Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Last Post of 2009!

So, here we are - mere hours away from the beginning of Arthur C Clarke's second Odyssey! ;-) Let's hope that the remaining hours are good to us - it'd be really shitty having a, well, shitty end to 2009.

I thought this would be a good time to also let you know what my resolutions, SFF-wise, are:

Firstly, I'm planning to finish all the Small Press & self-published books I've received by March, at least.

I'm also going to fit in at least one Angry Robot book a month (I still owe you all my review of Kaaron Warren's Slights), as well as one Macmillan SFF title a month.

Added to that, well, to read more Science Fiction. I picked up another Greg Egan a couple of weeks back, and there's still much more to choose from on my shelves. :-)

Also, I want to purchase at least one item from Amazon.co.uk; Why? Well, I'd like to support the authors and books I review even more by posting reviews there, to help out with the all-important Amazon rankings. :-)

And that's about it - I don't think I'm over-reaching. :-)

Have you guys got any SFF-related resolutions planned? I'd love to hear them. :-)

In any case, I hope the remainder of 2009 is kickass for you all, and that 2010 starts off with an EPIC bang! :-)

See you next year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SFF in South Africa

Since I'm the only SFF reviewer from South Africa and in South Africa, I thought that it was way past time to post this 'article' / 'essay' (or whatever it turns out to be) and get all of you outside SA an inside-seat to the state of SFF here. :-)

So, where to start? I guess the best place would be my introduction to SFF.

Comics. Argue if you want, but I'm pretty sure it'll be the same for many of you out there. My parents got me started with Wendy, Casper, Spooky, and later, Archie. This is what started me reading, and you can be damn sure I'm always grateful for that. :-) Pretty soon I graduated to the comics and characters that we all know - Superman, Batman, etc and the first comic I remember reading from DC was an issue of Flash, in the post-Invasion days, where Wally West was homeless and buggered. (This is probably why Wally West, and The Flash, is my favourite DC character - yes, way above Batman, even).

You see, comics opened up such a massive world for my imagination to play in that I was completely hooked, and by the time I was in my first year of High School, I had a collection in excess of 1000 different comics. By then I had already started reading actual books (we're not that backward here!), but I still see comics as my first taste of SFF, and I collect what I can today, too. :-)

I also read plenty of books, too, but these were along the lines of Enid Blyton's The Famous Five and Franklin W. Dixon's The Hardy Boys stories. The first adult book I read was Stephen King's Pet Sematary, and I was nine years old (blame my dad for leaving his books lying around!). After King, I never touched another book meant for my age-group. :-)

The first Fantasy book I ever read was David Eddings' Pawn of Prophecy, and that led to me reading every Fantasy book in our school library in less than a year (granted, that's not such a big claim, since there weren't that many books to begin with, but still, the hunger started there). The first SF book I ever read? Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

And what an introduction those books were! Eddings (may his name always burn brightly) showed me magic, evil, battles; Clarke showed me the gorgeous beauty of space and the true meaning of the word 'extra terrestrial' (sorry, Spielberg), and from then on, I devoured everything I could get my hands on. Sometimes I would focus on SF for an entire year, and then Fantasy - I marveled at Clarke and Lee's Rama Cycle, was completely blown away by The Reality Dysfunction, and holy hell, when I discovered Robert Jordan... Let's just say that Fantasy really became fantastic!

But the question that I'm going to try and answer here is this: is the rest of South Africa the same?

As the first part of my answer, here's a shocker for you - a fact that will go a long way to explaining just why I'm the only reviewer in South Africa:

A book needs to sell between 2000 and 5000 copies to be a national BESTSELLER. I can see you doing a double-take, but that's the average. To put it even more in perspective, there are about 60000 to 70000 active readers in South Africa, and those numbers are split between every kind of book you can imagine.

What sells well here? Cookery books, Misery Memoirs, biographies, business books, and fiction along the lines of Wilbur Smith, Danielle Steel, etc.

Now, when I started working as a bookseller in 2001, I immediately felt at home in the SF section; 'S' for Science Fiction, and 'F' for Fantasy. Don't worry, I shook my head, too. Talk about not caring about the distinctions, right?

Anyway, one of the first things I noticed was that readers of SFF here were and are starved for material to read, and this problem has two parts;

The first, and, I suppose, most important, part of the problem, is how long we have to wait for books. You see, because we're such a small market here, our publishers / distributors have to acquire rights to get the books into the market. What this means for us is that we have to wait an average of 3 months from the date of publication for the books to hit our shelves. With the huge international publications such as the Harry Potter novels and The Lost Symbol that period is null and void, but with everything else the 3-month rule applies. (Sometimes we strike it lucky - case in point, Peter V Brett's The Painted Man; the publisher's here sent me a copy in late July 2008, and my review of it was the review that got me started in the blogosphere.)

The second aspect of the problem is that there isn't much book knowledge among book sellers here. I'm not saying that the majority of us are complete dunces, but book sellers here think they know a lot and don't actually know as much as they think they know. The knowledge we do have must, necessarily, be focused on the books that make the most money in our market, and none of those books include anything from SFF (once again, JK Rowling would be the exception to the rule). I'm an aberration, of course. :D

A smaller, though no less important, part of the problem is that every bookseller or manager has their own opinion on what will sell and where it should be sectioned. A good example of this would be Cormack McCarthy's The Road; I took it out of Fiction (mainstream, non-genre if you like) and put it in Science Fiction & Fantasy (we're lucky enough to have the section named as such in the our shop). What happened? 3 copies sold in a week, whereas in Fiction, 3 copies didn't sell in a month. Now it's a mainstay of my section (yes, I'm in charge of SFF in our store) and when I tell people that the book they're looking at is by the same author of No Country for Old Men, they seem a bit shocked. You see, there are just some books that don't sell in sections where they should normally go, so experimentation is needed in our market.

Now, my section pulls in more money than any other section in the shop, and this is directly sure to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Saga books being sectioned there - I'm pretty damn excited to see how my section will hold up once sales start dropping off, but thankfully, it wont be happening any time soon. Why did I section Meyer in SFF? Well, it just didn't fit anywhere else. Plus, why pass up the opportunity to show off the non-vampire stuff? Browsing in my section opens up universes. :-)

But there are still books that don't sell. :-(

Gemmell, for instance, has dropped off quite a bit - but James Barclay is rising to the occasion. Steven Erikson is consistently a good seller, and so is Robert Jordan, as is Trudi Canavan and (brace yourselves) Terry Goodkind. (Hey, no matter what Terry says, I will put his books in SFF!) On the SF side of things, well, that's a bit of a struggle, unfortunately. :-( Sales for SF are slow and sporadic. Why? Blame Peter Jackson, I s'pose, but I think this goes deeper.

So see, we South Africans are a strange people. Our history makes us farmers, predominantly; that's the foundation we come from. And farmers don't have time to read. Centuries and decades down the line, you've got people who read at school, because they have to. You see, it's just not an important part of life here, it isn't encouraged. Sad, but true. The situation is changing, thanks to the likes of Rowling and Meyer (not so much Peter Jackson - I still get customers saying that they tried to read The Lord of the Rings but didn't like it because Tolkien left out scenes that were in the movies); more people are reading here, teenagers, yes, but they are reading. This leads to sales across the board, but still not as much as I would like to see.

I've been blogging now for a year and four months, and I've run a couple of giveaways which have completely failed. Either readers here are inherently distrustful of anything free, or they just weren't interested. I also consistently get more visits from the USA and UK than SA, even though everyone I know is on Facebook, so it's not a problem of internet access. As long as I can read, though, I'll be blogging and reviewing, and I've now got a reputation among SA publishers that I need to uphold, anyway. :-)

These are the reasons why the SFF market in SA is so small, and the only thing we can hope for is that (and this is a fact, not me being egotistical) more book sellers like me get into the book trade. We also need the publishers to take a more active role in bringing more SFF into SA, but that depends on sales. And above all, as book sellers, we need to make damn sure that all of our customers keep coming back. More sales means that we can experiment with them, take chances, and get them to read outside their comfort zone.

The small SFF market leaves us with another problem, though; loads and loads of people writing SFF, but no-one getting published. :-(

So, there we go. We've got an uphill climb, all the time, but damn it, it's an incredible climb with spectacular views! :-)

Be EPIC!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Good (and bad) news from Michael J Sullivan, author of The Riyria Chronicles

Robin Sullivan, Michael's wife, sent me an email last week that informing me about some good and bad news concerning Michael's books, news that needs to be spread. :-)



The first batch of news, and this is good news, is this (taken from this post on the blog that Michael and Robin run):

"It is only Christmas Eve but the holiday season has already been very good to me. Sales of The Crown Conspiracy, Avempartha, and Nyphron Rising have been phenomenal."

Now, that's the kind of news that every author wants to hear! :-) I mean, imagine being on your first Epic/Heroic Fantasy series and receiving that news? Surely a cause for celebration if there ever was one! :-) I'm pretty damn chuffed for Michael and Robin - not only does this signify that The Riyria Revelations (3 books available so far in this great series) is being read and enjoyed by scores of readers worldwide, but that the work they put into this series has borne fruit, and continues to. :-)

Unfortunately, there is a slightly crappy situation that has arisen, and this is also one of those situations that authors the world over can probably sympathize with; it concerns The Crown Conspiracy:

"Amazon is out of stock. Book Depository is out of stock. Powell’s is out of stock. Barnes & Nobles is out of stock. Abes Books is out of stock. Everyone except rare booksellers—who are offering the book as outrageous prices—are all out of stock."

So, there you have it. :-(



But what does this mean? Well, basically, if your order your copies of Book 1 The Crown Conspiracy, you wont get the book in the advertised time because it's on back-order, awaiting stock (i.e. the second print run). You see, the entire print-run has sold out. Awesome, awesome news, no doubt about that, but that means that thousands of readers, wanting to dive into the world that Michael has created, will be out of luck getting copies of the book.

BUT DON'T DESPAIR!

Michael and Robin, showing a level of planning-for-the-future that may amaze you, have a solution:

Using this link (which will take you through to Michael's website), you can order copies of the The Crown Conspiracy, and you'll be able to get copies! :-) You see, they bought several hundred copies! So hundreds of lucky people out there will be able to get hold of the book and start their journey into The Riyria Revelations! :-) Also, Avempartha and Nyphron Rising are also available to order; there's still stock available of those two books. You may see, however, that the books are a tad more expensive than what they cost on Amazon, and that's totally understandable; I mean, how exactly would Michael be able to match the discounts that Amazon offers? Well, here's the solution: Michael offers a 15% discount, plus he will personalize the book for you - that means a signature and/or dedication. :-) And that includes not only The Crown Conspiracy but Book 2 and Book 3, too.



Now, I'm sure some of you will still want to order The Crown Conspiracy through Amazon, Powells, B&N, but the second printing wont be available until around March 2010 - if you're willing to wait (and you probably wont be disappointed, I believe), then go ahead and place your orders. But if you aren't willing to wait, order your copies from Michael and Robin, and you'll be able to get the books signed and personalized, too. :-)

For those lucky bastards out there who have Kindle's, there's no need to worry: The Crown Conspiracy is available at this link. :-)

So, there we have it - The Crown Conspiracy has SOLD OUT it's first print-run, but there is still stock available at this link, and you can get your copies personalized, too. :-) Good news all round, in my opinion! :-)

If you'd like to see what I thought about The Crown Conspiracy, check out my review here, and here's my review of Avempartha. A review of Nyphron Rising will be up early in 2010, so keep your eyes peeled for that. :-)

Be EPIC!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I just wanted to wish all of you, religious or not, a wonderful 25th of December. :-) Whatever this day means to you and however you will spend it, I hope that you all enjoy it! And let's hope, too, that there's plenty of SFF on its way to you! :-)

Be safe,

Be EPIC!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Pre-Christmas Post

Here we are again! Man, seriously - it feels like a couple of months have passed since this time last year! And just why is it that time goes faster the older you get? *shaking my head* Last year at around this time I was absolutely knackered after a hectic day at Fascination Books Kolonnade (and I'm buggered after today, so nothing's changed), I had set up the desktop in the lounge so that I could smoke while I write (which worked out well, as I wrote 'Stalker' because of that move, and the desktop has since been destroyed by lightning but I've got my Acer Aspire One!), and my girlfriend was away on holiday visiting her mom (same thing again this year). Sounds like not much has changed, right? ;-)

Well, many things have, and for the better. :-)

First off, I moved the blog to Blogger. I decided to move it because Blogger just offers more - case in point, as I'm the only South African in South Africa that blogs about SFF, I couldn't really afford to upgrade on Wordpress to be able to upload videos and music files. Sure, embedding a video still worked, but even thinking about that restriction P'd me off a bit. I also wasn't able to add widgets, java-stuff, etc, and the old blog looks pretty damn boring compared to this blog, don't you think? I still miss the old blog, though; it'll always be my baby, and without it, I wouldn't have made impact I did, made the friends I've made, or learned as much about blogging as I have. I've been blogging now for over a year (July 2010 will be 2 YEARS!), and in that time, I've been welcomed into one of the coolest groups on the planet - I receive free books from publishers and authors, I get to talk about what I'm passionate about, I get to chat with authors, editors, agents and fellow bloggers, I get to read some awesome books, and, above all, sometimes my opinion helps people choose what they want to read! How awesome is that?! :-)

Besides that, this year saw David Jooste joining me as a fellow reviewer, an occurrence which I'm very grateful for. :-) Sure, David has read and reviewed some awesome books before I did, but he's added immeasurably to the blog, and has also been embraced by fellow bloggers. :-) His joining me as a reviewer is also another reason why I decided to create a new blog - it just didn't seem fair to me he reviews SFF on a blog with my name in it.

Another awesome event that took place: Jasper Kent let me know that my review of Twelve (reviewed here on the old blog and here on this blog - both posts are exactly the same) is quoted in the paperback edition of Twelve! :-) How damn awesome is that?! :D I absolutely cannot wait to see my quote on one of the best-selling trade paperbacks of 2008. :-)

This year also saw me being lucky enough to have read Paul Hoffman's The Left Hand of God (reviewing coming up early next year), and I was also one of the veryyy lucky bastards to have received a limited edition proof copy of Stephen King's Under the Dome - almost 2 months before it was available (thanks to Jonathan Ball Publishers for that!). :-)

Much, much more has happened this year! And that makes it an awesome year for the blog, no doubt. :-)

Will 2010 be bigger and better? Count on it! :-) I've had some ideas about things that I'll try out sometime next year, plus there are some incredible titles coming up (and more interviews, too). :-)

The next post will be a look-back on 2009, so until then,

Be EPIC!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Update for Independant Publishers and Authors

I'm sure plenty of you out there have been wondering about how far along I am with the books that you've been so kind in sending through - either as eBooks (PDFs) or as bound books; this post should clear up everything. :-)

Since the start of the old blog and the creation of this new blog, many independent Publishers and authors have send through books for me to review, and right now, I'll have to necessarily put a freeze on accepting books to review. Everyone who knows me knows how much I love reading and that I'll never have enough books, but I'm doing some authors out there a disservice by accepting more and more and adding to my reading-load, so as of this post, (unless we've already corresponded and I have agreed to accept more books / PDFs from you), please don't contact me until I announce that I'm open for accepting more books / PDFs to review.

This isn't about me deciding I've had enough - believe me, it really isn't! - but many of you are waiting for reviews from me, and I'm reading as fast as I can; adding more is not just putting more pressure on me as a reviewer but is also creating an apprehension on the part of the authors and publishers who have been awesome enough in sending through material for me to read and review.

I'm also limiting this to independents, and you might think it unfair, but look at it this way - authors with big, established houses such as DAW, Bantam Spectra, Harper Voyager, Gollancz, Del Rey, Tor, Orbit, etc have already got a huge network of reviewers, and although it pains me to say so, if I don't review a SFF title from one of them, someone will. Independents, however, are more limited, and need more help from us Reviewers - they don't have the marketing, promotional or monetary support that the big publishers enjoy, and many authors put their own hard-earned money into getting their books printed, shipping them out to reviews, etc.

So that's my position on this - I'll read and review what I've got at the moment, and then open for for submissions. :-)

Here's the rundown of what I've got - reviews guaranteed:

Stephen Zimmer: The Exodus Gate & Crown of Vengeance

A.J. Scudiere: Resonance

Adin Kachisi: Rise of the Anakim

Corey K Cotta: All of Yesterday's Tomorrows

Spencer Baum: The Demon Queen and the Locksmith

Edward Morris: There Was a Crooked Man

Leona Wisoker: Secrets of the Sands

Brian Libby: Storm Approaching

Michael J Sullivan: Nyphron Rising

Brian Rathbone: The Dawning of Power

David W Barbee: Carnageland

Curly Raphino: Fire in the Ocean, a New Testament

Leigh Bridger - Soul Catcher

Katherine Gilraine: The Index: Book 1 - Mages

Fran Jacobs: The Shadow Seer

Visions - Volume 1: Strider Nolan Media
Visions - Volume 2: Strider Nolan Media

Robert Preston: The Siege


As you can see, that's quite a list! And I'm pretty sure, too, that you understand why I've chosen to close submissions for reviews. I've got a lot of reading to get through!

At the moment, I'm reading Storm Approaching by Brian Libby, The Siege by Robert Preston, The Exodus Gate by Stephen Zimmer and All of Yesterday's Tomorrows by Corey K Cotta. As soon as I'm done with those, I'll be launching into Nyphron Rising by Michael J Sullivan (received this in October already!), and then I'll be announcing the next batch of books to be read. I guarantee reviews of all the titles listed, and I'll send the authors and publishers links to the reviews as soon as they are up.

So please be patient - I'm hoping for two reviews before the end of 2009! :-)

And please also understand that I will also be reviewing books sent to me by the bigger publishers - I must also repay their awesomeness, just as I must repay yours. :-)

As always,
Be EPIC!

P.S. If I've forgotten you ( and I may have ), please send me an email to remind me and I'll amend this post and add you to the reading list. :-)

P.P.S. My fellow reviewer David is (as far as I know) not laboring under any reading restrictions, so feel free to contact him. :-)

Monday, December 21, 2009

John Jarrold's Corner: News & Mark C Newton News!

I've got one last batch of news for you from John Jarrold for 2009, and it really is awesome news!



PRESS RELEASE – TWO-BOOK DEAL FOR SF NOVELIST PHILIP PALMER

Bella Pagan, Commissioning Editor of Orbit UK, has acquired two new novels by British SF author Philip Palmer. The agent was John Jarrold, and the deal was for World rights.

These novels – the first is entitled HELLSHIP – are both due for delivery in 2010, and will see a concerted push by Orbit on both sides of the Atlantic in 2011.

Philip’s first novel, DEBATABLE SPACE, was published in 2008, with RED CLAW following earlier this year. His work has drawn praise from the Guardian, SFX magazine and many other sources, both in print and on-line. The latter novel features in the Top Twenty SF novels published in 2009 in leading genre website SF Crowsnest’s reader poll. His third SF novel, VERSION 43, comes from both Orbit UK and Orbit US in 2010.




Wonderful news for Philip! :-) Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, and I'm really chuffed that we'll be reading more of his incredibly funny blend of hard SF / Space Opera! :-)

Next up, here's the official US cover of Mark Newton's impending entrance into the US Fantasy market - Night's of Villjamur! (I quite like the cover, btw)



Mark is also looking back on 2009 in this post, and head on over to Pat's blog to read an excerpt of the sequel to Nights of Villjamur, coming in 2010! :-)

Be EPIC!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Review: Avatar (Movie Review)



Last night a friend and I went to go watch Avatar, and we were both completely blown away! Not only is it an incredible 3D movie (and the first I've seen), it's also a movie with a very strong message - a message that I'm afraid will go completely un-noticed because it has been packaged in entertainment.

So, we sat down, watched the previews of other movies -and the plethora of TV ads that are the irritating norm for SA movie-goers- and when the movie started, we slipped on our 3D glasses...

The first thing that grabbed by attention -during the main character's voice-over- was, of course, the 3D. Even though you don't see much in the beginning, it's still amazing, though it was introduced in a manner that made you want to say, "Okay, that's cool, but not breathtaking or amazing." I'm glad that James Cameron took this route, because it would have been terrible to showcase everything the 3D technology could do in the first ten minutes of the movie.

As the movie progresses, James really ups the ante - and as the world of Pandora is revealed, the 3D tech almost overawes you -almost, I say, because James balances showcasing the tech with the absolutely stunning world he has created; Pandora really is an alien world, and is stunningly beautiful! Everything from the plants to the landscapes to the creatures - the CGI is so realistic that you'll find yourself thinking on more than one occasion that there must be a world like Pandora somewhere, and that James Cameron traveled there to shoot the movie. It will, without a doubt, take your breath away!

Another aspect in which this movie really works, and which ties in to Pandora itself, is the culture of the natives - and this is where, I believe, the message and lesson of Avatar will be glossed over and forgotten in the hype and beauty of the movie:

I bet if all the delegates at Copenhagen watched this movie, they would be awed, would enjoy it, would cheer at the movie's climactic battle - but would they get the message? Would any of us? The story at the heart of Avatar is about destruction, and the hope that it can be halted, or at least staved off. Either way, I really hope this movie is not only enjoyed and celebrated because of its utter beauty and the incredible technology employed within it, as well as the fact that it looks at issues the whole world is facing, and forces us to acknowledge those issues and deal with them.

Avatar is a movie that you simply must watch in a movie theatre - watch in in 3D, watch it in IMAX, as many times as you can!

9/10

Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Aside: Introducing Darius Pretorius - Part 2

Hey everyone, I'm back with some incredible artwork from my talented friend, Darius. :-)

Once again, if nudity doesn't sit well with you, then DON'T LOOK AT THIS POST. Don't say I didn't warn you. :-)

Phoenix


Darius didn't supply names for the rest of the pieces, perhaps fittingly. :-)













There we go, two posts (this and the previous post of Darius' beautiful artwork. :-) Remember, if you'd like to contact Darius for any reason (hopefully to tell him what talent he has and how beautiful his work is) then drop him a line at the following email address:

Darius (dot) Pretorius (at) iprosol (dot) co (dot) za


That's it for now! Until tomorrow,

Be EPIC!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Aside: Introducing Darius Pretorius - Part 1

Hey guys and girls, I thought I'd change things up a bit by posting something new and non-SFF related.

Darius is a friend of mine, and he's an artist, too; we got to talking about his work a couple of weeks ago and I offered him the opportunity of getting his work onto the blog so that it could be seen by a wider audience, which I feel is needed and completely justified. Darius' work is beautiful!

This post will show 6 pieces, and tomorrow's post will show the remaining 7 pieces. And please note, these are photos of the pieces, not JPEGs. :-) Also, I'm warning you straight out - there is nudity in some of the pieces, so if it offends you, DON"T LOOK AT IT.

Enjoy!

Chimp


Desert


Desert Symbols


Desire


Madonna


Nymph


I'll be posting the remaining 7 pieces tomorrow. :-) If you'd like to contact Darius, you can reach him at this email address:

Darius (dot) Pretorius (at) iprosol (dot) co (dot) za

Until tomorrow,

Be EPIC!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Desert Spear by Peter V Brett - My Fan Video

I made this video on the 15th as a thank-you to Peat - for The Painted Man, being such an awesome guy, and for helping out a blogger from South Africa to get a foothold in the blogosphere. :-) Thanks Peat!

Hope you all enjoy it!



I hope you've pre-ordered your copies already! Click here for US, here for UK and here for South Africa.

Be EPIC!

Review: Angry Ghosts by F. Allen Farnham

I've owed Allen this review for a while now, and I'm happy to finally post it. :-)

Angry Ghosts follows the story of what might happen when the absolute worst happens - humanity is practically wiped out in a surprise attack and those that remain are left to struggle and survive, but don't let this simple plot-explanation fool you - Allan has crafted a tale that explores what it means to be human, and what it means to survive when you are vastly outnumbered and outgunned.

Diving into the review, the first thing that I noticed was Allen's ability to describe movement and action - his descriptions are so well written that you hardly notice them; they sort of creep up upon you and bushwhack you while you're not looking, and as the world takes shapes around you in more and more detail, you realize that Allen is extremely good at painting scenes and descriptions that resonate and come alive in your mind. He also writes battle scenes like a master - the action is brutal and frenetic, whether its hand-to-hand or a battle between vessels in space. These are the kind of scenes that would translate extremely well onto the big screen!

The world that Allen has created for Angry Ghosts is also very well realized, and its obvious that he put in a lot of effort to make sure that everything had a depth and history too, from the vessels to the weapons to the clothes the characters wear, including the worlds they live in. Everything has a purpose and is not just background-clutter.

Allen also manages, while sharing his tale, to force us to look at our own lives - how we live them, what we consider to be right and wrong, even what we sacrifice to survive. He builds a convincing stage that reflects us at ourselves - if that makes any sense - and often times you'll be left thinking, Man, if only that were so; the world would be a better place.

The tale does leave you with some questions, though, and I sincerely hope that these questions will be answered by a sequel - Angry Ghosts works on its own, but it is clear that this is the opening tale in a story that has the potential to be a series that will explore and play with many ideas that have been done in SF and Fantasy, but which I'm pretty sure Allen will be able to put his own unique spin on.

Definitely a novel that deserves to be read and enjoyed; highly recommended!

8 / 10



To order your copies of Angry Ghosts, click here for US and here for UK.

For more info on F. Allen Farnham, check out the Cadre One Publishing website and the blog. Also, check out this review on Only The Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: The Wheel of Time Book 12 - The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson




So, I finally managed to get a copy and read it. Practically a month and a half after it was published worldwide, but I did get it. And here are my thoughts:

I will admit that I was a bit worried about the book after I read the first chapter posted at Tor.com; I immediately picked up that this wasn't Jordan, and my instinct was to be a bit put out and disappointed. Until, that is, I realized the most important thing - this was Robert Jordan's book, but he did not write it. Some of you might be thinking, Huh? That's obvious! But think about this a little. Is any negative response towards the book justified, when taking into consideration that Robert Jordan was unable to write this book? If you were looking for a book written by Robert Jordan, there are plenty to choose from, including some westerns, but The Gathering Storm is not one of those books. Robert Jordan did not write this book! I'm just trying to make you few who might hate this book understand that. It is his book, but he did not write it because he, very sadly, died. Brandon Sanderson worked off notes, worked with Harriet and Mr Jordan's assistants, to write this book. So it is Robert Jordan's book, and it most definitely is a worthy Wheel of Time book. :-)

Okay, to my thoughts:

The prologue, in which a farmer we have never met before decides to pack up and move towards the building storm -to do his part in the battle that is coming- was an incredible piece! This section, more than any other, really brought home to me how close Tar'mon Gaidon is, and sets the tone for The Gathering Storm as well as The Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light. In my opinion, the best of all previous Wheel of Time prologues!

And then you read further... Rand takes center-stage, and this Rand is dark and brooding and, worryingly, terrifying. I really came to like Rand, to commiserate and sympathize with him, but this Rand... This Rand was not the Rand I knew. I'm not saying that Brandon didn't capture him, that Brandon totally destroyed the character - I'm saying that, in a way, I didn't want this to be the rand I knew and liked. Like Min and Cadsuane, I didn't want to acknowledge the fact that pressure -and who has more immense pressure on him than the Dragon Reborn- changes a person; rand could not be the same person he was when we met him on the Quarry Road. He had to become harder and darker and ruthless. And when I understood this, I was able to read on - wincingly, and on the edge of my seat.

Falling deeper into the book is was a joy - not only did Brandon manage to capture the characters -even Aviendah- perfectly, but his understanding of the world and the story came through gloriously. You can tell that Brandon really has a deep and abiding love of the world and characters created by RJ, and a deep respect, too. I never once got the feeling that characters were reacting in ways that were at odds with how RJ wrote them, something that must have been incredibly difficult to do. I mean, not only was (and he still is, I believe)he under immense pressure from fans, the general Fantasy community, Tor, etc but he also had to handle characters and events that have been with us since 1992! A tall order, but something that Brandon accomplished in grand style, in my opinion. :-)

Moving to the events of the book, there are plenty of major surprises! Rand, as I said before, is terrible - by terrible I mean he's the kind of opponent I would cross oceans to escape! Now, more than any time before, he has embraced being the Dragon Reborn, and what he does in this book will knock your socks off! One event, in particular, will have the Forsaken s******g their pants, that's for sure! Brandon (via RJ's notes) sets the pace and keeps to it, charging the story through glimpses of the Forsaken, a very important and fateful day in the life of Tuon, Mat entering a creepy village, one of Egwene's Dreams coming true, and more events involving Rand. I was left breathless on many occasions, my girlfriend glancing at me and frowning most of the time because of me cheering or gasping or shaking my head or swearing, and on occasion, even laughing! There are some truly hilarious moments in the book, and not just in chapters devoted to Mat. :-)

In my opinion, Brandon succeeds at respecting and, in some ways, enhancing The Wheel of Time, as well as pushing events onwards towards the Final Battle. This book is definitely a worthy successor to the legacy and brilliance of Robert Jordan and I wouldn't mind at all if Brandon was asked to do the two other prequels that RJ planned to do or the Outrigger novel.

All in all, while this may not be the book we were waiting for -because RJ wasn't able to write it- this is definitely a must-read for all Wheel of Time fans and without a doubt one of the best books in the series. Not only did I enjoy it immensely, it also left me with the need to go back and read the rest of the books - not for re-reading purposes, not because I want to refresh myself on events and character arcs, but because I want to relive meeting the characters, watching the events unfold and learning about the world and its history. After The Gathering Storm, I love The Wheel of Time all the more!

My verdict: Very entertaining, exciting and a worthy addition to The Wheel of Time - 9 / 10!



To order your copies, click here for US, here for the UK, and for those in SA, use the Kalahari link at the top of the page or click here to order from Exclusive Books.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Back with Content!

Ah, it feels so good to be back! :-) We ended up getting a new ADSL modem and I can now connect to the internet through my notebook -the desktop still being a pile of once-electronic slag- so all is well! :-)

I thought I'd give you guys some cool stuff to check out on this crazily hot -in Pretoria, South Africa, at least- Sunday afternoon. :-)

First up, some new cover-art from Angry Robot for forthcoming novels -

Here's Kaaron Warren's Walking the Tree:



And here's the blurb for you, too; sounds like it'll be an incredible read!

Botanica is an island, but almost all of the island is taken up by the Tree.

Little knowing how they came to be here, small communities live around the coast line. The Tree provides them shelter, kindling, medicine – and a place of legends, for there are ghosts within the trees who snatch children and the dying.

Lillah has come of age and is now ready to leave her community and walk the tree for five years, learning all Botanica has to teach her. Before setting off, Lillah is asked by the dying mother of a young boy to take him with her. In a country where a plague killed half the population, Morace will otherwise be killed in case he has the same disease. But can Lillah keep the boy’s secret, or will she have to resort to breaking the oldest taboo on Botanica?


Next up, I've got Colin Harvey's second Angry Robot offering for you - Damage Time!



It’s 2050 and sea-levels have swamped today’s coastal regions. New York City is protected by tidal barriers and the USA is bankrupt.

Detective Pervez (Pete) Shah serves with the NYPD’s Web Crimes Division as a Memory Association Specialist. When he’s accused of murdering a glamorous woman in a bar, he must find the killer, save himself … and the world.


There has been some debate about the cover art over at Walker of Worlds, and while I believe this isn't a terrible cover, I think it could be a bit better. :-) What do you think?

Next up, Andy Remic's sequel to first book in The Clockwork Vampire Chronicles, Kell's Legend; here's Soul Stealers!



The sequel to Kell’s Legend – more blood-soaked, action-packed, vampire-laced dark epic fantasy.

Kell is being hunted. The vampires are fighting back against him, and the mighty hero finds himself the prey of two beautiful but deadly vampire assassins.

Their bronze fangs are coming for him.

He will strike back.


And here's Lavie Tidhar's first novel for Angry Robot, The Bookman;



A brilliant criminal stalks the streets of London. Scotland Yard is on his trail. But how can the city remain safe when every book is a potential weapon?

Angry Robot have also started their own 12-Days-of-Christmas thing, and every day from now until Christmas they'll be posting a little something from their authors on the site. Today, launching the cool endeavour, is Collin Harvey and his short story, Alternativity.

Also in the news, awesome fantasy author John Marco has started blogging again! Let's give him a massive Welcome Back! :-)

Peter V Brett is hosting a competition that'll have thousands of entries, I'm sure - he's giving away ARC's of his eagerly awaited sequel to The Painted Man, The Desert Spear! Check out the link for details on how to enter.

Tomorrow I'll have my review of the excellent Jordan-Sanderson twelfth Wheel of Time novel, The Gathering Storm, and on Tuesday I'll be posting my review of F Allen Farnham's Angry Ghosts. It absolutely kicked Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker's arse - check out this link for details on how and why. :-)

Oh, and get ready for some for KICKASS Star Wars Force-Unleashing!



Until tomorrow,

Be EPIC!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Why I Haven't Been Blogging...

Hey Guys and Girls, so here's the problem:

Last week Wednesday there was a huge storm, lightning, cloud-bursts, the works, and while I was at work, lightning struck at home. My girlfriend phoned me and said that the power had just gone out and that she thought something inside the TV had exploded. It turned out that our satellite decoder had been struck, and it's now stuffed. We've been catapulted back into the 50's with that decade's black-and-white imagery. :-(

But that's not all. My desktop was struck, too; apparently it got such a massive hit that the processer's mounting has melted, which in effect means that the motherboard is now about as useful as a cardboard-screwdriver. So that means I'll have to get a new desktop. :-(

But that, too, is not all. The ADSL modem was struck, too, along with the phone line. Now, the modem survived intact, but the phone line is messed up, so no internet. I've still got my notebook to work on, but I have no connecting to the internet.

I've looked at my options and, if everything goes well, will be up and running again in the week of the 16th. Hopefully. :-( So, please understand that until then, there wont be any new content on the blog. David, too, has had a run of bad luck (his laptop was stolen on his birthday, no less), so we're both a bit screwed at the moment. :-(

But I can still be reached (for all of those who have our email addresses, and I'm on Twitter, too (just search for RealmsGalaxies), and my Blackberry is still okay. :-)

Hang in there and we'll be up and at it again before too long! :-)

And Be EPIC!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sherrilyn Kenyon - The League Trilogy Competition

Hey everyone, some awesome news from St Martin's Press regarding Sherrilyn Kenyon's new (and now complete and entirely available) trilogy, The League, comprised of the following books:

Born of Night



Born of Fire



Born of Ice



To celebrate this new trilogy from Sherrilyn Kenyon, St Martin's Press is offering 20 readers in the USA a chance to win free downloads of all three books! :-) If you'd like to enter, check out this link. :-)

And here's a new trailer for you all to enjoy - since all the books are now available, the book trailer has been redone! Enjoy!



For more info on Sherrilyn and The League, check out these links: The Official Website for The League, Sherrilyn's official website, and the website dedicated to The Sanctuary.

Until tomorrow,

Be EPIC!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Free Fiction - Mercury Retrograde Press Presents!

Hey everyone, thanks to Barbara Friend Ish I have some great free fiction for you! :-)

Edward Morris' There Was a Crooked Man has been serialized; the first book, Book Zero - Death Inc. is ready to be read and enjoyed! Taken from the website:

"Welcome to the world of master fabulist Edward Morris, where History has been pulled down a Hieronymus Bosch rabbit-hole and everything makes far too much sense...

Things are strange out in western Pennsylvania. It's a matter for debate whether they've always been that way. But if things are getting creepy in Powersburg, we're going to need a new word for what's coming into the County Morgue..."


If you're interested -and who wouldn't be, come on- then click here for the main site; you'll see that the serializations have been split into 'canvases', so go ahead and start at 1 if you don't want to be confused. :-) A new canvas is posted every Friday, so set your alarms, mark your calendars, whatever you need to do!

The link will take you through to the page set up on Mercury Retrograde Press' website for the serializations, and this is how I'd suggest you proceed; make a cup of coffee, or juice, or prepare your favourite poison, and then settle down and bookmark the site before you plunge in. :-) And once you're done, check out what else Mercury Retrograde Press has to offer - you're sure to find something you'll enjoy. :-)

And don't forget to spread the word!

Be EPIC!