disturbing. While two stories from big names in the horror genre, Stephen King and Peter Straub, start and conclude the collection it is the works of the lesser known authors that steal the show.

My favorite, and probably the most disturbing story in the anthology was Omphalos by Livia Llewellyn in which an incestuous family goes on a vacation which ends in tragedy. Some others that stood out were: The Moraine by Simon Bestwick where a married couple comes face to face with an ancient predator after getting lost while hiking in on a mountainside; The Show by Priya Sharma, a fake medium gets far more than she bargained for when she discovers she does indeed have the gift of second sight; Dermot by Simon Bestwick where the police force strike a terrible deal with a monster in order to protect the rest of the city and lastly, The Final Verse by Chet Williamson which explores the sinister roots of a beloved folksong.

I only highlighted the stories which I enjoyed the most, but there are lots of other stories which might appeal to other tastes. One thing is certain: after reading this collection you'll never look at the horror genre in quite the same way again.

The full table of contents can be found below:
  • The Little Green God of Agony - Stephen King
  • Stay - Leah Bobet
  • The Moraine - Simon Bestwick
  • Blackwood's Baby - Laird Barron
  • Looker - David Nickle
  • The Show - Priya Sharma
  • Mulberry Boys - Margo Lanagan
  • Roots and All - Brian Hodge
  • Final Girl Theory - A. C. Wise
  • Omphalos - Livia Llewellyn
  • Dermot - Simon Bestwick
  • Black Feathers - Alison J. Littlewood
  • Final Verse - Chet Williamson
  • In the Absence of Murdock - Terry Lamsley
  • You Become the Neighborhood - Glen Hirshberg
  • In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos - John Langan
  • Little Pig - Anna Taborska
  • The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine - Peter Straub

The Verdict:
The Best Horror of the Year Volume Four offers a great collection of stories which are bound to please any horror fan. The themes explored are varied and thought-provoking, especially those that show that humanity itself is often far worse than the monsters hiding in the shadows. While some stories are more effective than others you are guaranteed to find at least one which will send shivers down your spine. It might be best not to read this one alone in the dark. Recommended!

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Arrivals

After my bout of sale madness I haven't ordered any new books, which is a huge accomplishment for me. I did however receive some orders which I'd placed at the end of March.

Pre-Loved Books


These are all used books from my two favorite online shops, Awesomebooks and Betterworldbooks.

Science Fiction:
Empire of Light by Gary Gibson
Version 43 by Philip Palmer
The Way of Kings Part II by Brandon Sanderson

Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson
Across Realtime by Vernorn Vinge
Mercury, Venus and Tales of the Grand Tour by Ben Bova
Fallen Dragon by Peter F. Hamilton
Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card
Flood by Stephen Baxter

Fantasy:
The Children of Hurin by J.R.R Tolkien
Elves: Once Walked with Gods by James Barclay

Non-Fiction:
Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet by Steve Squyres
Deep Sky Objects by David H. Levy

Wait, there's more...


I also received my pre-order of the stunning omnibus edition of the Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks. This is a truly gorgeous book. The photo can't do it any justice at all. The cover is stunning with some amazing detail and it has some nice black embossing which doesn't show up in pictures. It also contains lots of extras including a map and 62 extra pages of bonus content. Well worth the money!

Lynsey Dalladay from Transworld Publishers was also kind enough to send me a copy of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I've been meaning to read this for ages, but I just haven't gotten round to it. Thanks Lynsey!

And even more!

I also won a competition hosted by Kelly over at It's a Book Thing. The prize was a bit of a mixed bag, but it did contain some gems. Sadly my camera's batteries decided this was the opportune moment to give up the ghost, so I'm only going to list them.

Medicus by Ruth Downie
A Devil is Waiting by Jack Higgens
Blood Games by Faye Kellerman

Thanks so much Kelly!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Death of a Saint

Title: Death of a Saint
Author: Lily Herne
(Sarah and Savannah Lotz)
Pages: 346
ISBN: 9780143530077
Series: Mall Rats #2
Publisher: Puffin (Penguin)
Published: April 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher


Buy it from:
Exclusive Books
Kalahari.com

Secrets. Everyone has them. But what if your secret is something so unthinkable that you can't even admit it to yourself?

Exiled from the city enclave for crimes against the Resurrectionist State, teen rebels Lele, Ginger, Ash and Saint -- aka the Mall Rats -- are hiding out in the Deadlands, a once-prosperous area now swarming with the living dead. With the sinister Guardians breathing down their necks, the Mall Rats face a stark choice: return to the enclave and try to evade capture or leave Cape Town in search of other survivors. But what if the rest of South Africa is nothing but a zombie-infested wasteland? Will they be able to survive on the road if all they have is each other, or will their secrets tear them apart? After all, only Lele knows the shocking truth as to why the dead leave the Mall Rats unscathed -- knowledge that she can't bring herself to share. And she's not the only Mall Rat harbouring a dangerous secret ...

The Mall Rats are back and they are better than ever! Death of a Saint takes place shortly after the events of Deadlands, the first book in the series. Conditions in the enclave are deteriorating, the Mall Rats have lost their hideaway and after a run-in with the Resurrectionists they are forced to leave Cape Town to go in search of other survivors. Leaving everything familiar behind Lele, Ash, Ginger and Saint venture into the unknown with one question looming large - are there even any other survivors left to find?

While I enjoyed Deadlands there were some things about the writing style that annoyed me (short chapters, Lele addressing an audience and the overuse of prognostications), but I’m glad to say that Death of a Saint is better in every way. The writing is much more mature and feels more refined. The addition of Saint as a viewpoint character is a very welcome change especially if, like me, you aren’t that fond of Lele. Saint adds her own unique perspective on events and gives some relief from Lele’s constant angst over Ash. My only criticism is that Lele and Saint’s voices are quite similar. Since the chapters constantly alternate between them it’s quite easy to lose track of who is narrating forcing you to quickly check the chapter starts to see whose turn it is.

Ginger is still my favorite character and he manages to steal the show yet again. His quips are hilarious and after adopting a pet hyena called Bambi, he has arguably the best line of the entire novel, “Don’t shoot! I have a hyena!” (p 150). We also get to see his more vulnerable side and he finally gets a well-deserved chance at romance.

Some new characters are added into the mix. The beautiful and far too likeable Ember adds even more strain to the relationship between Lele and Ash, and the enigmatic Lucien holds a shocking revelation about Ash’s past.

There’s not as much action or zombie ass-kicking as in Deadlands. In fact the Mall Rats seem to treat the rotters far more humanely, even going so far as pitying them when they are mistreated. On their travels through a decimated South Africa they soon discover that their fellow humans are far more dangerous and devious than the rotters could ever be.

Ultimately Death of a Saint is all about the journey, both physical and emotional. It explores the relationships between the characters and how those relationships evolve over time. It’s these diverse, well-crafted characters which makes the novel such a great read. You get drawn into their world and soon find yourself wholly emotionally invested, turning the pages at a frenzied pace to discover what happens to your favorite.

The ending has a great cliffhanger twist which left me awestruck. Even the sneak preview of the next installment, The Army of the Left, couldn’t sate my craving for more. Each novel in the series seems to get better and the all too brief sneak preview hints at even better things to come. I can’t wait!

The Verdict:
Death of a Saint is a stunning read with great characters. Herne manages to deftly weave the different cultures and backgrounds into a believable tapestry of what a decimated, post-apocalyptic South Africa could be like. Highly recommended even if YA isn’t your normal thing.

The Rating: 8/10 (Very Good)

Addendum:
Those in the UK and other Commonwealth countries can look forward to the release of both Deadlands and Death of a Saint in 2013. Corsair, an imprint of Constable & Robinson, has recently acquired the publication rights for these territories. The first book is set for a Spring 2013 release with the second installment following later.

Thanks to Candice from Penguin Books South Africa for providing the review copy.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review: Blue Remembered Earth

Title: Blue Remembered Earth
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Pages: 505
ISBN: 9780575088283
Series: Poseidon's Children #1
Publisher: Gollancz
Published: January 2012
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Exploration
Source: Review copy from publisher


Buy it from:
The Book Depository
Kalahari.com

One hundred and fifty years from now, in a world where Africa is the dominant technological and economic power, and where crime, war, disease and poverty have been banished to history, Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey's family, the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans. After the death of Eunice, Geoffrey's grandmother, erstwhile space explorer and entrepreneur, something awkward has come to light on the Moon, and Geoffrey is tasked - well, blackmailed, really - to go up there and make sure the family's name stays suitably unblemished. But little does Geoffrey realise - or anyone else in the family, for that matter - what he's about to unravel.

Eunice's ashes have already have been scattered in sight of Kilimanjaro. But the secrets she died with are about to come back out into the open, and they could change everything. Or shatter this near-utopia into shards ...

Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds is the first novel in the Poseidon’s Children series and is set in a near-future utopia where constant surveillance has almost completely eradicated violent crime. Humans have spread throughout the solar system and Africa has emerged as one of the leading technological nations thanks largely to the efforts of Eunice Akinya and the family empire, Akinya Space, she created. The story kicks off shortly after Eunice’s death when her grandson and granddaughter, Geoffrey and Sunday Akinya, get drawn into a scavenger hunt, following a trail of obscure clues that Eunice has left behind. Their search takes them across the solar system where they ultimately manage to unearth the secret their grandmother kept hidden - a secret that might just change the entire course of humanity’s future.

BRE is beautifully written. Even before reaching the prologue I found a passage that made me go “Wow” and completely drew me in.
“She may have been born angry, but it was not until her mother cradled her under the stillness of a Serengeti night, beneath the cloudless spine of the Milky Way, that she began to grasp for what was forever out of reach.

All these stars, Eunice. All these tiny diamond lights. You can have them, if you want them badly enough. But first you must be patient and then you must be wise." (p 1)
It might just be that I’m a sucker for human space exploration, but that sent shivers down my spine.

The world-building is top-notch. The futuristic world is intricately crafted with different political factions and amazing technology at play. Writing a believable near-future novel is a difficult task, but Reynolds does a brilliant job at extrapolating the technology of today and crafting it into realistic marvels of the future. BRE is brimful of stunning ideas and concepts. Just as you think you’ve got a good grasp of what is going on something new and surprising is revealed.

What stood out for me is Reynolds’ ability to bring the scenery to life. It doesn’t matter if he’s describing an African sunset, the confines of the Moon, an aquatic city or the harsh reality of the Martian surface, you feel as if you are actually transported to that place and experiencing it on a firsthand basis.

Geoffrey and Sunday are interesting characters, but it is only in the latter part of the novel that I actually grew to like them. For the most part I enjoyed the setting and concepts far more than the actual characters. With one exception - the stand-out character for me was Eunice (in whichever form she took). She is the embodiment of the human need to explore. Her wanderlust, sense of wonder and unfailing bravery really appealed to me and I hope she makes a return appearance (even briefly) in the next installment.

The ending is superb and while satisfying by itself, I can’t wait to embark on the rest of the journey. If BRE is any indication it’s going to be an amazing ride.

Godspeed Eunice!

The Verdict:
If you are interested in human space exploration then you are going to love this. Blue Remembered Earth is superbly written and shares an optimistic view of humanity’s future in space. The novel is brimful of stunning ideas and believable technology that will keep you engrossed to the very last page. BRE is one of the best science fiction novels I’ve read this year. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 8.5/10 (Great)




Thanks to Andrea from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

Friday, April 13, 2012

10% Off Everything at The Book Depository

As many of you know I love shopping at The Book Depository. Their service is superb, packages arrive quickly and with their free international shipping they often beat out local retailers by a huge margin.

The Book Depository is currently offering a 10% discount on everything on the site until 14 May 2012.

To make use of the offer just click on the links below and follow the instructions:

10% Off at Bookdepository.com
10% Off at Bookdepository.co.uk

The pricing on the sites may differ slightly so be sure to compare them.

To make the most of this offer I'd suggest placing pre-orders for any forthcoming books you might want. All pre-orders already have a 25% discount included in their price.

Guess my book budget is going out the window (again!).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cover Reveal: Great North Road

I don't know how this one slipped my notice, but the cover and synopsis for Peter F. Hamilton's latest novel Great North Road has been revealed.

In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, AD 2142, Detective Sidney Hurst attends a brutal murder scene. The victim is one of the wealthy North family clones – but none have been reported missing. And the crime’s most disturbing aspect is how the victim was killed. Twenty years ago, a North clone billionaire and his household were horrifically murdered in exactly the same manner, on the tropical planet of St Libra. But if the murderer is still at large, was Angela Tramelo wrongly convicted? Tough and confident, she never waivered under interrogation – claiming she alone survived an alien attack. But there is no animal life on St Libra.

Investigating this alien threat becomes the Human Defence Agency’s top priority. The bio-fuel flowing from St Libra is the lifeblood of Earth’s economy and must be secured. So a vast expedition is mounted via the Newcastle gateway, and teams of engineers, support personnel and xenobiologists are dispatched to the planet. Along with their technical advisor, grudgingly released from prison, Angela Tramelo. But the expedition is cut off, deep within St Libra’s rainforests. Then the murders begin. Someone or something is picking off the team one by one. Angela insists it’s the alien, but her new colleagues aren’t so sure. Maybe she did see an alien, or maybe she has other reasons for being on St Libra ... This is a stunning standalone adventure, by a writer at the height of his powers.
I'm a huge Peter F. Hamilton fan so I'm definitely looking forward to this one. Great North Road will be released on 27 September 2012.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

New Arrivals: Sale Madness

This past week I've been practically overwhelmed with books making it one of my best weeks ever!

The Kalahari sale

Kalahari.com, one of our local online retailers, had an absolutely crazy sale on books. For just R125 you could get 5 books. This is the kind of sale that comes around once a decade or so and I couldn't let the opportunity slip through my fingers.

Battling the thousands of other online shoppers, the countless server issues and the dreaded 'Sold out' messages I managed to grab a great selection of books. Some might say I went a bit overboard, but I see it as an investment. In the end I got over R3400 worth of books at roughly 18% of their normal retail price.


Hardcovers:
Jack the Ripper: The Complete A-Z
Locked On and Against All Enemies by Tom Clancy
A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond E. Feist
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Softcovers and Paperbacks:
Advent by James Treadwell
Reamde by Neal Stephenson (I accidentally ordered two copies)
Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Way of Kings Part I by Brandon Sanderson
Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear
The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Hellhole by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert
The Many Deaths of the Black Company by Glen Cook
Spellbound by Blake Charlton
The Lord of the Rings (Vol I-III) by J.R.R Tolkien
King Rat and Un Lun Dun by China Miéville
Lost Fleet: Beyond The Frontier by Jack Campbell
The Sword of Albion by Mark Chadbourn

Books Bought

My orders from Awesomebooks and The Book Depository also arrived during the week.


Used books:
Ark by Stephen Baxter
The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
Woken Furies, Altered Carbon and Broken Angels by Richard Morgan
Zima Blue by Alastair Reynolds
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch


These were two pre-orders I placed at The Book Depository at the start of the year. They give you a 25% discount on pre-orders, so it's well worth the wait!

A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The single edition copy of A Dance of Dragons is HUGE, I can see why the publishers opted for two separate editions as well.

For Review


Penguin Books South Africa sent me review copies of Death of a Saint by Lily Herne and Time Riders: Gates of Rome by Alex Scarrow. Thanks so much Candice!

***

One thing is certain, after this week I'm definitely going to need another bookshelf!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Upcoming release: Death of a Saint



Penguin books South Africa has just released the cover art and synopsis for Death of a Saint, the second book in the Mall Rats series and the follow-up to the Cape Town based YA zombie novel, Deadlands (reviewed here).

The new covers look great and are sure to appeal to the YA crowd, but I think they've lost that sense of horror which drew me to the first edition of Deadlands.

About the book

Secrets. Everyone has them. But what if your secret is something so unthinkable that you can't even admit it to yourself?

Exiled from the city enclave for crimes against the Resurrectionist State, teen rebels Lele, Ginger, Ash and Saint – aka the Mall Rats – are hiding out in the Deadlands, a once-prosperous area now swarming with the living dead. With the sinister Guardians breathing down their necks, the Mall Rats face a stark choice: return to the enclave and try to evade capture or leave Cape Town in search of other survivors. But what if the rest of South Africa is nothing but a zombie-infested wasteland?



Will Lele reveal the shocking truth as to why the dead leave the Mall Rats unscathed? And which other Mall Rat is harbouring a dangerous secret …

About the authors:


Lily Herne is the pseudonym of mother/daughter duo Sarah and Savannah Lotz. A fan of fake identities, Sarah also writes an urban horror series with author Louis Greenberg under the name SL Grey as well as various crime novels,internationally anthologised short stories and screenplays under her own name. Savannah, a die-hard fantasy fanatic,is currently in her second year studying screenwriting at the university of East Anglia.

***

Both Death of a Saint and the new edition of Deadlands will be published in April and it seems you can already order them from your favorite South African bookshop. So what are you waiting for?

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games at 85% off


Please note: This offer has expired.

Sometimes you come across an offer that’s just too good to refuse and which begs to be shared with others. This deal from Kobo is just that.

Until the end of March Kobo are offering an exclusive discount of 85% on any ebook title in the Hunger Games series. That includes The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay, and The Hunger Games Trilogy.

To get the most of the offer I suggest you pick up The Hunger Games Trilogy which contains all three books for the insane price of just $5.02** (it normally retails for $33.49)!

All you have to do is to enter the following promo code during the checkout process: HungerGamesDeal5
* You'll need an ePub capable eReader or app to read the book.

**It seems you can also pick up the individual titles separately  for a total of $4.87 if you use the same discount code and alter the number each time (HungerGamesDeal, HungerGamesDeal2, HungerGamesDeal3). This should be especially useful for territories where the Trilogy edition isn't sold.

Update for those in the UK:
The trilogy edition doesn't seem to be available in the UK. Fret not, since buying the individual titles which are available works out far cheaper. You can get The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay for £0.54 each by using the method described above. That's a grand total of £1.62 for the entire trilogy!
(These links should work for the UK region. Let me know if you experience any difficulties.)

Now's your chance to catch up with the Hunger Games before seeing the movie. Don't miss out!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: The Dwarves

Title: The Dwarves
Author: Markus Heitz
Translated by: Sally-Ann Spencer
Pages: 733
ISBN: 9781841495729
Series: The Dwarves #1
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 2009
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased


Buy it from:
The Book Depository
Amazon.com
Kalahari.com

For countless millennia, the dwarves of the Fifthling Kingdom have defended the stone gateway into Girdlegard. Many and varied foes have hurled themselves against the portal and died attempting to breach it. No man or beast has ever succeeded. Until now. . .

Abandoned as a child, Tungdil the blacksmith labors contentedly in the land of Ionandar, the only dwarf in a kingdom of men. Although he does not want for friends, Tungdil is very much aware that he is alone - indeed, he has not so much as set eyes on another dwarf. But all that is about to change.

Sent out into the world to deliver a message and reacquaint himself with his people, the young foundling finds himself thrust into a battle for which he has not been trained. Not only his own safety, but the life of every man, woman and child in Girdlegard depends upon his ability to embrace his heritage. Although he has many unanswered questions, Tungdil is certain of one thing: no matter where he was raised, he is a true dwarf. And no one has ever questioned the courage of the Dwarves.
Quick, think of a dwarf! Any dwarf will do. Get a clear picture in your mind. Got it? Good. So which dwarf immediately sprung to mind? For me it was Gimli from the movie version of The Lord of the Rings. He embodies all the qualities I would associate with the quintessential dwarf – limited height, long beard, brave and fierce in battle and of course that ingrained enmity towards elves.

In The Dwarves, the first book in the Dwarves saga, German author Markus Heitz elevates the dwarven race from their humble role as one-dimensional supporting characters and turns them into the vibrant, compelling heroes they deserve to be.

The main protagonist is Tungdil, a foundling dwarf who was raised by a human magus called Lot-Ionan. Tungdil hasn’t seen another dwarf in his life and he is completely disconnected from his dwarven heritage. His only knowledge about his race comes from books, which leads to some awkward and funny situations when he finally gets reunited with his kin.

After being sent on a seemingly easy errand by Lot-Ionan, Tungdil finds himself thrust into the middle of dwarven politics when he is unwittingly put forward as candidate for High King. As Tungdil struggles to reconnect with his roots, evil suddenly overwhelms Girdlegard after one of the mages betrays the rest and brings down the magical barrier that has kept the Perished land at bay. Together with a band of companions Tungdil must set out to forge a magical weapon that can kill Nod’onn, the embodiment of the evil that plagues the land.

The plot of The Dwarves is a pretty straightforward battle between good and evil and feels very derivative of the Lord of the Rings, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What sets the novel apart is the compelling characters and the intricate society Heitz has created for the dwarves. I was drawn to the characters, especially the bookish Tungdil and Boïdil, a beserker warrior who enjoys nothing more than cracking orcish skulls.

There is some hilarious banter between the companions. One of these interchanges that stood out is when Tungdil is berated for his lack of warrior skills: “Oh, books are very useful when it comes to fighting orcs. You could have killed the whole band of them with the right bit of poetry!

While Heitz stays true to the general perception of dwarves and other fantasy races he deftly manages to add his own touches such as a dwarven love for melted cheese; the numerous dwarven societies, skills and how the clans interact; and the introduction of shadow mares, a terrifying antithesis of unicorns who enjoy trampling their victims to death and devouring their flesh.
Without warning, one of the horses whipped round, jaws opening as it pounced. Sharp teeth closed around the orc’s shoulders and ripped out a sizable clump of flesh.

Green blood spurted from the wound as the orc retreated, shrieking. A second orcish trooper drew his sword and made to fell the rabid horse. Before he could strike, the steed’s hind leg lifted and sped into the orc’s broad chest. There was a flash of blinding light and the orc was thrown backward, traveling several paces before crashing to the ground.

The trooper had no time to right himself before the second horse was upon him. Its forelegs stove in his chest, hollowing his breastplate. His stomach burst with a sickening bang. In an instant the creature’s black jaws were at the orc’s unprotected throat. There was a sound of crunching bone and the orc’s anguished screaming broke off abruptly.

Tungdil watched in stunned horror as the steed swallowed the mouthful of flesh. The second creature let out a whinny of savage enjoyment. (p 105)
The translation from the original German seems to have been superbly handled by Sally-Ann Spencer. After reading about some of the difficulties she encountered during the translation process I’m sure it was not an easy task. My only criticism would be that they decided to use the term ‘orbit’ to denote days. This substation didn’t really make any sense and I found it so irritating that it detracted from the story somewhat.

The Verdict:
Overall I enjoyed The Dwarves and the interesting insight Heitz gives into dwarven society. While the plot is quite predictable it’s still a gripping read with some very memorable characters. If you are looking for epic fantasy that’s less complex than what George R.R. Martin and Steven Erikson has on offer then this will definitely satisfy.

I already have the second and third volumes, The War of the Dwarves and The Revenge of the Dwarves, waiting in my TBR-pile. The fourth book, The Fate of the Dwarves, will be released in August this year.

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Arrivals II

I've been stuck in a reading slump lately. It's not that I'm not reading, I am, but I just can't get myself to the point of being able to write any coherent reviews. Until I get my reviewing mojo back I'm busy trying to catch up on my rather large TBR pile. Hopefully a good dose of 'just for fun' reading will remedy the problem.

At least I got some awesome books during the last week which always manages to gladden my book addict heart.

Books bought


The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson
Germline and Exogene by T.C. McCarthy

For Review


For review I received Elves: Rise of the TaiGethen by James Barclay from Jonathan Ball Publishers. This is the second book in the Elves series so I'll need to catch up on the first, Elves: Once Walked with Gods before I can get to this one. Thanks Andrea for sending me the review copy!

And finally I also got an ARC of Switched by Amanda Hocking from Pan Macmillan SA. I'm not sure if I'll be reviewing it since it's far outside my normal genre preferences, but I might just give it a go anyway.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cover Reveal: Zero Point

Neal Asher has just revealed the cover art and synopsis for Zero Point, the second book in the Owner trilogy, which will be released on the 2nd of August 2012.

As usual the cover art is by the fantastically talented Jon Sullivan who did all the covers for the revamped editions of Neal's other novels. You really have to check out the image of the full dust jacket to get a sense for the true scope of the cover scene.

The billions of Zero Asset citizens of Earth are free from their sectors, free from the prospect of extermination from orbit, for Alan Saul has all but annihilated the Committee by dropping the Argus satellite laser network on it. The shepherds, spiderguns and razorbirds are somnolent, govnet is down and Inspectorate HQs are smoking craters. But power abhors a vacuum and, scrambling from the ruins, comes Serene Galahad. She must act before the remnants of Committee power are overrun by the masses. And she has the means.

Var Delex knows that Earth will eventually reach out to Antares Base and, because of her position under Chairman Messina, knows that the warship the Alexander is still available. An even more immediate problem is Argus Station hurtling towards the red planet, with whomever, or whatever trashed Earth still aboard. Var must maintain her grip on power and find a way for them all to survive.

As he firmly establishes his rule, Alan Saul delves into the secrets of Argus Station: the results of ghastly experiments in Humanoid Unit Development, a madman who may hold the keys to interstellar flight and research that might unlock eternity. But the agents of Earth are still determined to exact their vengeance, and the killing is not over...
I really enjoyed The Departure, so I'm definitely adding this one to my wishlist. Based on the cover it looks like it's going to be one hell of a ride!

Be sure to check out my earlier interview with Neal Asher where he discusses the Owner trilogy, his writing and his views on ebooks.

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