“The Prey of Gods” by Nicky Drayden (Harper Voyager, 2017)


Book covers have a way of catching your eye, whether it’s on an Amazon Kindle recommends page, or your browsing in one of the last physical bastions of the dying printed word (AKA a bookstore). Nicky Drayden’s debut novel, Prey of Gods, is one of those covers that can pull you from across the room, as you hone in to inspect further, wondering what’s going on here. Like a work of art, the more you see of it, the more details are revealed and add to its overall complexity: whether it’s the future looking buildings under a silver sky, the giant robot holding a small science fiction-looking umbrella, or the little African girl with a look on her face that can be interpreted in a plethora of ways. Is she vengeful? Malicious? Demonically possessed? Or just pleased? What the cover does do is force you to turn it and read its wonderful words within, as you are drawn into a story unlike any other, and you won’t be able to stop until you finish its last page.

Our story takes place (for the most part) in South Africa where it is the near future and there is hope for many at various social and class levels. Just as today almost everyone has a cellphone, in this world almost everyone has a personal robot who is more than a servant, computer and personal companion; these robots becoming family to their masters. Genetic engineering is pushing ahead the frontiers of reality and science, but at the same time in a small village there are those of ancient times who posses a power within them that hasn’t been unleashed in some time. Gods, goddesses, and godlings are coming back, whether humanity wants them to or not.

Big changes are coming. A new hallucinogenic drug is taking hold of the populace that seems to grant strange powers and abilities to those under the influence, seeming to make them superheroes. Then there is an AI uprising beginning, as these personal bots link together, forming their own sentience, and questioning the role and power of their supposed masters. Meanwhile, one of those ancient gods has a nefarious plan to bring herself back to an omniscient power.

The fate of the world falls on a young Zulu girl who possesses her own powers but doesn’t fully understand them yet. Will she ultimately know what to do and save humanity?

The Prey of Gods is bursting with complex, varied and fascinating characters that make the story all the more engaging. Readers will be hooked to every page not knowing where the story will go next, and loving the journey as they are taken to other worlds, many different minds – be they human, god or artificial – and to the very edge of it all. With an ending that satisfies, The Prey of Gods is a stunning debut from Drayden that fans of the fantasy genre won’t soon forget.

Originally written on July 23, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

 

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“The Furthest Station” by Ben Aaronovich (Subterranean Press, 2017)

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The furthest station in question of this short novella refers to the last station on the Metropolitan Line of the London Underground, and the one located furthest from London. What’s piqued the interest of PC Grant and the Folly – officially known as the Metropolitan Police’s special assessment unit, which is essentially your Mulder and Scully: the people you bring in when the case involves something unsolved and what can only be classed as paranormal – are sightings of ghosts on the Underground.

Teaming up with Jaget Kumar of the British Transport Police, along with Toby the ghost hunting dog (one of Grant’s ongoing “experiments”) and his “wizard-in-training” teenage cousin, they meticulously work their way through the investigation: scouting as many of the Tube trains as they can during regular business hours when these ghosts have been sighted; drawing them in with magic, and Grant making a hypothesized deduction that there’s been a kidnapping. The question is who?

Often, these Subterranean Press novellas are really great, because they give fans a new albeit shorter book to enjoy before the next full-length one is released. And, alternatively, if you’re new to Ben Aaronovich and his particular brand of British urban fantasy, the Furthest Station is the perfect introduction, as it features all the main characters, an engaging story, and allows the reader to get sucked into the series and want to start at the beginning once they’re done.

Originally written on April 26, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 13: Company Time” by Max Gladstone and Lindsay Smith (Serialbox, 2015)


CIA agent Dominic Alvarez just so happens to be an acolyte for the Flame, a detail that wasn’t revealed until the very end of the last episode, and he just happens to have kidnapped Maksin Sokolov, a Russian informant and powerful magical host, after the CIA managed to smuggle him away from the Russians and get him to a safe house. He’s scheduled to be on a specific plane and headed to the States, except that the pilot is still waiting around for his cargo who is late and doesn’t appear to be showing. Meanwhile, Alvarez and Sokolov are on a very different cargo plane flying to another destination, playing a game of chess.

KGB agent Tanya Morozova and CIA operative Gabe Pritchard meet to discuss their options for getting Sokolov back somehow. Once before they put their powers together, and with Gabe’s magical construct flaring inside him, and Tanya being a sorceress of the Ice, together they pack one heck of a magical wallop. It will require a big ritual, with lots of magical setup, and then their putting their powers together. But it’s their only hope.

While the season finale does have a hefty dose of magical action going on, the ending feels a little anticlimactic, and definitely leaves the reader and listener wanting more, but it certainly sets up hopes and interests for a possible future season in the continuing adventures of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold.

Originally written on April 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Company Time from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 12: She’ll Lie Down in the Snow” by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Serialbox, 2016)


Things are coming to a climax in this penultimate episode to season one of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold. Tanya Morozova knows she’s walking straight into a trap: she’s been ordered by her boss at the KGB to get the Russian informant back no matter what, but she also knows the safe house she’s headed to is guarded by a small army of CIA who know full well that she’s coming. Fortunately, Zerena Pulnoc, wife to the Soviet Ambassador and acolyte of the Flame has given her a protective charm to help keep her alive; she also reveals that Tanya’s boss, Sasha, happens to be an acolyte of the Flame, which is why he’s fine with sacrificing Tanya.

Tanya and her people enter the safe house and there’s a big shootout. Sokolov has already been moved and is in no danger, meanwhile the bullets are flying and lives will be lost on both the Russian and American sides. And at the end of the episode a big twist is revealed that changes everything and sets things up for a big season finale.

Originally written on April 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of She’ll Lie Down in the Snow from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 11: King’s Gambit Accepted” by Ian Tregillis (Serialbox, 2016)


After the heavy action of the previous episodes, Anchises, episode 11 is kind of calm that comes after an intense fight scene; readers and listeners get to explore the fallout of the aforementioned events and how the characters deal with the big developments that are now going down.

Maksin Sokolov is gone and purported to be dead, except Tanya Morozova is meeting with her boss, Sasha, and telling him how it went down and how the CIA “smuggled” the informant out via the river and used a recently placed corpse to distract the KGB, but Tanya isn’t falling for it. Sasha gives her an ultimatum, telling her she needs to get Sokolov back no matter what, and she can use whatever resources are necessary. With help from her coworker and fellow Ice acolyte, Nadia Ostrokhina, they use some good old fashioned magic to locate where Sokolov is, using a magically-spruced-up theodolite to track the contruct and see where Sokolov ended up.

Meanwhile, CIA agents Dominic and Josh are watching their informant and keeping him as safe and secure as possible, while Gabe is out getting some R&R. Killing time they talk about Gabe, Dominic wondering whether he can trust him, and more importantly whether he can trust Sokolov in Gabe’s hands. Josh admits he doesn’t know the man that well, but they do address his dark episode in Cairo.

Originally written on April 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of King’s Gambit Accepted from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 10: Anchises” by Lindsay Smith (Serialbox, 2016)


This is the tenth episode in the series; reviews for all other episodes can be found here.

Operation ANCHISES, after all the hype and setup, is finally put in motion with a classic scene of spying and espionage and all things clandestine, as Joshua Toms skillfully passes along a secret message to the informant, Maksim Sokolov.

With a follow-up meeting at the West German Embassy, the final showdown is begun. Sokolov is here with his host of Russian minders, keeping a close eye on his every move. Sokolov plays the part well, domineering, threatening to Joshua and Gabe. Gabe Pritchard has a trick up his sleeve, as he gets a hold of a special charm secreted on his person, mutters the correct incantation, and then serves the minders shots. A short while later, a regular old bar brawl begins just as planned and Gabe is starting to think this spy craft via magic ain’t too bad.

A while later arrests are made; Tanya Morozova, as a member of the KGB, instead of following Gabe, decides to make a trip to the hospital and check on those Russian minders. Meanwhile, the man known as Maksim Sokolov is just gone and appears to have drowned.

In this action- and magic-packed episode, things heat up to a new level, but its not until the next episode, that the full realization of Operation ANCHISES is fully understood.

Originally written on March 24, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of A Dream of Ice from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Revisionary” by Jim C. Hines (DAW, 2016)


Things have come to a very sharp point in the world of Magic Ex Libris. Isaac Vainio has revealed to the world that magic is a thing that exists and can be done by certain people. His goal was to create a utopian future where magic and humanity could live happily together. A year has passed and things are anything but . . .

Vainio is working at an installation that is looking to help those in need with the use of magic. Meanwhile there is a mercenary group known as Vanguard made up of ex-Porters and magical creatures conducting terrorist attacks on America and wants to start an all out war. The US government doesn’t really know how to handle this, and is capturing and locking away “potential supernatural enemies.” Overseas, China uses a nuclear weapon to combat against magical creatures, and Russia is forcefully drafting all inhumans into its military. Everything is pretty much going to hell real fast, and it was all essentially kicked into high gear by one Porter known as Isaac Vainio, so it’s up to him to fix it all somehow.

Out of the four Magic Ex Libris books, Revisionary is definitely a much darker and more intense novel. Everything is at stake here and all the people we have come to like and know may not make it out alive. Because this is also a world of the human and magical non-human, there are some definite parallels with the X-Men universe, which while understandable would’ve been more interesting if Hines had tackled this controversial subject from a different angle. Nevertheless, Revisionary is an intense, heart-stopping finale to a really great urban fantasy series.

Originally written on March 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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