“Arcanum Unbounded” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2016)


If you’re any sort of epic fantasy fan, then by now you know full well who bestselling author Brandon Sanderson is. You may know him as the author who finished the long-spanning Wheel of Time series by the late Robert Jordan; or the creator of the fantastic Mistborn series; or perhaps you know him as the great mind behind his ongoing epic Stormlight Archive series. As a young adult reader, you may have also discovered him through some of his YA titles like The Rithmatist or the Reckoners trilogy, or perhaps even his Alcatraz series.

In case you haven’t realized, the guy can write. What you may not know is that all his books and stories are intrinsically linked together in his Cosmere universe. I know. Woah! Just when you think the guy can’t astound you more, he does. Sanderson has mentioned and hinted at this over the years of his climbing to stardom and bestseller status, and now readers get their first full insight into this galaxy of wonders, and of course, it’s a heavy tome weighing in at 672 pages, in Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection.

The book collects a good amount of Sanderson’s short fiction. Of course, one can’t really consider these short stories, because when it comes to writing, the word means little to Sanderson unless he’s referring to a character’s stature. Each novella and novelette features an introduction by one of Sanderson’s knowledgeable characters about what they know about this particular planet and system and how this affects those who live on the world or worlds within it.

The collection features nine tales, including an Elantris novella, a Mistborn story and novella that brings back an old beloved character. It features the first chapter for what became the script to his graphic novel, White Sands, as well as a sample of the great artwork. Included is also his novelette “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” which first appeared in the George R. R. Martin’s and Gardner Dozois’ anthology Dangerous Women, which features one of the strongest and most impressive female protagonists ever, and is one of Sanderson’s best stories. Period. Arcanum Unbounded also has a very nice and very long novella from his Stormlight Archive called “Edgedancer.” The book showcases impressive artwork of the planets and star systems, and is of course beautifully designed and executed, as is any high-class work from Tor books.

Originally written on January 4, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection” by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2016)


It’s been a few years since fans enjoyed the last Newsflesh novel, and in that time the dark and twisted Mira Grant has written a number of novellas for various anthologies, which fans may have missed along the way. Thankfully, the wonderful people at Orbit have helped collect all these separate stories together in this mighty and magnificent tome, Rise.

After a thankful introduction from the author, the collection begins with “Countdown,” originally published as a series of blog posts, that helps document the lead up to the rising. “San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats” is the incredible story of the rising at Comic Con when thousands of fans were trapped inside with some amplified zombies and what some did to survive, and what others did to help those outside survive a little longer. In “How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea” new head of After the End Times Mohinder travels to distant Australia which is different from the rest of the world in that the Aussies have always lived in a world where things were trying to kill them. The newsie travels to the Rabbit Proof Fence, a massive enclosure protecting the Australian people from amplified kangaroos and other marsupials that would love nothing more than to sink their teeth into some human flesh. “The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell” tells an origin story for a known Newsflesh character and is one of the most moving stories in the collection, as one teacher fights to keep her first grade class of children alive.

Rise also features two brand-spanking new novellas the world has never seen before. “All the Pretty Horses” is the powerful story of Shaun and George’s parents, Stacy and Michael Mason; how they survived the rising and found a new lease in life and ultimately made the decision to adopt two very special children. “Coming to You Live” continues the events immediately after Blackout, giving fans some much needed answers and story.

This collection is a delight and shows the true breadth and complexity of the Newsflesh world. And to add the icing on this delicious bloody cake: there is a NEW Newsflesh novel coming out in the fall called Feedback.

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

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

“Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep” edited by Peter Öberg (Affront Publishing, 2015)


When people think of Sweden a number of cliche thoughts and preconceived notions come to mind. When they think of Swedish authors, they are likely two that come to mind: Stieg Larsson of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and John Ajvide Lindqvist of Let the Right One In. One is a thriller writer, the other horror, but what about speculative fiction?

In Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep readers get to experience the genres of science fiction and fantasy in this fascinating anthology from the land of the midnight sun. 26 stories (some quite long) cover the gamut of the genres, with plenty of dystopian worlds spelling doom and gloom. Others will take you to other worlds, others to the future, and others to a very familiar place where things just aren’t quite right.

“Melody of the Yellow Bard” is an unusual story about wormholes and how what you find on the other side isn’t always that great. “The Thirteenth Tower” is a moving tale set in a destroyed world where those within it learn of how good times were before. “The Road” is of an alternate world featuring a female marshal employed by the Road Council, charged with keeping everything in order.

While the dystopian future is a common theme with a few of the stories, there are many others on diverse and unusual subjects, some short some long, providing a great smorgasbord (sorry, I had to) of stories for interested readers.

Originally written on July 9, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2015)


To date, Stephen King has published seven short story collections, proving that the prolific writer is still a big fan of the short form. This latest collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, has perhaps one of the more horrifying and chilling covers to grace the front of a book in some time. But this makes sense, since many of the stories in the pages of this collection are both chilling and horrifying. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is perhaps King’s best collection of stories since his debut collection Night Shift.

The anthology kicks off with “Mile 81” where there is an old abandoned vehicle at a defunct rest stop that has a tendency to absorb everything that touches it; one might even say eats. In “The Dune” a man can see people’s futures written in the sand. “Morality” is the story of the collection that really makes you think, as a couple must decide whether they will perform a certain act for a large amount of money, and whether their relationship can survive because of it.

What happens when you die? King decides to present his thoughts in “Afterlife.” In “UR” an ereading device has special powers. “The Little Green God of Agony” is a story about pain in its many forms and if it had a physical presence, what it would look like. “Obits” is a story about a journalist who causes bad things to happen to people when he writes their obituaries. The collection also features King’s novella “Blockade Billy” in its entirety, about an old baseball player who had certain “abilities,” as well as King’s most recent short story published in the summer of 2015, “Drunken Fireworks.”

For those wondering why so many readers love everything King does, the many great stories in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams makes it easily convincing. The anthology has a little bit of everything: ghost stories, psychological thrill rides, captivating thrillers, and moving stories of fiction. You will not be disappointed.

Originally written on January 17, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

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“Dark Screams: Volume One” edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar (Hydra, 2014)

Dark Screams Volume 1
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Ebooks have and are continuing to change the way we read books, with shorter chapters and a growing popularity in short stories, ideal for reading on your particular ereader on the go just about anywhere. When it comes to horror, you want to make sure you find a good story to enjoy, and the first volume of Dark Screams features some big names in the genre and at a very reasonable price.

The opening story and high-point of the collection, “Weeds” by one Stephen King, is about a meteor that crashes to the earth and the weedy alien life upon it begins to grow in this world as well as on one of its inhabitants. The next story keeps the thrill and chill going with “The Price You Pay” by Kelley Armstrong about the price of debts, and how some can never be repaid.

Sadly, the collection goes downhill from there with the remaining three stories from Bill Pronzini, Simon Clark and Ramsey Campbell doing little to stimulate the mind and are just dark and don’t really go anywhere whether it’s about a strange member of an asylum or a doomed person trapped in a chamber of torture. Nevertheless, Dark Screams: Volume One is worth the read for a reader looking to experiment in the genre.

Originally written on December 8, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Dark Screams: Volume One from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Dangerous Women” by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Tor, 2013)

Dangerous Women
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While George R. R. Martin may be taking his time with his next book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, he definitely has an ability for finding some great talented storytellers when working with the master editor and anthologist, Gardner Dozois. Dangerous Women is one of those books that you’re very thankful for being a giant tome, as you look forward to finishing the thrilling story you’re currently reading, so you can see how it ends, as well as discovering what the next story is going to be like.

A number of big fantasy name authors make the contents list in this collection, as well as a number of other mainstream authors you may not have read before. Each of them write about heroines or female villains or powerful stories with moving female characters, from the likes of Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Carrie Vaughan and S. M. Stirling, as well as a new novella from George R. R. Martin set within his fantasy world.  Not all the stories are fantasy or horror or science fiction, such as with Carrie Vaughan’s riveting story about female fighter pilots.

The beauty of a collection like this is that the reader has a chance to discover a number of new authors they never planned on reading, or maybe have wanted to try. Also, since the book is called Dangerous Women, it does respectfully feature more stories written by women authors, as it should. Ultimately, it’s a collection that features wall-to-wall female characters everywhere, which sadly cannot be said for most books published these days.

Originally written on April 16, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

Bookbanter Column: “Doing What’s Right” (May 21, 2011)

If knowledge is power, we live in an age where that power travels at the speed of light, or in the case of the Internet, the speed of a T1 line and a fiber optic cable.  The information superhighway has become sort of a misnomer when applied to the worldwide web, as the information conveyed now travels so much faster than an automobile traveling at eighty, ninety or a hundred miles an hour, along with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and the many thousands of blogs out there updating every minute and hour of every day.  So when a bad decision is made by an editor and then a publisher, not all the apologies and changes of heart in the world can affect the outcome once the author has made her decision, pulled her story, and blogged about it on the Internet.

Let me backtrack a little first.

Wicked Pretty Things

The young adult anthology Wicked Pretty Things was originally scheduled to come out in September of this year featuring a number of popular as well as up and coming authors including Jessica Verday; edited by Trisha Telep and published by Running Press in the US and Constable & Robinson in the UK.  Telep had pitched it as “a collection of dark fairy YA stories (with a bit of a romantic edge).”  Verday submitted a story, “Flesh Which is Not Flesh,” for the collection that featured a relationship between Wesley and Cameron, two boys.  She was then told by Telep that the story would be published so long as she made one of her characters female as a “male/male story would not be acceptable to the publishers.”  Verday thought about this for a while and then made the important decision that she knew she had to: she withdrew her story from the anthology, making her stance clear in a post on her blog.  This was a hard choice for Verday, who has only published three books in a trilogy and is still an up and coming author, but she chose to stay true to what she believed and what she thought was the righting thing to do.

In a follow up post, Verday defended her decision and presented the comments and responses from the publisher, which was essentially that while the publisher regretted the decisions and actions of the editor, they were still going forward with the anthology, along with keeping Telep as the editor.  It was acknowledged all around that bad choices had been made on the part of Telep and that they would now willingly publish “Flesh Which is Not Flesh” in its original form.  But Verday wasn’t changing her mind, as the initial “knee-jerk” bad decision had still been made and to now pretend like it hadn’t happened would completely defeat the point of Verday making this decision in the first place.  Also the publisher had said that it was a case of miscommunication with the editor and that they had never been consulted in the matter, and publisher Christopher Navratil even wrote an article entitled What Happens When a Headline Goes Viral for Publishers Weekly about it; the issue here was that the publisher kept saying they did not support Telep on this decision by any means, and yet they were still standing behind her and publishing the anthology.   Running Press were essentially covering their bases however they could to save face and look good and put the whole matter to bed.  Telep was very apologetic, saying “I sincerely regret the sequence of events which has led to Jessica Verday’s story ‘Flesh Which Is Not Flesh’ being excluded from the forthcoming anthology Wicked Pretty Things. This has been the result of a misunderstanding on my part which is entirely regrettable … I fully support LGBTQ issues.”  Yet as Jim C. Hines clearly put it on his blog: “But it was hurtful.”

Much to Telep’s and the publisher’s chagrin, the matter wasn’t going to die.  Verday had spoken her mind on her blog and word spread across the Internet as more blogs and Twitter accounts and readers heard and learned about the story and then broadcasted it on their respective networking communication site of choice (including the BookBanter Blog).  Then Lisa Mantchev, Lesley Livinston, Karen Mahoney and Seanan McGuire – all authors that were to be featured in the anthology – withdrew their stories for publication, and Melissa Marr asked that her name not be used to promote the project.  McGuire, much like Verday, is a relatively new author who has gone on to win the John W. Campbell Award in 2010 for Best New Writer and be listed on the New York Times bestseller list.  In a heartfelt post McGuire makes her viewpoint clear: “I am not withdrawing from this book because I’m not straight. I am withdrawing because of my little sister and her wife, and because of my girlfriend, and because of my best friend, and because of all the other people who deserve better than bullying through exclusion.”  Each of these authors had to make hard decisions that may certainly have affected their careers, and yet they stood behind their choices and never backed down.

But there was still more.  Fantasy author Jim C. Hines made a post on his popular blog with the title of “Wicked Pretty Things and the Erasure of LGBTQ Characters.”  In the post he begins it with a conversation between his six-year old child and himself in clarifying that marriages do not have to be solely between girls and boys, whereupon his son responds with: “That’s silly.  How would they have babies?”  Hines commented with: “I understand where his confusion comes from. Pretty much every cartoon on TV has male/female relationships only. Every movie he watches, every book he brings home from school… Any nonheterosexual relationship is simply erased.”  Then he segues to Jessica Verday and lays out what happened, citing his sources everywhere he can and makes his point on that matter clear.  Then he goes one giant step further in offering to publish the authors’ stories that were withdrawn from the anthology, as well as pay them under the following conditions:

  1. If you have not already found a home for your withdrawn story, I would be happy to read it.
  2. If I like the story (and knowing most of the authors involved, I suspect I will), I’ll offer $100 up front to publish it here on my blog.
  3. Each story will include a donations link. Once the initial $100 has been covered, further donations will be split 50/50. Half will be paid to the author, and the other half will be donated to a LGBTQ-friendly cause.
  4. If I publish multiple stories, I will look into putting together an e-book collection of those stories, with profits again being split between the authors and a LGBTQ-friendly cause.

The post went on to receive a large number of comments and when asked recently how Hines’s decision had continued to be received, he responded with:

“I made my offer because I agreed with the authors. An editor has every right to decide what she will and won’t publish, but if you’re an editor who refuses to publish LGBT content or assumes such content is automatically ‘inappropriate,’ I have the right to refuse to work with you. A lot of people were writing to express their support for these authors, and I figured the best way I could show my own support was to offer to buy and publish those withdrawn stories.

I’ve spoken to several ex-WPT [Wicked Pretty Things] authors so far. Some of them have already found other homes for their work, which is great. I’m waiting to hear from a few others. I just want to make sure these authors are able to be paid for their stories, and that — hopefully — we’ll all be able to read and enjoy them.”

In my last round of researching for this column as I began to write it, I came across the announcement – albeit not officially emblazoned on their site or displayed anywhere – that the publisher had canceled the publication of Wicked Pretty Things.  It looks like enough people were making a big enough deal about this to force the publisher to make their own hard decision on the many choices that authors, writers and bloggers alike had already made.  This was the right outcome.

The bottom line is this: Trisha Telep made the wrong call in asking Verday to change her story because she thought it wouldn’t be accepted by the publisher for the anthology, even though it followed the guidelines laid out by the publisher.  But once that call had been made, the stance and point were clear and feelings had been very much hurt, and not all the apologies and regrets from Telep or the publisher could change the fact that when Telep saw it was a gay story (“a total of 3 kisses and sexually, it’s G-rated”) about two teenage boys, she said no.

And to end this column on a lighter note, while Running Press will no longer be publishing Wicked Pretty Things this year, it is nevertheless the proud publisher of the book Threesomes and Moresomes, which Nick Mamatas has kindly shown the cover for on his blog.  Nothing wrong with that book, right?

Threesomes and Moresomes