Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

ex-heroesReally enjoyed Ex-Heroes. A zombies vs. superheroes story should be a winner for a lightweight read. Clines, however, is a skilled writer who knows how to write interesting characters that we give a damn about. The plot is well-devised to balance action with character development and mood. Flashbacks are used as mini origin stories to good effect.

Lots of fun to read. Essentially the fun of a comic book with the depth of a decent genre novel. Looking forward to reading the sequel, Ex-Patriots.
"I loved this pop culture-infused tale of shamed superheroes struggling to survive a zombie apocalypse in the ruins of Hollywood. It's The Avengers meets The Walking Dead with a large order of epic served on the side."
—Ernest Cline, New York Times bestselling author of Ready Player One

"Zombies? Check. Superheroes? Check. Awesome? Check. Ex-Heroes has it all. You’re in for a treat!"
—Mira Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Feed

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

The TroupeThe cover of the book has the blurb "...Thriller, Cerebral Horror and American Gothic", and this is mostly true. The thriller aspect is present, but the teen protagonist is so in his own head that the tension is muted and the action scenes have a fuzzy dreamlike quality.

The horror is also rather muted, considering some of the fare out there, but this is definitely a classic example of American Gothic, hitting every note of sin, self-destruction, and evil embodied in supernatural creatures.

There are some interesting characters developed in the novel. So much so that I wish that the book were a hundred pages longer so as to give them more depth. The romantic entanglements were never explicitly explored; and some flashbacks wouldn't have hurt.

The bittersweet ending was a bit pat, but overall the solid writing makes this is a strong book. Believable, sometimes sparse dialog is set against and a muted gray world (or worlds). Perhaps this is something to read on a rainy day.

Some reviewers have called this the top fantasy novel of 2012. I'd put it in the top ten, perhaps as an exception, but Gothic is horror, not fantasy.

"...a melancholy coming-of-age tale with a moody atmosphere... The Troupe is a genuinely powerful piece of work." -SFX

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In the Mouth of the Whale by Paul McAuley

In the Mouth of the Whale by Paul McAuley is set in the Quiet War universe. I thought it was the 3rd book in the series but it is, apparently, a standalone novel. A thousand years after the Quiet War mankind has moved from the outer planets to new star systems.

Three varieties of post-humans, Ghosts, Quicks, and Trues, seek their destiny in the Fomalhaut system while a human from the far past is on its way to change everything.

The plight of the Quick, the decadence of the 'originalist' Trues, and the aberrational Ghosts are all portrayed with great imagination and verisimilitude. The fantastical settings of Fomalhaut are nicely set off against the 'flashbacks' to pre-Quiet War Earth. Again, though, some of the descriptions of planetary settings go on for so long in detail that they are impossible to picture.

The three interwoven plot lines combine in the end in a neat conclusion. McAuley finds the right balance between rich futurist speculation and action-adventure with compelling ethical issues.

The '3rd book' in the series, Evening's Empires comes out in 2013. Myself, I'd call this the fourth book and read In the Mouth of the Whale after The Quiet War and  Gardens of the Sun.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Timeless by Gail Carriger

Timeless takes Alexia Tarabotti to Egypt with her precocious, preternatural, daughter Prudence, her werewolf husband Lord Maccon, and her hat-crazy best friend Ivy. The story moves the series along nicely and the mix of steampunk and Victorian slashfic parody is still fun to read. The series may be able to live on for a book or two but any mysteries or cliff-hangers left in this book could be easily be left unanswered.

Looking forward to more books in the series as well as the new spin-off series Parasol Protectorate Abroad and the YA series Finishing School.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The City's Son by Tom Pollock

The Citys SonThe City's Son is the first book in a new Urban Fantasy series (Skyscraper Throne) set in London. Its pretty well written and the fantasy elements are quite unique for the genre. Instead of elves and fairies or vampires and werewolves we have elements of the city itself (cranes, scaffolding, lightposts, statues and garbage) as anthropomorphized characters.

The plot elements and character choices leave the impression that this story would be better served as a graphic novel. Although there is murder and rape portrayed in the novel it scans more as a Young Adult novel than a gritty mature offering.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

The TwelveThe Twelve by Justin Cronin is the second book in The Passage Trilogy. The story is picked up a year or two after the first book (The Passage) where one of the twelve super-vampires is taken down. The book's action and character development is just as good as the first book.

If you liked the first book you will not be disappointed by the second.

The large cast of characters and the time skipping is a little ragged in places, but everything ties up nicely in the end. The scope of the vampires' psychic powers seems boundaryless. Are we dealing with biological aberrations or are we bleeding in to godlike supernaturalism?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Shadowmarch by Tad Williams

Shadowmarch: Shadowmarch: Volume IShadowmarch by Tad Williams is the first of the 4 books in the Shadowmarch series. This is classic high fantasy, with court intrigue, swordplay, magic and mythical races. It took a while to plod through the first two thirds of the book but the ending was fairly satisfying. Its pretty mundane fare as far as this genre goes but the character development is sound, if slow.

It took me a couple of months to get through the book so I'm in no hurry to start on the second book, but it is definitely on my to read pile. Now that the table has been set there will probably be more plot-driven action to enjoy. If a concluding book to the series ever comes out I'll make more of an effort to play catch-up.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Throne of The Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Throne of The Crescent Moon The first book in the Crescent Moon series by Saladin Ahmed, Throne of The Crescent Moon is a promising beginning to the series. The middle eastern theme is authentic without being stereotypical. There is a bit more character development than plot development and action but that is understandable given that there is a trilogy that has to be fleshed out.

While the book is well written its kind of surprising that the book is a finalist for the Nebula and Campbell awards. The authenticity of the middle eastern fantasy is undeniable, but there is nothing significantly unique or groundbreaking about its treatment. That's not to say that it isn't a fun read, just don't expect anything shocking or innovative.