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2011 by the numbers

This may be a tiny bit self-indulgent, but we wish we had kept track of this sort of thing in the past.

Pornokitsch reviewsReviews

  • 69 newly released books
  • 120 old books (from six months to 118 years)
  • 22 film and television
  • 17 games (video or tabletop) 
  • 10 comics or graphic novels (and to think, in 2009, we reviewed more comics than books) 
  • 238 total

Most popular reviews (by views)

#1: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss 
#2: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
#3: Monsters & Mullets: "Fire and Ice" (from in December 2010)
#4: Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind (from July 2010)
#5: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

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New Releases: Further Conflicts, edited by Ian Whates

Further Conflicts

Yesterday, I went through Conflicts (2010), a collection of flamboyantly science fiction stories from NewCon Press. Further Conflicts (2011) is, if anything, even better.

While Conflicts took thirteen different views of war in SF, the sequel is a slightly weirder, much more challenging anthology. There are very few tales of the military SF "status quo" in Further Conflicts. The stories all take exception to traditional notions of heroism and glory.

The collection kicks off with Dan Abnett's "The Wake". Mr. Abnett has examined military SF from every angle, but this low-tempo, low-key piece came as a surprise. 

A group of two dozen soldiers await their next assignment at a remote relay station. A popular member of their crew has just been killed in action, so in defiance of all regulations, the team treat themselves to a boozy wake. Things, of course, go wrong. There's a bit of action, but the real twist comes in Mr. Abnett's final lines. The enemy "Scaries" are pretty creepy, but the chilling disdain that the soldiers' distant commanders show for their own men is far more horrifying.

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Underground Reading: Conflicts, edited by Ian Whates

ConflictsLast week, I mentioned that genre literature has a tendency to downplay the horrors of war. If I had to guess, this is probably the twin legacy of a) its roots in medieval epics and b) the modern "kill to level up" gaming mechanic (tabletop and video). Either way, it was a rather flippant statement and has provoked a bit of discussion.

I still stand by this for fantasy. Even in the present wave of low fantasy grittiness there are only a few books that deign to point out that war is actually, you know, kinda bad. (First among those is probably Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes. Per usual, I'm also going to recommend KJ Parker as well, with the Scavenger series.) Kids, killing isn't cool - even when it is the nefarious subhuman Other.

However, when it comes to science fiction, I think I did the genre a disservice. Since the sixties, SF has actually done a fairly remarkable job of depicting the horrors of war and its many fellow horsemen. Two of the best examples are recent ones - Ian Whates' spectacular anthologies: Conflicts and Further Conflicts

First up, Conflicts.

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Anarchy x Freedom

There have been a lot of free book promotions floating around lately. Hell, even we did it. A combination of post-holiday sales and the publishers' need to stake their claims on all the virgin e-reader territory out there.

Some promotions, however, are simply better than others. And this one, from Anarchy Press, threatens to take the crown. From tomorrow until slightly after New Year's Eve, downloads of the following Anarchy titles are free:

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New Releases: 13 - Tales of Dark Fiction

13A quick look at Morpheus Tales' new collection, 13: Tales of Dark Fiction (2011)reveals gratuitous mayhem, many varieties of unpleasantness and quite a lot of black humor.

The collection brings together some of the darkest minds in horror and lets them roam free. As a result, the collection is a mixed bag - with some definite gems and a few tales that are a little too unrestrained.

My preference was for the stories that maintained a slightly tighter focus. Although Andy Remic's "Mongrel Days" introduce his Anarchy series (including the recent Theme Planet), the story is an excellent standalone shoot 'em up. Mr. Remic excels at MegaViolentTM action and cliff-hangers and both these specialities are on full display in this dystopian gun-brawl.

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10 Recommendations for Your New e-Reader

Well, according to everything we've read (mostly from the Amazon News Corps), something like 112% of humanity just received some sort of digital e-reader thing for the holidays. 

In the off-chance you're one of them: congratulations! If there's one thing that eBooks are great for, it is enabling the discovery of new and wonderful books, books you never would've stumbled upon otherwise.

To help get you started, here are ten great books that we've found recently - and never would have, if it weren't for our digital toys.

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Review Round-up: Alternate alternate histories

Just when we'd thought we'd wrapped up our Steampunk discussion, two more pieces came along. Ian Sales' "A Light in the Darkness" and Geof Banyard's "The Steampunk Literary Review" showcase different extremes of the subgenre's spectrum - from the serious to the satirical.

Alt Hist 3Mr. Sales' "A Light in the Darkness" (2011) is an elegently constructed triptych. The first point of view is Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, entrenched at the front in 1917. The second is the inventor Nicola Tesla, also 1917, but in America (at his famous tower in Wardenclyffe, never completed in 'real' history). The third narrator is a nameless, contemporary figure - a prisoner in a mysterious institution. 

While Owen endures the miseries of WWI trench warfare, Tesla schemes to reshape all of human existence. His tower is the final piece of his "Stratospheric Lighting System". It will send electricity leaping into the sky, starting a chain reaction that will end darkness forever. Tesla will banish the night. 

The other two protagonists have more hesitant relationships with light, both physically and conceptually. For the unnamed contemporary figure, the bright lights of his cell blind him. They are both an instrument of torture and a warning that the next round of physical interrogation is about to begin. As his suffering continues, the lines between line and darkness, vision and blindness, begins to blur.

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Penguins Progress x Stocking Stuffer

The inspiration for the Pandemonium Stocking Stuffer came from the lovely old Penguins Progress volumes. These were samplers from the 1940s and 1950s, containing previews of the next year's books, a recap of any awards and gossip and a few random tidbits.

My favourite of all is the inaugural volume, in which Penguin plays with their very own logo in a way that most brands would never (ever) do. The tipsy, cigarette smoking Penguin is adorable and the "crime editor" sketch is bizarrely wonderful.

Progress1-Thumb  Progress2-Thumb Progress3-Thumb  Progress4-Thumb  Progress5-Thumb  Progress6-Thumb

Pandemonium ain't Penguin, but these helped steer us on the look and feel of our little volume - festive, friendly and more than a little fun. 

(All images from Penguins Progress and Penguins Progress 13 - copyright Penguin, 1946 and 1951)

The Weeks that Were

There's a lot happening right now, so starting with the ongoing (and time-limited) excitement:

The Pandemonium Stocking Stuffer was released on Friday. This holiday treat contains three new stories from Archie Black, Den Patrick and Oz Vance - comic fantasies packed with sex, violence and Tesla rifles. The adorable cover is by the amazing Sarah Anne Langton. Best of all? It is on sale for a whopping eighty-six pence

(Speaking of sales, did you know that Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse was still only £2.49?)

All that out of the way, let's take a trip down memory lane, and see what the past two weeks have brought...

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