“Boneshaker” by Cherie Priest (Tor, 2009)

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In an alternate America of the 1880s, Leviticus Blue invents a mining machine that is supposed to revolutionize the growing town of Seattle.  Instead he loses control of the Bone-shaking Drill Engine, which breaks loose and tears through the underground of the town, causing buildings and roads to collapse within the tunnels made by the machine.  Then a mysterious blight gas is released that somehow turns anyone who breathes enough of it into the living dead.

Sixteen years pass and the city is walled off, turning it into a zombie graveyard.  There are those who live on the inside of the wall, eking out a survival, always terrified they will breathe the gas and be turned.  Then there are those who live on the outside of the wall, having abandoned their city, living in poverty, trying their best to get by.  Finally there are the zeppelins and airships that ferry, transport, and smuggle items into and out of Seattle.

Briar Wilkes, husband to the late Leviticus Blue, is doing her best to get by, while supporting a growing teenage boy.  Only Ezekiel wants to find out more about his dad, wondering if he might still be alive, and whether he was truly to blame for the tragedy that befell Seattle.  Ezekiel sneaks past the wall through a sewer pipe and travels into the doomed town.  Briar soon discovers that her greatest fear has come true, and she must go in after him.  She will make friends on the inside, but also enemies, while fighting to find out if her son is still alive, as well as making sure she doesn’t get turned by the blight gas.

Cherie Priest has created a wonderfully original story in what she says is a response to the Steampunk look of hat and goggles.  The result is a fun, action-packed book that explores the relationship of a mother and son with an unusual past, along with designed yellowed pages and brown print that gives Boneshaker a whole unique look.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on January 24th, 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Cherie Priest check out BookBanter Episode 25.

“A Mage of None Magic” by A. Christopher Drown (Tyrannosaurus Press)

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In the first book of the Heart of the Sisters series, A. Christopher Drown sets the stage for your ordinary fantasy novel with an apprentice magician – Niel – while traveling, finds himself caught up in a quest with an unusual group of people who think he’s much greater and stronger than he appears to be, but Niel soon learns that he has more of a role to play in this world.

There are two facets that separate A Mage of None Magic from an ordinary fantasy novel that would be easily forgotten.  One is that Drown does a good job of not just world-building, but also creating a mythology that echoes the Greeks and Romans that ties in with how this world was created, but also with how this mythology is still alive today and believed by many.  The other is voice; Drown has a great, entertaining, and interesting voice in this book that will keep the reader reading and wanting more.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on January 11th, 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

“The Electric Church” by Jeff Somers (Orbit, 2007)

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It’s the future.  A dystopian future where everything has pretty much gone to hell.  Our main character is Avery Cates.  Cates is not a good guy, in fact he’s a very bad man.  He’s a professional killer who goes through life assassinating people for what money he can get to survive.  While the police know about Cates, he’s very good at not getting caught.  He’s developed quite a reputation in fact.

Then there’s the Electric Church.  A religious group that is growing into a world-dominating force, gaining members and converts daily.  It’s members are known as Monks: cyborgs that still posses a human brain.  When one meets a Monk – a scary-looking thing with wires coming out of its head – one is immediately scared stiff, as the Monk calmly and pleasantly engages you in conversion, telling you the merits of the Electric Church and why you should join.

Cates is set-up and is captured by someone high up in the police authority.  He’s been caught for a reason: to be offered a deal, a hit.  In exchange for a large amount of money and his freedom, he is to assassinate the head of the Electric Church.  Why?  Because to convert someone to the Electric Church involves killing the person and taking their brain.  There’s a reason the Electric Church is growing so quickly, and eventually will simply take over the entire population, unless Cates can do something about it.

Written with the swagger and toughness of Blade Runner meets Stanley Kubrick, author Jeff Somers gives Cates a very unique and individual voice, setting the tone for The Electric Church, where anything can happen, and you need to keep reading to find out what’s next for Cates.  The story continues in The Digital Plague, The Eternal Prison, and the forthcoming The Terminal State.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on January 11th, 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Nyphron Rising” by Michael J. Sullivan (Ridan Publishing, 2009)

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Things take a turn for the worse in the third installment of The Riyria Revelations after Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha – as war comes sweeping through to Melengar and its people have little hope and respect for their recent, young king.  Princess Arista has been running around playing diplomat and trying to secure allies for Melengar, with nothing to show for it.  Meanwhile the enemy Nyphron Empire continues to grow in strength and numbers.  Arista has one more trick up her sleeve, and with the help of her good friends, Royce and Hadrian, goes on this last journey far south in a last effort to secure an ally, but also to unravel a mystery of Hadrian’s past.  Surprising results are revealed about our unknown thief that ties into the whole story of the Riyria Revelations.  The wizard Esrahaddon continues to be up to no good, while we learn more of the enigmatic man known as Degan Gaunt.

Sullivan does a great job with Nyphron Rising, after setting necessary groundwork and story and setting with the first two books, he opens it up on an epic scale, traveling his invented world, and educating readers on how future events are going to affect everyone across Elan, and why the forgotten history is important.  Royce and Hadrian continue to be the entertaining and interesting characters that they are, while Arista opens up her emotional side.  Nyphron Rising ends on a sort of cliffhanger, leaving readers wanting to know more, which will be resolved (to a certain degree) in the fourth installment, The Emerald Storm.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on January 11th, 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Michael J. Sullivan check out BookBanter Episode 10.

“Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament” by S. G. Browne (Broadway, 2009)

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Zombies are a very popular subject matter these days, with movies, horror novels, anthologies, and many graphic novels being written, created and published about the living dead.  Many of them seek to terrify the reader with gruesome details, while the movies involving the undead running at ridiculous speeds attempt to make viewers scream.  Then there are those stories that feature zombies – and vampires and werewolves – in a lust-filled, sexual mishmash that I really don’t want to think about.

And then there’s Breathers.

Breathers is a fun, funny, and at times serious look at the life of someone who one day wakes up and is a zombie.  How much would your life change?  How would your parents not only think of you, but treat you?  Would they allow you to live in their home (formerly your home)?  What about your social life?

Breathers is the story of Andy Warner who has just this happen to him.  It’s a world where zombies are seen as less than real people . . .  because they aren’t.  They have no rights, no respect from anyone, and are hounded and ridiculed by all who see them.  Andy lives with his parents, in the basement, where he’s not allowed to interact very much with them, certainly not eat with them or engage in social gatherings.  When outside, he must keep away from crowded areas, and is not allowed to socialize with large groups of zombies.  His “un-life” is pretty much pointless.

But that all changes when he begins attending a help group known as Undead Anonymous.  There he befriends some fellow zombies and gets close to a girl named Rita.  The help group is allowed by the government as it helps to enforce the laws telling zombies what they can and cannot do; mostly cannot.  And then things begin to change when they bring some new friends along who share this tasty venison that miraculously seems to make the zombies feel better and even heal the wounds that caused their deaths.

S. G. Browne has created a very entertaining, tongue-in-check and matter-of-fact novel about zombies and how they would be treated by the human race who has done so well in the past with anything that is different.  Browne is never over the top or preachy, but many of his words echo off events and reactions of humanity’s past.  And ultimately it does leave one asking themselves a question: how would you treat a zombie if they knocked on your door?

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on January 11th, 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with S. G. Browne check out BookBanter Episode 24.

“By Blood We Live” Edited by John Joseph Adams (Night Shade Books, 2009)

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Vampires and zombies continue to be incredibly popular, and after editing a collection of zombie stories in Living Dead, John Joseph Adams now turns to the tale of the vampire in By Blood We Live.  Featuring stories from Stephen King to Neil Gaiman to Kelley Armstrong to Jane Yolen; after reading this book you’ll either be sick of the blood-sucking fiends or be stocking up on garlic and crosses.

The collection kicks off with Neil Gaiman’s twisted tale of Snow White moving on to the only short story Anne Rice has published, “The Master of Rampling Gate.”  The book features thirty-six vampire stories including writers like Robert J. Sawyer, Garth Nix, and Eric Van Lustbader: writer’s you wouldn’t expect to be in this collection.  It runs the gamut from the terrifying to the romantic to the steamy to the outlandish to the science fiction type.  One of the most disturbing stories is from Harry Turtledove, “Under St. Peter’s,” as a newly elected pope must perform a sacred ritual under the gaze of an unknown order, where they travel deep beneath the Vatican and find a man waiting there, a man who has been there for a very long time, a man we all know very well . . . and he’s hungry for blood.

While overall readers may realize that there are only so many ways to tell a vampire story and that some featured in this collection may seem similar and somewhat mundane, By Blood We Live gives readers a chance to get their fill on these denizens of the night, as well as discovering a number of new authors they may never have planned to read.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on December 21st, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“The Court of the Air” by Stephen Hunt (Tor, 2009)

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Stephen Hunt’s debut novel, The Court of the Air, is a fun romp through the steampunk world as he successfully combines a Victorian, Dickensian feel with interesting machinery and a strange and unusual world.  It is the story of two orphans – you can’t get more Dickensian than that! – who are on the run from various deadly and clandestine groups.  There is Molly, who is being chased by assassins of a mysterious group; she fortunately finds some friends along the way and is able to go underground, into the sewers and caverns below, discovering another world.  Then there is Oliver, who has been framed for his uncle’s death, and must flee for his life.  He takes to the air, escaping the fey-hunting Special Guard, in a great air ship.  They both draw the attention of the Court of the Air, an unknown and secret organization that spells dread for all.

While this first book in the series is somewhat overloaded with gimmicks and gadgets and characters and things going on that can often lose the reader who must stay focused to follow the story, Hunt has nevertheless created a unique and entertaining steampunk story that continues in The Kingdom Beyond the Waves.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on December 21st, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown (Doubleday, 2009)

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Dan Brown begins his third book featuring the symbologist Robert Langdon with a trip on a private jet to our country’s capital.  Readers will think Langdon has done pretty well for himself to be traveling in this way, when it is revealed that he is being flown to Washington DC after receiving an urgent call from a colleague to perform a lecture at the National Statuary Hall at the Capitol.  There he finds an empty room with no indications of a lecture to be performed, but instead a recently severed hand with the fingers posed in a specific way, the index and thumb tattooed.

And so begins The Lost Symbol adventure, as Brown takes readers on a ride they won’t soon forget.  Langdon soon finds himself forcefully helping Inoue Sato, the head of the CIA’s Office of Security as they attempt to track down the owner of the severed hand, Langdon’s close friend Peter Solomon.  Brown has taken his time with this novel, doing the research and creating a fuller, more rounded story over The Da Vinci Code, keeping the reader more entranced with what’s going on, but also making sure to inform them about the subject and history of Freemasonry and how it all ties in with the Founding Fathers.

The solution to the overall mystery becomes a relatively obvious one for any skilled mystery reader, but the story is compelling, filled with details and supposed facts that will have readers wondering about the founding of this very country and who these people really were.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on November 24th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Last Night in Twisted River” by John Irving (Random House, 2009)

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In John Irving’s twelfth novel, the Twisted River of the title is a small logging and sawmill settlement in New Hampshire.  Irving begins the book with a drowning and a death and then spends the next twenty pages with an in-depth history of the logging industry; finally in the second chapter some of his unique characters are introduced and it begins to feel like a classic Irving novel that fans love to read.  A cook and his twelve-year old son have to flee when the boy accidentally kills a woman he thought was a bear, with an iron skillet.  And so begins a lifetime spent watching their backs, as the son grows up to become a successful novelist (emulating Irving’s footsteps).

Written in the style of A Prayer for Owen Meany, Irving likes to ply the reader with foreshadowing (and in some cases fiveshadowing) to set up what is to come.  Of course, it wouldn’t be an Irving novel if there weren’t some unexpected events, as everyone knows this writer likes to be ruthless with his characters.  Politics, the Vietnam War, abortion, and many other daily life troubles affect the characters, sending them off on unpredictable tangents.  The Last Night in Twisted River begins in New Hampshire, then moves on to Boston and finally Toronto (where Irving has a home), taking the characters through their lives to the final sentence of the book, which is how Irving likes to begin his books: “He felt that the great adventure of his life was just beginning – as his father must have felt, in the throes of dire circumstances of his last night in Twisted River.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on December 12th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Canticle” by Ken Scholes (Tor, 2009)

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In his debut novel, Lamentation, Ken Scholes set the stage for his five-book epic, bringing his complex cast of characters together to the catastrophic ruins of the once great city and library of Windwir.  Now, in the second book of the Psalms of Isaak, Scholes sends his characters off in opposite directions, on their own quests and journeys, each with different goals.  Along the way, some will meet as friends, some as enemies, some as lovers.  Readers will also learn more about the incredible world of the Named Lands and the Outlying Regions, as the characters travel deep into them, uncovering the ancient history of this realm that has been hidden, kept secret, misunderstood, and barely hinted at in Lamentation.  Scholes continues his genre-blending of fantasy with science fiction (or is it the other way round?) with a new form of  invisible assassin able to move faster and more deadly than Rudolfo’s trained spies and warriors, as well as his memorable mechoservitors .  Readers will be hooked from beginning to end, and then left waiting for the third book due out fall 2010; however there is a free story available at the TOR site for those impatient set within the same world.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on November 24th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Ken Scholes check out BookBanter Episode 21.