Excerpt from Chris Wooding's RETRIBUTION FALLS

Right from the start, there seemed to be a lot of interest for Chris Wooding's Retribution Falls (Canada, USA, Europe). So it comes as no surprise that the novel came out on top in our last survey.

In an attempt to whet your collective appetite for this book, the folks at Gollancz have provided this excerpt, which you may peruse at your leisure.

Here's what two popular SFF figures had to say about Retribution Falls:

"Retribution Falls is the kind of old fashioned adventure I didn't think we were allowed to write any more, of freebooting privateers makingtheir haphazard underhand way in a wondrous retro-future world. But Chris has dusted off the format and given it a sharp modern edge that makes for a fast exhilarating read." PETER F. HAMILTON

"Retribution Falls picks you up, and it whisks you swiftly and entertainingly along, and it sets you down with a big smile on your face." JOE ABERCROMBIE


The smuggler held the bullet between thumb and forefinger, studying it in the weak light of the store room. He smiled sourly.

‘Just imagine,’ he said. ‘Imagine what this feels like, going through your head.’

Grayther Crake didn’t want to imagine anything of the sort. He was trying not to throw up, having already disgraced himself once that morning. He glanced at the man next to him, hoping for some sign that he had a plan, some way to get them out of this. But Darian Frey’s face was hard, and showed nothing.

Both of them had their wrists tied together, backs against the damp and peeling wall. Three armed thugs ensured they stayed there.

The smuggler’s name was Lawsen Macarde. He was squat and grizzled, hair and skin greasy with a sheen of sweat and grime, features squashed across a face that was broad and deeply lined. Crake watched him slide the bullet into the empty drum of his revolver. He spun it, snapped it shut, then turned towards his audience.

‘Do you think it hurts?’ he mused. ‘Even for a moment? Or is it all over - bang! - in a flash?’

‘If you’re that curious, try it out on yourself,’ Frey suggested.

Macarde hit him in the gut, putting all of his considerable weight behind the punch. Frey doubled over with a grunt and almost went to his knees. He straightened with some effort until he was standing again.

‘Good point,’ he wheezed. ‘Well made.’

Macarde pressed the muzzle of the revolver against Crake’s forehead, and stared at Frey.

‘Count of three. You want to see your man’s brains all over the wall?’

Frey didn’t reply. Crake’s face was grey beneath his close-cropped blond beard. He stank of alcohol and sweat. His eyes flicked to the captain nervously.


Frey showed no signs of reacting.

‘I’m just a passenger!’ Crake said. ‘I’m not even part of his crew!’ His accent betrayed an aristocratic upbringing which wasn’t evident from his appearance. His hair was scruffy, his boots vomit-spattered, his greatcoat half-unbuttoned and hanging open. To top it off, he was near soiling himself with fear.

‘You have the ignition code for the Ketty Jay?’ Macarde asked him. ‘You know how to fire her up and get her flying?’

Crake swallowed and shook his head.

‘Then shut up. Two.’

‘Nobody flies the Ketty Jay but me, Macarde. I told you that,’ Frey said. His eyes flickered restlessly around the store room. Cloud muffled sunlight drifted in through horizontal slits high up on one stone wall, illuminating rough-hewn hemp sacks, coils of rope, wicked-looking hooks that hung on chains from the ceiling. Chill shadows cut deep into the seamed faces of Macarde and his men, and the air smelled of damp and decay.

‘Three,’ said Macarde, and pulled the trigger.


Crake flinched and whimpered as the hammer fell on an empty chamber. After a moment, it sank in: he was still alive. He let out a shuddering breath as Macarde took the gun away, then cast a hateful glare at Frey.

Frey’s expression was blank. He was a different person to the man Crake knew the night before. That man had laughed as loud as Malvery and made fun of Pinn with the rest of them. He’d told stories that had them in stitches and drank until he passed out. That man, Crake had known for almost three months. That man, Crake might have called a friend.

Macarde studied the pistol theatrically. ‘Five chambers. One down. Think you’ll be lucky again?’ He put the muzzle back to Crake’s forehead.

‘Oh, please, no,’ Crake begged. ‘Please, please, no. Frey, tell him. Stop playing around and just tell him.’

‘One,’ said Macarde.

Crake stared at the stranger to his right, his eyes pleading. No doubt about it, it was the same man. There were the same wolfishly handsome features, the same unkempt black hair, the same lean frame beneath his long coat. But the spark in his eyes had gone. There was no sign of the ready, wicked smile that usually lurked in the corner of his mouth.

He wasn’t going to give in.


Please,’ he whispered. But Frey just looked away.


Macarde paused on the trigger, waiting for a last-moment intervention. It didn’t come.


Crake’s heart leaped hard enough to hurt. He let out a gasp. His mouth was sticky, his whole body was trembling and he desperately wanted to be sick.

You bastard, he thought. You rot-hearted bastard.

‘Didn’t think you had it in you, Frey,’ Macarde said, with a hint of admiration in his voice. He thrust the revolver back into a holster somewhere amidst the motley of battered jackets that he wore. ‘You’d let him die rather than give up the Ketty Jay? That’s cold.’

Frey shrugged. ‘He’s just a passenger.’ Crake swore at him under his breath.

Macarde paced around the store room while a rat-faced thug covered the prisoners with the point of a cutlass. The other two thugs stood in the shadows: an enormous shaven-headed bruiser and a droop-eyed man wearing a tatty knitted cap. One guarded the only exit, the other lounged against a barrel, idly examining a lever-action shotgun. There were a dozen more like them downstairs.

Crake clawed at his mind for some way to escape. In spite of the shock and the pounding in his head, he forced himself to be rational. He’d always prided himself on his discipline and self-control, which only made the humiliation of the last few moments harder to bear. He’d pictured himself displaying a little more dignity in the face of his own extinction.

Their hands were tied, and they’d been disarmed. Their pistols had been taken after they were found at the inn, snoring drunk at the table. Macarde had taken Frey’s beautiful cutlass - my cutlass, Crake thought bitterly - for his own. Now it hung tantalisingly from his belt. Crake noticed Frey watching it closely.

What of Malvery and Pinn? They’d evidently wandered off elsewhere in the night to continue their carousing, leaving their companions to sleep. It was just bad luck that Macarde had found them, tonight of all nights. Just a few more hours and they’d have been out of port and away. Instead they’d been dragged upstairs - pausing only for Crake to be sick on his own feet - and bundled into this dank store room where an anonymous and squalid death awaited them if Frey didn’t give up the ignition codes for his aircraft.

I could be dead, Crake thought. That son of a bitch didn’t do a thing to stop it.

‘Listen,’ said Macarde to Frey. ‘Let’s be businessmen about this. We go back, you and I. Worked together several times, haven’t we? And even though I came to expect a certain sloppiness from you over the years - late delivery, cargo that wasn’t quite what you promised, that sort of thing - you never flat-out screwed me. Not till now.’

‘What do you want me to say, Macarde? It wasn’t meant to end up this way.’

‘I don’t want to kill you, Frey,’ said Macarde in a tone that suggested the opposite. ‘I don’t even want to kill that milksop little pansy over there. I just want what’s mine. You owe me an aircraft. I’ll take the Ketty Jay.’

‘The Ketty Jay’s worth five of yours.’

‘Well, consider the difference as the price of me not cutting off your balls and stuffing them in your ears.’

‘That’s fair,’ conceded Frey.

‘That aerium you sold me was bad stuff. Admit it.’

‘What did you expect for that price?’

‘You told me it came straight from the refinery. What you sold me was so degraded it wouldn’t have lifted a biscuit, let alone twenty tons of aircraft.’

‘Sales patter. You know how it is.’

‘It must have been through the engines of every freebooter from here to the coast!’ Macarde growled. ‘I’d have got better quality stuff siphoning it off the wrecks in a junkyard!’

Crake gave Frey a fleeting look of guilt. ‘Actually,’ Frey grinned, ‘it’d have been about the same.’
Macarde was a stocky man, and overweight, but his punch came blindingly fast, snapping Frey’s head back so it cracked against the wall. Frey groaned and put his hands to his face. His fingertips came away bloody from a split lip.

‘Little less attitude will make this all go a lot smoother,’ Macarde advised.

‘Right,’ said Frey. ‘Now you listen. If there’s some way I can make this up to you, some job I can do, something I can steal, whatever you want . . . well, that’s one thing. But you will never get my craft, you hear? You can stuff whatever you like in my ears. The Ketty Jay is mine.’

‘I don’t think you’re in much of a position to negotiate,’ Macarde said.

‘Really? ’Cause the way I see it, the Ketty Jay is useless without the ignition code, and the only one who knows it is me. That puts me in a pretty strong position as long as I don’t tell you.’

Macarde made a terse gesture towards Droop-Eye. ‘Cut off his thumbs.’

Droop-Eye left his shotgun atop the barrel he’d been leaning on and drew a dagger.

‘Whoa, wait!’ said Frey quickly. ‘I’m talking compensation. I’m talking giving you more than the value of your craft. You cut off my thumbs and I can’t fly. Believe me, you do that and I take the code to my grave.’

‘I had five men on that craft,’ said Macarde, as Droop-Eye came over. ‘They were pulling up out of a canyon. I saw it. The pilot tried to get the lift and suddenly it just wasn’t there. Bad aerium, see? Couldn’t clear the lip of the canyon. Tore the belly off and the rest of it went up in flames. Five men dead. You going to compensate me for them, too?’

‘Listen, there’s got to be something you want.’ He motioned suddenly at Crake. ‘Here, I know! He’s got a gold tooth. Solid gold. Show them, Crake.’

Crake stared at the captain in disbelief.

‘I don’t want a gold tooth, Frey,’ said Macarde patiently. ‘Give me your thumbs.’

‘It’s a start!’ Frey cried. He glared hard and meaningfully at Crake. ‘Crake, why don’t you show them your gold tooth?’

‘Here, let us have a look,’ Rat said, leaning closer to Crake. ‘Show us a smile, you little nancy.’

Crake took a deep, steadying breath, and gave Rat his most dazzling grin. It was a picture-pose he’d perfected in response to a mortifying ferrotype taken by the family photographer. After that, he vowed he’d never be embarrassed by a picture again.

‘Hey! That’s not half bad,’ Rat commented, peering at his reflection in the shiny tooth. And Crake grinned, harder than he’d ever grinned in his life.

Droop-Eye pulled Frey away from the wall over to a set of cobwebbed shelves. He swept away a few empty jars with his arm, and then forced Frey’s bound hands down onto the shelf. Frey had balled his fists and was refusing to extend his thumbs. Droop-Eye hammered him in the kidney, but he still held fast.

‘What I’m saying, Macarde, is that we can both come out ahead,’ he argued through gritted teeth. ‘We’ll work off the debt, me and my crew.’

‘You’ll be halfway to New Vardia the second I take my eyes off you,’ Macarde replied.

‘What about collateral? What if I leave you one of the fighters? Pinn has a Skylance, that thing’s faster than greased owl shit. You ought to see it go!’

Droop-Eye drove a knee into his thigh, making him grunt, but he still wouldn’t extend his thumbs. The thug by the door smirked at his companion’s attempts to make Frey cooperate.
‘Here, listen!’ Rat shouted. Everyone stopped and turned to look at him, surprised by the volume of his voice. A strange expression crossed his face, as if he was puzzled to find himself the centre of attention. Then it disappeared beneath a dawning revelation.

‘Why don’t we let them go?’ he suggested.

Macarde gave him a reptilian glare. ‘What?’ he said slowly.

‘No, wait, hear me out,’ said Rat, with the attitude of one caught up in an idea so brilliant that it would require careful explanation to his benighted audience. ‘I mean, killing ’em won’t do no good to us. They don’t look like they’ve got a shillie to their name anyways. If we let ’em go, they could, you know, spread the good word and stuff: "That Lawsen Macarde is a reasonable man. The kind of man you can do business with." ’

Macarde had been steadily reddening as Rat’s speech went on, and now his unshaven jowls were trembling with fury. Droop-Eye and Bruiser exchanged wary glances. Neither of them knew what had possessed their companion to pipe up with his opinion, but they both knew the inevitable outcome. Macarde’s hand twitched towards the hilt of Frey’s cutlass.

‘You should listen to the man,’ said Crake. ‘He talks a lot of sense.’

Macarde’s murderous gaze switched to Crake. Absurdly, Crake was still smiling. He flashed his toothy grin at Macarde now, looking for all the world like some oily salesman instead of a man facing his imminent demise.

But then Macarde noticed something. The anger drained from his face and he craned in to look a little closer.

‘That’s a nice tooth,’ he murmured.

Yes, keep looking, you ugly bag of piss, Crake thought. You just keep looking.

Crake directed every ounce of his willpower at the smuggler. Rat’s idea wasn’t so bad, when you thought about it. A show of generosity now could only increase Macarde’s standing in the eyes of his customers. They’d come flocking to him with their deals, offering the best cuts for the privilege of working with him. He could own this town!

But Macarde was smarter than Rat. The tooth only worked on the weak-minded. He was resisting; Crake could see it on his face. Even bewitched as he was by the tooth, he sensed that something was amiss.

A chill spread through Crake’s body, something icier and more insidious than simple fear. The tooth was draining him. Hungover and weak as he was, he couldn’t keep up the fight for long, and he’d already used his best efforts on Rat.

Give it up, he silently begged Macarde. Just give it up.

Then the smuggler blinked, and his gaze cleared. He stared at Crake, shocked. Crake’s grin faded slowly.

‘He’s a daemonist!’ Macarde cried, then pulled the pistol from his holster, put it to Crake’s head and pulled the trigger.


Macarde was as surprised as Crake was. He’d forgotten that he’d loaded his pistol with only a single bullet. There was an instant’s pause, then everything happened at once.

Frey’s cutlass flew out of Macarde’s belt, leaping ten feet across the room, past Droop-Eye and into the captain’s waiting hands. Droop-Eye’s final moments were spent staring in incomprehension as Frey drove the cutlass double-handed into his belly.

Macarde’s bewilderment at having his cutlass stolen by invisible hands gave Crake the time he needed to gather himself. He drove a knee hard into the fat man’s groin. Macarde’s eyes bulged and he staggered back a step, making a faint squealing noise like a distressed piglet.

His hands still bound, Crake wrestled the revolver from Macarde’s beefy fingers just as Rat shook off the effects of the tooth and drew his cutlass back for a thrust. Crake swung the gun about and squeezed the trigger. This time the hammer found the bullet. It discharged
point-blank in Rat’s face, blowing a geyser of red mist from the back of his skull with a deafening bang. He tottered a few steps on his heels and collapsed onto a heap of rope.

Macarde was stumbling towards the door, unwittingly blocking Bruiser’s line of fire. As the last thug fought to get an angle, Frey dropped his cutlass, darted across the room and scooped up the leveraction shotgun that Droop-Eye had left on the barrel. Bruiser shoved his boss behind him to get a clear shot at Crake, and succeeded only in providing one for Frey, who unloaded the shotgun into his chest with a roar.

In seconds, it was over. Macarde had gone. They could hear him running along the landing outside, heading downstairs, shouting for his men. Frey shoved the shotgun into his belt and picked up his cutlass.

‘Hold out your hands,’ he said to Crake. Crake did so. The cutlass flickered, and his bonds were cut. He tossed the cutlass to Crake and held out his own hands.

‘Now do me.’

Crake weighed the weapon in his hands. To his ears, it still sang faintly with the harmonic resonance he’d used to bind the daemon into the blade. He considered what it would feel like to shove it into the captain’s guts.

‘We don’t have time, Crake,’ Frey said. ‘Hate me later.’

Crake was no swordsman, but he barely had to move his wrist and the cutlass did the rest. It chopped neatly through the gap between Frey’s hands, dividing the cord in two. He threw the cutlass back to Frey, walked over to Rat’s corpse and pulled the pistol from his holster.

Frey chambered a new round into the shotgun. ‘Ready?’

Crake made a sweeping gesture of sarcastic gallantry towards the door. Be my guest.

Beyond was a balcony that overlooked a dim bar-room, musty with smoke and spilled wine. It was empty at this hour of the morning, its tables still scattered with the debris of the previous nights’ revelries. Tall shutters held off the pale daylight. Macarde was yelling somewhere below, raising the alarm.

Two men were racing up the stairs as Frey and Crake emerged. Macarde’s men, wielding pistols, intent on murder. They saw Frey and Crake an instant before the foremost thug slipped on Crake’s vomit-slick, which no one had thought to clear up. He crashed heavily onto the stairs and his companion tripped over him. Frey blasted them twice with his shotgun, shattering the wooden balusters in the process. They didn’t get up again.

Frey and Crake ran for a door at the far end of the balcony as four more men appeared on the bar-room floor. They flung the door open and darted through, accompanied by a storm of gunfire.

Beyond was a corridor. The walls were painted in dull, institution green paint, flaking with age. Several doors in chipped frames led off the corridor: rooms for guests, all of whom had wisely stayed put. Frey led the way along the corridor, which ended in a set of tall, shuttered windows. Without breaking stride, he unloaded the remainder of the shotgun’s shells into them. Glass smashed and the shutters blew from their hinges. Frey jumped through the gap that was left, and Crake, possessed of an unstoppable, fear-driven momentum, followed him.

The drop was a short one, ending in a steeply sloping, cobbled lane between tall, ramshackle houses. Overhead, a weak sun pushed through hazy layers of cloud.

Crake hit the ground awkwardly and went to his knees. Frey pulled him up. That familiar, wicked smile had appeared on his face again. A reminder of the man Crake had thought he knew.
‘I feel a sudden urge to be moving on,’ Frey said, as he dusted Crake down. ‘Open skies, new horizons, all of that.’

Crake looked up at the window they’d jumped from. The sounds of pursuit were growing louder. ‘I have the same feeling,’ he said, and they took to their heels.

Purple and Black

Though I could never truly get into K. J. Parker's The Engineer Trilogy, I thoroughly enjoyed the author's The Company. So when Subterranean Press announced that they were publishing the novella Purple and Black, I was immediately keen to read it.

You are, of course, an unmitigated bastard. Not content with dragging me away
from my chair at Anassus, which I worked bloody hard to earn and which will now
go to that pinhead Atho, you made me waste three months of my life in a military
academy, of all places, and now you've dumped me here, in the last place on
earth, surrounded by snow, soldiers and savages. What the hell did I ever do to

During a bloody civil war during which his father, brothers, and uncles all died, thus wiping out the entire male royal line, Nicephorus had no choice but to leave the University and become emperor. Now His Divine Majesty Nicephorus V, brother of the invincible Sun, father of his people, defender of the faith, emperor of the Vesani, he must try to find a way to escape the fate of the seventy-seven emperors who met violent deaths over the past century, most of them murdered by their own soldiers.

Look, I'm sorry, all right? It is, as they say, a lousy job but someone's got to
do it. A bit like being emperor, yes?

Unfortunately, his reign begins with threats of an insurgency along the northern frontier. Fearing a military coup, Nicephorus refrains from sending a true general with an army. Having filled the major offices of state with his oldest friends from school, he turns to his best friend Phormio to deal with the troubles in the north.

I am not, repeat not, a soldier; I'm an effete, slightly overweight dilettante
scholar who just might one of these days, if I'm lucky and the right people die
and some clown doesn't send me away to the frontier, secure a senior lectureship
at a respectable university. I know, we agreed; give positions of power to
people who'd rather die than have them. But there are limits. The point being,
I'm no bloody good at this.

Oddly enough, both Nicephorus and Phormio are scholars who professed that power is evil and that the Empire should be dissolved when they were students. And although the new emperor tries his best, hell is paved with good intentions. . .

Purple and Black follows the correspondence between two particularly inept individuals in positions of power. The military dispatches, written in the purple ink reserved exclusively for official business, and their personal letters written in black ink.

Human nature. A man will betray his honour, his country and his friend, but the
bond between two people who share a common devotion to hardcore porn is

Reading the witty correspondence between the two men was quite entertaining. Both Nicephorus and Phormio, though far from being the sharpest tools in the shed at times, are endearing fellows.

Everybody in these parts thinks I'm out of my tiny mind, but they're happy
enough to sell us stuff or take our wages, now that there's soldiers everywhere
you look to keep them safe. The idea that the government can be a net provider
of money, rather than a bottomless pit into which their taxes vanish without a
trace, is new and intriguing around here, and in consequence we're rather more
popular than we used to be.

The narrative is filled with the humor and intelligence which have come to characterize K. J. Parker's works. There are a few surprising moments at the end that brings this novella to a satisfying close.

Men like Lamachus are quite definitely an evil means to a good end. I'm writing
this in the chief clerk's office, because my study's just across the yard from
where Lamachus is conducting his interviews; the theory being, if I can't hear
it, it's not happening. Nice theory, but I fancy there's a fallacy in there
somewhere. Men like Lamachus save lives by taking lives. They prevent cruelty
and inhumanity by inflicting it. Men like us let them, because it's for the
greater good, and because we're afraid that, if it wasn't done for us, we might
find it in our hearts to do it ourselves.

All in all, Purple and Black is a cleverly crafted and amusing tale, and it makes for an enjoyable reading experience.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and Subterranean Press

Max Frei contest winners!

Thanks to the kind folks at The Overlook Press, our three winners will get their hands on Max Frei's The Stranger. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Joshua Patrao, from Mankato, Minnesota, USA

- Edithanne Fritz, from Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

- Brian Kimberlin, from Westminster, Colorado, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

China Miéville chats about THE CITY & THE CITY

Can't wait for Miéville's new novel?

Follow this link to a video interview with the author. China Miéville gives an overview of the book and its setting. It's rather brief ( a little over 3 minutes), but it gives you a taste of what The City & The City is all about. . .

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

Cover art for David Louis Edelman's upcoming GEOSYNCHRON

Once again, I nicked this cover art from Pyr-o-mania!

David Louis Edelman's last volume in the Jump 225 trilogy is one of my most eagerly awaited novels of 2010. Even better if Geosynchron will sport another beautiful cover by Stephan Martiniere!

With Kenyon in January and Edelman in February, Pyr will open up 2010 with the heavy artillery!

Can't wait!;-)

Win a copy of Lane Robins' KINGS AND ASSASSINS

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Lane Robins' newest, Kings and Assassins, courtesy of me! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Controlled by an aristocracy whose depraved whims bow to neither law nor god, the kingdom of Antyre is under siege from the only man who can save it. He is Janus Ixion, the new Earl of Last, a man whose matchless fighting abilities and leadership strike terror in Antyre's powerful noble houses.

For Janus is the illegitimate son who has returned from the brutal slums to reclaim his birthright, and will go to any lengths to become king and reverse his country's decline. But with a conquering foreign prince sowing chaos throughout the kingdom, Janus must battle the terrifying power of Antyre's forgotten god, one who has gifted Janus's vengeful wife with mysterious and dangerous skills. As Antyre nears irrevocable collapse, Janus's manipulations and all-consuming ambition will force him and his country to choose between the rule of resurgent gods, or a victor's throne of ashes.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "ASSASSINS." 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!

So you think you can write???

Just received this news from Tor UK (Pan MacMillan):


Tor and SciFiNow are delighted to announce War of the Words, the search for the next Tor author! We’ll be offering one lucky reader a publishing contract. The competition kicks off in the May issue of SciFiNow; readers will be asked to submit a full synopsis together with the first three chapters by 20th August. A shortlist of six will then be drawn up before the winner is announced in November. Follow the search in each issue or catch up with exclusive news and updates on the SciFiNow website.

To all you aspiring SFF authors out there, you know what to do!;-)

Best of luck to everyone!

French cover art for Patrick Rothfuss' THE NAME OF THE WIND

Beats the Fabio cover!

No contest!;-)

Cover art for Kay Kenyon's forthcoming PRINCE OF STORMS

Just nicked this from Pyr-o-mania!

Kenyon's The Entire and the Rose is turning out to be one of the most fascinating science fiction series of the last few years. Again, the last volume, Prince of Storms, will feature a gorgeous Stephan Martiniere cover.

Can't wait to get my hands on this one and see how it's all going to end!

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

Jacqueline Carey contest winners!

Each winner will receive a copy of Jacqueline Carey's Santa Oliva (Canada, USA, Europe), compliments of the folks at Grand Central Publishing.

The winners are:

- Rebekah Kati, from Bloomington, Indiana, USA

- Shalayna Woodly, from Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

- Kelly C. VanHout, from Austin, Texas, USA

- Faduma Hashi, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

- Trisha Dennis, from Vineland, New Jersey, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

The Burning Skies

Hard to imagine that The Burning Skies could be even more action-packed than its predecessor, The Mirrored Heavens (Canada, USA, Europe), but somehow David J. Williams found a way to raise the bar even higher. This sequel is a veritable train wreck, and you never know what's going to hit you next. I loved it!

The events chronicled in The Mirrored Heavens left Claire Haskell's life in shambles. The man she loved is dead. The all-important mission she was a part of was betrayed. She discovered that her past was a lie, leaving her to contemplate a future built on memories that could well be false. And yet, the razor has no time to wallow in self-pity, for the terrorist group known as Autumn Rain is on the move again. Barely four days have passed since Claire managed to placate them, but the elusive Autumn Rain strikes again. Not only are they trying to undermine or destroy the fragile global alliances in order to shatter the relatively recent peace between the superpowers -- Autumn Rain's main objective is to rule all of mankind. The first stage of their plan calls for the assassination of the US president and the take-over of the American computer networks known as the zone. Claire Haskell must find a way to hack enemy networks and outwit them so that another World War is averted. As battle erupts all over the Earth-Moon system, Claire realizes that betrayal awaits her at every turn. And Autumn Rain appears to always be a step ahead of her. . .

The Burning Skies is yet another page-turner. The action is non-stop, and the plot is filled with enough unexpected twists and turns that it will make your head spin.

The story progresses at a breakneck pace. David J. Williams sucks you into this one right from the start, and the rhythm is such that you'll get through this novel before you know it. If The Mirrored Heavens suffered from any shortcoming, it likely was lack of depth. Not so in this sequel, however. The author demonstrates that the first volume offered us just a glimpse of the overall story arc. Revelations about the origins of Autumn Rain, the American hierarchy and structure, the Eurasian Coalition, and more, imbue this one with much more depth.

Moreover, character development add layers to many of the characters. Though this remains more or less Claire's story, the book features the POVs of several additional characters, which allows the reader to follow the action through various perspectives. Characters such as Linehan, Spencer, and Sarmax become more fully realized, while others like Carson and Lynx remain enigmatic.

As was the case with its predecessor, The Burning Skies is divided into four parts. Again, there are no chapters. The narrative jumps from one POV to another in rapid succession, with each POV portion rarely exceeding five pages. Flipping from one quick scene to the next makes this novel extremely hard to put down.

To say that The Burning Skies is a convoluted tale would be a gross understatement. Plot twists and surprises abound, and the author keeps pulling the rug from under our feet when we least expect it. This one will keep you guessing throughout.

My only complaint would have to be that the book ends with a major cliffhanger. Then again, basically every single section of this novel ends with a cliffhanger, so it hardly came as a surprise. Still, a bit more closure would have made for a better ending. In any case, I'll be lining up to read the third installment as soon as it becomes available, so the cliffhanger ending did its job!

The Burning Skies is a great blend of military science fiction and cyberthriller that should appeal to fans of Richard Morgan.

The final verdict: 8/10

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

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (April 21st)

In hardcover:

Jim Butcher's Turn Coat debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephenie Meyer's The Host is down two spots, finishing the week at number 4.

Aaron Allston's Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Outcast is down four positions, ending its third week on the charts at number 15. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Raymond E. Feist's Rides a Dread Legion is down eight positions, ending its second week on the NYT list at number 24. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Charlaine Harris' From Dead to Worse is down two spots, finishing its second week on the prestigious list at number 3.

Karen Chance's Curse the Dawn debuts at number 7.

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is down ten positions, ending its second week on the bestseller list at number 13.

Sherrilyn Kenyon's Archeron is down five spots, finishing its second week on the charts at number 19.

Ricardo Pinto contest winners!

Thanks to the folks at Bantam Press, our winners will get their hands on a full set of Ricardo Pinto's The Stone Dance of the Chameleon. The prize pack includes:

- The Chosen (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Standing Dead (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Third God (Canada, USA, Europe)

The winners are:

- Linda Akerman, from Vaasa, Finland

- Wout Bittremieux, from Dilsen-Stokkem, Belgium

- Michael Below, from Egelsbach, Germany

Thanks to all the participants!

Gene Wolfe contest winners!

Our three winners will receive a complimentary copy of Gene Wolfe's The Best of Gene Wolfe, courtesy of the folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Frank Chimkin, from Hyde Park, New York, USA

- Tyson Mauermann, from Lakewood, Washington, USA (DurzoBlint on sffworld.com)

- Chris McClelland, from Lutherville, Maryland, USA

Thanks to all the participants!;-)

No kidding: Yet another J. R. R. Tolkien novel

Interestingly enough, the master appears to be even more prolific in death than he was during his lifetime. Edited by Christopher Tolkien, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún will be released next month. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún is a previously unpublished work by J.R.R. Tolkien, written while Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford during the 1920s and '-30s, before he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It makes available for the first time Tolkien's extensive retelling in English narrative verse of the epic Norse tales of Sigurd the Völsung and The Fall of the Niflungs. It includes an introduction by J.R.R. Tolkien, drawn from one of his own lectures on Norse literature, with commentary and notes on the poems by Christopher Tolkien.

The folks at Voyager book just sent me a link to a video sneak peek. Check it out here.

Peter V. Brett in the Daily News (NYC)

Who ever said that commuting via public transportation doesn't lead to great things!?!

Brooklyn novelist Peter V. Brett wrote his fantasy debut, The Warded Man (Canada, USA, Europe), commuting on the F line of New York City's transit system.

You can read the full article here.

GRRM's A GAME OF THRONES TV series will be filmed in Northern Ireland

Yes, it's now official.

First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness made the announcement after talks with HBO officials in California last month. Robinson said it was the first time a television production of such vast size and scale would film in Northern Ireland.

There are two press releases:

That's great news indeed!

The future of newspapers and book coverage

David Moench recently did a roundtable with newspaper reviewers of science fiction and fantasy.

Here's an excerpt:

For decades, newspapers have provided the public with book coverage in the form of reviews, author interviews, and features. Over time, there has been a steady decrease in this print coverage. And most recently, we have witnessed a frightening decline across the entire newspaper industry coupled with a growing trend toward obtaining news and opinion from digital sources rather than in print.

Are we entering a world where book reviews (not to mention reviewers) are an endangered species? Are authors at risk of losing exposure to general readers? What’s ahead for SF and fantasy, in particular? To look at these questions, Suvudu has brought together five science fiction & fantasy book reviewers from across the USA for a Q&A on this important topic. These reviewers and the newspapers they have reviewed for are:

Mark Graham (Rocky Mountain News)
Jim Hopper (The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Nisi Shawl (The Seattle Times)
Robert Folsom (The Kansas City Star)
Michael Berry (San Francisco Chronicle)

To read the entire article, head on out to Suvudu!

Win a copy of China Miéville's THE CITY & THE CITY

Thanks to the folks at Pan Macmillan, I have five copies of China Miéville's excellent The City & The City up for grabs! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "CITY." 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!

New Poll: What should I read next???

I'm halfway through David J. Williams' The Burning Skies (Canada, USA, Europe), sequel to last year's The Mirrored Heavens, and it's been quite a wild ride so far. Kind of a trainwreck of a book, but oh so entertaining!

On the horizons, I have Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold (Canada, USA, Europe) and Mark Charan Newton's Nights of Villjamur (Canada, USA, Europe).

So now you get to decide which novel will join this august company!

The nominees are:

- Roberto Bolano's 2666 (Canada, USA, Europe)

Santa Teresa, on the Mexico–US border, is an urban sprawl that draws in lost souls. Among them are three academics on the trail of a reclusive German author; a New York reporter on his first Mexican assignment; a widowed philosopher; and a police detective in love with an elusive older woman. But there is darker side still to the town. It is an emblem of corruption, violence and decadence, and one from which, over the course of a decade, hundreds of women have mysteriously, often brutally, disappeared.

Told in five parts, 2666 is the epic novel that defines one of Latin America’s greatest writers and his unique vision of the modern world. Conceived on an astonishing scale, and – in the last years of Roberto Bolaño’s life – with burning, visionary commitment, it has been greeted across Europe and Latin America as his masterpiece, surpassing even his previous work in inventiveness, imagination, beauty and scope.

- Metatropolis, edited by John Scalzi (Canada, USA, Europe, and Subpress)

A strange man comes to an even stranger encampment... A bouncer becomes the linchpin of an unexpected urban movement... A courier on the run has to decide who to trust in a dangerous city... A slacker in a "zero-footprint" town get a most unusual new job... and a weapons investigator uses his skills to discover a metropolis hidden right in front of his eyes.

Welcome to the future of cities. Welcome to METAtropolis.

More than an anthology, METAtropolis is the brainchild of five of science fiction's hottest writers -- Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Jay Lake, Karl Schroeder and project editor John Scalzi -- who combined their talents to build a new urban future, and then wrote their own stories in this collectively-constructed world. The results are individual glimpses of a shared vision, and a reading experience unlike any you've had before.

You're at the city limits now. See what's waiting on the other side.

- James Enge's Blood of Ambrose (Canada, USA, Europe)

Behind the king's life stands the menacing Protector, and beyond him lies the Protector's Shadow...

Centuries after the death of Uthar the Great, the throne of the Ontilian Empire lies vacant. The late emperor's brother-in-law and murderer, Lord Urdhven, appoints himself Protector to his nephew, young King Lathmar VII and sets out to kill anyone who stands between himself and mastery of the empire, including (if he can manage it) the king himself and his ancient but still formidable ancestress, Ambrosia Viviana.

When Ambrosia is accused of witchcraft and put to trial by combat, she is forced to play her trump card and call on her brother, Morlock Ambrosius—stateless person, master of all magical makers, deadly swordsman, and hopeless drunk.

As ministers of the king, they carry on the battle, magical and mundane, against the Protector and his shadowy patron. But all their struggles will be wasted unless the young king finds the strength to rule in his own right and his own name.

- Max Frei's The Stranger (Canada, USA, Europe)

Max Frei’s novels have been a literary sensation in Russia since their debut in 1996, and have swept the fantasy world over. Presented here in English for the first time, The Stranger will strike a chord with readers of all stripes. Part fantasy, part horror, part philosophy, part dark comedy, the writing is united by a sharp wit and a web of clues that will open up the imagination of every reader.

Max Frei was a twenty-something loser—a big sleeper (that is, during the day; at night he can’t sleep a wink), a hardened smoker, and an uncomplicated glutton and loafer. But then he got lucky. He contacts a parallel world in his dreams, where magic is a daily practice. Once a social outcast, he’s now known in his new world as the “unequalled Sir Max.” He’s a member of the Department of Absolute Order, formed by a species of enchanted secret agents; his job is to solve cases more extravagant and unreal than one could imagine—a journey that will take Max down the winding paths of this strange and unhinged universe.

- Chris Wooding's Retribution Falls (Canada, USA, Europe)

Frey is the leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of smugglers, occasional pirates and sometime fraudsters. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, existing on the fringes of the empire, avoiding the attention of the Union Navy. With two ragged fighter craft and a small cargo ship on the verge of falling apart, he and his gang run contraband, rob ships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo barque loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck ...right up until, on their opening salvo, the whole thing explodes. Suddenly Frey isn't a nuisance anymore - he's public enemy number 1 with the Union on his tail and contractors hired to take him down. Including his oldest and dealiest rival, Frey's ex-wife. But something about the explosion doesn't make sense. The barque must have been rigged to blow, and Frey's been framed to take the fall.But if he wants to prove it, he's going to have to catch the real culprit - and that means heading into the heart of the Union, and following a trail through the criminal underworld that could ultimately lead to the very top.

It's going to take all his criminal talents to prove he's not a criminal ...

S. L. Farrell contest winners!

Our two winners will get their hands on an autographed copy of S. L. Farrell's A Magic of Nightfall, courtesy of the author himself! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Brooke Carleton, from Tampa, Florida, USA

- Josh Wertheimer, from Washington, D. C., USA

Thanks to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (April 14th)

In hardcover:

Stephenie Meyer's The Host is up three spots, finishing the week at number 2.

Aaron Allston's Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Outcast is down eight positions, ending its second week on the charts at number 11. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Raymond E. Feist's Rides a Dread Legion debuts at number 16. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Kim Harrison's White Witch, Black Curse is down six spots, finishing its sixth week on the bestseller list at number 26. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Charlaine Harris' From Dead to Worse debuts at number 1.

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies debuts at number 3 on the trade paperback list.

Sherrilyn Kenyon's Archeron debuts at number 14.

Ilona Andrew's Magic Strikes debuts at number 16.

Keri Arthur's Deadly Desires debuts at number 20.

Excerpt from Peter S. Beagle's WE NEVER TALK ABOUT MY BROTHER

The whole idea behind my "punishment" at the hands of George R. R. Martin for losing our NFL wager is to give exposure to authors who don't necessarily get as much publicity as they should. And since I really enjoyed Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place, the folks at Tachyon Publications were kind enough to provide this excerpt from Beagle's latest, the collection of short stories titled We Never Talk About My Brother (Canada, USA, Europe).


I used to watch him on the TV, my brother Esau, telling us what’s really doing in Afghanistan, in Somalia, in France, in D.C., and I’d look at his eyes, and I’d wonder if he ever even thought about poor nasty Donnie Schmidt. And I’d wonder how he found out he could do it, how’d he discover his talent, his knack, whatever you want to call it. I mean, how does a little boy, schoolyard-age boy - how does he deal with a thing like that? How does he even practice it, predicting something he wants to happen - and then, like that, it’s true, and it’s always been true, it’s just a plain fact, like gravity or something, with nobody knowing any better for sure but me? Town like this, there’s not a lot of people you can talk to about that kind of thing. Must of made him feel even more alone, you know?

The visit. Whoo. Yeah, well - all right. All right.

It wasn’t hardly a real visit, first off. See, he’d already been the anchorman on that big news program for at least ten, twelve years when they got the notion to do a show on his return to the old home town. So they sent a whole crowd along with him - a camera crew, and a couple of producers, the way they do, and there was a writer, and some publicity people, and some other folks I can’t recall. Anyway, I’ll tell you, it was for sure the biggest thing to hit this place since Ruth and Gehrig barnstormed through here back in the Twenties. They were here a whole week, that gang, and they spent a lot of money, and made all the businesses happy. Can’t beat that with a stick, can you?

And Esau walked through it all like a king - just like a king, no other word for it. They filmed him greeting old friends, talking with his old teachers, stopping in at all his old hangouts, even reading to kids at the library. Mind you, I don’t remember him ever having any hangouts, and the teachers didn’t seem to remember him much at all. As for the old friends. . .look, if Esau had any friends when we were all kids, I swear I don’t recall them. I mean, there they were in this documentary thing, shaking his hand, slapping his back, having a beer with him in Henry’s - been there fifty, sixty years, that place - but I’d never seen any of them with him as a kid, ’ceptin maybe a few of them were pounding on him, back before Donnie. Thing is, I don’t imagine Esau was trying very hard to get the details right. Wouldn’t have hardly thought we was worth the trouble. Willa thought she recognized one or two, and remembered this and that, but even she wasn’t sure.

Oh, yeah, her and me, we were both in it. They paid for Willa to come from Florida - flew little Ben and Carol-Ann, too, but not her husband Jerry, cause they just wanted to show Esau being an uncle. They’d have put her and the kids up at the Laurel Inn with the crew, but she wanted to stay here at the old house, which was fine with me. Don’t get to be around children much.

We didn’t see much of Esau even after Willa got here, but a day or two before they wrapped up the film, he dropped over to the house for dinner, which meant that the whole crew dropped over too. We were the only ones eating, and it was the strangest meal I’ve ever had in my life, what with all those electricians setting up lights, and the sound people running cables every which way, and a director, for God’s sake, a director telling us when to start eating - they sent out to Horshach’s for prime rib - and where to look when the camera was on us, and what Willa should say to the kids when they asked for seconds. Carol-Ann got so nervous, she actually threw up her creamed corn. And Willa got so mad at the lighting guy, because Ben’s got eye trouble, and the lights were so bright and hot. . . well, it was a real mess, that’s all. Just a real mess.

But Esau, he just sat through it all like it was just another broadcast, which I guess to him it was. Never got upset about all the retakes - lord, that dinner must have taken three hours, one thing another - never looked sweaty or tired, always found something new and funny to say to the camera when it started rolling again. But that’s who he was talking to, all through that show - not us, for sure. He never once looked straight at any of us, Willa or the kids or me, if the camera wasn’t on him.

He was a stranger in this house, the house where we’d all grown up - more of a stranger than all those cameramen, those producers. He could just as well have been from another country, where everybody’s great-looking, but they don’t speak any language you ever heard of. With all the craziness and confusion, the lights and the reflectors, and the microphones swinging around on pole-things, I probably studied on my brother longer and harder than I’d ever done in my life before. There at that table, having that fake dinner, I studied on him, and I thought a few new things.

See, I couldn’t believe it was just Esau. What I could believe is there’s no such thing as history, not the way they teach it to you in school. Wars, revolutions, all those big inventions, all those big discoveries. . .if there’s been a bunch of people like Esau right through time - or even a few, a handful - then the history books don’t signify, you understand what I’m saying? Then it’s all just been what any one of them wanted, decided on, right at this moment or that, and no great, you know, patterns to the way things happen. Just Esau, and whatever Others, and you got run over. Like that. That’s what I came to think.

And I know I’m right. Because Susie Harkin was in that film.

Yeah, yeah, I know what I told you about the plane crash, the rest of it, I’m telling you this now. She walked in by herself, bright as you please, just before they finally got around to putting real food on the table, and sat right down across from Esau, between me and little Ben. The TV people looked at the director for orders, and I guess he figured she was family, no point fussing about it, and let her stay. He was too busy yelling at the crew about the lights, anyway.

Esau was good. I am here to tell you, Esau was good. There was just that one moment when he saw her. . .and even then, you might have had to be me or Willa, and watching close, before you noticed the twist of blank panic in his eyes. After that he never looked straight at her, and he sure never said her name, but you couldn’t have told one thing from his expression. Susie didn’t waste no time on him, neither; she was busy helping little Ben with his food, cutting his meat up small for him, and making faces to make him laugh. Ma had said "Esau makes people into ghosts," but I don’t guess you’d find a ghost cutting up a boy’s prime rib for him, do you? Not any kind of ghost I ever heard about.

When she’d finished helping Ben, she looked right up at me, and she winked.

As long as she’d been gone, Susie Harkin didn’t look a day different. I don’t suppose you’d ever have called her a beauty, best day she ever saw. Face too thin, forehead a shade low, nose maybe a bit beaky - but she had real nice brown eyes, and when she smiled you didn’t see a thing but that smile. I’d liked her a good bit when she was going out with Esau, and I was real sorry when she died in that plane crash. So was Willa. And now here Susie was again, sitting at our old dinner table with all these people around, winking at me like the two of us had a secret together. And we did, because I knew she’d been dead, and now she wasn’t, and she knew I knew, and she knew why I knew besides. So, yeah, you could say we had our secret.

Esau didn’t do much more looking at me during the dinner than he did at Susie, but that was the one time he did. I saw him when I turned to say something to Willa. It wasn’t any special kind of a look he gave me, not in particular; it was maybe more like the first time I really looked at him, when he did what he did to Donnie Schmidt. As though he hadn’t ever seen me either, until that glance, that wink, passed between Susie Harkin and me.

Anyway, by and by the little ones fell asleep, and Willa took them off to bed, and the crew packed up and went back to the Laurel Inn, and Susie right away vanished into the kitchen with all the dirty dishes - "No, I insist, you boys just stay and talk." You don’t hear women say that much anymore.

So there we were, me and Esau, everything gotten quiet now - always more quiet after a lot of noise, you notice? - and him still not really looking at me, and me too tired and fussed and befuddled not to come straight at him. But the first thing I asked was about as dumb as it could be. "Squirrels still chasing you?"

Whatever he was or wasn’t expecting from me, that sure as hell wasn’t it. He practically laughed, or maybe it was more like he grunted in a laugh sort of way, and he said, "Not so much these days." Close to, he looked exactly like he looked on the TV - exactly, right down to the one curl off to the left on his forehead, and the inlaid belt buckle, and that steepling thing he did with his fingers. Really was like talking to the screen.

"Susie’s looking fine, don’t you think?" I asked him. "I mean, for having been dead and all."

Oh, that reached him. That got his attention. He looked at me then, all right, and he answered, real slow and cold and careful, "I don’t know what you’re talking about. What are you talking about?"

"Come on, Esau," I said. "Tomorrow I might wake up remembering mostly whatever you want me to remember, the way you do people, but right now, tonight, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to sit here and talk to me -"

"Or what?" Those two words cracked out of him just like a whip does - there’s the forward throw, almost gentle, like you’re fly-fishing, and then the way you bring it back, that’s what makes that sound. He didn’t say anything more, but the color had drained right out of his eyes, same way it happened with Donnie Schmidt. Didn’t look much like the TV now.

I asked him, "You planning to make me a ghost too? Kill me off in a plane crash a few weeks ago? I ought to tell you, I hate flying, and everybody knows it, so you might want to try something different. Me, I always wanted to get shot by a jealous husband at ninety-five or so, but it’s your business, I wouldn’t presume." I don’t know, something just took me over and I didn’t care what I said right then.

I absolutely hate the Boston Bruins. . .

Yeah, they beat us 4-2 last night, though the Habs played better than anyone thought until the midway point of the third period.

But as much as I despise that hockey team, this commercial cracks me up!:-)

Win a copy of Max Frei's THE STRANGER

After the extract last week, I have three copies of Max Frei's The Stranger up for grabs, compliments of the folks at The Overlook Press. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Max Frei’s novels have been a literary sensation in Russia since their debut in 1996, and have swept the fantasy world over. Presented here in English for the first time, The Stranger will strike a chord with readers of all stripes. Part fantasy, part horror, part philosophy, part dark comedy, the writing is united by a sharp wit and a web of clues that will open up the imagination of every reader.

Max Frei was a twenty-something loser—a big sleeper (that is, during the day; at night he can’t sleep a wink), a hardened smoker, and an uncomplicated glutton and loafer. But then he got lucky. He contacts a parallel world in his dreams, where magic is a daily practice. Once a social outcast, he’s now known in his new world as the “unequalled Sir Max.” He’s a member of the Department of Absolute Order, formed by a species of enchanted secret agents; his job is to solve cases more extravagant and unreal than one could imagine—a journey that will take Max down the winding paths of this strange and unhinged universe.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "MAX FREI." 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!

Ray Bradbury contest winner!

Our winner will get his hands on a copy of the limited edition of Ray Bradbury's Marionettes, Inc., courtesy of our friends at Subterranean Press. For more info about this title, follow this link.

The winner is:

- Jared Derksen, from Redlands, California, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

The puck drops here!

Ah, it's finally time for the NHL playoffs! You know that I'm a big NFL fan, of course. But as great as football is, as a Canadian hockey is in my blood.

The playoffs started last night, but the most important series begins tonight. The Montreal Canadiens will square off against their arch-rivals, the hated Boston Bruins. And the tables have turned this season. Last year, the Habs finished first in the East, while Boston ended up being the 8th seed and got the last playoff spot. The rivalry is such that it took us all 7 games to eliminate them. Well, this year Boston is in first place and the Habs barely made it in the playoffs. Even worst, the Bruins handed our asses to us last week, and it sure looks like there is no way we can match them in the physical department.

Hockey being a religion over here, I'm hoping we can overcome our shortcomings and beat them the way we did a few years back. As the 8th seed, we knocked off the number one ranked Bruins twice not so long ago. But it certainly looks like it won't happen this year, though. . .

Hell, I was even forced to select a Boston player in my playoff hockey pool! Plus one from the New Jersey Devils! Ah, the things we do for money. . .:P

Another contest winner!

This lucky bastard will receive a copy of the limited edition of the A Fantasy Medley anthology, signed by Robin Hobb, Kate Elliott, Kelley Armstrong, and C. E. Murphy, courtesy of the folks at Subterranean Press. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and Subpress).

The winner is:

- Mathieu Declerck, from Brugge, Belgium

Thanks to all the participants!

Musical Interlude

Depeche Mode - Everything counts live
Uploaded by val6210

Their detractors claimed that Depeche Mode's American stadium tour would be a bust, that pop music couldn't fill such large venues in the USA. Well, in addition to stadiums from coast to coast, the boys managed to sell out the Rose Bowl and Shea Stadium, two of the country's most iconic stadiums during that tour.

Naomi Novik contest winners!

The names of our two winners have been drawn, and each will receive a copy of the limited edition of Naomi Novik's Black Powder War, compliments of our friends at Subterranean Press. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and http://www.subterraneanpress.com/.

The winners are:

- Michael Pye, from Florida, New York, USA

- Jacqueline Lam, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Thanks to all the participants!

The City & The City

There is a positive buzz surrounding China Miéville's upcoming novel, The City & The City. Everyone involved on both sides of the Atlantic are pretty excited about this book, and I couldn't wait to finally sink my teeth into this one.

Although in essence The City & The City is a murder mystery novel, Miéville's latest is still a speculative fiction offering. And as such, I feel that the reader gets the best of both worlds. Mixing the murder mystery elements with just enough fantasy aspects makes for a wonderful read!

The tale begins when Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad must tackle the strange case of the corpse of a murdered woman found in the city of Beszel. Probing deeper and deeper, it gradually dawns upon Borlú that dangerous conspiracies appear to be at work. As the case becomes more and more convoluted, he discovers that his life as well as the lives of those helping him could be at risk. When startling information is unearthed, Borlú must journey to the only other city on Earth as peculiar as Beszel. Crossing a border which is as much physical, psychological, as it is esoteric, Borléu must travel to Ul Qoma, a rich and vibrant city rival to his own decaying Beszel. Forced to team up with a local agent, Borlú needs to find a way to solve this case without causing an international incident. But as their investigation progresses, everything hints at the involvement of Orciny -- the mysterious and fabled place in between.

As is habitually the case with China Miéville, the setting he creates becomes an integral part of the story itself. In The City & The City, Beszel and Ul Qoma end up being protagonists nearly as important as any of the characters. I'd love to elaborate a bit more on both cities and how they interact, on Orciny, on the Breach, and several related topics, but Miéville personally asked that advance reviewers don't spill the beans. Hence, I'll respect his wish and refrain from expounding on the "top notch" worldbuilding. You'll just have to find out for yourself!

The City & The City features the POV of a single character, that of Tyador Borlú. I've said many times that first person narratives can be tricky, yet Inspector Borlú quicky grows on you. So much so that multiple third person narratives would probably have taken something away from the overall reading experience. A bunch of secondary characters such as Corwi, Dhatt, Yolanda, Bowden, and Ashil infuse this novel with even more depth and flavor.

Since the book reads like a murder mystery, expect to stay up past your usual bedtime on more than one occasion, promising yourself just another chapter. The City & The City grabs hold of you from the very start and won't let go.

However, the ending doesn't quite live up to Miéville's superb build-up. Especially since the author is forced to rely on a Perry Mason-esque scene to explain how it all occurred. I found this a bit disappointing, all the more so because Miéville had totally gotten me into this one -- hook, bait, and sinker. Hence, the finale, though unpredictable, wasn't as spectacular as the rest of the novel.

Nevertheless, The City & The City remains a great read that's head and shoulders above most of its peers in the genre. It will doubtless be one of the very best speculative fiction titles of 2009.

The final verdict: 8/10

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