Previous month:
February 2011
Next month:
April 2011

New Releases: The Trials of Trass Kathra by Mike Wild

The Trials of Trass Kathra The Trials of Trass Kathra is the eighth book in Abaddon's pulp fantasy epic, The Twilight of Kerberos. It is also the fourth from Mike Wild who, with the aid of his talented heroine, Kali Hooper, has been unveiling more and more of the meta-narrative that links the events of this shared world.

And, in Trials, the meta-play's the thing. In a blog post last year, Abaddon editor (and The Call of Kerberos author) Jonathan Oliver, revealed that the series is coming to a dramatic close in 2012. Trials is the penultimate book by Mike Wild, followed by Mr. Oliver's second book, The Wrath of Kerberos, which will then all be neatly (one hopes?) wrapped up by Mr. Wild again in Children of the Pantheon. That gives Trials a lot of work to do to set-up the set-up.

In the previous Kali Hooper adventure, Engines of the Apocalypse, Mr. Wild did a solid job of juggling the balance between stand-alone pulp and series pillar. Kali Hooper battled the titular Apocalyptic Engines and it just so happened that said that the origin story of the Engines was related to a greater plot. Neatly done. Engines was also the book in which Mr. Wild scooped up some of the other series characters and got them involved as well. At the time, it felt a bit like an old Marvel Annual, but this groundwork helped set the scene for further group adventures.

Continue reading "New Releases: The Trials of Trass Kathra by Mike Wild" »

New Releases: The Age of Odin by James Lovegrove

The Age of Odin The Age of Odin is the third in Lovegrove’s sequence of modern mythological updates. It began with 2009’s The Age of Ra, continued in 2010’s The Age of Zeus and, now, in 2011, Lovegrove travels to Viking territory with The Age of Odin.

All three books have a similar construction – the deities of x pantheon have returned and are doing their divine thing in our modern day world. A military or paramilitary hero, generally some sort of outsider, gets drawn into their schemes and champions the human perspective.

The Age of Odin is no exception. Gideon Coxall, pensioned-off soldier, is having hard time fitting into the civilian world. His wife has left him, he can’t see his son, he drinks too much and, much to his own disgust, the only job he can find involves him selling refurbished printer toners. When the chance comes up to do a little (probably dodgy) mercenary work, Gideon pounced. Ostensibly, he needs the cash. But deep inside, he knows that he belongs in combat.

Continue reading "New Releases: The Age of Odin by James Lovegrove" »

Underground Reading: Case of the Cold Coquette by Jonathan Craig

Case of the Cold Coquette Case of the Cold Coquette (1957) is one of the Pete Selby mysteries by Jonathan Craig. Detective Pete Selby and his partner Stan Rayder appear in a few different provocatively-titled books from Gold Medal, including Morgue for Venus and Case of the Village Tramp. Despite the goofily sexualized names of his books, Mr. Craig wrote strong, deductive mysteries with no-nonsense protagonists.

Readers of Case of the Cold Coquette could be forgiven for thinking the book is far more salacious than it actually is. The cover, the blurb and the back cover all prominently feature Marcia Kelbert - New York's most expensive call girl, with "blue-black hair and snow-white skin and an aura that would chill your blood". Alas, the vampire queen only features in a single short scene.

The book begins with Detective Selby admiring (professionally) the remains of Eddie Macklin. Macklin was pushed in front of a subway and was unneatly severed into multiple pieces by the incoming train. The driver, shocked into insensibility, can only confirm the vague impression that it was a man whodunnit - a man in a raincoat or long jacket.

This is particularly unhelpful on two fronts. First, the nine million people in New York all own raincoats or long jackets (as do most of the rats). Second, it happens to be a lovely summer day, and nobody should've been wearing either one. 

Continue reading "Underground Reading: Case of the Cold Coquette by Jonathan Craig" »

New Releases: Among Thieves on Douglas Hulick

Among Thieves Among Thieves is the debut novel from Douglas Hulick. Set in the grimy fantasy city of Ildrecca, it is the tale of Drothe, a hooded-assassin type and member of the city's underworld legion of criminal "Kin".

With a scruffy, dual-wielding piratical looking gentleman and a cover quote from Brent Weeks, the reader can be excused for thinking this is your standard act of adolescent escapism - roguish heroism with a sarcastic, ass-kicking protagonist. And, to a certain degree, all of these things are true. But when push comes to shove, Among Thieves is more Locke Lamora than Night Angel. It is a cunning and well-scripted action-adventure with a surprisingly complex character at its heart. I expected guilty pleasure and found genuine entertainment.

Drothe (granted, a rather unfortunate name) is a "Nose". He works as an information-gatherer for one of the city's "Upright Men" gathering information on the city's delicate political scene. Ildrecca is divided up by the gangs of "Upright Men" with the Emperor (the land's proper monarch) and the mysterious Gray Princes playing their own, grander, game in the background. As a Nose, Drothe gets into all sorts of trouble - especially since he's running his own cons on the side. Fortunately, his best friend, Bronze Degan, is often there to bail him out. 

Continue reading "New Releases: Among Thieves on Douglas Hulick" »

The Repairer of Reputations: The Green Mouse by Robert Chambers

The Green MouseIn The Green Mouse (1910), Robert Chambers treats his readers to a familiar format: a series of goofily optimistic romantic tales, all loosely linked together by some sort of haphazard narrative device. In this case, the stories begin with the tale of William Destyn and Ethelinda (eeek) Carr. Destyn has been crushed by a recent financial upheaval - Mr. Chambers' favorite tactic for upending sedentary noble types.

Despite four years at Harvard and a post-graduate degree in Engineering, Destyn "had not the vaguest idea of how to make money". However, he does have some skill as a stage magician - a handy knack that he developed in order to impress people at parties. Wisely, he realizes that card tricks are more useful than a Harvard degree and sets out to make a living as an entertainer.

Destyn practices in the park, where he has easy access to the small woodland creatures that are integral to his act. It is here that he meets the lurvely Sacharissa Carr, a struggling artist whose studio is based in his building. Their acquaintance is deepened when one of Destyn's prize performers, a green-dyed mouse scampers into Carr's studio.

Continue reading "The Repairer of Reputations: The Green Mouse by Robert Chambers" »

New Releases: Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper

Songs of the EarthSongs of the Earth is the debut novel from Elspeth Hunt and the first in a new high fantasy series, The Wild Hunt

The book begins with Gair, a young man of the Eadorian faith. An orphan, Gair had been given over to the Knighthood and he'd spent his youth learning both religion and the sword in a monastary. Unfortunately, his conduct as a studious novice counts for nothing. When the book opens, he's on the verge of being condemned of witchcraft and burned at the stake.

Much to everyone's surprise, the aging Preceptor of the order shows leniency and exiles Gair instead - a shocking act of judicial activism that would terrify the American Right. Reluctantly, the Eadorians chuck Gair out of the holy orders and leave him to fend for himself.

Fortunately, he's not left too long - he immediately falls into the company of a wise old man named Alderan (pre-Death Star, so he's not yet rubble). Alderan chaperones Gair halfway across the known world, helping him to learn about his magic and - eventually - his calling.

Continue reading "New Releases: Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper" »

Facebook Competition! Graced with an extra copy of Loss of Separation (we liked it), we're running a drawing on our Facebook page. Hop over quickly, as it wraps up on Wednesday.

We buried the announcement deep in last week's roundup, but, from now on, we'll be doing competitions, videos and other such ephemeral (read: fun) nonsense over there. That keeps the blog free for lofty philosophical content like reviews of Q: The Winged Serpent.

Underground Reading: City of Brass by Edward D. Hoch

Cit of BrassCity of Brass (1971) is a collection of three stories by Edward D. Hoch, the MWA Grand Master of the short story format. Mr. Hoch wrote over 900 shorts, most characterized by his adherence to clue-based, problem-solving mysteries. He kept a broad stable of characters to hand, each specializing in a certain form of mystery - from locked-room to historical to police procedural.

Simon Ark, the star of City of Brass was Mr. Hoch's very first creation, first appearing in 1955, and this particular detective has a unique domain: the supernatural mystery. City of Brass collects three tales: City of Brass (1959), The Vicar of Hell (1956) and Hoofs of Satan (1956). Each is told as a first-person narrative from Ark's "Watson", a book publisher in New York. (Mr. Hoch is noteworthy for maintaining a sort of continuity between his stories, in this instance, for the example, the narrator began as a journalist and "worked his way up").

The three stories are all united by their balance of the mundane and the supernatural. In each case, the mystery or crime seems to have a bizarre or occult element - this is what summons the wandering Ark to the scene. Invariably, the crime turns out to be ordinary. Just as the regular investigators are most baffled by its magic, Ark will demonstrate how it was committed through ordinary means (and generally, for ordinary reasons).

Continue reading "Underground Reading: City of Brass by Edward D. Hoch" »

New Releases: Loss of Separation by Conrad Williams

Loss of SeparationIn Loss of Separation, Paul Roan is either the luckiest or unluckiest man on earth. As the captain of a Boeing 777, he was involved in a near miss that nearly ended the lives of hundreds of people. Although it isn't wholly his fault, he feels guilty enough that he steps down from flying. He rebuilds his life in a small coastal village, only to be hit by a car and knocked into a six month coma. He emerges from that only to discover that his girlfriend is missing and he's a wreck of a man.

All that, and he lives in Southwick, England's eerie equivalent to Lovecraftian Dunwich.

On the most basic level, Loss of Separation is about Paul's search for Tamara, his missing girlfriend. Even the first step, beginning the search, is a tough one. Paul is a complete ruin physically. He's almost entirely rebuilt; a mass of scar tissue and an invalid that can only walk a short distance each day. Mentally, he's no better - plagued by nightmarish flashbacks of accidents real and imaginary. 

Continue reading "New Releases: Loss of Separation by Conrad Williams" »

The Week that Was

The weekly roundup of what we did - here, there and elsewhere. Plus, per usual, the latest in fascinating site administration.

On the site, two of the week's highlights came from interviews: a two parter with the notoriously bombastic Sam Sykes (he didn't disappoint) and our session with the amazing China Miéville. The latter also sent us a picture of himself with his 2009 Red Tentacle for The City & The City

Monsters & Mullets returned with Shaft & Kane battling a dragon-snake-bird in Q: The Winged Serpent (1982).

We also had reviews of Robert Chambers' The Tracer of Lost Persons (1906), James Berry's Quas Starbrite (1981) and Lionel White's A Party to Murder (1966). (Average publication date: 1951. Take that, frontlist bias!)

Continue reading "The Week that Was" »