“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.

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“The Bands of Mourning” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2016)

The adventures of twinborn Waxillium Ladrian continue in The Bands of Mourning, who possess both Feruchemical and Allomantic abilities. The second book in the “second trilogy” of the Mistborn novels focuses on the legend of the “bands of mourning,” mythical metalminds once owned by the Lord Ruler that have been lost to history and time that grant the wearer ability to control all the Allomantic powers that the Lord Ruler was able to possess.

A kandra researcher – a species of creature that can live millennia by absorbing the bones of dead things (be they animal or human) and take on the form of that being – has returned to Elendel from its travels insane having lost its Allomantic spike and has clearly been attacked. But it also possesses drawings that supposedly depict the Bands of Mourning as well as writings in an unknown language. Wax is hired along with his “gang” of unusual characters including his fiancee to travel to the distant city of New Seran to investigate what happened to the kandra and possibly discover any validity to the drawings and writings.

While the previous book, Shadows of Self, kept the story relatively short and simple, The Bands of Mourning reveals more of the complex world and history that readers have come to expect with Sanderson’s epic fantasy. Sanderson mixes addictive action scenes with fascinating history, along with healthy doses of humor and hijinks, for a very entertaining read.

Originally written on March 4, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“Shadows of Self” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2015)

Brandon Sanderson really set the stage with his Mistborn trilogy that showed readers he truly knows how to spin a complex, detailed and fascinating yarn with some great magic and action. He’s also two books into his projected 10-book Stormlight Archive epic fantasy series. So readers wouldn’t expect Sanderson to return to his Mistborn world since he has lots of other stories to tell. But then again, if you know Sanderson at all, you’ll know he never likes saying goodbye to a world he created and is always willing to return to it, just not in the same time.

Enter Alloy of Law, his standalone novel from 2011, and the first of the new trilogy, Shadows of Self, coming October 6th. He’s back in the Mistborn world a couple centuries further along in the future. If the first trilogy was set in a medieval fantasy period, the new trilogy is late 19th century with a healthy dose of the wild west. Waxillium “Wax” Ladrian has spent his time in the Roughs rounding up outlaws and as a “twinborn” is using both his Allomantic and Feruchemical abilities: he can push and pull on metals, but can also become lighter and heavier at will.

Now he’s back in the metropolis of Elendel, Lord of House Ladrian, and can see the city is in turmoil as the nobility continues to become richer and fatter off the backs of the poor and downtrodden who are becoming angry and riotous. Then everything goes to hell when a strange intruder assassinates a number of important and purportedly corrupt nobility and it seems to be a creature from an earlier time. With the help of his close friend and sort of sidekick Wayne (think Badger from Firefly) who can create speed bubbles where he can speed up time, and Marasi who is working as researcher and investigator for the police department and is sister to Wax’s wife to be, she can also slow down time in her speed bubble; they need to find out who’s behind the assassinations before anyone else gets hurt.

Sanderson has clearly had too much fun updating his “fantasy world” with things like guns, electricity and motorcars and lots of other technology reflecting our late 19th century period that are seen as an abomination by many in this world while there are those who can also perform Allomantic and Feruchemical magic. Even though the book is shorter – under 400 pages – than the books of the first trilogy, and the story isn’t quite as complex, he balances this out with some great shootout action scenes that will keep you glued to the page.

And the really great news is that the second book in the trilogy, Bands of Mourning, is coming out January 2016, just a handful of months away!

Originally written on September 17, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“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.

“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.

“All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor, 2016)

Charlie Jane Anders is someone who has been very much a mainstay of the science fiction and fantasy world, is a co-editor of the science fiction blog iO9, and Emcees a monthly reading series Writers with Drinks in San Francisco. So it’s not surprising that she should write an interesting novel the blends the worlds of fantasy and science fiction in a delicious way.

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead are an unusual couple of kids who never really fit in with school and life and form a union because of this. But they are of different worlds: Patricia develops magical powers while Laurence has an incredible scientific mind and becomes one of the few people to develop a two-second time machine. Their worlds diverge and they go their separate ways.

Now they’re adults and living in the hipster mecca San Francisco and yet things are not going well with the rest of the planet, as the world brings itself to the brink of annihilation. Now an engineering wiz, Lawrence is working for a company that is trying help the world and those suffering through breakthrough inventions and technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of the Eltisley Maze, a secret academy for those magically gifted, where she has learned much, but also made at least one terrible mistake that cost people their lives. She works with a group of magicians also looking to help those in need by using their magical talents. But there is a prophecy, spoken of years ago, that the two would come together in a final battle and cause the end of it all.

All the Birds in the Sky has a lot going for it, with its complex and interesting characters and whirlwind plot. Plus for anyone familiar with San Francisco, Anders has fun taking readers around the scenic city. But at times the book has too much going on that loses the reader. There is a lot of jumping back and forth and around, to different characters and times, which at first is interesting, but as it goes on, also loses the reader and is at times confusing. The novel feels like it could’ve used another round of editing to make the ideas and points more coherent and fluid. Nevertheless, All the Birds in the Sky does some things no book of either genre has before, and is its own unique tale that won’t be found anywhere else.

Originally written on March 25, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of All the Birds in the Sky from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.