This week's New York Times Bestsellers (March 23rd)

In hardcover:

Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant is down two positions, ending the week at number 5. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Patricia Briggs’ Dead Heat is down eight spots, finishing the week at number 16.

Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances is down five positions, ending the week at number 18.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is up two positions, ending the week at number 7 (trade paperback).

Dean Koontz's The City is down one spot, finishing the week at number 10.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones returns at number 15.

Jim Butcher's Skin Game is down eight spots, finishing the week at number 20.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

With all the talks about the movie, you can once again download Ernest Cline's bestselling Ready Player One for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

Win a copy of Kate Elliott's THE VERY BEST OF KATE ELLIOTT

I have a copy of The Very Best of Kate Elliott up for grabs, courtesy of the folks at Tachyon Publications. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Strong heroines and riveting storytelling are the hallmarks of groundbreaking fantasy author Kate Elliott (Crown of Stars, Crossroads). Her long-awaited first collection showcases twenty years of her finest work. Captured here are many of Elliott’s previously out-of-print tales, four previously unpublished essays, and a brand new Crossroads story, “On the Dying Winds of the Old Year and the Birthing Winds of the New.”

Elliott’s bold adventuresses, complex quests, noble sacrifices, and hard-won victories shine in classic, compact legends. In “The Memory of Peace,” a girl’s powerful emotions rouse the magic of a city devastated by war. Meeting in “The Queen’s Garden,” two princesses unite to protect their kingdom from the blind ambition of their corrupted father. While “Riding the Shore of the River of Death” a chieftain’s daughter finds an unlikely ally on her path to self-determination.

Elliott’s many readers, as well as fantasy fans in search of powerful stories featuring well-drawn female characters, will revel in this unique gathering of truly memorable tales.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "ELLIOTT." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Don't know for how long, but you can once again download Tom Lloyd's The Stormcaller for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Isak is a white-eye, feared and despised in equal measure. Trapped in a life of poverty, hated and abused by his father, Isak dreams of escape, but when his chance comes, it isn't to a place in the army as he'd expected. Instead, the Gods have marked him out as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the Lord of the Fahlan. Now is the time for revenge, and the forging of empires. With mounting envy and malice the men who would themselves be kings watch Isak, chosen by Gods as flawed as the humans who serve them, as he is shaped and moulded to fulfil the prophecies that are encircling him like scavenger birds. The various factions jostle for the upper hand, and that means violence, but the Gods have been silent too long and that violence is about to spill over and paint the world the colour of spilled blood and guts and pain and anguish . . .

The Free

Brian Ruckey is the author of what just might be grimdark's best-kept secret: The Godless World trilogy. Indeed, I'll never understand why Winterbirth (Canada, USA, Europe), Bloodheir (Canada, USA, Europe), and Fall of Thanes (Canada, USA, Europe) don't get more love these days. Fans of GRRM, Abercrombie, Cook, Morgan, Lawrence, and Lynch, this series is definitely for you!

Ruckley's latest, The Free, has been on my pile of books to read since last fall, but something always got in the way of my reading it. It was a bit too heavy to bring with me to the Philippines, so I promised myself that it would be the first book I'd review upon my return. The author's previous work, The Edinburgh Dead, was much different from his first series. But this new novel is a return to the sort of stories with which Brian Ruckley originally made a name for himself.

The Free is a cross between Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold and Glen Cook's The Black Company. Fans of the grimdark subgenre should appreciate this fine tale of vengeance.

Here's the blurb:


Led by Yulan, their charismatic captain, the Free have spent years selling their martial and magical skills to the highest bidder -- winning countless victories that have shaken the foundations of the world. Now they finally plan to lay down their swords.

Yet when Yulan is offered a final contract, he cannot refuse -- for the mission offers him the chance to erase the memories of the Free's darkest hour, which have haunted him for years.

As the Free embark on their last mission, a potent mix of loyalty and vengeance is building to a storm. Freedom, it seems, carries a deadly price.

The worldbuilding is not that well-defined this time around, and Ruckley keeps his cards close to his chest for the most part. You get just enough information to know what is going on, but the author seldom elaborates on the world and its people. I was a bit disappointed by that fact, as there are some fascinating concepts in this book. Chief among them the Permanences, those dangerous and powerful manifestations of elemental magic with ominous names such as the Bereaved and the Clamour, and anything that has to do with sorcery. The magical system is quite mysterious. Sorcerers are known as Clevers and their talents always focus on one particular element. The author offers very few details regarding how it all works, other than showing us the heavy toll a Clever must pay for each use of their mystical arts. The more powerful the spell, the heavier the toll on their bodies. The Free focuses on the last days of a legendary mercenary company and as such that plotline takes center stage to the detriment of everything else. But the setting appears to be rich enough to warrant a return to this universe for additional tales in the future.

The POVs are all over the place, which can be extremely confusing. You jump from one point of view to the next without any break in the text. One sentence you're in someone's head and all of a sudden you find yourself in another's. I have an advance reading copy, so I'm not sure whether or not this was fixed in the final edition. . .

The tale is told from the point of view of two very disparate protagonists. Yulan, experienced captain of the Free, is a battle-hardened man and a keen strategist who has the respect of his entire company. Drann, on the other hand, is young and inexperienced and pretty much in over his head from the very beginning when he's ordered to follow the Free as the contract holder. Other than Hamdan, we don't get to know a whole lot about the other mercenaries. Which is a shame, as most were intriguing, especially Akrana. I was expecting more out of the characterization, probably something akin to that of Cook's Black Company or Erikson's Bridgeburners, which would have allowed us to get to know each member of the company a bit more and perhaps be able to relate to them more as individuals. In addition, the "villains" are a bit too black-and-white, which I felt was a case of the author's taking the path of least resistance.

This might be a quest for redemption for Yulan, but at heart The Free is a tale of revenge. There is a lot of action, with enough blood and gore to satisfy grimdark aficionados. There is one truly memorable scene, as Kerig, one of the Free's clevers, is tied up to a tree and uses his arcane arts to help protect the others. That was just plain awesome! Such scenes are the reason why I hope we'll get to learn more about this universe and the way magic works in future novels.

Holding back on the worldbuilding keeps the pace moving briskly. The Free is a dark and brutal work that grabs hold of you and keeps you turning those pages. It's a fun and fast read, with characters that remain true to themselves. Even better, it's a stand-alone novel!

Although it doesn't show the sort of depth that made the Godless World series such a quality read, The Free is nevertheless another solid effort by Brian Ruckley and is the perfect book to read while you wait for the next GRRM, Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, or Scott Lynch titles.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Handmaid's Tale is not only a radical and brilliant departure for Margaret Atwood, it is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men of its population.

The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment's calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid's Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.

Brenda Cooper contest winners!

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Pyr, our winners will get their hands on a copy of Brenda Cooper's Edge of Dark. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Bill Mulrenin, from Brooklyn, New York, USA

- Brian McCullogh, from Kirkland, Québec, Canada

- Sharon Berger, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Glen Cook's The Swordbearer for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A young man’s dreams of warfare and glory turn into a bitter nightmare when an invading army, led by the Dark Champion Nevenka Nieroda and his twelve Dead Captains, the Toal, besieges his father’s feudal fortress. Nieroda and the Toal demand the surrender of an ancient artifact long-believed to be a myth. With the walls breached and his family slaughtered—or worse—Gathrid flees into the wilderness beyond his familiar castle walls.

Lost and alone in the woods, hounded by the Dead Captains, Gathrid takes refuge in a vast cavern. There he discovers an ancient sword— Daubendiek, the Great Sword of Suchara, the fabled weapon once wielded by the legendary tragic hero of an ancient age, Tureck Aarant. Daubendiek, a restless and thirsty blade, promises Gathrid the ability to claim his vengeance. But as he begins to take that vengeance, Gathrid starts to understand the terrible price that the sword will exact of him. Enemies soon become allies and strange bedfellows abound as the prophesies of an age swirl into chaos.

Brandon Sanderson's PERFECT STATE

You can now pre-order Brandon Sanderson's new novella, Perfect State, for only 2.99$ here. The novella will be released on March 31st.

Here's the blurb:

From the author of Legion and the #1 New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive comes an action-filled novella about privilege, culture clash, and expectations.

God-Emperor Kairominas is lord of all he surveys. He has defeated all foes, has united the entire world beneath his rule, and has mastered the arcane arts. He spends his time sparring with his nemesis, who keeps trying to invade Kai's world.

Except for today. Today, Kai has to go on a date.

Forces have conspired to require him to meet with his equal—a woman from another world who has achieved just as much as he has. What happens when the most important man in the world is forced to have dinner with the most important woman in the world?

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Marcus Sakey's Brilliance for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A 2013 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Paperback Original.

In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They’re called “brilliants,” and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in—and betray his own kind.

From Marcus Sakey, “a modern master of suspense” (Chicago Sun-Times) and “one of our best storytellers” (Michael Connelly), comes an adventure that’s at once breakneck thriller and shrewd social commentary; a gripping tale of a world fundamentally different and yet horrifyingly similar to our own, where being born gifted can be a terrible curse.

You can also get your hands on the second volume, A Better World, for the same price here.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (March 16th)

In hardcover:

Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant debuts at number 3. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Patricia Briggs’ Dead Heat debuts at number 8.

Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances is down four positions, ending the week at number 13.

Kevin Hearne's Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi debuts at number 17.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is down two positions, ending the week at number 9 (trade paperback).

Dean Koontz's The City is up three spots, finishing the week at number 9.

Jim Butcher's Skin Game debuts at number 12.

Brandon Sanderson's Words of Radiance debuts at number 18.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Great deal!

You know I'm always on the lookout for some discounted ebook deals to share with you. I recently discovered that all the Breaking Bad boxsets could be bought on the cheap in Canada and I sure did take advantage of that sale! So I checked in the USA to see if Amazon was offering the same sort of deal and I'm pleased to report that you can get your hands on every single season of Breaking Bad for as much as 67% off!

- Breaking Bad, Season 1
- Breaking Bad, Season 2
- Breaking Bad, Season 3
- Breaking Bad, Season 4
- Breaking Bad, Season 5
- Breaking Bad, The Final Season

Here's the blurb for the first season:

Emmy® Award winner Bryan Cranston stars as Walter White, a down-on-his-luck chemistry teacher struggling to make ends meet for his wife (Anna Gunn) and physically challenged son (RJ Mitte). Everything changes when Walter receives a startling diagnosis: terminal lung cancer. With only a few years to live and nothing to lose, Walter uses his training as a chemist to cook and sell crystal meth with one of his former students (Aaron Paul). As his status grows, so do his lies, but Walt will stop at nothing to make sure his family is taken care of after he’s gone, even if it means putting all their lives on the line. Executive produced by Vince Gilligan and Mark Johnson.

Joe Abercrombie content winner!

This lucky winner will get his hands on my Advance Reading Copy of Joe Abercrombie's Half the World! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Sean Porter, from Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Robin Hobb's The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince for only 1.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

One of the darkest legends in the Realm of the Elderlings recounts the tale of the so-called Piebald Prince, a Witted pretender to the throne unseated by the actions of brave nobles so that the Farseer line could continue untainted. Now the truth behind the story is revealed through the account of Felicity, a low-born companion of the Princess Caution at Buckkeep.

With Felicity by her side, Caution grows into a headstrong Queen-in-Waiting. But when Caution gives birth to a bastard son who shares the piebald markings of his father’s horse, Felicity is the one who raises him. And as the prince comes to power, political intrigue sparks dangerous whispers about the Wit that will change the kingdom forever

Internationally-bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Robin Hobb takes readers deep into the history behind the Farseer series in this exclusive, new novella, “The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince.” In her trademark style, Hobb offers a revealing exploration of a family secret still reverberating generations later when assassin FitzChivalry Farseer comes onto the scene. Fans will not want to miss these tantalizing new insights into a much-beloved world and its unforgettable characters.

Win a copy of Alan Smale's CLASH OF EAGLES

Thanks to the folks at Del Rey, I have three copies of Alan Smale's Clash of Eagles up for grabs. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

I'm more than halfway through this books and so far it's been an engaging read!

Here's the blurb:

Perfect for fans of action-adventure and historical fiction—including novels by such authors as Bernard Cornwell, Steve Berry, Naomi Novik, and Harry Turtledove—this stunning work of alternate history imagines a world in which the Roman Empire has not fallen and the North American continent has just been discovered. In the year 1218 AD, transported by Norse longboats, a Roman legion crosses the great ocean, enters an endless wilderness, and faces a cataclysmic clash of worlds, cultures, and warriors.

Ever hungry for land and gold, the Emperor has sent Praetor Gaius Marcellinus and the 33rd Roman Legion into the newly discovered lands of North America. Marcellinus and his men expect easy victory over the native inhabitants, but on the shores of a vast river the Legion clashes with a unique civilization armed with weapons and strategies no Roman has ever imagined.

Forced to watch his vaunted force massacred by a surprisingly tenacious enemy, Marcellinus is spared by his captors and kept alive for his military knowledge. As he recovers and learns more about these proud people, he can’t help but be drawn into their society, forming an uneasy friendship with the denizens of the city-state of Cahokia. But threats—both Roman and Native—promise to assail his newfound kin, and Marcellinus will struggle to keep the peace while the rest of the continent surges toward certain conflict.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "EAGLES." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

If you have never given this celebrated author a shot, a number of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels can be downloaded for 3.99$ each:

- The Color of Magic
- Pyramids
- The Light Fantastic
- Guards! Guards!
- Reaper Man
- The Last Continent
- Mort
- Equal Rites
- Sourcery
- The Fifth Elephant
- Night Watch
- Going Postal
- Making Money
- Jingo
- Thud!

And you can also download Good Omens, which he wrote with Neil Gaiman, for only 4.99$ here.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (March 9th)

In hardcover:

Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances maintains its position at number 9.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian maintains its position at number 7.

Dean Koontz's The City debuts at number 12.

D.J. Molles’ The Remaining: Allegiance debuts at number 15.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down six spots, finishing the week at number 18.

RIP: Terry Pratchett


Fantasy author Terry Pratchett has died aged 66 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

"The world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds," said Transworld Publishers' Larry Finlay.

Sir Terry, best known for the Discworld series, wrote more than 70 books over his lengthy career.

He was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2007, but continued writing, completing his final book last summer.

The author died at home, surrounded by his family.

Mr Finlay said he was "deeply saddened" by the news of Sir Terry's death.

"In over 70 books, Terry enriched the planet like few before him. As all who read him know, Discworld was his vehicle to satirize this world: He did so brilliantly, with great skill, enormous humour and constant invention.

"Terry faced his Alzheimer's disease (an 'embuggerance', as he called it) publicly and bravely. Over the last few years, it was his writing that sustained him. His legacy will endure for decades to come.

"My sympathies go out to Terry's wife Lyn, their daughter Rhianna, to his close friend Rob Wilkins, and to all closest to him."

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can once again get your hands on Neal Stephenson's awesome Cryptonomicon for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

With this extraordinary first volume in what promises to be an epoch-making masterpiece, Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.

In 1942, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse—mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy—is assigned to detachment 2702. It is an outfit so secret that only a handful of people know it exists, and some of those people have names like Churchill and Roosevelt. The mission of Waterhouse and Detachment 2702—commanded by Marine Raider Bobby Shaftoe-is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that Allied Intelligence has cracked the enemy's fabled Enigma code. It is a game, a cryptographic chess match between Waterhouse and his German counterpart, translated into action by the gung-ho Shaftoe and his forces.

Fast-forward to the present, where Waterhouse's crypto-hacker grandson, Randy, is attempting to create a "data haven" in Southeast Asia—a place where encrypted data can be stored and exchanged free of repression and scrutiny. As governments and multinationals attack the endeavor, Randy joins forces with Shaftoe's tough-as-nails granddaughter, Amy, to secretly salvage a sunken Nazi submarine that holds the key to keeping the dream of a data haven afloat. But soon their scheme brings to light a massive conspiracy with its roots in Detachment 2702 linked to an unbreakable Nazi code called Arethusa. And it will represent the path to unimaginable riches and a future of personal and digital liberty...or to universal totalitarianism reborn.

A breathtaking tour de force, and Neal Stephenson's most accomplished and affecting work to date, Cryptonomicon is profound and prophetic, hypnotic and hyper-driven, as it leaps forward and back between World War II and the World Wide Web, hinting all the while at a dark day-after-tomorrow. It is a work of great art, thought and creative daring; the product of a truly iconoclastic imagination working with white-hot intensity.

Male authors on feminism in SFF

Just saw this on

Here's the description:

The purpose of a woman” in ’50s science fiction “was to make the man look good,” laments Todd McCaffrey, son, co-author, and biographer to his mother, revered science fiction and fantasy author Anne McCaffrey. He goes on: “And scream when the bug-eyed monsters came in. My mother hated that trope; and she said, you know, ‘If a bug-eyed monster was invading my home, I’d find the nearest frying pan and beat the crap out of him!’”

Along with McCaffrey, Science Fiction Grand Master Samuel R. Delany, Joe Haldeman, Simon R. Green, Ian R. MacLeod, and Ian McDonald discuss how women have been portrayed in science fiction, in light of the He for She movement. These men also share their thoughts about their female role models in the genre; groundbreaking female science fiction authors like Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia E. Butler, and Andre Norton.

“The most important political problem in the modern world is the position of women…” says Samuel R. Delany. “Something has got to be done about it.”

The Talisman

Last fall, for some unknown reason, I felt the need to read an "old" Stephen King title. Most of the 2014 SFF releases failed to make a good impression on me and I was looking for something tried, tested and true. Like most genre readers my age, I spent my teenage years reading King's many classics. And yet, somehow I never read the first collaboration between Stephen King and Peter Straub. Hence, The Talisman appeared to be just what the doctor ordered. So I bought the book and put it on the pile and it became part of the rotation.

When I received confirmation that I'd be spending the month of February traveling around the Philippines, the novel immediately went into my suitcase. I was wondering if this 30-year-old work had aged well and would "wow" today's readers the way it did when it was originally published in 1984. For this was considered by some critics to be the most extraordinary fantasy novel of our time. The fantasy genre was a much different place back in the early 80s. This was the time of the Tolkien clones, when writers like Terry Brooks and David Eddings dominated the bestseller lists. Only Stephen R. Donaldson and a few other authors wrote "adult" fantasy books, which is probably why The Talisman made such an impression back in the day. In today's market, I'm not sure such a work would meet with the same critical success.

Be that as it may, this novel makes for compulsive reading! Other than some musical and cultural references from the 60s, 70s, and early 80s which may not ring any bell with some younger readers, this 921-page doorstopper work has aged particularly well. Many of King's early bestsellers share that special "timelessness" which explains how they can still sell so well decades after being released. King and Straub's The Talisman definitely falls into that category.

Here's the blurb:

Jack Sawyer, twelve years old, is about to begin a most fantastic journey, an exalting, terrifying quest for the mystical Talisman—the only thing that can save Jack’s dying mother. But to reach his goal, Jack must make his way not only across the breadth of the United States but also through the wondrous and menacing parallel world of the Territories.

In the Territories, Jack finds another realm, where the air is so sweet and clear a man can smell a radish being pulled from the ground a mile away—and a life can be snuffed out instantly in the continuing struggle between good and evil. Here Jack discovers “Twinners,” reflections of the people he knows on earth—most notably Queen Laura, the Twinner of Jack’s own imperiled mother. As Jack “flips” between worlds, making his way westward toward the redemptive Talisman, a sequence of heart-stopping encounters challenges him at every step.

An unforgettable epic of adventure and resounding triumph, The Talisman is one of the most influential and highly praised works of fantasy ever written.

The tale takes place in our own world and in another dimension known as the Territories. I found it interesting that something occurring in the Territories, even something innocuous, could have grave repercussions in our own universe. Young Jack quickly realizes that he must be extremely careful while he travels through the Territories. Though I enjoyed how the Territories were depicted, I would have liked the authors to be more forthcoming with their revelations regarding this parallel universe and how it works. More information regarding how and why some people can travel between both dimensions would also have been appreciated. I reckon readers get to learn more in the sequel, Black House, but it would have been nice to see them elaborate a bit more on the various fascinating concepts and ideas inherent to the Territories.

Understandably, the principal POV character is 12-year-old Jack Sawyer, who must journey to the Territories to find the only thing that can help save his dying mother, and by doing so save the parallel universe as well. I found young Jack to be a well-drawn and genuine protagonist. Morgan Sloat, on the other hand, was too "evil" and just a generic bad guy. The occasional points of view of Lily, Jack's mother, and Richard, his best friend, allow readers to see events unfold through the eyes of other people. And the supporting cast is made up of a few memorable characters, chief among them Wolf, Speedy Parker, and Sunlight Gardener.

The size of this book had me concerned about pacing issues. I was afraid that the pace would drag in certain portions of the story. But in the end, the rhythm remains more or less fluid throughout the novel. Sure, there are parts in which everything slows down a bit. And yet, the tale picks up soon afterward, so that's never a problem. Stephen King and Peter Straub's collaboration captures your imagination early on and refuses to let go. Hence, though The Talisman weighs in at more than 900 pages, I found myself going through it much more rapidly than I ever thought I would. Following Jack's quest for the Talisman is one grand adventure that keeps you turning those pages, over and over again!

There was no clash of writing styles that I could perceive as I read the book. Though it was written by two successful writers that were at the time at the top of their game, the prose flows well and there is no sign that this work was produced by two men with different narrative voices.

If you are looking for a big, sprawling fantasy novel that pretty much delivers on all fronts, The Talisman is definitely for you!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Win a copy of Sebastien de Castell's KNIGHT'S SHADOW

I have two copies of Sebastien de Castell's Knight's Shadow for you to win, compliments of the folks at Jo Fletcher Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Falcio Val Mond, First Cantor, with the help of fellow Greatcoats Kest and Brasti, has completed his King’s final task: he has found his Charoites - well, one at least, and she was not quite what they expected.

Now they must protect the girl from the many who would see her dead, and place her on the throne of a lawless kingdom. That would be simple enough, if it weren’t for the Daishini, an equally legendary band of assassins, getting in their way, not to forget the Dukes who are determined to hold on to their fractured Kingdoms, or the fact that the heir to the throne is only thirteen years old.

Oh, and the poison that is slowly killing Falcio. That’s not even mentioning the Greatcoat’s Lament . . .

Perfect for fans of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawerence this epic fantasy series of sword fights, intrigue, heroes and traitors is the follow up to the most biggest debut fantasy novel of 2014.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "KNIGHT." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Brandon Sanderson's novella Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell is now available as an ebook for 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Originally appearing in the Dangerous Women anthology and now available as a solo ebook, Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell is a chilling novella of the Cosmere, the universe shared by Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series and the #1 New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive.

When the familiar and seemingly safe turns lethal, therein danger lies. Amid a forest where the shades of the dead linger all around, every homesteader knows to follow the Simple Rules: "Don't kindle flame, don't shed the blood of another, don't run at night. These things draw shades." Silence Montane has broken all three rules on more than one occasion. And to protect her family from a murderous gang with high bounties on their heads, Silence will break every rule again, at the risk of becoming a shade herself.

Musical Interlude

God knows I'm not a Taylor Swift fan. But I love the 80s vibe of this tune's beat. . .

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

If you have always wanted to give Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels a shot, right now you can download The Skies of Pern for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Thanks to Anne McCaffrey, millions of readers have soared the skies on dragonback, shared the thoughts and dreams of the great dragons of Pern, and risked life and limb to safeguard the planet from the deadly threat of falling Thread. With the Dragonriders of Pern, McCaffrey has given us more than just an extraordinary masterwork of imagination. She has given us a whole world--and has taught us to fly. Now, in this triumphant return to Pern, Anne McCaffrey takes us on an adventure as surprising and unforgettable as any that has come before . . .

It is a time of hope and regret, of endings and beginnings. The Red Star, that celestial curse whose eccentric orbit was responsible for Thread, has been shifted to a harmless orbit, and the current Threadfall will be the last. Technological marvels are changing the face of life on Pern. And the dragonriders, led by F'lessan, son of F'lar and Lessa and rider of bronze Golanth, and Tia, rider of green Zaranth, must forge a new place for themselves in a world that may no longer need them.

But change is not easy for everyone. There are those who will stop at nothing-- not even violence--to keep Pern and its people pure. And now a brand-new danger looms from the skies . . . and threatens a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.

Once again, the world looks to the dragons and their riders to solve the crisis and save the world. But now, as the friendship of F'lessan and Tia begins to bloom into something more, unforeseen tragedy strikes: a tragedy destined to forever change the future--not just of the two young lovers, but of every human and dragon on Pern . . .

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Peter V. Brett's THE SKULL THRONE

Since I won't get to read it before pub date, I'm giving away my Advance Reading Copy of Peter V. Brett's The Skull Throne to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The first three novels in New York Times bestselling author Peter V. Brett’s groundbreaking Demon Cycle series—The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, and The Daylight War—set a new standard for heroic fantasy. The powerful saga of humans winnowed to the brink of extinction by night-stalking demons, and the survivors who fight back, has kept readers breathless as they eagerly turned the pages. Now the thrilling fourth volume, The Skull Throne, raises the stakes as it carries the action in shocking new directions.

The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty.

Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honor and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all.

But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honor refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a savior, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart.

In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing one another and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne.

In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late.

Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton—rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest.

All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them. Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared. . .

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "SKULL." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (March 2nd)

In hardcover:

Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances is down three spots, finishing the week at number 9.

Dean Koontz’s Saint Odd is down four positions, ending the week at number 17.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is up one spot, finishing the week at number 7.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones maintains its position at number 12.

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes is down one spot, finishing the week at number 19 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jim C. Hines Libriomancer for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic. . .