Friday, March 29, 2019

New Arrivals: March Madness

March is my birthday month, so I decided to pull out all the stops and spoil myself with books. Lots of books!

I've been getting into comics over the last couple of months and absolutely fell in love with Super Sons which features the sons of Superman and Batman, Jonathan Kent (Superboy) and Damian (Robin). Naturally I had to take a deep dive into their respective histories, which let to my first two purchases.

The Batman and Robin omnibus is a truly massive tome and easily the most expensive book I now own. Who can say no to 1248 pages of comic goodness? I also picked up the Batman Omnibus by Grant Morrison, which introduces Damian to his father. Some people despise him as character, but I completely fell for his arrogance and pride. I can't wait to delve into Damian's history.

When I was ordering the Batman omnibus the Aquaman omnibus by Geoff Johns was also on sale so I couldn't resist adding it to my order. Aquaman doesn't have the greatest reputation as a superhero, but apparently this run redefines the character completely and the story seems to have been the inspiration for the recent. I haven't read any Aquaman so it will be interesting to try it out.

I haven't read much Ursula K. Le Guin so when I spotted these going for cheap at Readers Warehouse I just had to get them. I picked up The Dispossessed, The Lathe of Heaven and The Word for World is Forest. As a bonus these are SF Masterwork editions which will add to my growing collection.

I also picked up Earthsea: The First Four Books and the last two books in Terry Brooks' Defenders of Shannara series, The Sorcerer's Daughter and The Darkling Child.

Addiction is a terrible thing!. I ended up ordering even more comics. At last I have my own copy of Watchmen by Alan Moore - a true classic. And lastly I picked up the third deluxe edition of Superman. This run focuses on Superman and his son Jon, so it covers the other half of my Super Sons obsession.

For review

I received the following titles for review from Jonathan Ball Publishers:
Mistborn: Secret History by Brandon Sanderson
Aliens Omnibus: Volume 7 by S.D. Perry and B.K. Evenson.
Queen of the Air and Darkness by Cassandra Claire
War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

Most of these are part of series I'm not up to date with, so it might be some time before I can get to them.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Books of Shame: Mount TBR Exposed

Inspired by a video from Elizabeth (Books and Pieces) I've decided to take a deep dive through the strata of Mount TBR to rediscover the books I was excited about at the time, but which somehow become lost through the decades. Yes, these have been on my shelves for a decade or more (at least since I started keeping track on Goodreads).

I present to you all my books of shame, the books that have been on my TBR the longest - the forgotten wonders still patiently waiting for me to get to them. It WILL happen. Eventually....

Mount TBR image

The Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton
Time on shelf: 10+ years

The year is 2380. The Intersolar Commonwealth, a sphere of stars some four hundred light-years in diameter, contains more than six hundred worlds, interconnected by a web of transport “tunnels” known as wormholes. At the farthest edge of the Commonwealth, astronomer Dudley Bose observes the impossible: Over one thousand light-years away, a star . . . vanishes. It does not go supernova. It does not collapse into a black hole. It simply disappears. Since the location is too distant to reach by wormhole, a faster-than-light starship, the Second Chance, is dispatched to learn what has occurred and whether it represents a threat. In command is Wilson Kime, a five-time rejuvenated ex-NASA pilot whose glory days are centuries behind him.

Opposed to the mission are the Guardians of Selfhood, a cult that believes the human race is being manipulated by an alien entity they call the Starflyer. Bradley Johansson, leader of the Guardians, warns of sabotage, fearing the Starflyer means to use the starship’s mission for its own ends,.

Pursued by a Commonwealth special agent convinced the Guardians are crazy but dangerous, Johansson flees. But the danger is not averted. Aboard the Second Chance, Kime wonders if his crew has been infiltrated. Soon enough, he will have other worries. A thousand light-years away, something truly incredible is waiting: a deadly discovery whose unleashing will threaten to destroy the Commonwealth . . . and humanity itself.

I loved Peter F. Hamilton's work so much when I discovered his books that I purchased his entire body of work available at time. I squirreled away these for a rainy day and it seems that that rainy day has not yet come...

Pliocene Exiles by Julian May
Time on shelf: 10+ years

When a one-way time tunnel to Earth's distant past, specifically six million B.C., was discovered by folks on the Galactic Milieu, every misfit for light-years around hurried to pass through it. Each sought his own brand of happiness. But none could have guessed what awaited them. Not even in a million years....

I got gifted these and the follow-up series, Galactic Milieu and Intervention, when someone decided to get rid of their entire SF collection. The premise sounded interesting and I haven't gotten round to them... yet.

Absolution Gap and other novels by Alastair Reynolds
Time on shelf: 9 years

The Inhibitors were designed to eliminate any life-form reaching a certain level of intelligence - and they've targeted humanity. War veteran Clavain and a ragtag group of refugees have fled into hiding. Their leadership is faltering, and their situation is growing more desperate. But their little colony has just received an unexpected visitor: an avenging angel with the power to lead mankind to safety - or draw down its darkest enemy.

And as she leads them to an apparently insignificant moon light-years away, it begins to dawn to Clavain and his companions that to beat the enemy, it may be necessary to forge an alliance with something much worse...

This is another case of me buying the entire series, and all of Alastair Reynolds' other work after being blown away by Revelation Space. Somehow I've ended up reading the first and second book in the series, but never finished it. What's wrong with me?

Then there's the fact that I haven't gotten to Chasm City, House of Suns, Century Rain or Terminal World either. Not to mention his newer stuff. It's not that he's work is bad, it's that I love them too much to run out of them.

The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov
Time on shelf: 9 years

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future -- to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire -- both scientists and scholars -- and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for a future generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.

But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind's last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and be overrun -- or fight them and be destroyed

If I remember correctly I was gifted about half of this series and then had to track down the rest. I read the first book before joining Goodreads and, to my shame, I still haven't managed to pick up any of the others.

The Culture series by Iain M. Banks
Time on shelf: 6-9 years

The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.

Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction

With his passing I've been rationing Iain M. Banks' work and can't seem to bring myself to read all of them. I tend to re-read the ones I've already read (Consider Phlebas, Excession) instead of venturing to the rest. When they are done, there really won't be any more.

Zones of Thought series by Vernor Vinge
Time on shelf: 8-9 years

Thousands of years hence, many races inhabit a universe where a mind's potential is determined by its location in space, from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths, where only simple creatures and technology can function. Nobody knows what strange force partitioned space into these "regions of thought," but when the warring Straumli realm use an ancient Transcendent artifact as a weapon, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence.

Fleeing the threat, a family of scientists, including two children, are taken captive by the Tines, an alien race with a harsh medieval culture, and used as pawns in a ruthless power struggle. A rescue mission, not entirely composed of humans, must rescue the children-and a secret that may save the rest of interstellar civilization.

To say that the first book in the series, A Fire Upon the Deep, blew me away would be an understatement. One of a rare breed of 5 star reads for me I loved everything about it. I still haven't gotten to the sequels yet. Perhaps fearing that they won't live up to my expectations?

The Saga of Seven Suns series by Kevin J. Anderson
Time on shelf: 8 years

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.

I heard great things about this series. Bought them all and just never read them. A seven book science fiction epic can be daunting and I haven't had the time to invest into tackling it yet.

Malazan Books of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson
Time on shelf: 8 years

The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting, and bloody confrontations. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen's rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.

For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.

But it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand....

Another great big series I heard great things about, wanted to try and just haven't had the time to invest in reading a 10 book fantasy epic. One day soon...

The Uplift Saga by David Brin
Time of shelf: 8 years

No species has ever reached for the stars without the guidance of a patron--except perhaps mankind. Did some mysterious race begin the uplift of humanity aeons ago? Circling the sun, under the caverns of Mercury, Expedition Sundiver prepares for the most momentous voyage in history--a journey into the boiling inferno of the sun.

I have fuzzy memories of discovering the first book of this series in a library when I was a teen and loving it. Not quite sure why, I know it has uplifted animals and who needs more than that? I picked up the entire series of 6 books and still need to read them. Can you spot the pattern emerging?

The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
Time on shelf: 8 years

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glokta a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

For a brief moment back in 2011 Amazon UK offered free shipping to South Africa. It was a glorious opportunity for me to try a rising star in fantasy so I picked up all the Joe Abercrombie they had on offer. And true to form they've been sitting on my shelf unread for all this time. I still want to read them though...


So there you have it. My shameful secret is exposed. My Mount TBR has grown to over 700 books and there is still no end in sight. I could honestly have listed a LOT more. These are all books I was really excited to read at the time and I still want to read all of them. Life has just gotten in the way; with work taking up most of my time now. Since I've started blogging new releases always seem to get priority which is a pity.  There are some damn fine books falling by the wayside as a result.

This exploration of my TBR has definitely reinvigorated my interest. I've forgotten about some of these and I'm now hoping to tackle a few of these soon.

I would love to hear what your books of shame are. Which books have been sitting on your shelf for ages? I can't be the only one with a list this long...

Friday, March 15, 2019

Love, Death And Robots

I've just spent the last couple of hours being completely blown away by the new anthology series, Love, Death and Robots on Netflix. The series features some amazing animated stories based on works by, among others, Peter F. Hamilton and Alistair Reynolds. They had me from the start.

There are some stories that didn't quite work for me, but overall I was amazed by both the visual wonder and storytelling at work. I can think of loads of short stories that would be absolutely fantastic for this format and would love to see more of this.

If you haven't checked it out already, do so now. HIGHLY recommended!

My favourite episodes were (in order of appearance):

Sonnie's Edge
Brutal and bloody, with an amazing sting at the end. An excellent adaptation of Peter F. Hamilton's novelette from 1991 . The only downside is that by today's standards the 90's cyberpunk aesthetic might seem a bit dated.

Three Robots
Based on a short story by John Scalzi this one is full of humour and laughs despite its post-apocalyptic setting. Three Robots provides a much lighter tone than most of the other episodes which is sorely needed as a palate cleanser between the much darker episodes. Plus it has cats, calm your motherboards and watch this!

One of the stories I got really emotionally invested in. An astoundingly touching story and some brilliant animation and voice acting at work. The kicker is when the bigger picture is revealed. Let's just say this one deals with some really extreme homesteading. Based on a short story by Steven Lewis.

Beyond the Aquila Rift
I never thought anything would be able to do Alastair Reynold's story justice, but this simply blew my mind away. Visually stunning and brutally poignant. Simply amazing!

This episode gives new meaning to 'unleash the dogs of war'. Beautiful animation, a touching story and some poignant themes. Really enjoyed this.

Helping Hand
Wow! What a story, both visually and emotionally. The premise might be simple, but it's used to stunning effect. "Just a wee sacrifice to the great nothing". Based on a short story by Claudine Griggs.

Lucky 13
The bond between pilot and their plane can be far greater than expected. Another stunning story in all the best ways with a touching ending and beautiful visuals. Based on a short story by Marko Kloos.

Zima Blue
Another adaptation of an Alastair Reynolds short story. I'm not sure the animation style worked for me, but I'm a huge fan of the original material and this does a good job of bringing it to life.

I would absolutely love to see more of these.  This medium could provide a great way to adapt those science fiction stories that we would all love to see on the big screen, but which would cost way too much to film traditionally. Science fiction has an almost limitless collection of great short stories which would be perfect for adaptation. Hopefully in the next season we'll get some more work from female authors, a more unified theme connecting the stories and a little less focus on sex.

Love, Death and Robots is a simply amazing experience. Like most anthologies some stories are bound to resonate more than others and it can be a hit-and-miss affair. You are bound to find something you'll love. Just be warned that most of the episodes contain adult content and some of them can be extremely violent. Cancel your weekend plans and go watch this. Highly recommended!

If you aren't keen on all the sex and nudity in some of the episodes I'd recommend you check these out:

Three Robots
When the Yogurt Took Over
Helping Hand
Lucky 13
Fish Night
Zima Blue
Ice Age
The Secret War

Thursday, March 14, 2019

On My Radar: The Best Horror of the Year Vol Eleven

The cover and table of contents for The Best Horror of the Year Volume Eleven edited by Ellen Datlow has been revealed. As always this seems like an amazing collection to be on the look out for!

Edited by Ellen Datlow
ISBN: 9781597809726
Release Date: 3 September 2019

For more than three decades, Ellen Datlow has been at the center of horror. Bringing you the most frightening and terrifying stories, Datlow always has her finger on the pulse of what horror readers crave. Now, with the eleventh volume of the series, Datlow is back again to bring you the stories that will keep you up at night.

With each passing year, science, technology, and the march of time shine light into the craggy corners of the universe, making the fears of an earlier generation seem quaint. But this light creates its own shadows. The Best Horror of the Year chronicles these shifting shadows. It is a catalog of terror, fear, and unpleasantness as articulated by today’s most challenging and exciting writers

Table of Contents

Summation 2018 – Ellen Datlow

I Remember Nothing – Anne Billson
Monkeys on the Beach – Ralph Robert Moore
Painted Wolves – Ray Cluley
Shit Happens – Michael Marshall Smith
You Know How the Story Goes – Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Back Along the Old Track – Sam Hicks
Masks – Peter Sutton
The Donner Party – Dale Bailey
Milkteeth – Kristi DeMeester
Haak – John Langan
Thin Cold Hands – Gemma Files
A Tiny Mirror by Eloise – C. C. Shepherd
I Love You Mary-Grace – Amelia Mangan
The Jaws of Ouroboros – Steve Toase
A Brief Moment of Rage – Bill Davidson
Golden Sun – Kristi DeMeester, Richard Thomas, Damien Angelica Walters, and Michael Wehunt
White Mare – Thana Niveau
Girls Without Their Faces On – Laird Barron
Thumbsucker – Robert Shearman
You Are Released – Joe Hill
Red Rain – Adam-Troy Castro
Split Chain Stitch – Steve Toase
No Exit – by Orrin Grey
Haunt – Siobhan Carroll
Sleep – Carly Holmes

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

New From Serial Box: The Vela

Serial Box is absolutely killing it this year with some of the most impressive and immersive science fiction stories ever. Their newest serial, The Vela, is a space opera filled with political intrigue, breathtaking adventure and characters that will steal your heart from the very start. With a stellar creative team consisting of Yoon Ha Lee, Becky Chambers, Rivers Solomon and SL Huang you know this is going to be a blast!
Orphan, refugee, and soldier-for-hire Asala Sikou doesn't think too much about the end of civilization. Her system's star is dying, and the only person she can afford to look out for is herself. When a ship called The Vela vanishes during what was supposed to be a flashy rescue mission, a reluctant Asala is hired to team up with Niko, the child of a wealthy inner planet's president, to find it and the outer system refugees on board. But this is no ordinary rescue mission; The Vela holds a secret that places the fate of the universe in the balance, and forces Asala to decide—in a dying world where good and evil are far from black and white, who deserves to survive?
The Vela launches today and the first episode is available for free in both text and audio format. Grab the entire season of 11 episodes for just $13.99. You definitely don't want to miss this!