Monday, December 31, 2018

Best Reads of 2018

I thought 2017 was a tough year, but 2018 raised the bar and turned out to be a year where things just went from bad to worse. My PC died, work stress went through the roof and the world, well we all know the state of the world... Thankfully the year is finally at an end, and I will be glad at its demise.

I hoped to get to 40 books this year, but it soon became clear that there would be no way that I'd reach that, so I had to adjust my goal downwards to 25 books. I barely managed to scrape past that number and ended up reading 21 novels, 2 novellas and 2 graphic novels.

Here, in no particular order, are my best reads for 2018.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

I loved the Prince of Thorns series, but Mark Lawrence has definitely grown in the craft since his debut and Red Sister must be his best work so far. I loved the fantasy setting with hints of a long forgotten technological age. Plus nothing beats deadly assassin nuns!

The Soldier by Neal Asher

Neal Asher never disappoints and The Soldier is a mind-blowing start to a new trilogy set in the Polity universe. He manages to weave the most awe-inspiring elements of his universe together into an amazing narrative brimming with awesome technology, vast space battles, gigantic explosions and intricate machinations that are terrifying in their scope. This simply tops everything that has come before.

Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell

An amazing space opera where the sentient warship just steals the show. Trouble Dog has attitude in spades and her quest for redemption is just plain heartwarming. Add a diverse crew of feisty, flawed characters and you have the groundwork for something special.

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

I'm very late to this party, but I've finally started reading Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive. The first two books in the series, The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, were simply amazing. I fell in love with the vast, intricate world-building and how Sanderson manages to slowly unveil new facets to an already fascinating world. While their length can seem daunting these are tomes you can become completely lost in. Time just slips away and before you know it, you are at the last page craving more.

Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman

Dark Orbit is a fascinating exploration of how our limited sensory perceptions shape how we perceive each other, the world and the universe at large. A cast of captivating characters and a truly remarkable premise makes this a must-read. The story is dizzying in both scope and implication and will have you re-evaluating how you look at the world. My only regret is that it was far too short.

Boy's Life by Robert McCammon

A magical coming of age story. A Boy's Life is beautifully written; funny, sad, and profound, with keen observations about what it means to grow up. There's a touch of the supernatural thrown in, but it just adds an extra bit of magic to a story that will have you yearning for your own lost childhood.

Super Sons Vol 1: When I Grow Up by Peter J. Tomasi

This year I've started delving into comics and Super Sons just blew me away. It's an absolute blast of wholesome fun featuring Superboy (aka Jonathan Kent) and Robin (aka Damian Wayne) as they try to follow in their superhero fathers' footsteps while trying not to kill each other. The rivalry and banter between the two boys are bound to put a smile on your face. Best of all you can jump straight in without having to know anything about the Superman or Batman universe.


Here's to a wonderful 2019. May we all find enough time to read and take care of ourselves!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Review: Elevation by Stephen King

Title: Elevation
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 132
ISBN: 9781473691520
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 30 October 2018
Genre: Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Castle Rock is a small town, where word gets around quickly. That's why Scott Carey wants to confide only in his friend Doctor Bob Ellis about his strange condition: he's losing weight, without getting thinner, and the scales register the same when he is in his clothes or out of them, however heavy they are.

Scott also has new neighbours, who have opened a 'fine dining experience' in town, although it's an experience being shunned by the locals; Deidre McComb and her wife Missy Donaldson don't exactly fit in with the community's expectations. And now Scott seems trapped in a feud with the couple over their dogs dropping their business on his lawn. Missy may be friendly, but Deidre is cold as ice.

As the town prepares for its annual Thanksgiving 12k run, Scott starts to understand the prejudices his neighbours face and he tries to help. Unlikely alliances form and the mystery of Scott's affliction brings out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others

Elevation, Stephen King's newest novella, is not a tale filled with monsters and horror. While the premise might be reminiscent of Thinner, there are no gypsy curses to be found here. Instead what you will find is an uplifting story centered around one man's otherworldly affliction and how his actions manage to challenge small-town bigotry and the prejudices that divide and isolate.

King excels at portraying small-town life. His characters spring to life from the very first page and you can't help but be invested in their welfare. Since this is a novella there is not a whole lot of world-building that takes place and to be honest, it's not really needed. Most Stephen King fans will be well acquainted with the setting of Castle Rock and newcomers will feel right at home.

Scott's mysterious affliction is never truly explained. While it sets everything in motion, it soon becomes a secondary matter. The main focus is the relationship between Scott and his lesbian neighbours, Deidre and her wife Missy, and how that relationship evolves. Scott becomes a bridge between the newcomers and the community, showing that a small act of compassion can have a far reaching impact.

The ending is touching in so many ways. It shows that all of us can leave this world a slightly better place, even if we don't all go out with a bang. The fact that there is no explanation given for Scott's illness makes its unresolved mystery all the sweeter.

The Verdict:
Elevation is a very enjoyable read. It carries a strong message about tolerance, about rising above ourselves and our beliefs, and leaves a heartwarming afterglow in its wake. If you are looking for horror then Elevation is definitely not for you. There are no monsters lurking in the drains, no frights and scares, just the hard reality of everyday life filled with intolerance and prejudice. When Stephen King feels it necessary to start writing uplifting stories you know the world is a dark place. And perhaps that should be scary enough for us all.

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

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

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Movie Trailer: Men In Black: International

Normally I don't get all that excited for new movie releases, but the trailer for MIB: International looks really, really good. It's a pity that it doesn't feature cameos from Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones. The voiceover would've been so much better if Tommy Lee Jones did it.

That being said I'm glad to see a return to the MIB universe. I loved the original movies when they first came out and this looks like it could be a worthy successor.

What do you guys think?

Monday, December 17, 2018

New Arrivals: The Early Christmas Edition

I haven't had much reading time over the past month, but that hasn't stopped me from acquiring more books. I guess that's the way it goes....

First up I took advantage of some black Friday sales. Who could say no to 20% off already low prices?

This is an eclectic collection of books, mostly fantasy, due to the fact that I had to grab anything that grabbed my attention to get a large enough order for free shipping from Reader's Warehouse.

The titles I ended up with were:
Traitor Queen by Trudi Canavan, The High Druid's Blade and The Fall of Shannara by Terry Brooks, Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente, Sword of Destiny and The Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey and The First Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach by Steven Erikson.

Two other titles I ordered earlier also arrived at around the same time. Blackwing by Ed McDonald and Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey.

For Review

I've saved the best for last. Christmas seems to have come early with a true plethora of books arriving for review.

From the awesome folks at Jonathan Ball Publishers I received an amazing haul:
Edgedancer, Snapshot and Skyward by Brandon Sanderson, Elevation by Stephen King, Thin Air by Richard Morgan, Angels in the Trenches by Dr Leo Ruickbie, War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell, Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness, Shattermoon by Dominic Dulley and Assassin's Creed Infographics by Guillaume Delalande.

Tor Books sent me The Moons of Barsk by Lawrence M. Schoen. It seems to have been delayed in the post, but I'm glad it got here.

I'm excited to dive into these. Now if someone can give me a pocket of portable time I'd be golden!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Cover Reveal: Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

It seems that due to all the madness at work I've missed the cover reveal for Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I fell in love with Children of Time and I practically begged on Twitter for a sequel, so I'm ecstatic that wishes DO come true. I can't wait for some more sentient spider goodness!

CHILDREN OF RUIN by Adrian Tchaikovsky
ISBN: 9781509865833
Release date: 16 May 2019


Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. On the world they called Nod, scientists discovered alien life – but it was their mission to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Then humanity’s great empire fell, and the program’s decisions were lost to time.

Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies detected fragmentary radio signals between the stars. They dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth.

But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed.

And it’s been waiting for them.

Friday, October 12, 2018

On My Radar: The Outcast Hours

The Outcast Hours, a brand new anthology edited by Jared Shurin and Mahvesh Murad has just been announced.

The anthology promises to be a real treat for speculative fiction fans with a stunning selection of contributors including some of the best talents South Africa has on offer. Scheduled for publication on 19 February 2019 from Solaris this is definitely one to add to the pre-order list!

Edited by Jared Shurin and Mahvesh Murad
ISBN: 9781781085745
Release date: 19 February 2019

We live our lives in the daylight. Our stories take place under the sun: bright, clear, unafraid.

This is not a book of those stories.

These are the stories of people who live at night; under neon and starlight, and never the light of day.

These are the stories of poets and police; writers and waiters; gamers and goddesses; tourists and traders; the hidden and the forbidden; the lonely and the lovers.

These are their lives. These are their stories. And this is their time:

The Outcast Hours.

Including stories by Marina Warner, China Miéville, Frances Hardinge, Will Hill, Sally Partridge, Jesse Bullington, Jeffrey Alan Love, Kuzhali Manickavel, Amira Salah-Ahmed, Cecilia Ekbäck, Celeste Baker, Karen Onojaife, Daniel Polansky, Genevieve Valentine, Indrapramit Das, Leah Moore, Sam Beckbessinger, Sami Shah, Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorsen, Yukimi Ogawa, Lavie Tidhar, Silvia Moreno Garcia, Genevieve Valentine, Maha Khan Phillips, William Boyle, S.L. Grey, M. Suddain, and Omar Robert Hamilton. Sam Gretton (Cover Artist)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Opening Lines: Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

Another ship dropped off the tactical grid, obliterated by a shower of pin-sized antimatter warheads.

Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell

The sentient warship Trouble Dog was built for violence, yet following a brutal war, she is disgusted by her role in a genocide. Stripped of her weaponry and seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress. When a civilian ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, are sent on a rescue mission.

Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing spaceship. What Childe doesn't know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be. A straightforward rescue turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe find themselves at the centre of a conflict that could engulf the entire galaxy. If she is to save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight...

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Silverwood: The Door - Season 1 Now Available

October means one thing - all the creepy goodness comes oozing out of the darkness! Serialbox has just released the first episode of their brand new serial, Silverwood: The Door. Created by Brian Keene and based on Silverwood by Tony E. Valenzuela this new serial sounds like it will be the perfect thing for those dark, scary nights.

Deep within the forest of Silverwood, California, a crack between dimensions has appeared. A dark force that lurks among the trees is growing stronger, determined to return home if it can only gather the strength to open the door—bad news for a Cub Scout troop and the employees of Hirsch Capital on a company retreat nearby. As their darkest fears and impulses power the mysterious force, their bonding exercises take a deadly turn. Will anyone be able to keep their minds long enough to close the door before our world is torn apart?

You can read or listen to the first episode for free over at Serialbox.

If you love creepy things then definitely check this out!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Pardon the Dust

Tragedy struck this past Monday. After returning home I discovered that my faithful PC gave up the ghost. The PSU had been giving me some problems (not powering on unless you flip the switch on the PSU itself) and now it seems that the hard drive has followed it into digital heaven. Tracking down the problem is difficult and might be futile. Living in the middle of nowhere means that I couldn't just pop into the  shop for various parts which left me without a computer for most of the week. I guess a 6 year lifespan has been a pretty good run.

The good news is that I've squirreled away funds for just such an occurrence and in sheer panic and desperation I ordered a gaming laptop to replace the recently departed desktop PC. I managed to pick up a Lenovo Legion Y520 at a pretty decent price (I think. The price jumped by R4000 after I ordered) and converting to a laptop should hopefully help with the frequent power outages we have here. (The power goes off and on rather frequently, which most likely hastened the HDD's demise.)

So behold my new wondrous piece of technology!

For those interested these are the specs:
Lenovo Legion Y520 15IKM Model 80YY
15.6" FHD IPS Screen
Intel Core i7-7700HQ, 2.8GHz CPU
NVIDIA Geforce GTX1060 6GB GPU
1TB 5400rpm HDD
1 x USB 2.0 port (on left hand side. Somehow they neglect to tell you this)
2 x USB 3.0 ports (on right hand side)
1 x USB C port

I've been out of the PC market for so long that I haven't followed all the latest hardware developments so I'm not sure what constitutes good specs these days, but these seem decent. I might upgrade to an SSD later when my wallet has recovered somewhat.

Now the long process of getting everything up and running and back to my liking begins. Coming from Windows 7 it's quite a learning curve to get used to Windows 10 now. So, this long ramble is just to say that the blog might be quieter than usual for the next couple of weeks while I try to recover things.

One thing I've come to realise is that our digital lives lie scattered in breadcrumbs of forgotten passwords. I've had to do so many password resets...

Onward to more technologically advanced things! Normal programming should resume soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Opening Lines: Hidden Empire by Kevin J. Anderson

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

Safe in orbit high above the gas giant, Margaret looked through the observation port at continent-sized hurricanes and clouds far below. She wondered how long it would take for the entire planet to catch fire, once the experiment began.

Hidden Empire by Kevin J. Anderson

Having colonized other worlds, humans are certain the galaxy is theirs for the taking. But they soon discover the horrifying price of their arrogance when a scientific experiment awakens the wrath of the previously unknown Hydrogues and begins a war.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

On My Radar: Not One Of Us edited by Neil Clarke

I must confess that this caught my eye based purely on the cover (cover art by Jacques Leyreloup), but the selection of authors and stories included in the anthology also sound pretty darn amazing. This is definitely going on my wishlist!

NOT ONE OF US edited by Neil Clarke
ISBN: 978-1597809573
Release Date: 6 November 2018

They Are Strangers from Far Lands . . .

Science fiction writers have been using aliens as a metaphor for the other for over one hundred years. Superman has otherworldly origins, and his struggles to blend in on our planet are a clear metaphor for immigration. Earth’s adopted son is just one example of this “Alien Among Us” narrative.

There are stories of assimilation, or the failure to do so. Stories of resistance to the forces of naturalization. Stories told from the alien viewpoint. Stories that use aliens as a manifestation of the fears and worries of specific places and eras. Stories that transcend location and time, speaking to universal issues of group identity and its relationship to the Other.

Nearly thirty authors in this reprint anthology grapple both the best and worst aspects of human nature, and they do so in utterly compelling and entertaining ways. Not One of Us is a collection of stories that aren’t afraid to tackle thorny and often controversial issues of race, nationalism, religion, political ideology, and other ways in which humanity divides itself.

Table of Contents
  • Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman
  • Laws of Survival by Nancy Kress
  • At Play in the Fields by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • Ants of Flanders by Robert Reed
  • Taking Care of God by Liu Cixin
  • Water Scorpions by Rich Larson
  • The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill by Kelly Robson
  • Men are Trouble by James Patrick Kelly
  • They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass by Alaya Dawn Johnson
  • Bits by Naomi Kritzer
  • And Never Mind the Watching Ones by Keffy R. M. Kehrli
  • Dark Heaven by Gregory Benford
  • Nine-Tenths of the Law by Molly Tanzer
  • Five Stages of Grief After the Alien Invasion by Caroline M. Yoachim
  • Time of the Snake by A.M. Dellamonica
  • The Fear Gun by Judith Berman
  • Tendeléo’s Story by Ian McDonald
  • The Choice by Paul McAuley
  • Passage of Earth by Michael Swanwick
  • Reborn by Ken Liu
  • Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang

Monday, August 6, 2018

New arrivals: The Rebate Revolution

What better way to start a new month than with new books! I've been really good at curbing my book buying, but after a truly stressful few weeks I caved and placed an order for a couple of books. The promise of an unexpected tax rebate allowed me to spend a bit more than I was initially intending, but I'm still way below the 64 books I bought last year (currently sitting at just 14 for the year) so I'm still calling it a win.

First up are some books I ordered from Reader's Warehouse. I picked up The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin, The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin and the two volumes of The Unreal and The Real, a collection of short stories by the late Ursula K. le Guin.

And for my science fiction fix I got Babylon's Ashes by James S.A. Corey, the sixth book in the Expanse series and Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell.

For Review

The awesome folks at Jonathan Ball publishers once again blew me away with a selection of books for review that are simply to die for. I'm extremely excited for Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio it promises to have all the space opera goodness I love. I'm going to have to track down the first book in Ed McDonald's Raven's Mark series before I can get to Ravencry, but that cover is just amazing. And lastly, for those times when I need a break from SFF there is Incorruptible by Barbara Nadel and The Hunt by Bear Grylls.

I can't wait to get to all of these. Now if only I could find a pocket universe filled with time...

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Review: The Outsider by Stephen King

Title: The Outsider
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 478
ISBN: 9781473676404
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 22 May 2018
Genre: Horror / Crime
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

When an eleven-year-old boy is found murdered in a town park, reliable eyewitnesses undeniably point to the town’s popular Little League coach, Terry Maitland, as the culprit. DNA evidence and fingerprints confirm the crime was committed by this well-loved family man.

Horrified by the brutal killing, Detective Ralph Anderson, whose own son was once coached by Maitland, orders the suspect to be arrested in a public spectacle. But Maitland has an alibi. And further research confirms he was indeed out of town that day.

As Anderson and the District Attorney trace the clues, the investigation expands from Ohio to Texas. And as horrifying answers begin to emerge, so King’s propulsive story of almost unbearable suspense kicks into high gear.

Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy but there is one rock-hard fact, as unassailable as gravity: a man cannot be in two places at the same time. Can he?

The Outsider by Stephen King starts with the horrific murder of a young boy, seemingly at the hands of the local Little League coach, Terry Maitland. The abundant forensic evidence and eyewitness accounts are enough to convince the police that they have their culprit, but when incontrovertible proof meets ironclad alibi it becomes clear that everything is not as it seems.

Initially The Outsider seems like a pretty standard crime thriller, but just as the case is set to go to court it takes a decidedly dark turn and heads in a completely different direction than I thought. Something otherworldly is at work and the murder investigation morphs into a hunt for a mythological monster hiding in the shadows of perception and feasting on the fear and pain it inflicts.

Roughly midway through the novel there is a sudden and unexpected cross-over with the Bill Hodges trilogy as Holly Gibney, a private investigator and major character from that series, is called in to assist. (Having not yet finished the Bill Hodges trilogy there were some major spoilers, so if you haven’t finished the trilogy be warned!).

The investigating officer, Detective Anderson, clings to his belief in facts and empirical truth as he struggles to reconcile his beliefs with the existence of the supernatural.
“If we believe in monsters, in the supernatural, how do we believe in anything?” (p 331)
Holly, with all she has gone through, is the one that already knows that the supernatural is real and has to convince the others in order to prevent another child being murdered.
“A person did what a person could, whether it was setting up gravestones or trying to convince twenty-first-century men and women that there were monsters in the world, and their greatest advantage was the unwillingness of rational people to believe.” (p 304)
While I enjoyed Holly as character she completely overshadows the rest of the characters, in fact this might as well have been another instalment in the Bill Hodges series as Detective Anderson and the rest of the cast are relegated to supporting characters as soon as Holly arrives on the scene, making them somewhat disposable and redundant.

True to Stephen King’s style of drawing and colouring outside the borders the writing draws you in with a vivid sense of place and King compels you to care not only for the main characters, but also for those on the periphery as the aftermath of tragedy and loss ripple through the families and the community at large. This comes at a cost though. The pacing can be uneven and lags midway as things get bogged down, but then it picks up again as events are drawn to a claustrophobic, bloody conclusion. The ending is satisfying and definitely makes the journey well worth it. King can still bring the chills, and then some!

The Verdict:
The Outsider has a frighteningly fascinating premise that blends reality with the supernatural. Stephen King manages to still surprise and captivate with unexpected twists and turns. Despite some pacing issues this is still a very good read. Just be warned that you might want to finish the Bill Hodges Trilogy first before tackling this one to avoid spoilers. Recommended!

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Opening Lines: The Thousand Emperors

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

In brief, then, human history can be split into two parts: the period occurring before the destruction of all life on Earth in the year 2235 C.E., and that following those terrible, final days.

The Thousand Emperors by Gary Gibson

Archivist Luc Gabion has finally achieved his life's goal - of bringing down Winchell Antonov, head of the Black Lotus terrorist organisation, and the scourge of the Tian Di's stellar empire for countless years. But instead of feeling victorious, the encounter has left him scarred. Forcibly implanted with a technology far in advance of anything he's encountered before, Luc sees and hears things he knows he's not supposed to. Worse, the technology is killing him, slowly. So when he finds himself investigating the murder of one of the Tian Di's ruling clique, the Thousand Emperors, he knows he's in real trouble.

Any one of them could be the killer, and any one of them could have him put to death on a whim. Worse, the dead man is the architect of the coming Reunification: two great civilisations, separated for centuries by old enmities, are about to reunite in a new age of peace and prosperity. But it soon becomes clear that someone out there is willing to do anything to make sure that day never comes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Getting Graphic: Witchblade Vol 1 (2017) Review

Title: Witchblade Vol 1 (2017)
Author: Caitlin Kittredge
Artist: Robert Ingranata
Pages: 152
ISBN: 9781534306851
Collects issues #1-6
Publisher: Image Comics
Published: 17 July 2018
Genre: Comic & Graphic Novels / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Gunned down and left for dead on a New York rooftop, Alex Underwood's life should have ended there-but instead, at the moment of death, she became host to the Witchblade, a mystical artifact that grants the woman wielding it extraordinary powers. But the power comes with a heavy cost, and Alex finds herself thrust into the center of an unseen battle raging on the snowy streets of NYC. Demons are real and walking among humans, and every one of them is intent on taking out the Witchblade's newest host before she becomes too strong to kill. But the artifact chose Alex for a reason, and she's not going down without a fight.

My introduction to the Witchblade franchise came, not through the comics, but through the TV series from 2001 starring actress Yancy Butler. I was intrigued by the magical armor and the concept of the show and it has stuck with me since then. When I saw that a new reboot for the Witchblade comics was in the works I just had to give them a try.

The Witchblade reboot focuses on an entirely new protagonist, Alex Underwood, as she struggles with her own traumatic past while coming to grips with the fact that she is now the new vessel of the Witchblade, a mystical artifact that grants extraordinary powers to the woman that wields it. Dark forces are at work and with her newfound abilities still in their infancy she becomes a prime target.

Bits of Witchblade lore are revealed
The narrative is compelling and draws you in, but the various flashbacks can be jarring and there are times where it felt that the continuity was somewhat off.  Alex meets a mysterious man who acts as a guiding figure to her, he never introduces himself, yet in later panels she somehow calls him by name. You get flashbacks showcasing bits of Witchblade history, but you never get to know how Alex actually came to possess the artifact.

The artwork is stunning and has a dark, gritty vibe to it with vibrant colours adding a dash of visual magic. The facial features of some of the characters can be indistinct, making it difficult to differentiate between some of the male characters.

My major complaint is that the battle scenes lacked depth. Every conflict seemed to be resolved through magic without much real action taking place - whoosh, magic happens and the bad guy is defeated.

The armor lacks detail and definition.
I was also disappointed that the Witchblade is never depicted as a gauntlet or weapon; the armor Alex wields towards the end has no real detail and definition. A big draw for me was the promise of seeing an amazing magical artifact in action and the end result didn't quite deliver. Hopefully this is only the groundwork for greater things to come, perhaps, as Alex reconciles with and grows in power the Witchblade will take on more definition and form. They might just have a trick up their sleeve...

Despite the issues there's a lot to like here. I got a real kick from the ending - a veritable declaration of war!

The Verdict:
While I enjoyed reading Witchblade Vol 1, I felt that the story and artwork lacked detail and depth at times. I would have loved to have seen more Witchblade lore being revealed and the Witchblade itself being more of a focal point. The reboot certainly has promise and it will be interesting to see where the all-female creative team takes it next.

The Rating: 6/10 (Good)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: The Soldier by Neal Asher

Title: The Soldier
Author: Neal Asher
Pages: 448
ISBN: 9781509862368 / 9781597809610
Series: Rise of the Jain #1
Publisher: Macmillan / Night Shade Books (US)
Published: 17 May 2018
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

A hidden corner of space is swarming with lethal alien technology, a danger to all sentient life. It’s guarded by Orlandine, who must keep it contained at any cost – as it has the power to destroy entire civilizations. She schemes from her state-of-the-art weapons station, with only an alien intelligence to share her vigil. But she doesn’t share everything with Dragon . . .

Orlandine is hatching a plan to obliterate this technology, removing its threat forever. For some will do anything to exploit this ancient weaponry, created by a long-dead race called the Jain. This includes activating a Jain super-soldier, which may breach even Orlandine’s defences.

Meanwhile, humanity and the alien prador empire keep a careful watch over this sector of space, as neither can allow the other to claim its power. However, things are about to change. The Jain might not be as dead as they seemed – and interstellar war is just a heartbeat away.

The Soldier by Neal Asher is a mind-blowing start to the Rise of the Jain trilogy. Set in the expansive Polity universe many familiar characters make a welcome return. The focus this time around is on Orlandine and the enigmatic alien entity called Dragon as they stand guard against a threat that might very well destroy all sentient life. Long time readers know that wherever Dragon is involved things are bound to get interesting in the most chaotic of ways. And boy does it ever!

Neal Asher takes all the best elements from the Polity universe and weaves them together into a narrative that makes it feel as if everything that came before was only meant to set up the groundwork for this moment. Fans of the Polity universe will find everything they adore - incredible technology, weird alien creatures, sarcastic AI drones, gigantic space battles and the fate of the entire universe hanging in the balance. Asher even manages to expand on the back-story of the Polity in some truly surprising ways, with far-reaching implications in the current conflict, making it hard to believe that everything wasn't meticulously planned from the very start. While newcomers will be able to follow most of what happens thanks to an extensive glossary and ample recounting of prior events, The Soldier is best experienced if you are familiar with the previous novels set in the universe otherwise you will deprive yourself from seeing how masterfully all the threads laid down throughout the prior series are brought to fruition.

The characters are engaging and you can't help but feel sympathy for them as they each struggle to reconcile with their own unique nature and identity. The addition of some snarky battle drones provide a lighter touch and The Client introduces a whole new element to the story as it goes in search of its own forbidden history.
'You stir the still pool of history,' said the Librarian. 'Terror you cannot comprehend will come up from the depths.' (p 232)
The last third of the novel sent my adrenaline levels through the roof. I devoured the pages at a blistering pace as beloved characters faced dire peril and unexpected revelations changed the entire dynamic of events up to the very last page. This is one heck of a start to the trilogy, I'm not even sure how the rest of the books will be able to top this, but I can't wait to find out!

The Verdict:
Just when you thought the Polity couldn't get more interesting Neal Asher manages to weave the most awe-inspiring elements of his universe together into an amazing narrative brimming with awesome technology, vast space battles, gigantic explosions and intricate machinations that are terrifying in their scope. This simply tops everything that has come before. Like a true master Asher hits this one out of the galactic plane and it's difficult to believe everything in the Polity universe wasn't plotted out from the very start to bring us to this very point. The Soldier is a truly mind-blowing start to a new trilogy and I definitely can't wait to see what happens next. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 8/10 (Great!)

Thanks to Pan Macmillan S.A. for providing the review copy.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Getting Graphic: A Brief Terminology Primer

If you are a complete comic newbie like me you might find all the terminology a bit confusing. Here is a quick breakdown of common terms used in the world of comics:

Comic: A serialised story told in sequential graphical form.

Single Issue: A single installment of a serialised comic. Often published monthly. If you always want to be up to date with the latest events in the story then this is the way to go.

Trade Paperbacks (TPB): A collection of issues (normally around 4 - 6 issues) collected into one volume. Trades become available after individual issues are sold so you might not be up to date with the latest happenings. The flipside to this is that you get to experience a more complete story in one go. Trades are normally less expensive than buying the individual single issues. Trades are also known as a volumes and a complete comic run can consist of multiple volumes. (While trades are commonly referred to as graphic novels this is not technically correct. See below.)

Graphic novel: A single standalone story in book length. Graphic novels have never appeared in serialised form as single issues.

Digital comics: As you would expect it's the digital version of a comic and, as with their physical counterparts, they are available in both single issues, trades and omnibus editions. One of the most popular retailers of digital comics is Comixology. Digital comics can be read on PC or on tablets as well as some ereaders (if you don't mind sticking to greyscale images).

Now that we have the basics down, onward!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Most Anticipated 2018 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Releases II

Continuing on from my most anticipated science fiction and fantasy releases of 2018 here are 15 more anticipated releases covering the second half of the year. Did I miss any?


Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio
ISBN: 9780756413002

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives--even the Emperor himself--against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

Infinity's End edited by Jonathan Strahan
ISBN: 9781781085752

The highly-anticipated final volume of the critically-acclaimed science fiction anthology series

Life in space is hard, lonely and the only person you can rely on is yourself. Whether you’re living deep in the gravity well of humanity’s watery home, mucking out air vents in a city floating high in the clouds of Jupiter, or re-checking the filtration system on some isolated space station, life is hard and demanding, and life is small.

The stories of Infinity’s End are set in those empty spaces, in futures where planets have been disassembled and reused for parts, or terraformed and settled; where civilisations have risen and fallen; where far future people make their lives anywhere from colonies hanging in the clouds of Neptune or Venus to the repurposed cores of distant asteroids; on worldlets and asteroids, inside Saturn’s rings or distant spheres and wheels, on-board ships trucking from home to home, and port to port. They're set in a future that's lived in. And they make it clear that even if we never leave the Solar System, there's life enough and room enough to live out all of science fiction's dreams.

Death of a Clone by Alex Thomson
ISBN: 9781781086346

The Overseers may call it Hell, but for Leila and the other clones, the mining base on asteroid Mizushima-00109 is the only home they’ve ever known. But then Leila’s sister Lily is murdered, and the Overseers seem less interested in solving the crime than in making their mining quota and returning to Earth.

Leila decides to find the murderer, just like the heroes of her old detective novels would. But Hell is a place of terrible secrets, and a love of cozy mysteries may not be enough to keep Leila from ending up like her sister.


Bloody Rose (The Band #2) by Nicholas Eames
ISBN: 9780356509044

Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown.

When the biggest mercenary band of all rolls into town, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It's adventure she wants-and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death.


Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Short Fiction
Edited by Irene Gallo
ISBN: 9781250171238

An anthology of award-winning, eye-opening, genre-defining science fiction, fantasy, and horror from's first ten years

Since it began in 2008 has explored countless new worlds of fiction, delving into possible and impossible futures, alternate and intriguing pasts, and realms of fantasy previously unexplored. Its hundreds of remarkable stories span from science fiction to fantasy to horror, and everything in between. Now is making some of those worlds available for the first time in print.

This volume collects some of the best short stories has to offer, with Hugo and Nebula Award-winning short stories and novelettes chosen from all ten years of the program.

Including stories by: Charlie Jane Anders, N. K. Jemisin, Leigh Bardugo, Jeff VanderMeer, Yoon Ha Lee, Carrie Vaughn, Ken Liu, Kai Ashante Wilson, Kameron Hurley, Seth Dickinson, Rachel Swirsky, Laurie Penny, Alyssa Wong, Kij Johnson, David D. Levine, Genevieve Valentine, Max Gladstone, and many others.

Salvation by Peter F Hamilton
ISBN: 9781447281313

Know your enemy - or be defeated

AD 2204
An alien shipwreck is discovered on a planet at the very limits of human expansion - so Security Director Feriton Kayne selects a team to investigate. The ship's sinister cargo not only raises bewildering questions, but could also foreshadow humanity's extinction. It will be up to the team to bring back answers, and the consequences of this voyage will change everything.

Back on Earth, we can now make deserts bloom and extend lifespans indefinitely, so humanity seems invulnerable. We therefore welcomed the Olyix to Earth when they contacted us. They needed fuel for their pilgrimage across the galaxy - and in exchange they helped us advance our technology. But were the Olyix a blessing or a curse?

Many lightyears from Earth, Dellian and his clan of genetically engineered soldiers are raised with one goal. They must confront and destroy their ancient adversary. The enemy caused mankind to flee across the galaxy and they hunt us still. If they aren't stopped, we will be wiped out - and we're running out of time.

The Accidental War by Walter Jon Williams
ISBN: 9780062467027

It's been seven years since the end of the Naxid War. Sidelined for their unorthodox tactics by a rigid, tradition-bound military establishment, Captain Gareth Martinez and Captain the Lady Sula are stewing in exile, frustrated and impatient to exercise the effective and lethal skills they were born to use in fighting the enemy.

Yet after the ramshackle empire left by the Shaa conquerors is shaken by a series of hammer blows that threaten the foundations of the commonwealth, the result is a war that no one planned, no one expected, and no one knows how to end.

Now, Martinez, Sula, and their confederate Nikki Severin must escape the clutches of their enemies, rally the disorganized elements of the fleet, and somehow restore the fragile peace-or face annihilation at the hands of a vastly superior force


The Quantum Magician by Derek Kunsken
ISBN: 9781781085707

Balisarius is a quantum man, an engineered human gifted with impossible insight. But his gift is also a curse-a constant, overwhelming flood of sensation. He flees his creators to try and live a normal life. But when a client offers him untold wealth to move a squadron of warships across an enemy wormhole Belisarius must embrace his true nature to pull off the job, along with a whole crew of extraordinary men and women.

If he succeeds, he could trigger an interstellar war...or the next step in human evolution.

Zero Sum Game by S. L. Huang
ISBN: 9781250180254

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight. She can take any job for the right price and shoot anyone who gets in her way.

As far as she knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower...but then Cas discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she's involved. There’s only one problem: She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
ISBN: 9780765388971

The second, thrilling novel in the bestselling Interdependency series, from Hugo Award-winning author John Scalzi.

The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it—unless desperate measures can be taken.

Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy. Arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least, an opportunity that can allow them to ascend to power.

While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are preparing for a civil war, a war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business, and the altars of worship as much as it will take place between spaceships and battlefields. The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, but so are her enemies. Nothing about this power struggle will be simple or easy... and all of humanity will be caught in its widening gyre.

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
ISBN: 9780765380746

A breathtaking geopolitical thriller as fraught as Game of Thrones: one woman's scheme to destroy an empire from within

Even more sweeping and heart-wrenching than its 2015 prequel, The Monster Baru Cormorant is the epic follow-up to the critically acclaimed The Traitor Baru Cormorant, which made it onto no fewer than 17 Best-of-the-Year lists.

Baru Cormormant's world was shattered by the Empire of Masks. To exact her revenge, she has clawed her way up razor-edged rungs of betrayal, sacrifice, and compromise, becoming the very thing she seeks to destroy.

Unable to trust anyone and pursued across the ocean by enemies determined to punish her for her treachery, Baru now seeks the key the starting a war that will either rip apart the Masquerade once and for all, or the world itself...and with it, all that remains of her soul.

Rejoice by Steven Erikson
ISBN: 9781473223813

An alien AI has been sent to the solar system as representative of three advanced species. Its mission is to save the Earth's ecosystem - and the biggest threat to that is humanity. But we are also part of the system, so the AI must make a choice. Should it save mankind or wipe it out? Are we worth it?

The AI is all-powerful, and might as well be a god. So it sets up some conditions. Violence is now impossible. Large-scale destruction of natural resources is impossible. Food and water will be provided for those who really, truly need them. You can't even bully someone on the internet any more. The old way of doing things is gone. But a certain thin-skinned US president, among others, is still wedded to late-stage capitalism. Can we adapt? Can we prove ourselves worthy? And are we prepared to give up free will for a world without violence?

And above it all, on a hidden spaceship, one woman watches. A science fiction writer, she was abducted from the middle of the street in broad daylight. She is the only person the AI will talk to. And she must make a decision.

Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
ISBN: 9780316262378

American Fred Fredericks is making his first trip, his purpose to install a communications system for China's Lunar Science Foundation. But hours after his arrival he witnesses a murder and is forced into hiding.

It is also the first visit for celebrity travel reporter Ta Shu. He has contacts and influence, but he too will find that the moon can be a perilous place for any traveler.

Finally, there is Chan Qi. She is the daughter of the Minister of Finance, and without doubt a person of interest to those in power. She is on the moon for reasons of her own, but when she attempts to return to China, in secret, the events that unfold will change everything - on the moon, and on Earth.

Creatures: The Legacy of Frankenstein
Edited by David Thomas Moore
ISBN: 9781781086117

A new anthology bringing together five great new and established writers to explore the world of Mary Shelley’s all-time classic, Frankenstein

“My spirit will sleep in peace; or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell.”

Victor Frankenstein was the first to unlock the key to life, but he would not be the last. Through two centuries of scientific enquiry and relentless advancement, five more minds found the secret, and five more creatures were made. Five more stories ended in tragedy.

From the 1840s to the modern day, from the race to publish the first anatomy to the desperate search for weapons to win the Second World War, telling the stories of the creatures that never were.


Tiamat's Wrath (The Expanse #8) by James S.A. Corey
ISBN: 9780316332873
Thirteen hundred gates have opened to solar systems around the galaxy. But as humanity builds its interstellar empire in the alien ruins, the mysteries and threats grow deeper.

In the dead systems where gates lead to stranger things than alien planets, Elvi Okoye begins a desperate search to discover the nature of a genocide that happened before the first human beings existed, and to find weapons to fight a war against forces at the edge of the imaginable. But the price of that knowledge may be higher than she can pay.

At the heart of the empire, Teresa Duarte prepares to take on the burden of her father's godlike ambition. The sociopathic scientist Paolo Cortázar and the Mephistophelian prisoner James Holden are only two of the dangers in a palace thick with intrigue, but Teresa has a mind of her own and secrets even her father the emperor doesn't guess.

And throughout the wide human empire, the scattered crew of the Rocinante fights a brave rear-guard action against Duarte's authoritarian regime. Memory of the old order falls away, and a future under Laconia's eternal rule -- and with it, a battle that humanity can only lose - seems more and more certain. Because against the terrors that lie between worlds, courage and ambition will not be enough...

Monday, July 9, 2018

Getting Graphic: The Journey Begins

It all started around the middle of last year when I suddenly had this vivid memory of a graphic novel/comic I owned as a teen. The only thing I could remember was this image of a kid with a yo-yo which somehow turned into an owl (the yo-yo, not the kid!). For the life of me I couldn't remember the title. My copy must have gotten lost when we moved since, after an extensive (and I mean EXTENSIVE) search I couldn't find it. The whole thing nagged at me. My OCD brain just wouldn't give it a rest until a) I found out what it was and b) I could get a copy again.

Internet to the rescue! A desperate plea on Twitter resulted in the revelation that the comic in question was in fact The Books of Magic written by Neil Gaiman. Thankfully it was still in print and I managed to track down a copy again which sated my brain's desires and allowed me to once again get a peaceful night's rest.

This whole episode sparked a newfound interest in comics/graphic novels and prompted me to test the waters to see if this whole comic thing is for me. Growing up I didn't have access to any comics aside from those trusted staples of libraries everywhere - Astrix and Tintin (technically both are graphic novels if I understand the jargon right) and the aforementioned Books of Magic which, if memory serves, I received as a gift from someone. So with this very limited background I'm going to start a journey of exploration into the graphic side of things.

Comics are extremely expensive over here in South Africa and availability can be quite limited too. I can't just pop into a local comic shop and see what's on offer. My only avenue is ordering online and since I can't try before I buy it complicates matters quite a bit. Since this is a visual medium there are certain styles that just doesn't appeal to me. Digital comics are an option, but to really experience them as intended I think physical editions would be the ideal way to go.

To start things off I picked up some trade paperbacks of Wytches, Descender and Monstress.

I also got copies of Super Sons and the second volume of Monstress (based solely on the artwork after paging through the first volume).

I guess my fledgling collection is all set for me to give this a try. Hopefully it doesn't turn into another expensive obsession!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

On My Radar: Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

I almost forgot that a new Peter F. Hamilton book is coming out in September. I'm really looking forward to this one. It sounds like it will have everything I love in SF and then some. Definitely remember to add this one to your wishlists!

Cover for Salvation by Peter F Hamilton

SALVATION by Peter F. Hamilton
ISBN: 9781447281313
Release date: 6 September 2018
Pre-Order a copy

Know your enemy – or be defeated

AD 2204
An alien shipwreck is discovered on a planet at the very limits of human expansion – so Security Director Feriton Kayne selects a team to investigate. The ship’s sinister cargo not only raises bewildering questions, but could also foreshadow humanity’s extinction. It will be up to the team to bring back answers, and the consequences of this voyage will change everything.

Back on Earth, we can now make deserts bloom and extend lifespans indefinitely, so humanity seems invulnerable. We therefore welcomed the Olyix to Earth when they contacted us. They needed fuel for their pilgrimage across the galaxy – and in exchange they helped us advance our technology. But were the Olyix a blessing or a curse?

Many lightyears from Earth, Dellian and his clan of genetically engineered soldiers are raised with one goal. They must confront and destroy their ancient adversary. The enemy caused mankind to flee across the galaxy and they hunt us still. If they aren’t stopped, we will be wiped out – and we’re running out of time.

Salvation is the first title in a stunning science fiction trilogy, The Salvation Sequence, by Peter F. Hamilton


Do want!

Monday, July 2, 2018

New Arrivals: The Late Edition

Even though the blog has been on an involuntary hiatus for the last month and a half (damn you reading slumps and work stress!) I still kept acquiring books. Although I might have shared some of these on Twitter I never got round to doing a proper post on the blog. So here are the latest (and some late!) additions to my shelves.

Way back in April I ordered these from Reader's Warehouse. I've read the Witcher short stories and want to try out the rest of the novels. These were going for about half of the normal retail prices so I HAD to pick them up. I also want to try out some more of Jim Butcher's work and a new series sounded like a good place to start.

For Review

I have also been fortunate enough to receive some books for review.

From Jonathan Ball Publishers I received these amazing books. I'm not sure where to start. They all looks so good.

And to finish things off, I squeed aloud when I received this package from Pan Macmillan SA. The arrival of the latest Neal Asher at your doorstep is an instant antidote to the most dreadful of weeks!

A HUGE thank you to the publishers for the review copies. Now I have to figure out where to start. Outsider or The Soldier? Tough choice...

Reviews should be up soon*!