“The Fireman” by Joe Hill (William Morrow, 2016)


After delighting growing fans with a classic ghost story in Heart-Shaped Box and a tale of terrifying horror in NOS4A2, in his latest tome weighing in at 768 pages, Joe Hill presents his world on the edge of apocalypse. No one really knows how or where it started, but wildfires are tearing through the country and they’re being caused by people. Now, when I say people, I literally mean people are bursting into flame and starting these fires.

Doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton, but everyone else refers to it as Dragonscale. It’s a highly contagious spore and you know you’ve got it when you find these lustrous black and gold bands on your body. It’s unknown what happens in between getting the ‘scale and spontaneously combusting, but there are a lot of people burning up and society is starting to fall apart. There are roving gangs looking to put an end to anyone with the Dragonscale to prevent it spreading further, meanwhile the government says its working on a cure, but really has no idea what it’s doing. Things escalate and continue to get worse and worse.

Our story focuses on Harper Grayson, a talented and compassionate nurse who cares greatly for others and is working her butt off with the current crisis. Her husband, Jacob, barely sees her and doesn’t really get why she’s trying to save all these people with Dragonscale. When Harper contracts the spore, he goes off the deep end mentally and it turns into a very different relationship. Harper doesn’t needs convincing and tries to get the heck out of dodge, but Jacob has other plans. Harper makes it out of the house with the maniac formerly known as her husband is after her. That’s when the tall drink of water with a British accent known as The Fireman comes to save the day.

Harper joins a commune where they have apparently mastered the power of Dragonscale. By joining together and singing, they are able to control the incendiary ferocity of the disease and keep themselves alive and well. But in any group fighting to survive, tensions are strained and stress is at an all time high, as things turn into a kind of Lord of the Flies situation. But there is a rumor that has become legend of an island off the coast of Maine where they are taking in people with Dragonscale, where they can live a nice, normal life without prejudice or persecution.

The Fireman is a wonderfully original tale that takes a few elements like plague and fire and churns them into a compelling story. As with all stories of an apocalyptic nature, it is ultimately about the choices and decisions the people make to survive. Hill’s characters are varied and interesting and definitely give the novel a realistic feel. The middle of the book lags a little, and overall could’ve had some pages editorially excised, as the downturn of the commune gets pretty predicable and uninspiring. But the last third of the book is nonstop action, and even though Joe Hill seems to suffer from his dad’s problem of executing a good ending for the book, The Fireman is a fun escape from you mundane life into a world of fire and fighting and people who give a damn.

Originally written on May 13, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Fireman from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Book News: Queer Sci-Fi, Road Trip Reads, 100 Tales of The Old West & More

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Dark Tower News 
Recently some photos leaked of Idris Elba in his getup as Roland of Gilead; warning it will give you shivers.

Queer Comics for Sci-Fi Fans
Just to show that comics are pushing the envelope in every way, here are five queer comics for scifi fans.

Mental Reads 
Five recommended science fiction and fantasy books that tackle the prickly subject of mental illness well.

[read more . . .]

Guy Gavriel Kay @ Copperfield’s Petaluma This Sunday 2PM

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Bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay is coming to Copperfield’s Petaluma this very Sunday, May 22nd at 2PM. In addition to being a great, lyrical writer, he’s also a really nice guy.

Here’s my review for his latest book, Children of Earth and Sky.

And here’s my interview I got to do with Guy a number of years ago.

And here are details on this free event.

See you there!

“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” by Salman Rushdie (Random House, 2015)


Salman Rushdie has a way of taking something entertaining and wonderful and bringing it to a whole new level of brilliance. The title – Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights – may be better known by another, alternate one: One Thousand and One Nights. Right there you get where Rushdie is coming from with this book, which he lets on at the beginning of the book, starting long ago in the time of someone named Scheherazade and the world of the jinn. There is our world and there is also another, the world of the jinn. Sometimes the jinn come over into our world and do the things that jinn do.

But then long ago, one jinn in particular, a princess of the jinn by the name of Dunia, coupled with a human male and gave birth to a brood of offspring, half-jinn half humans, that have bred down the generations leading to some of the main characters in the story. We jump to a time in the not too distant future where a storm strikes New York City and begins the time known as the strangenesses. Very strange things begin happening to people in everyday life. Such as those who can no longer touch the ground but are hovering a few inches above it and as time passes, hover ever higher. Or the graphic novelist who must face one of his creations come to life. Or the arrival of a strange baby who can identity those who are corrupt and liars and becomes an important implement of the mayor’s. It appears a war is raging and waging between the jinn in our world and mere humans are in many ways the victims. But the descendants of Dunia have some ways and abilities to fight back.

Rushdie has taken the premise of an already amazing story, modernized it and brought it into a new and higher realm that serves to blow the reader’s mind in some ways with its scope and detail. Just as One Thousand and One Nights has been addictive reading for many through time, so Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is a rollicking tale fit to be read and enjoyed by many from now until the distant future.

Originally written on October 31, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Neverwhere: Author’s Preferred Text” by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, 2015)


In 1997 Neil Gaiman published his first novel, Neverwhere, and to many fans (including me) it’s his very best. Now fans get something a little extra with a special edition of Neverwhere known as the “author’s preferred text.” In the introduction, Gaiman talks about the various versions that have been available over the years and that this one is his definitive, preferred text, featuring some extra details and scenes that make the story fuller and more complete.

This is the story of Richard Mayhew, who is an average London businessman, engaged to a woman he thinks is way out of his league, and has always kind of had trouble fitting in. Then one day a woman appears out of nowhere on the sidewalk seriously hurt. Richard brings her home and tends to her. As she is recovering he meets two very interesting people, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, who are looking for a woman named Door. As the woman recovers to a sufficient degree, Richard learns that she is in fact Door, and then she is on her way, out of his life with barely a thank you.

As Richard steps back into his normal world he finds he is no longer part of it. Friends and family no longer recognize or even see him for that matter. It appears he doesn’t even exist to people in the real world. The only thing he can think to do is track down Door and find out what is exactly going on. And so begins Richard’s adventure in to the alternate world of London below. Along the way he will meet many strange and unusual people, some that wish to friend him, and some that wish him harm. All he wants is to get back to his old, boring, normal life.

Neverwhere is the perfect example of what Neil Gaiman’s mind can create. It is a story that sucks in the reader and never lets them go. In this special edition there is also an extra short story set in the same world, “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back,” as well as some hints from Gaiman that he hopes to one day soon return to this world and write more in it.

Originally written on December 31, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Neverwhere: Author’s Preferred Text from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Book News: Nebula Award Winners, Badass Moms, International Bookshops & More

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Great Women in Fantasy 
Find good female characters in fantasy can be hard work sometimes, here bestselling author Kate Elliott gives you her recommends.

Nebula Awards 
The Nebula Awards ceremony was held this last Saturday and here are the winners.

Hugo Finalists 
In other awards, the finalists for the Hugo Awards have been announced.

[read more . . .]

“Children of Earth and Sky” by Guy Gavriel Kay (NAL, 2016)


Bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay’s previous two books were fantasy-tinged sweeping works of historical fiction set within the Tang dynasty of 8th century China. In his latest novel, Children of Earth and Sky, he returns to his alternate quasi-medieval Europe that readers have come to know in his Sarantine Mosaic duology and The Lions of Al-Rassan.

Kay throws the reader right into the story by introducing them to the main characters as seen through their eyes. There is Marin Djivo, a merchant in an important family; Lenora Valeri, a disgraced woman who had a child out of wedlock is now a spy; Pero Villani, a talented painter who is being sent to do a portrait of the great Khalif and possibly assassinate him. They are traveling on Marin’s vessel with goods he is bringing to Dubnrovnik to trade. On the way they run into a marauding ship of pirates who attack them. The doctor who is Lenora’s fake husband is killed, but the young pirate Danica Gradek volunteers to go with them to atone for the blatant murdering of the doctor by one of the pirates who Danica promptly killed; she can now never return to her home without fear of being attacked by the family of the pirate killed.

And so begins this traveling tale that has a feel of the Canterbury Tales, as the characters meet and interact with other characters, sometimes working together, sometimes going it alone. This is a story about dipping in and out of these people’s lives. There are deaths. There are rejoices. There is suffering. There is laughter. There is sex. Children of Earth and Sky is a living tale of Kay’s invented world as he brings his characters and stories to the reader’s eye and passes it into the reader’s mind in his own unique style. Guy Gavriel Kay’s work can never be called nor considered a fast read, but is itself a long and, at times, hard journey that by the end is so worthwhile and rewarding.

Originally written on May 14, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Children of Earth and Sky from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.