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Thursday, 19 July 2012 09:09

Choosing sides in Heaven's War'

Second installment in trilogy offers suspenseful sci-fi

As an avid reader of science fiction, I sometimes get frustrated by book series that extend themselves indefinitely. While some of these long-running tales remain engaging over their lifespans, many more of them become sad shells of what they once were. The once-beloved worlds and characters devolve and the epic storylines degenerate into convoluted messes.

That's why the trilogies work so well. Three books to tell one story, then just let it end. David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt are in the midst of creating one such trilogy; the second book in their Heaven series, called 'Heaven's War' (ACE; $25.95), has arrived.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 12:11

The end of the world as we know it

The Apocalypse Codex' a fantastic, funny sci-fi spy thriller

There are a lot of science fiction series being written out there. Scores of writers churning away, assembling trilogies and quadrilogies and what have you up to and including the ominous 'open-ended' series. There's so much that it can prove tough to cut through the noise and find a series that speaks to your personal sensibilities.

Finding that series is exciting; receiving the latest book in that series even more so. Charles Stross is one of the best authors working in the genre today; 'The Apocalypse Codex' (ACE; $25.95) is the latest in his Laundry series featuring accidental paranormal secret agent Bob Howard.

Published in Buzz
New book offers differing perspectives on the state of America

While I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the most politically aware person in the world, even one as ambivalent as I can see that our political system has largely become one of bickering partisanship. Democrat and Republican, left-wing and right, liberal and conservative gone are the days of cooperation between ideologies. Each side has become more shrill and strident in its insistence that it is the only correct one.

It's a bit of a turn-off, truth be told.

That's why the new book 'America, You Sexy Bitch' (Da Capo, $26) seemed to offer promise. The new book subtitled 'A Love Letter to Freedom' is co-authored by one of the odder politerary (Yes, I made that word up; 'political' + 'literary' = gold!) couples you're likely to find.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 15:43

The return of Douglas Adams (kind of)

New book adapts Adams's never-aired television scripts

When I first glanced at the copy of 'Shada' (ACE, $26.95) on my desk, I was dubious mostly because of the bold 'Doctor Who' that shared the book's cover. Novelizations of TV shows rarely prove to be anything worth writing home about, but then something else caught my eye.

'The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams.'

Now you have my attention.

Published in Buzz
Novel filled with humor, heartbreak and hubris

Weddings are complicated business. Not only do you have to deal with your own family, but with that family whose fate will soon be intertwined with yours. There are so many particulars that need to be addressed; crossing t's and dotting i's. Everyone is emotionally charged and walking on eggshells. Whether you're the bride or groom or just a family member on the periphery, weddings are often incredibly complex.

That said, wonderful stories can be mined from those complexities. Author Maggie Shipstead has created one such story with her debut novel 'Seating Arrangements' (Knopf; $25.95). It's a tale of a single weekend in a man's life the weekend his eldest daughter is getting married. Unbeknownst to him, however, he is set to gain much more than a son-in-lawand lose much more than a daughter.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 30 May 2012 13:18

Modern magic Cursed'

Urban fantasy sequel continues adventure

I'm a relative latecomer to the urban fantasy genre, but it has turned out to be a nice fit. It suits me much better than the standard sword-and-sorcery boilerplate creating a magically-based analogue of our own modern world is so much more engaging. It's the realm of magic explored with 21st century attitudes.

So many of these novels are generated as part of a longer series of books; it's always a crapshoot to pick up Book One. If you're like me, it's almost impossible to walk away from a longer ongoing story, so you have to hope that you're not investing in something that will ultimately disappoint.

Benedict Jacka is currently two-for-two.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 14:30

What I Remember About Dinosaurs'

Author's humorous children's book

Brian Russell grew up with the brontosaurus and the planet Pluto, both now extinct. Or at least changed. The brontosaurus was found to be a redundant find of the apatasaurus, which had been discovered first. So Russell wrote an illustrated a book based on his memory of dinosaurs (Thus, 'What I Remember About Dinosaurs') so his young daughter could share in learning about the giant beasts in a similar fashion.

'The Brontosaurus does not actually exist, but it totally did when I was growing up. I thought it would be fun to learn [about this] in the same progression,' said Russell. 'So she has to share the disappointment of it not being true. That's what started it.'

Anyone who has felt a bit burned by these advances in science is bound to get a chuckle out of the book. But Russell hopes that it also inspires kids and adults to continue to learn.

Published in Buzz
Thursday, 17 May 2012 08:39

The beauty of motion The Cranes Dance'

Novel offers behind-the-scenes look at ballet

As a reader, picking up the second offering from an author whose debut I enjoyed is a mixed bag. Sometimes, the writer picks up right where he or she left off, continuing onward and upward in their literary journey. Other times more times, frankly the descent begins as the author grapples with the law of diminishing returns.

Take Meg Howrey, for instance. Her debut was a novel called 'Blind Sight.' It was excellent; well-written, thoughtful, literate fiction. So I had high hopes for her sophomore effort 'The Cranes Dance' (Vintage; $17.95).

I would not be disappointed.

Published in Style
Thursday, 26 April 2012 08:24

POD' a solid sci-fi effort

Wallenfels impresses with powerful debut novel

It's always exciting to pick up an author's debut book. The sense of potential informs the experience with a high level of excitement. This first book could be the start of a wonderful writer/reader relationship. Of course, it could also be a complete dud. It's a Schrdinger's cat dilemma; an experiment in quantum literature. It's a situation where you simply can't know whether the book is good or bad until you open it and see for yourself.

In the case of 'POD' (Ace, $7.99), the debut offering from author Stephen Wallenfels, you'll be glad you turned to page one.

The aliens descended from the sky at 5 a.m. (PST), taking the entire world by surprise. They announced their presence with an ear-shattering shriek, and their round black ships dominate the skies. Any human being caught outside immediately vanishes in a flash of blue light. What survivors remained were trapped in their homes trapped without any way of communicating with the outside world. Everyone remaining in this new world is forced to come to terms with what's happening on an individual basis.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 11 April 2012 14:02

A brief history of thrash metal

Murder in the Front Row' offers a peek at the birth of a genre

While I've never been much of a music connoisseur, even I went through certain phases of musical fandom. And like just about every other kid who grew up in the sticks, I went through a heavy metal phase. As with all phases, it eventually fell by the wayside and was largely forgotten, resurfacing only when a chance radio encounter brought forth some thrashy nostalgia.

Said nostalgia received an exponential bump when 'Murder in the Front Row' (Bazillion Points Press) landed in my lap. It's essentially a coffee table book devoted to the early days of the Bay Area thrash metal scene.

And it's even cooler than it sounds.

The majority of the photos come from the collections of a handful of enthusiasts who were vital parts of the burgeoning scene back in the early 1980s. Guys like Harald Oimoen, Brian Lew and Ron Quintana were just hardcore fans that happened to be there when metal icons such as Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth first took root in the California soil and began to blossom. It's a moment in time, preserved by a couple of kids armed with nothing more than cameras and a deep passion for the music.

Published in Buzz
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