Big DVD sale on Amazon

The other day I received an email alert informing me that various scifi DVD boxsets could be bought at up to 50% off on Amazon. I'm not that keen on those tv shows, but I know that many people hanging around in these parts are big fans!:-)

Before posting this information, I snooped around a bit to see what the Canadian and UK websites offered in that regard. Well, it seems that you can get boxsets of shows like Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Heroes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Stargate, The X-Files, Smallville, Angel and more, at up to 35% off on, up to 50% off on, and up to 64% off on

I rarely look at the prices of such DVD boxsets, so I have no idea if these specials are particularly worthwhile or not. But 64% off is quite a deal, methinks!;-) So you might want to check out if there are some bargains for you out there...

Far Territories Giveaway!

Far Territories is a new imprint from Subterranean Press which will offer heretofore expensive limited edition titles in affordable trade paperback format.

Thanks to Bill and the rest of the Subpress crew, I have five copies of their first two titles, Tad Williams' Rite (Canada, USA, Europe) and Elizabeth Bear's New Amsterdam (Canada, USA, Europe). Please note that the trade paperback edition of Rite doesn't contain all the material which could be found in the original limited edition.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "RITE" or "AMSTERDAM," depending on which title you'd like to receive. Yes, you can register to both contests. 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!

Calling on all Malazan fans!

If you're a fan of Steven Erikson's A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, then like me you've been salivating at the sight of Michael Komarck's gorgeous art commissioned for the Subterranean Press limited edition of Gardens of the Moon (Canada, USA, Europe).

The artist keeps a very tight schedule, and assorted deadlines prevent him from reading every novel he needs to illustrate. Hence, he asked me to help him in that regard, and I thought it would be a good idea to invite the entire Malazan family to the dance.

Komarck would like us to tell him six of our favorite moments/scenes from Gardens of the Moon we would like to see in the limited edition. Please submit them in the comment section.

This will help him quite a bit, and the book will be out much more rapidly if the artist doesn't have to second-guess everything he's doing. The art we've seen thus far as been incredible, so you can now help select what is coming next!
P. S. It looks as though there will be a Michael Komarck giveaway. . .;-)

We go to the judges' scorecards. . .

And the winner, by split decision (by a single vote, actually), is Stephen King's The Gunslinger (Canada, USA, Europe).

However, since it was such a close race to the finish, I will also be reading Brian Ruckley's Bloodheir (Canada, USA, Europe).

I'm a bit surprised that people selected a novel which has been around for over 25 years for me to read, but what the heck!?! I finished Sergei Lukyanenko's The Day Watch last night, and man was it good! Now I'll get to experience what the buzz surrounding that Roland fellow is all about...;-)

We'll have to do this again in the future!

The Last Wish

Perhaps I let myself be influenced by all the positive hype surrounding this book, but Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish fell decidedly short of my expectations. With the buzz this novel generated in 2007, I was expecting something along the lines, quality-wise, of Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself or Brian Ruckley's Winterbirth.

Unfortunaterly, The Last Wish is more akin to a YA sword and sorcery title. Nothing wrong with that, of course, provided that's what you are looking for. Clearly, this was not what I signed up to read. . .

The Last Wish is not a novel per se. It's a collection of short stories. I was aware of that particular fact, yet I believed that there would nevertheless be an overall story arc linking those stories. To my dismay, there wasn't. Relying on short fiction means that Sapkowski can keep a good pace throughout the book. Still, it does feel like the author is all over the place and cannot impose a coherent structure to these various storylines.

Sapkowski created a blend of traditional fairytales and miscellaneous RPG elements. The results are a YA-flavored fantasy "lite" book which should appeal to the R. A. Salvatore crowd.

Andrzej Sapkowski came up with an intriguing character in the Witcher, Geralt de Rivia. The problem is that the author only offers us a few quick glimpses at the depth of this character. There's a lot more to the Witcher than meets the eye, but Sapkowski chooses not to reveal a whole lot. Trouble is, the supporting cast is more or less on the lame side. Hence, a majority of the secondary characters leave much to be desired. Allowing the reader to discover more about the Witcher would have made for a much better reading experience.

Another weird facet regarding The Last Wish is the fact that the author relies mostly on the dialogues in order to tell his tale. At times, the book almost reads like a movie script. That wouldn't be much of a problem, if not for the fact that the dialogues, for the most part, could have been taken out of a Xena: Warrior Princess episode.

All in all, Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish showed a lot of potential. I for one wishes to learn more about Geralt de Rivia. I will read the forthcoming sequel, The Blood of Elves, hoping that the author will up his game a few notches. Otherwise, there's no way I can go through more of this, just to, hopefully, one day learn more about the Witcher.

In the end, The Last Wish is a light read which will likely appeal to a younger crowd. A couple of crude jokes, juvenile humor, and a panoply of one-liners; don't expect a thought-provoking novel. Don't believe the hype and expect a simple, entertaining read, and you'll probably enjoy this book more than I did. . .

Although the main protagonist is interesting, as a whole The Last Wish doesn't rise above most media tie-in fiction out there.

The final verdict: 6.75/10

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

THE NAME OF THE WIND is now available in paperback

Since I was one of the first people to get the ball rolling for Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind back in January 2007, I wanted to let you guys know that this fantasy debut is now available in mass market paperback. If you haven't read it, now is your chance to do so on the cheap! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Only the Bookscan numbers are in (it will be a while before we get a full tally), but it looks as though The Name of the Wind has surpassed the sales of both George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones and Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule.

Go Pat!
P. S. Can you imagine how many more copies it could have sold, if not for this Fabio cover!?!:p

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (March 25th)

In hardcover:

Kim Harrison's The Outlaw Demon Wails is down three positions, ending its third week on the charts at number 13. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

R. A. Salvatore's The Ancient is up three spots, finishing its second week on the NYT list at number 24. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Karen Traviss' Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Revelation maintains its position at number 6. This marks the novel's second week on the prestigious list. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Lynsay Sand's Vampire, Interrupted is down nine spots, finishing its third week at number 21 on the bestseller list. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Is Science Fiction Antithetical to Religion?

Thanks to Ken for pointing this one out!

The question was suggested by Pyr's editor-in-chief, Lou Anders, and it spawned an interesting discussion.

Two of the most highly regarded fantasy authors - Tolkien and Lewis - were also Christians, whereas the fathers of science fiction were atheists, and SF itself, it could be argued, grew out of Darwinism and other notions of deep time. Is science fiction antithetical to religion?

Check it out on SF Signal!

It's your call!

By the end of the day, I'll be done with Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish (not as good as I hoped it would be) at work, and I'm halfway through Sergei Lukyanenko's The Day Watch (very good thus far) at home.

In an attempt to make things a bit more interactive, you guys now get the chance to select what novel I'll be reading and reviewing next. The nominees are as follow:

- Bloodheir by Brian Ruckley

- A World Too Near by Kay Kenyon

- Infoquake by David Louis Edelman

- Dreamsongs, Volume 2 by George R. R. Martin

- Viscious Circle by Mike Carey

- The Inferior by Peadar Ó Guilín

- Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds

- Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

- The Gunslinger by Stephen King

- Standard of Honor by Jack Whyte

- Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

I figure there's something for everyone on that list!;-) Vote by leaving a comment. . .

Win a copy of Edward Willett's MARSEGURO

A while back, Willet mentioned the Hotlist on the air of CBC Radio One, Canada's national radio station. Hence, I'm returning the favor by giving away a copy of his newest scifi novel, Marseguro, published by Daw Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

There are a few sample chapters online, which you can find here.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "MARSEGURO." 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!


As I mentioned on Westeros yesterday, I received word from Anne Groell that Lynch was late in delivering the manuscript. Which means that the pub date for Republic of Thieves, sequel to the highly entertaining The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, has been pushed back to March 2009, if all goes well. . .

With Bakker's The Judging Eye and Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear, that's the third eagerly awaited fantasy novel which has been postponed and won't see the light in 2008.:-(

This year was shaping up to be one of the best years ever for fantasy book lovers, but it appears that it might not be the case. Still, we have a lot of good things to look forward to, so it's all good!
For now. . .

Todd Lockwood contest winner

Well, the name of our lucky winner has been drawn! He will be receiving a Giclee of the litograph of his choice from the artist's website: My selection would have been the US cover art for Steven Erikson's Toll the Hounds (Canada, USA, Europe), which is spectacular. Many thanks to Todd Lockwood for accepting to do this.

The giveaway turned out to be quite popular, so hopefully there will be more such contests! If you guys keep on visiting artists' websites and buying some art prints every now and then, I'm pretty sure that we'll have the opportunity to do this again!:-)

The winner is:

Ben Thapa, from Troy, New York, USA (amphibian on

Thanks to all the participants!;-)

Excerpt from R. Scott Bakker's NEUROPATH

Damn you Jay for being quicker on the trigger than I was!:p

But as I told Scott, I'm happy to help spread the word.:-)

As you guys know, I really enjoyed Neuropath, as much as it was the most disturbing book I ever read. And if you click on this link, you can now check out the first chapter and get a feel for what could potentially be a controversial novel when it's released this spring. If you think the excerpt is a bit fucked up, believe me when I say that you have seen nothing yet!

There's an interview with Bakker on the way, and I'm also working on a giveaway for Neuropath. . .

For more info about this title: Canada, Europe

Match it for Pratchett

I saw this earlier today on a number of message boards and on GRRM's Not a Blog. As one of the first bloggers to break the news a while back, it's only natural for me to help spread the word about this great cause.

Fantasy author Terry Pratchett has donated over a million dollars to help find a cure for the Alzheimer's Disease. Soon afterward, SFF fans and writers have decided to do their part to help.

"It looks like the blogosphere is making the fight against Alzheimer's a whole lot stronger," a spokesman for the Alzheimer's Research Trust wrote to author Pat Cadigan, as she reported on her own Live Journal. "At the Alzheimer's Research Trust, we've been overwhelmed by the support from around the world since Terry's donation and speech on Thursday. It's completely unprecedented for us: we're truly grateful."

As GRRM said on his LJ, there are several ways fans can help the cause:

You can just go to and donate however much you can spare. Tell them it's for Terry Pratchett, so it will count as part of the Match It For Pratchett campaign.

Or you can go to and buy the Match It For Pratchett t-shirt. All profits will go to Alzheimer's research.

Or you can head on over to ebay at and bid on one of the books I've donated to the campaign. Let's see, there's a copy of the deluxe leather-bound GAME OF THRONES rpg from Guardians of Order (out of print), a signed hardcover of my young adult book THE ICE DRAGON (illustrated by the wonderful Yvonne Gilbert), a presentation copy of the signed limited illustrated edition of FEVRE DREAM from Subterranean Press (sold out), a hardcover copy of SHADOW TWIN, the novella on which HUNTER'S RUN was based (signed by me, Gardner Dozois, and Daniel Abraham), a hardcover of the new Wild Cards book INSIDE STRAIGHT (signed by seven of the nine contributors), and all sorts of other great stuff... including a set of bound galleys of GOOD OMENS, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. All monies raised will go to Alzheimer's research, and there are some great collectibles on offer, so please, head on over to ebay and bid, bid, BID.

There's also an official Match It For Pratchett website where you can check out the latest news about the campaign -- and there should be plenty of news in the weeks and months to come, with more auctions, merchandise, contests, and other fund-raising efforts being planned. Bookmark

As I did with Breast Cancer research at the end of 2007, I'm happy to support this worthy cause.:-) I thought the Making Money cover art was sort of apropos!

2007 BSFA Awards

The British Science Fiction Association announced the winners of its awards yesterday. For a complete list of the various categories and nominees, click on this link.

The shortlist for Best Novel was as follows:

Alice in Sunderland – Bryan Talbot
Black Man – Richard Morgan
Brasyl – Ian McDonald
The Execution Channel – Ken MacLeod
The Prefect – Alastair Reynolds
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – Michael Chabon

I'm quite happy that Ian McDonald's Brasyl took the honors, though I would have thought that Richard Morgan's Black Man would have won the BSFA Award. If you haven't read either, you should do something about it!;-)

David Debord contest winner!

Thanks to author David Debord, our winner will get his hands on a complimentary copy of The Silver Serpent!

Our winner is:

Mark Miller, from Williamsburg, Michigan, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

The Shadow Year

To my shame, I must admit that this was the first Jeffrey Ford book I ever read. Needless to say, it won't be the last! I really have to get my hands on a copy of his short story collection, The Empire of Ice cream.

The Shadow Year brings the small town suburbia of the sixties back to life. The narrator is a sixth grader whose life will be disrupted by a series of strange occurrences. A prowler is sighted numerous times; a classmate goes missing; a mysterious man in a big white car makes his appearance; the school librarian goes nuts; people begin to die under mysterious circumstances. The narrator, his older brother Jim, and his younger sister Mary decide to investigate. They keep track of these events in Botch Town, a copy of their neighborhood Jim has built out of cardboard houses and clay figures representing the people living around them.

Soon, the boys discover that Mary has been rearranging the clay figures around Botch Town. And to their dismay, they realizes that these changes are reflected in actual events taking place around them. With Mary's help, the two brothers will make a startling discovery, one that could change their lives forever.

My favorite aspect of The Shadow Year was how Jeffrey Ford is able to bring the reader back to an era that appears to have been forgotten. A time before the internet, the Ipod, the Playstation, and Guitar Hero. If you are in your thirties or over, this novel will make you relive parts of your childhood. There is a certain nostalgia associated with The Shadow Year, a nostalgia which imbues this work with a genuine feel that is seldom seen these days. The book brought back old memories that made me smile and yearn for those forgotten years on more than one occasion. Riding your bike everywhere, the thrill of finding a porn magazine, the excitement of Halloween, and much, much more. . .

You will recognize yourself in Jim, Mary and their brother. You will regognize family members in their own family. You will reminisce about old neighbors when you back to a time when everyone knew everyone around the block.

A compelling blend of mystery and speculative fiction, The Shadow Year is a wonderful read. A relatively short work, weighing in at about 300 pages, but a satisfying reading experience nonetheless.

I doubt that younger readers will get as much out of it. Yet if you grew up in the 60s or the 70s, The Shadow Year will bring back fond memories that will make you cherish this novel even more.

The final verdict: 8/10

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

The Subpress limited edition of Naomi Novik's debut is now available!

What promises to be yet another gorgeous Subterranean Press collector's item is now shipping. These limited editions usually go pretty fast, so you better hurry if you wish to get your hands on one of these babies!

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

I'll try to get another sneak peek at this one. . .;-) The art commissioned for Novik's His Majesty's Dragon looks incredible!

Win a copy of Brian Ruckley's WINTERBIRTH

I have two copies of the mass market paperback edition of Brian Ruckley's debut, Winterbirth (Canada, USA, Europe), for you guys to win, courtesy of the folks at Orbit.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "GODLESS." 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 18th)

In hardcover:

Kim Harrison's The Outlaw Demon Wails is down five positions, ending its second week on the charts at number 10. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Anne Bishop's Tangled Webs debuts at number 26. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

R. A. Salvatore's The Ancient debuts at number 27. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Karen Traviss' Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Revelation debuts at number 6. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Lynsay Sand's Vampire, Interrupted is down six spots, finishing its second week on the NYT list at number 12. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Hugo Nomination List

Here are the nominees for Best Novel:

The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
Brasyl by Ian McDonald
Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer
The Last Colony by John Scalzi
Halting State by Charles Stross

Like many other readers, I was a bit taken aback by the fact that Richard Morgan's Black Man/Thirteen isn't part of that list. I will be rooting for Ian McDonald, even though I feel that either Chabon or Stross will win the honor.

For the full list of nominees, check out this link.

As expected, Yours Truly didn't make it on the final ballot. Still, many thanks to GRRM and anyone else who nominated the Hotlist!:-)

Win a copy of Steven Erikson's REAPER'S GALE

I have five copies of the UK mass market paperback edition of Steven Erikson's excellent Reaper's Gale (Canada, USA, Europe) up for grabs, courtesy of the folks at Transworld.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "REAPER." 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!

Hal Duncan contest winners!

Thanks to the folks at Pan MacMillan, our five winners will get their hands on a copy Hal Duncan's Vellum (Canada, USA, Europe) or Ink (Canada, USA, Europe). If you have yet to discover Duncan, I encourage you to read Vellum and be blown away!

For a copy of Vellum:

- Willem Lukusa, from Namur, Belgium

- Nils-Anders Nøttseter, from Oslo, Norway

- Keziah Dreaver, from Queens Park, Western Australia, Australia

- Irene Stucchi, from Cuggiono, Italy

For a copy of Ink:

- Gustav Nylund, from Lund, Sweden (sadface on

Thanks to all the participants!;-)

Kay Kenyon contest winners!

These three lucky people will receive a complimentary copy of Kay Kenyon's A World Too Near (Canada, USA, Europe), compliments of Pyr.

The winners are:

- Chantale Lévesque, from Québec City, Québec, Canada

- Amanda Hart, from Ventura, California, USA

- Mike Trevors, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Stay tuned, for Rob Bedfod and I will soon be interviewing Kay Kenyon!;-)

Possible gatefold sketches for the Subterranean Press limited edition of Erikson's GARDENS OF THE MOON

The siege of Pale.

Hell yeah! And those are only sketches by Michael Komarck! Imagine what the finished art will look like!:-) I'm REALLY getting excited about this one!!!

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

Before you bid and pay an exorbitant price for that never-before-seen A DANCE WITH DRAGONS chapter...

Keep in mind that I will have a giveaway in April for the issue of SpectraPulse containing that new GRRM chapter, and which will be handed out free of charge at conventions.:-)

And before you fork out all that dough, remember that sites like and will likely let all the ASOIAF fans what the chapter is all about. . .

If you can't stop yourself, well you can always begin by trying to win it for free!:p

RIP: Arthur C. Clarke

First Gary Gygax and now Arthur C. Clarke. . .:-(

A veritable giant of the genre has passed away. The silver lining is that he leaves behind a legacy that will live on for decades. . .

May he rest in peace.

Semen receptacle?????

A review of Before They Are Hanged accuses author Joe Abercrombie of being misogynist. Joe responded on his blog last week, but somehow I missed that post.

Check out his take on the matter and the interesting discussion which ensued. . .

I'm a bit surprised by this, I must admit. When such claims are made concerning R. Scott Bakker, while I don't necessarily agree with them, I can see where they're coming from. I'm a bit confused as to why Bakker's explanations that he doesn't endorse what he's writing about have failed to satisfy those who give him such a hard time about how women are portrayed in The Prince of Nothing.

Having read all three volumes of The First Law, while it's true that female characters don't play a major role in the various plotlines(other than Ferro), I find it hard to believe that such a label could be attributed to Joe Abercrombie.

Cover art for Scott Lynch's THE BASTARDS AND THE KNIVES

I'm not sure if this is breaking news, but I haven't seen this anywhere else yet. . .

Here's the cover art for the UK edition of the omnibus which will contain Scott Lynch's novellas The Mad Baron's Mechanical Attic and The Choir of Knives. The omnibus is titled The Bastards and the Knives and it will be published by Gollancz, but the pub date is inaccurate as Subterranean Press has exclusive rights for those novellas for a certain period of time.

For more info about this title: Canada, Europe.

Win a copy of Jeffrey Ford's THE SHADOW YEAR

Thanks to the folks at HarperCollins, I have five copies of Jeffrey Ford's latest novel, The Shadow Year, up for grabs! I have just finished reading the book and it was a good read, so expect a review soon! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "YEAR." 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!


Adam posted this a few days ago, but I was waiting for a bigger image to share with you guys. Now that Martin put it on his Not a Blog, there you have it!

I prefer the UK cover art to its US counterpart which I posted a few weeks back. . .

I'm the EasyJet or Southwest Airlines of SFF book reviewing!;-)

In recent days I've received two interesting messages. This one showed up in my giveaway inbox last night, coming from someone who was wondering why I had not offered any response to Larry's (Dylanfanatic) post regarding poor reviews. Here's an excerpt:

Why can't this guy understand that not everyone is looking for essays? We've seen him whining on a couple of message boards and he doesn't seem to get that few readers seem interested in that sort of thing.

With all the copycats that have sprung up in the last year or so and copying what you've been doing with your blog, I'm curious to see if you believe that you are doing the "right" thing as far as reviews are concerned. I guess you must be frustrated that they're sort of riding your coat tails, no?

The second one came in my Facebook inbox and brought a smile on my face:

You know what the difference between you and [name withheld] is? You don't come across as a pretentious, obnoxious git in almost everything you post online. (I'm sure there are many other differences... ;) )

I'm not going to dump uninvited rant on you about a fellow reviewer, although this IS a bit random. But that observation made me think this:

An element of your success/popularity is surely that you always come across online as affable, friendly and non-judgmental of other peoples tastes. And that makes perfect sense to me in terms of generating an audience. Sure, people can behave any way they want and there's no rule book for it, but I just wanted to say that you set the standard in terms of how a 'professional' reviewer/critic should conduct themselves online. How a person treats others is fundamental to my opinion of that person - you're way over on the 'good' side of the line. :)

Sorry, if you find this offensive, it's not intended to provoke any argument. I just saw that there was a compliment lurking in my observations and I think compliments should be given away, not hoarded.

First of all, let me begin by saying that I wasn't even aware of Larry's post and his thoughts about my "no-frills approach" to reviewing. It might not speak well of me, but the proliferation of SFF blogs has made it well nigh impossible for anyone to keep track of everything that's going on out there. I have nothing against Larry, a reader and reviewer I've respected for longer than I've been blogging. If you hang out on any of the major SFF message boards, you are aware that we don't necessarily see eye to eye where book reviews are concerned. Larry has never been the same since he fell in with that VanderMeer and M. John Harrison crowd. See how a good kid can go bad!:p I must say he dug up that one from the mothballs. And it wasn't a veritable review, for I had not been able to finish the novel. Hence, to write a review of a work I had not even finished would have been seriously unfair. Which is why Frost's Shadowbridge received the same treatment. . .

I don't have the pretention of being a particularly good book reviewer. I would like to think that I don't suck, but that's for you guys to decide. The Hotlist will receive its 500,000th visitor this week, and its 1,000,000th page will be viewed later this spring. So I guess I must be doing something right!;-) As to what it might be, you'll have to tell me. You are the ones showing up here every day, so there has to be a reason for that!

In a nutshell, I write the sort of reviews I would like to read. That's as far as it goes. There was no other objective in my mind when I created this blog in 2005. Back then, I would never have thought that the Hotlist would become such a popular SFF site. But somehow, it did. How did it come to pass? To put it simply, I haven't the faintest idea. I guess that most of you like my "casual" approach to reviewing. I don't know. . .

Way back when, SFF book reviews meant high brow, intellectual, pretentious, I-have-a-pole-up-my-ass kind of thing. Most of the time, it wasn't even about the novel or work being put under the microscope. Nope, it felt more like it was about the reviewer himself, pontificating and showing how much he enjoyed hearing themselves talk. Yes, I guess we're back to the mental masturbation argument once again. . .

Then the internet changed everything. All of a sudden, websites such as saw the light and offered an alternative to SFF fans looking for good reads. It took a long time, yet publishers now realize the importance of online reviewers. While many do suck, a growing number of avid readers of the genre have now become respected reviewers and they deserve the kudos.

After going through a lot of shit early on as I and others helped pave the way for the new generation of bloggers, I have received my share of accolades. Although absurdly cool, I try not to think too much about that stuff. After all, doing my own thing in my "little" virtual sandbox led me here, so I would be crazy to change anything. But you might end up on the Hugo ballot, some have been saying. Surely you'll have to be a lot more serious from now on. And why is that??? Being myself brought me here, so I'm not going to start acting differently.

I've told every blogger who has asked me for advice the same thing: Be yourself. You must have your own voice and not try to do what everyone is doing. Sadly, not everyone took this counsel to heart. The problem with a lot of the newer SFF bloggers out there is that they have no voice. You read their stuff, and it feels as though they are afraid to offer their honest opinion. It seems that they don't want their personality to shine through their words, as if afraid that the supply of ARCs and review copies will dwindle and die if they say anything wrong. Gabe Chouinard had a voice. Jay Tomio has a voice. William Lexner has a voice. Rob Bedford and Mark (Hobbit) from have a voice. The same can be said of all of those who helped start the Blogosphere phenomenon which took the genre by storm a while back. We didn't give a damn and we could be brutally honest. Passion for the genre was what fuelled us, not any promises for rewards. After all, publishers saw us as little more than turds back then.

But I digress, for I have expounded on all this last July before going to New York City when I was debating cutting down on the giveaways. Go read that post if you are interested in learning more. . .

As I mentioned, from the beginning I wanted the Hotlist to be a place where I would post the kind of reviews I would like to read. Worldbuilding, characterization, pace, storylines, etc. That's the sort of thing I wanted to read about. Essay-like reviews exploring every underlying theme of the novel while not really telling me anything about the damn book make me want to open my veins. Which is why you won't find anything of the kind here. I'm not saying that it's stupid and insipid; I'm just not interested in that sort of thing.

I recently read about how many SFF reviewers felt that fandom had become fragmented to a degree which was alarming. From where I'm sitting, that couldn't be further from the truth. For the first time in the history of the genre, people have a choice as to where they want to go for reviews, articles, and related material. Which, in the end, explains the proliferation of blogs and websites everywhere. And that's as it should be. Instead of being forced to read John Clute and his ilk (which we had no choice to do for years and years and years), fans now have the luxury to go where they please. Some come here, while many others visit a panoply of blogs, websites, fanzines, etc. Fandom is driven by the same passion for SFF; the last couple of years have presented them with alternatives regarding where they can now get their information.

Coverage in print media is on the decline, and I am aware that many of the better known and older book reviewers feel that people like me are responsible for pulling the carpet from under them. If you ask me, their "high brow" approach is the reason why. Provided with a more "user friendly" alternative, fans have left them to follow other reviewers who are as passionate as they are, and who don't talk down to them. I may be wrong, of course, but I feel that the explosion of online book review sites and blogs is a demonstration that readers have "chosen" which path they will henceforth follow. . .

As to my "no-frills" approach, I guess that depends on who you ask. An editor recently emailed me to say that my site was one of the only places where she could read intelligent and in-depth SFF book reviews. On the downside, let's not forget that the pathetic drivel I post was atrocious enough that it inspired Gabe Chouinard and his cohort to create the now defunct Scalpel.

Pat's Fantasy Hotlist has reached proportions that I never even dreamed of. I feel extremely flattered that so many people drop by every day, but I never let it go to my head. As I said before, I don't believe I'm such a talented reviewer. In any event, the sole point of my reviews is to intrigue people enough that they'll give the work I'm reviewing a shot. Or that they'll think twice about buying something I found not to my liking. The relationship between a reviewer and a reader is based on trust. I think that most people who trust my judgement as a book reviewers have discovered that we have similar tastes in novels.

I really don't want people to read my reviews and then shake their heads in amazement, wondering how I could write something so eloquent, so profound. I'm just the middle man, like a pimp (don't mention that word in an interview with Erikson!) or a pusher. It's all about the authors and their books. I'm just a beacon stearing you, hopefully, in the right direction. While it's fun to be told to keep up the good work and to have someone like GRRM nominate me for a Hugo Award, I always get that warm feeling inside when I receive a random email from readers thanking me for helping them discover writers like Scott Lynch, R. Scott Bakker, Patrick Rothfuss, or Guy Gavriel Kay.

And since this blog's mission has always been to spread the word about all that's good in the genre, that's what I intend to continue doing. With the same blend of news, interviews, giveaways, and no-frills book reviews!:-)

Okay, this post is way too long and I have a lot to do. I sincerely hope that I managed to make sense, though I am conscious of the fact that such might not be the case. I guess that what I'm trying to say is that there is now a possibility for SFF readers to visit sites/blogs/yada yada yada which strike their fancy, and methinks it's great for the genre.

If you are a Hotlist "regular" and love it here, then good for you. If not, well I'm persuaded that there is something for you out there!

S. L. Farrell interview

After reading S. L. Farrell's A Magic of Twilight (Canada, USA, Europe), I thought that a Q&A with the author was in order. Farrell was more than happy to oblige, so here we go!

I'm curious to see what SFF fans will think of the novel. George R. R. Martin's recommendations for Daniel Abraham's A Shadow in Summer and Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora helped give those writers some exposure, so it will be interesting to see what readers will make of Farrell's A Magic of Twilight.


- You first made a name for yourself in the fantasy genre with the publication of The Cloudmages trilogy. What can you tell us about that Celtic fantasy series?

It began because I took a trip to Ireland with some of my family to visit relatives and do some sightseeing... and I felt instantly "at home." I occasionally do watercolors and sketches, mostly landscapes that are from some imaginary, ancient, and distinctly un-modern place inside my head. During that trip, my sister and I climbed one of the mountains in the Connemara area, and as I looked back over the landscape -- the steep green hills, the coastline, the cottages -- I realized with a start that this was a portion of the same landscape that I'd been drawing all those years. Heck, in Clifden I half-seriously started looking at how much houses cost...

I knew I wanted to write something set here, in the Ireland that might once have been, in that old landscape in my head. I knew it had to be a fantasy, even though the great majority of what I'd written in the past was science fiction.

That was the genesis of HOLDER OF LIGHTNING.

I also noticed that the Irish (my relatives no less than any others) were great ones for telling you about the magic of the land, even if that magic was gone. They would tell you about ghosts and supernatural visitations and historic events that happened ages before on this very spot. You couldn't help but feel how old and haunted this land was. That was the feeling I wanted in the first CLOUDMAGES book, that here was a land that once had been imbued with magic but it was so long gone that it was only a memory and old tales and myths.

I wanted to bring that magic back. I wanted that old, haunted world to awaken again...

I do love the Cloudmages books. I love that world and love the way magic cycles in and out in great, slow waves through its history. At one point, I actually sketched out a sequence of twelve books -- six taking place after the Cloudmages series, and three prequels. I wanted to follow the ebb and flow of magic through a full cycle: Nadir, Rising (which was the Cloudmages Trilogy), Zenith, and Falling. Maybe one day I'll go back to that -- but as much as I love the Cloudmages book and that world, I felt after three books I needed to try something different.

- Without giving anything away, what can you tell potential readers about A Magic of Twilight? For instance, what inspired you to use a Renaissance Europe era as the backdrop for The Nessantico Cycle?

I've always been fascinated by those times that represent a paradigm shift in perception -- that fascination is also part of the Cloudmages series. Another such time was when scientific, rational and logical explanations for the way the world works began to supersede explanations based on superstition or religion or myth -- that began as we emerged from the Medieval period, but heck, to some extent, we're still undergoing that change even now. I wondered what that shift might feel like in a world where magic really works -- but where magic use was tied up in the religious belief structure.

Now, I enjoy reading history books -- because I find that, for me, they spark more ideas than anything else I can read. I was, around the same time I was musing on the above thought, also reading THE HOUSE OF MEDICI: Its Rise And Fall by Christopher Hibbert -- it's an old book (1974 original publication, I think) but nonetheless fascinating -- my copy is stuffed with dozens of yellow post-it notes marking passages I found interesting. That book started me thinking about families and power and generational struggles, and also started me looking more into that period. I started reading more on the Renaissance -- you want the whole list? It's on the Acknowledgments page of A MAGIC OF TWILIGHT -- and started putting together the world of Nessantico. Nessantico herself as a city is part Venice, part Florence, part Paris, part Vienna: a hybrid, just as the Concénzia Faith in the book is a hybrid of Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, and Islam in the way it's structured (though its mythology is pretty much whole cloth).

I wanted a world where not only was the religious structure under assault, but so was the political structure. In the book, you have the empire that Nessantico rules beginning to crack and crumble even as it seems to be at its height, as well as the state faith under a similar pressure from the Numetodo heretics (who are intent on proving that one can do magic without recourse to gods). And you see this from the perspectives of people on all sides of the conflicts, and from all levels within that society. That's A MAGIC OF TWILIGHT.

- What can we expect from the upcoming sequels?

There will be a few decades between the books -- in the world of Nessantico (he hastens to say), not here... Honest -- the books are intended to come out on a nice yearly basis. Ahem. The time-gap means that you can expect that many of the main players on the stage in the first book will have shuffled off or be taking far more minor roles in the second book while new major characters will arise. Hopefully, that way the books will all be able to stand alone relatively well. Someone who has read TWILIGHT will be able to see deeper into the threads of A MAGIC OF NIGHTFALL, but a reader new to the second book will still find a satisfying story that begins and ends in the same book. The same with A MAGIC OF DAWN, which right now is intended to wrap up the cycle (but hey, you never know...)

Again, it the 'character arc' of the city which will move through the entire sequence: from a height to the beginning of its decline; from its decline to its nadir; from its nadir to the beginnings of its resurrection.

- What's the progress report pertaining to A Magic of Nightfall? Any tentative release date?

The initial draft of NIGHTFALL is nearly done. Given the way I write, my 'first' drafts are actually a hodgepodge of anything from second to fourth draft material. I always go back over what I've written the day before and revise it before I start writing new material -- that's the 'warm-up' exercise so that when I hit that horrible blank part of the screen I'll have the momentum to keep going. At the same time, during any writing session I might be working on a scene or a character movement and realize that what I'm doing here demands a change back there to foreshadow it or correctly set it up, and I won't be able to resist going back to the older section and doing that revision.

I should finish this initial draft in the next few weeks (as I write this in mid-March of 2008). I have, oh, maybe three single-spaced pages of notes I've been creating as I went along for revision -- stuff I didn't feel like going back to address as I was writing but that I didn't want to forget in the meantime. So once the complete initial draft is done, I'll go back over the manuscript from the beginning, keeping those notes in front of me and revising the whole thing, paying particular attention to narrative flow and continuity. When that's finished (usually two weeks to a month later), it'll go to Sheila at DAW (and a couple first readers). There will (inevitably) be yet another round of revision when Sheila's read it and given me her comments on the novel....

Right now, the novel is slotted to be released in March, 2009 and we're still on schedule for that -- it generally takes nearly a year for a book to go through the publication cycle at the major publishers.

- A Magic of Twilight features 10 main POV characters. Having this many points of view can put off some readers, even in the presence of a great novel. A case in point in that regard would be Ian McDonald's Hugo-nominated River of Gods. What made you decide that you needed to look at this tale from so many disparate angles?

I like asking the reader to work a little, too. :-)

Seriously, as a writer, any time you move away from simplicity to complexity, you risk losing some readers. The more ornate and dense your prose, the harder the reader has to work; the more elaborate and 'twisty' your plot, the harder the reader has to work; the more characters you place in the literary spotlight, the harder the reader has to work. Every time you as a writer move away from a 'chapter' structure, third person, past tense, limited single-person POV, and accessible simple prose, you're 'bending the rules' and thus you risk losing some readers.

But I also think that, as a writer, you also have to tell the story in the way that seems best for the story you're telling. And sometimes, when the reader works a little harder, they also find that they're rewarded with a deeper, more complex, and richer tale.

In the first Cloudmages book, HOLDER OF LIGHTNING, the structure is straightforward and breaks no rules (except that perhaps I make the reader work a bit with the Gaelic terms and names): I have one protagonist, Jenna, who is also the point of view character in every scene (without fail, I think, though I'd have to go back and look to be certain). The book didn't need to be more complex than that, and to try to make it more complex for the sake of complexity would have been doing the tale a disservice. In the second book, MAGES OF CLOUDS, there is still one primary protagonist/viewpoint character, Jenna's daughter Meriel, though for the purpose of best telling that story, I had to occasionally move away from her viewpoint to show something important happening somewhere else. In HEIR OF STONE, the concluding volume, there are three protagonists (the children of Meriel) who also function as viewpoint characters -- their individual stories are for the most part geographically separated until the very end of the book, so there's a bit of hopping around for the reader... because to tell the story effectively, I had no choice.

In the NESSANTICO CYCLE (which will be A MAGIC OF TWILIGHT, A MAGIC OF NIGHTFALL, and A MAGIC OF DAWN), to my mind the main 'protagonist' is the city of Nessantico herself.

I wanted the reader to feel the complexity of this world, to glimpse the various agendas and ambitions of all the movers and shakers of this place. To do that, it seemed best to me to use a large cast of characters and to let them each step forward now and again to tell the reader the story from their point of view, in their voice. I don't think I could have done justice to Nessantico with Ana alone (for instance), even though she gets the most stage-time. For the most part, this novel is Ana's story, but it's also Allesandra's and Sergei's and Dhosti's and Mahri's and Justi's and Karl's, and... Ana simply isn't able to be everywhere to tell a story this complex and this geographically and socially diverse, so I went to an 'ensemble' feel for the book (and will continue that structure in the other books).

If I thought I could have used fewer viewpoints and still have displayed the wide scope of the novel, I would have... because it would have been simpler for me and easier for the readers. But it didn't work out that way. I think it worked out better, though...

- Will you be touring during the course of the spring to promote A Magic of Twilight? If so, are there any specific dates that have been confirmed as of yet?

Now if I were a NY Times bestselling author, I surely would be... But for the most part, I've been doing local appearances and signings within driving distance (I live in Cincinnati, OH). I'm also the GoH at Applecon in Minneapolis (April 11 - 13) so if anyone's up that way, I'd love to see them! And I hope to be at Worldcon in Denver during the summer.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

The best person to ask about a writer's strengths are his/her readers. We're all too close to our work to really know. But I can tell you what I concentrate on while I'm writing....

As I tell my students in my Creative Writing classes, fiction is all about characters, so I hope that characterization is one of my strengths. I certainly like characters who are shades of gray, who aren't pure heroes or pure villains but exist somewhere between. I think flawed people are far, far more interesting than perfect ones of either type... and I hope some of that fascination with characters comes out in the books, so that each of the characters feels individual and solid and real.

Worldbuilding is also something I enjoy: putting together a world that feels as genuine as our own, that has a wonderful sense of long history and complexity. Worldbuilding is one of the foundations of speculative fiction. If you're writing in the "here and now," well, you don't have to do a great deal of worldbuilding because your readers understand instinctively the world in which the characters live, and they understand how the characters will interact with that world and respond to each other -- because it's the same world in which they live and and the same natural responses they'd have. None of that's true in speculative fiction, which is part of the kick of reading the genre, I think. Here, we get to create a new history, a new geography, a new set of social reflexes and mores... and all that has to be solid and sound. When it's done well, it's an exciting ride of discovery for the reader.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write The Cloudmages? How about The Nessantico Cycle?

I didn't really worry about conventions. Way back when, I read Tolkien and loved the sense of a whole world and long history he brought to his tale, even while I found his prose occasionally awkward and his characters sometimes two-dimensional. I've honestly read little of current fantasy; that may be an asset or a liability -- I'm not sure which. Most of my reading anymore is for research. With the Cloudmages series, I wanted to write about a world awakening to magic again, and because I'd become fascinated with Ireland, it's set in a faux-Ireland. Therefore, to the Marketing folk, by necessity it falls into the Celtic Fantasy sub-genre. Does it break any of the conventions of that genre? I really don't know because I've read almost no Celtic fantasy; you'd have to tell me. As far as I'm concerned, the books simply are what they are.

With the Nessantico Cycle, I'm aware that I'm breaking some conventions (if only structurally), but again I'm not worrying about breaking those conventions. I'm doing so them because the story (in my opinion) demands that I do so. How can I best tell this story I want to tell? That's always the first question a writer should ask: if it requires being conventional, be conventional. If it requires bending or breaking the rules, break them.

Did I do a decent job of it? Again, that's for the readers to decide. :-)

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a Hugo/World Fantasy Award? Why, exactly?

Heck, there's a nice thought, either way! If I could only choose one, I'd take being a NY Times bestseller, because that indicates the books are selling well and I'm reaching the widest audience. A Hugo or World Fantasy Award would be lovely... but in the end, if one wants to continue a writing career, it comes down to having an audience that you're reaching, the larger the better. As many books have demonstrated, you can win a Hugo or World Fantasy award and not make the NY Times list... but make the NY Times list and I'd say you have a good shot of being on the final ballot for the Hugo.

- How much of an impact does George R. R. Martin's "patronage" benefit you in terms of exposure for a new release like A Magic of Twilight?

I was pleasantly blown away when George made A MAGIC OF TWILIGHT part of the 'bet' he had with you on the Cowboys/Giants game. Since I write for the WILD CARDS series, I'd suggested to Sheila at DAW that she send George an ARC of the book for a possible quote (and he's given us one, which you'll see on the mass market edition), but George has gone the extra mile: with you, as well as mentioning the book in his blog a few times. Given that George has a HUGE and loyal readership, that can only help. George is someone whose writing I admire greatly, and I'm very happy that George liked the book enough that he's recommending it to people.

In the end, though, a book has to stand on its own merits. George might convince a few more people to pick up A MAGIC OF TWILIGHT, but he can't convince them that it's a good read. The book has to do that on its own... and that's what matters.

- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the covers that grace your books?

Cover art's important -- regardless of that old saying, people do judge books by their covers. The cover exists to induce a potential reader to pick up the book and open it; if it fails in the task (or, in the worst case scenario, actively causes readers to go "Yuck!"), you might as well not have a cover at all. And some covers do that better than others... For HOLDER OF LIGHTNING, I had Gordon Crabb as the cover artist -- I still really love that cover; the look of Jenna, the details... I think it's an excellent cover, myself. For MAGE OF CLOUDS, DAW went with Jim Burns, an artist I've loved for years, though this particular cover of his, honestly, isn't my favorite. It's good, but not great. For HEIR OF STONE, Steve Stone was the artist. I liked that one a lot-- hey, nothing screams "Fantasy!" like a dragon on the cover, and that's a nice one...

For A MAGIC OF TWILIGHT, Sheila commissioned Todd Lockwood to do the cover art. Again, Todd is someone I think is a fabulous artist; he's done stunning work. The three of us talked (well, e-mailed) about the concept for this cover, and there was input from Penguin's marketing department as well. Since Nessantico is the central 'character' in the book, we wanted the architecture to dominate the scene, with the people being much smaller (much as Todd did with the cover for Tad Williams' SHADOWPLAY. I think the design of the painting is excellent, drawing the viewer into the recesses where there are some lovely details to snare you -- the Archigos' throne is incredible. I hope that works at smaller (paperback) size, though...

- More and more, authors/editors/publicists/agents are discovering the potential of all the SFF blogs/websites/message boards on the internet. Do you keep an eye on what's being discussed out there, especially if it concerns you? Or is it too much of a distraction?

Well, like every writer in the world, I keep a blog on my website (actually, I link to my LiveJournal blog). That keeps me in direct contact with anyone who wants to respond/talk to me. And I do have Google alert me when my name gets mentioned somewhere. All writers have egos -- heck, the very fact of marketing your work is implicitly saying "I think what I have here is something everyone should read. It's that good. Honest." But...

I don't know how many other writers have this issue (but I suspect it's many of us), but while that ego might be big enough enough to cause us to send out our work, it's fragile: if someone says they really like what I've done, I'm pleased and happy and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It's great. That's what we all want, after all, to please most of the people who read our stuff. But when someone gives one of my books a scathing review... well, I find myself brooding on it. My confidence gets shaken. I stop writing. I start second-guessing myself. I wonder if they're right and I've been fooling myself all along. A nasty review genuinely hurts, even if I think the reviewer is entirely wrong. Yeah, writers are supposed to have steel-clad skins and cast off barbs and bad reviews as if they were no more than a soft spring rain, but that's not the case. Not at all. Not for me, anyway.

So in some ways, the less attention I pay to what's being said about my work in the blogsphere, the better. Mind you, I still look when I come across something. I can't help it. It's like a scab you can't help but pick.

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

I work in academia, and believe me I'm well aware of how the majority of my colleagues view speculative fiction. I touch on the subject in some of the essays on writing on my website: "Prejudice in Academia" is the one that addresses it most directly ( The shortsightedness and narrow focus among college professors just amazes me sometimes.

I often tell my students that history takes a long view, not a short one. I show them bestseller lists from the '20s or 30s just to show them how few of the writers there are still remembered today, even though they were considered 'important' writers in their day. I'll point out the many, many writers who vanished for years and decades after their deaths, only to be 'rediscovered' later and considered important (Melville, Charlotte Perkins GIlman, Shakespeare himself --in fact, far too many writers to list).

Will the speculative fiction being written today ever be considered to be 'true literature'? I think it should be: good, effective writing is good, effective writing, regardless of genre. I also strongly feel that "literary" writing is just as bound by tropes and conventions as genre work -- in other words, it's simply another 'genre' on its own, with its own 'formulas' the writer is expected to fulfill. But...

I don't think you're going to get that admission from academia any time soon. Ask me again in 2100 -- assuming you can resurrect me in a seance.

- So what's the scoop on the forthcoming Wild Card novels, Busted Flush? Give us something to look forward to!

BUSTED FLUSH is going to be one fantastic ride, I can tell you that much. The writers for the volume will be a mix of 'new' and 'old' writers to the series: Melinda Snodgrass, John Jos. Miller, Victor Milan, Walton (Bud) Simons, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Carrie Vaughn, Ian Tregillis, Caroline Spector, and myself. There are two (or perhaps three, depending on how you want to count 'em) basic threads to the story -- suffice it to say that the new Committee will have their hands full, and not all will go well. My own story will once again feature Michael Vogali (aka DB, aka Drummer Boy), and he will not emerge unscathed from the experience.

I will tell you that you're going to see perhaps the most dangerous 'ace' of all time in this one -- and, of course, the usual WILD CARDS twists and turns and changes!