Sunday, February 28, 2016

Review: Legion: Skin Deep

Title: Legion: Skin Deep
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Pages: 199
ISBN: 9781473212497
Publisher: Gollancz
Published: 24 September 2015
Genre: Crime/Thriller
Source: Review copy from publisher


Buy it from:
The Book Depository

It's not his own genius that Stephen Leeds gets hired for. Clients want to tap into the imaginary experts that populate his mind - and it's getting a bit crowded in there.

Now Stephen and his internal team of 'aspects' have been hired to track down a stolen corpse - but it's not the corpse that's important, it's what the corpse knows. The biotechnology company he worked for believes he encoded top-secret information into his DNA before he died, and if it falls into the wrong hands, that will mean disaster.

Stephen Leeds a.k.a. Legion is back and better than ever! Legion: Skin Deep picks up after the events in Legion. This time around Leeds and his diverse collection of aspects are recruited to recover a stolen corpse. But it’s not just any missing corpse – top-secret information is encoded within the corpse’s very DNA and the biotech company responsible for the research will go to great lengths to make sure that the information stays secret. Add a lethal assassin hired by a mysterious third party and you have all the ingredients for a rollicking adventure.

All the familiar aspects from the first instalment make a welcome return, but it is J.C. the gun-crazed, self-styled ‘Interdimensional Time Ranger’ that absolutely steals the show this time round. His banter with Leeds and the other aspects are hilarious.
“I’ve got it figured out, Skinny. We’re all from this other place, see. And when you need some help, you reach out and snatch us. You’re some kind of physics wizard.” “A . . . physics wizard?” “Yup. And I’m no Navy SEAL. I’ve just got to accept that.” He paused. “I’m an Interdimensional Time Ranger.” (p66)

Throughout the novella we get the chance to learn more about Leeds, how he copes with his condition and how he is still in the process of discovering more about himself and the facets of himself embodied within his various aspects. He continues to grow as a character and in his moment of greatest danger, when he is left without the help of his aspects, it is Leeds himself who rises to the occasion.

The plot progresses at a blistering pace and even though Skin Deep is twice the length of Legion the end still comes way too quickly. While the ending is satisfying some important questions still remain unanswered. Who is Sandra the mysterious mentor who left without a trace? What happened to the vanished aspects? More! I want more!

The Verdict:
Legion: Skin Deep is a quick, captivating read filled with fully-realised characters, lots of humour and just enough suspense to keep you anxiously turning the pages. For a novella it touches on some very interesting issues - the nature of time, freedom of information and even religion. Like its predecessor, you are left craving for more when the end comes far too quickly. I only hope that Sanderson stays true to his prolific form and provides us with another instalment soon. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Thanks to Jonathan Ball Publishers for providing the review copy.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Cover Reveals: Updraft and Cloudbound

Fran Wilde's novels set in the Bone Universe are getting some brand new covers. Back when I read Updraft I couldn't help but feel that the original cover didn't quite do justice to the story. The new covers illustrated by Tommy Arnold are simply amazing. They manage to capture the look and feel of the novels in a way that's much closer to how imagined the world to be.



Cloudbound, the second novel in the series will be published in September 2016. Yes, please.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

First New Arrivals of 2016

My previous new arrivals post covered all the books I got in 2015 (I think). Just after posting it, three more stunning books arrived in the post. So I'm proud to present my first new arrivals of 2016.


First up two books I received from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 28 edited by Gardner Dozois. At over 660 pages this is a truly massive collection of short stories. I'm really looking forward to diving into this one and must confess a squee of glee when I opened the package. I might just have to bump this towards the top of my reading list.

Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson. Just look at that cover! With a cover like that and the tagline "Dreams come true. So do nightmares", I don't need to know anything more.


Barsk - The Elephant's Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen. Back in January I participated in the Barsk Blog Tour and hosted a guest post by author Lawrence M. Schoen. The premise of Barsk sounds really interesting - uplifted animals thrive in the galaxy long after humanity's passing. I'm glad my review copy from Tor made it safely here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

New Arrivals: The Late Edition

I've discovered that I haven't updated the blog with any new arrivals since April of 2015. I wanted to get a new camera before posting pictures and kept putting it off. When I finally settled on ordering a camera after doing extensive research and budget-fidgeting somehow it was 2016. Alas, the new camera I ordered turned out to be not so new. For some reason the retailer sent me a used camera and I had to return it for a refund. Now I'm back at square one, still looking for a new camera.

Tto prevent any further delays I'm going to have to be satisfied with pictures from my cellphone. Not ideal, but it will have to do. Procrastination had nothing to do with it. It's the camera I tell you. It's all the camera's fault!

Purchased

Since my big splurge in April I didn't buy that many books. Partly because I tried to cut back on buying books. That doesn't mean that I didn't buy any...


I got Neal Asher's Jupiter War and Elizabeth Moon's The Serrano Legacy in a very rare visit to an actual physical book shop while having to attend a workshop in Cape Town. I had 5 minutes to raid the science fiction section in a Bargain Books, which was sadly very lacking in selection. Still, I'm happy I at least got something to show for the trip,


I ordered these from Reader's Warehouse, a local online store I would happily blow my entire monthly budget with if they only updated their site more regularly. The star of the show is the stunning clothbound hardcover edition of William Gibson's Neuromancer. It's almost too pretty to read! I got the new editions of Neal Asher's Prador Moon and The Gabble and other Stories. I already own the older editions, but I really wanted these stunning Jon Sullivan covers. There's a copy of Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns in the black edition to round off my set, Raymond E. Feist's A Crown Imperilled and lastly The Mammoth Book of SF Wars edited by Ian Watson and Ian Whates.

For Review

I received some amazing books for review. Sadly most of these are still stuck on mount TBR, but I'm hoping to get to them all. Eventually.

 First up from Pan Macmillan SA:

Under Ground - S.L. Grey. A creepy psychological horror by one of South Africa's most fearsome writing duos. Read the review.
The Abyss Beyond Stars - Peter F. Hamilton
The Escape - David Baldacci
Every Night I Dream of Hell - Malcolm Mackay
This One Time - Alex van Tonder

From Jonathan Ball Publishers:


The Age of Magic - Ben Okri
The Broken Eye - Brent Weeks
Legion - Brandon Sanderson. Read the review
Legion: Skin Deep - Brandon Sanderson
The Three-Body Problem - Cixin Liu

Lastly from the wonderful folks at Tor:


Updraft - Fran Wilde. Read the review.
The Machine Awakes - Adam Christopher
The Left-hand Way - Tom Doyle


The Shards of Heaven - Micheal Livingston
Dragon Heart - Cecelia Holland
Solar Express - L.E. Modesitt JR

***

I think that should cover the last 8 months or so. Hopefully I didn't miss any. That's a lot of reading goodness and will take me some time to get to especially those books that are part of a series which I still need to catch up on. I'd better get to it!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Guest Post: The Pathfinder World of Golarion

The Pathfinder World of Golarion
Experience it — Even if You Don’t Play the Game
by Chris A. Jackson

Under the noses of an armada of warships, a pirate corsair ghosts beneath a crumbling megalithic viaduct on a mission not for plunder, but revenge. A debonair noble lord and his roguish assistant pursue a dreadful necromancer to retrieve and arcane tome that should never be read. A desperate young woman delves steaming tropical seas in search of treasure, and salvation.

Sound interesting?

These are some of the Pathfinder Tales of Golarion, a place I both work and play in. Golarion is the fantasy world created by Paizo Publishing for their Pathfinder role-playing game. I’ve played the game for years, but the game itself is not my work. I’m one of the lucky writers who create Pathfinder Tales stories so that both fans of the game and readers of fantasy can experience the wonders of Golarion. The stories use the game elements as a backdrop, but even if you don’t play the game, you can enjoy the novels and the world.

The Inner Sea Region, an area of 43 nations surrounding a “Mediterranean-shaped” sea, is the locale for most of the Tales. Vast and varied, from frozen glaciers to steaming jungles, but don’t worry about getting lost; each novel has its own map of the area where the story takes place right in the front cover, and a handy glossary of terms that might be new to a reader unfamiliar with the monsters, magic, and mythology of the world.

So what’s so great about Golarion and the Pathfinder Tales? More than anything, variety. There are tales in the icy north, and the tropical south, mountains and deserts, cities so ancient that they are built upon the catacombs of vampires, and dark markets where anything from the tears of a god to the dying scream of a virgin prince can be bought or sold. There are nations of slavery, nations ruled by undead, nations of shining freedom and democracy, nations ruled by those who have sold their souls to devils, and nations which have forsaken the gods altogether. With a diversity of heroes, pirates and spies, paladins and noble lords, desperate alchemists and wizards, and even rogues and their smart-mouthed sentient swords, virtually anything is possible. And you don’t have to know a single game rule to enjoy them. In fact, if you want a taste of the Tales for free, drop by Paizo’s web fiction page and give some of the short stories a read. Most of the Pathfinder Tales authors are represented there, and you can get a feel for their style, and see their characters rendered in the accompanying art for each chapter.

So, writing in the world of Golarion has become a labor of love for me. I get to play in a world I love, and publish stories about characters of my own creation. The fans of the game and non-gamer readers both enjoy the stories. The authors are given an amazing amount of creative freedom to tell tales that are not always “good vs evil” or “rescue the princess” in theme. The heroes are varied in morality, race, sex, sexuality, and ability, with depth and emotion driving their actions. My own include a former slave pirate captain who longs only for freedom, his snake-bodied lover and navigator, and a seductive courtesan who is much more than she seems. The editors at Paizo are great to work with. In fact, the entire Paizo crew is an incredibly cool and inclusive bunch of people. Every year, the company puts on “PaizoCon” where gamers, fans, authors, artists, and artisans meet to have fun, play, trade ideas, and just hang out.

My third Pathfinder Tales Novel, Pirate’s Prophecy, just released, so if you like sea stories, pirates, spies, romance, and intrigue, consider giving it a try. No need to start at the beginning, though if you want to read the tales in order, begin with the short story Stargazer, then Pirate’s Honor, Pirate’s Promise, and finally Pirate’s Prophecy. The fourth Pirate’s tale is in the works and should be out next year. Who knows what will happen next, but any story told in Golarion will be a rollicking tale indeed.

More about the author:

CHRIS A. JACKSON is the author of the Pathfinder Tales novels Pirate's Honor and Pirate's Promise. His self-published and small-press work includes the Scimitar Seas and Weapon of Flesh series, which have won three consecutive gold medals in the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year awards, as well as becoming Kindle best sellers. Jackson has also written a novella set in Privateer Press's RPG fiction line. He lives on a sailboat in the Caribbean. You can find him at jaxbooks.com or @ChrisAJackson1.

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