Wednesday, June 30, 2010

[Giveaway] Classic Bookcase

Have you been naughty or have you been nice? Doesn't matter, because it's not Christmas [and it doesn't matter, if you live in either Canada or the States] and I am not Santa. BUT the people from CSN stores are feeling like Santa, so they have decided to throw in another present and no, it's not twin beds [how I wish to receive something like that]. I am talking about another piece of furniture for your precious and overflowing to-be-read piles.

The Mylex Five-Shelf Bookcase is a great way to store your books, CDs, DVDs or other items without having to sacrifice style for function. Featuring a sleek oak finish, this bookcase has five adjustable shelves to accomodate your storage needs. Perfect for use in the home or office!


* Wood construction
* Oak finish
* Five adjustable storage shelves


1) Be located in US & Canada
2) E-mail at likenion[AT]gmail[DOT]com
3) E-mail between July 1st and August 10th for the chance to win.
4) Double entries are disqualified.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Bloodstained Man by Christopher Rowley (Netherworld 2) [Review]

In the last book Pleasure Model Detective Rook Venner barely escaped with his life and now he and his beautiful companions Pleasur, a chipped-up pleasure model now intelligent killing machine and the human dominatrix Julia are on the run. This is my take on part two.

Title: The Bloodstained Man
Series: Netherworld 2
Author: Christopher Rowley
Cover art: Gregory Manchess
Interior art: Justin Norman
Genre: Cyber Punk | Heavy Metal | Noir
Publisher: Tor books
Copy: Bought it myself
Order from: Tor | Amazon US | UK | B&N

My Review of Earlier Books: Pleasure Model
Next Book: Money Shot (November 9 2010)

Reviewer: Ove Jansson

Following the explosive events of book one, Pleasure Model, Detective Rook Venner, Mistress Julia, and Plesur are on the run from the government troops trying to kill them and from a shadowy group that wants to capture Plesur alive for its own purposes. What secrets have been implanted in Plesur’s head—and why are they worth killing for?

Caught between these two powerful rivals, the trio hides out in the lawless New Jersey territory. Betrayed by gang members looking to collect the bounty on Plesur’s head, the three are separated, and Rook and Mistress Julia find themselves in mortal danger. Julia, given as a prize to a gang member, finds herself in chains, but not without her own means of fighting back. Rook, forced to fight for his life in the gang’s bloodthirsty gladiatorial games, must stay alive long enough to rescue Plesur, but time is running out.

The Bloodstained Man is a fast-paced, adrenaline-filled ride through a future where pleasure has a price, and Plesur holds the key to a secret that could rock the country to its very core.


The Bloodstained Man is a mix of cyberpunk heavy metal novel and gritty noir comic art.

Justin Norman [his deviantart page] made the inside illustrations, they add another dimension to the text, especially in the action sequences they seems to speed up the action. I enjoyed the illustrations a lot; though there were a few more places in this book where they were out of sync with the story. They add a movie feel to reading the book.

World Building

America is some kind of police state with general elections. The citizens don't have much rights though and they are heavy segregated, the uninsured are left outside society to fetch for themselves in huge ghetto like areas ruled by gangs. Some of it you get in the dialog and descriptions but there is not much of it, it is not that kind of story.

They run into colonies of runaway/free pleasure mods living in their own societies among the uninsured and there is a message there about how we treat humans in that story, it also comes across in Rook's friendship with a fighter mod while he is captured by the gang.


The protagonist Rook is on the run from at least two groups and they are both after Pleasur the fabricated human pleasure model Rook found in a murdered generals home. One group is probably the power behind the current government and they want her dead and the secrets she has eradicated. The other group is more mysterious and secretive and they want to use Pleusure and her information in some unknown way.

As in the last book there is more or less nonstop action, first they crash a party and get chased away by cool motorcycles and missile firing war drones. Out of the frying pan into the fire they run to the uninsured area and are captured by a gang whose main activity seems to be gladiator games and feeding the losers to the alligators. Rooke is forced to fight in the bloody games and Julia is given to one of the gang members as his personal slave and Pleasur is striped of her fighting and intelligence mods and locked up in wait for the bosses to come and get her.

I am not sure this book would go down well with most female readers, but the females in this story do take charge of their own destiny especially Julia.

The ending is a cliffhanger after a horrid moment that makes me want to have the concluding book now not in November.


This is pulp fiction and you what you see is what you get. There is more to the characters than archetype though. There is nothing wrong with a few small randy and explicit scenes to spiff it up, it's done all the time in chick-lit. But here there is something more fundamentally about being human going on inside and with the characters.

My View

The Bloodstained Man is a action-packed hardboiled detective story in a rundown world of pleasure models, government conspiracies and general lawlessness. It is a fast read I enjoyed very much. Both books in the Netherworld Trilogy are good summer reading. I can't wait for the next book Money Shot.


Rowley’s homepage contains a Netherworld Web Project with 28 slightly different chapters from the first book (the first book had 21). The texts are without the delightfully noir illustrations. There is also world building notes in the ‘Need to Know‘ section

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Candor by Pam Bachorz

Candor_cover_FINAL Candor is a book that is similar to The Stepford Wives. Instead of telling what happens on the outside of the town, it delves deepstepford into the inner workings of a town based on control. Part of what makes Ira Levine’s Stepford Wives so horrifying is that you never really know what is happening to the women of Stepford, you just know that they are changing.

Candor by Pam Bachorz uses the exact opposite approach. From the beginning Oscar tells you all the lies and deception that comprise the city of Candor.

People, very rich people, sign up to live in a town where they are covertly fed messages 24/7. The concept was created by Oscar’s father. He is a very meticulous and controlling man. He uses the messages to create the kind of life he wants for himself. He thinks that Oscar is oblivious to it all and just going along with the ride. But Oscar is trying to subvert his father every step of the way. Part of the effectiveness of his willing to appear that he is under the influence of the messages.

“I’m the model Candor boy—a son to brag about. Proof that the Messages work. That’s what everyone thinks. Even my dad.”

There is a lot to love about this book. The concept is verging on genius, but it is lacking some of the details that would make this a truly functioning world. Oscar is a great character but the reader can feel him giving into the messages more than we would like to, and that is part of the beauty of the storytelling as well. We feel the frustration between ourselves and the world between the choices Oscar makes and doesn’t make.

When rebel trouble maker Nia moves to Candor there is a chance for a great dynamic between her and Oscar, but the narrative quickly spirals into some mock teen soap opera with overwrought emotions flung all over the place. True, overwrought emotions are normal for teens, but when there is an easy solution to prevent a problem it annoys me when an author doesn’t patch over it with more back story and world building.

The middle emotional roller coaster felt so contrived that I had a hard time investing into the later half of the book even though it still had some nice elements in it. I was there with the characters, buying what they were selling, but then the author just kicked me right out onto the curb. I felt a little betrayed by the character’s stupidity and I didn’t want to care about them anymore.

Would I recommend this book? Probably, but also tentatively.
Is this a great example of dystopia? Not exactly.

Is this a unique example of dystopia?
Yes. This story is very different from ones that I have read before yet connects well with some of the defining themes of dystopia of control and deception. I would have liked to see more depth in the world building and more strength in the characters and a major conflict that makes more sense.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

[Sneak Peek] The Sworn by Gail Z. Martin

The Hawthorn Moon project took place on the 21st, which made me late to the party, but call it delightfully Eastern European and leave my complicated relationship with the calendar at that. I am, however, thrilled to have been invited to participate again and help promote Gail Z. Martin. So here are my treats. First, here is the official cover unveiling for the novel with a blurb: 

As plague and famine scourge the winter kingdoms, a vast invasion force is mustering from beyond the northern seas. And at its heart, a dark spirit mage wields the blood magic of ancient, vanquished gods.

Summoner-King Martris Drayke must attempt to meet this great threat, gathering an army from a country ravaged by civil war. Neighboring lands reel toward anarchy while plague decimates their leaders. Drayke must seek new allies from among the living – and the dead –- as an untested generation of rulers face their first battle.

Then someone disturbs the legendary Dread as they rest in a millennia-long slumber beneath sacred barrows. Their warrior guardians, the Sworn, know the Dread could be pivotal as a force for great good or evil. But if it’s the latter, could even the Summoner-King’s sorcery prevail?

The Sworn is Book One of The Fallen Kings Cycle, and it picks up the adventures of Tris, Jonmarc and the Winter Kingdoms gang six months after the end of Dark Lady’s Chosen. There are all new challenges, lots of dark magic and the biggest threat Margolan has faced in 400 years.

Following this, I also have, for readers of the series, included an interview with one of the characters: Jonmarc Vahanian

Q: Since you’ve been lord of Dark Haven, you’ve put down a vayash moru war and restored the Truce between the vayash moru, vyrkin and mortals. Do you think things will quiet down for a while?

A: I’ve always found that it’s a bad idea to count on peace and quiet.

Q: Dark Haven has become something of a sanctuary in recent months because of the plague. There are rumors that you’re also taking in vayash moru and vyrkin who escape Nargi. Are you worried about repercussions, either from Nargi or from mortal neighbors?

A: Nargi would have to cross Dhasson to do anything about the refuge we provide, and King Harrol would never stand for that. The mortals are happy to have some breathing space in a place where the plague hasn’t really hit hard yet. I’m not worried about that. Somehow, it’s always the things you never even think of that sneak up and knife you in the back.

Q: Is it true that King Staden sent Princess Berwyn to foster at Dark Haven because plague has taken hold in Principality City?

A: Berry is wintering with Carina and me at Dark Haven. She’s been a great help to Carina with all the refugees and wounded we’ve taken in. Staden thought she’d be safer with us until the plague ran its course.

Q: You’ve had some visitors from Margolan, too, haven’t you? Carina’s brother, Cam, and Master Bard Carroway?

A: Never really thought I’d end up running an inn, but that’s what it’s started to feel like, between the refugees, the people outrunning the plague, and the folks who get themselves banged up enough to come see Carina. Cam managed to blow himself up, but Carina’s put him mostly right, although he’ll probably always have a limp. Damn lucky he kept his leg. Only Carroway could get himself skewered through the hand saving the kingdom. It’s trickier fixing a hand than a leg, Carina tells me. Then again, no one tries to play a lute with their leg. I hope she can patch him up. In the meantime, he and Macaria are free entertainment and I’ve got an overflowing houseful of guests.

Q: There are rumors that strange things have been happening around Dark Haven: black robed strangers, animal sacrifices, grave robbing. Is it true that the followers of Shanthadura are trying to revive the old cult?

A: We’ve raided some of the Black Robes hiding places. Unfortunately, the rumors are true. Some of the vayash moru remember the days hundreds of years ago before the worship of Shanthadura was stopped. The Black Robes don’t stop at sacrificing animals; they like human blood even better. My goal is to stop them from getting a foothold. We don’t need that kind of trouble. So far, solving that problem has been tougher than I expected.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

REVIEW: The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R.Ward

The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R.Ward
  1. Dark Lover [Wrath]
  2. Lover Eternal [Rhage]
  3. Lover Awakened [Zadist]
  4. Lover Revealed [Butch O’Neal]
  5. Lover Unbound [Vishous]
  6. Lover Enshrined [Phury]
  7. Lover Avenged [Revhenge]
  8. Lover Mine [John and Xhex]

Full details of each book can be found at the end of the review.

Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance / Vampires
Reviewer: Cara
Copy: Bought myself

In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, a deadly turf war rages between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other – six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. [From the back of the box set, books 1 - 6]

If you like your vampires vegetarian and sparkly, look away now... the Black Dagger Brotherhood bears little similarity with the world of Twilight, thankfully! J.R. Ward has created a whole new world for her vampires, complete with history, culture, spirituality and politics. Humans do not feature much in this world; they are not prey and much of the battle between the vampires and their slayers is hidden from the modern-day urban setting of Caldwell in New York state.

Each book in the series focuses on one member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood (or, as in the later books, their close allies and kin) as he deals with his past experiences and finds his life partner. While romance is a significant element in this series, along with some steamy sex scenes, this plays alongside the war with the Lessening Society whose sole motivation is the extinction of the vampire race. Despite their kick-ass, hell-raising lifestyle, the Black Dagger Brotherhood are the good guys, sworn defenders of their race. But each has his own demons to face and ultimately it is through love that they find some inner peace and happiness in a hard, unforgiving world.

The world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood is dark and brutal. J.R. Ward does not shy away from dealing with such topics as sexual abuse, addiction, homosexuality, alienation and self-loathing. Her heroes are seriously flawed characters who live life literally on a knife edge. Each night they go out in search of Lessers to kill and to unwind they party hard. Sex, violence, drugs and alcohol are used by various members to numb themselves against their reality and their past experiences. These are hard, uncompromising men who put their lives on the line every night to protect the civilian vampire population. The books reflect the warriors’ reality in a surprisingly sympathetic and non-judgemental way but do not compromise on their darker natures nor the reasons why each member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood is who he is.

J.R. Ward has created a rich and detailed world for her vampires. Although set in a modern day New York state town, Caldwell, there is an unfolding history of the vampire race running through the series. There are many references to ‘the Old Country’ a European location (possibly Romania but never specified) where the vampire race originated. Many of their traditions and cultural mores can be traced back to before the move to North America, including the birth of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. We learn about the glymera, the aristocratic vampire elite, and their obsession with bloodlines and tradition. The vampires have their own spiritual tradition, as led by
the Scribe Virgin “Mystical force who is counsellor to the King as well as keeper of vampire archives and the dispenser of privileges. Exists in a nontemporal realm and has extensive powers. Capable of a single act of creation, which she expended to bring vampires into existence”
[taken from the Glossary that is provided at the front of each book].

The vampires themselves are roughly divided into 3 groups; warriors (male), the Chosen (female), and civilians (everyone else). All vampires must drink blood from the opposite sex to survive… human blood is to weak to sustain them. They have a very long lifespan, but can be killed. They are nocturnal and have the ability to ‘dematerialise’ i.e. travel almost instantaneously from one place to another, although steel will prevent this. J.R. Ward has created a whole culture around her vampires which is rich and rewarding to read about.

From the first book in the series Dark Lover, where Wrath, king of the vampires is the lead character, we find out that males become ‘bonded’ to their mates, a physical and emotional union that lasts for life. As the series progresses, and each of the brothers finds or loses their shellan (think soulmate), we see how love can temper the more negative aspects of the lead character’s psyche. This is especially true of Zadist in Lover Awakened who was brutally imprisoned as a blood slave and sexually exploited for a long period of time after his transition (sudden transformation into adulthood experienced by all vampires around the age of 25). J.R. Ward handles the descriptions of abuse in a sensitive manner, implying rather than describing in detail, the brutal experiences faced by Zadist, Vishous, John and others during their lives. While the sex scenes between the lead character and his partner were graphically detailed, though well written in my view, the author preferred to leave the brutality to the reader’s imagination thus avoiding any accusations of gratuitousness or voyeurism. I appreciated this approach myself as too many authors get carried away with these types of scenes (yes, Laurell K. Hamilton, I am thinking of you).

The enemy – the Lessening Society – is truly evil. Each member, a Lesser, is a de-souled human who must be stabbed through the chest in order to be killed; otherwise they are ageless. They do not eat or drink and are impotent. Over time, their hair, skin and irises lose pigmentation until they are blond, blushless and pale-eyed. They smell like baby powder. Inducted into the society by the Omega, they retain a ceramic jar thereafter into which their heart was placed after it was removed. Over the course of the books we learn more about the Omega, who is a truly malevolent and powerful entity. The fights between the Brotherhood and the Lessers are a regular and important aspect of the series, and while some were a bit gory in detail, they helped contextualise the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

As the series progresses, we are introduced to another non-human species, the sympath. While closely related to vampires, they are characterised by the ability and desire to manipulate emotions in others for the purposes of energy exchange… and not usually in a good way. They are generally reviled (and feared) by vampires who have historically discriminated against sympaths and have banished them to an isolated colony. Pure sympaths are really creepy both in appearance and nature. Personally I thought they were great, with a tendency towards evil and ruthlessly selfish, the introduction of sympaths added a really interesting facet to the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Both Lover Avenged and Lover Mine feature vampire / sympath half-breed characters in Rehvenge and Xhex.

I read all 8 books in the series over the course of 3 weeks and I must admit I enjoyed the experience. Although each book primarily focuses on one lead and his romance, all the characters appear throughout the series and we see them grow and develop beyond the confines of their relationship. Finding a life partner does not mean a happy ever after ending either, something which made the series less ‘romantic’ and more realistic in my view. And not all relationships are male/female either, something which added a different dimension to the series and showed us that life is not all black and white. There are lots of shades of grey. I felt that J.R. Ward handled this aspect very well, especially when it came to Vishous in Lover Unbound. I hope that Qhuinn, Blay and Saxton feature more prominently in future books as this is shaping up to be an intriguing love triangle.

I was initially disappointed in the female characters in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, as they were portrayed as weak and in need of a man to define them. However, this first impression was dispelled as the series progressed. Despite the protective nature of vampire males towards their females, they managed to make themselves heard and soon appeared as strong, feisty women with independent traits who worked within the confines of vampire society to support their men yet lead fulfilling lives of their own too. A significant exception is Xhex, who follows her own rules and is the fighting equal of all the Brothers. She kicks ass big time! Another character, who appears briefly in the last two books, is Payne, another highly aggressive female with a very interesting background story which begs to be developed further.

Overall, the Black Dagger Brotherhood series is worth reading if you like your romance surrounded by a solid over-arching plot, complex world-building and lots of high-octane action. Indeed, I would consider the romance aspect almost secondary to the story of the Black Dagger Brotherhood and their world, despite the books being clearly marketed as Paranormal Romance. Yes, the Brothers adhere to the rules of alpha male characters – big, strong, aggressive, single-minded, well-endowed etc. etc. – but they have significant weaknesses and flaws too. Traumatic past events have left both physical and mental scars on them which must be faced if they are to win the heart of their desired partner. J.R. Ward is not naïve, she does not magic away these shortcomings with ‘the love of a good woman’ but instead the characters retain their problems although acceptance by their partner and their peers plays a major part in helping them deal with their issues. I found this a very positive and realistic approach, particularly given some of the harrowing past events experienced by various characters throughout the series.

I hope that J.R. Ward continues to write more in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series as I will certainly buy any future novels as soon as they are released. Despite the occasional street-talk / gangsta rap type slang dialogue, they are well written books with a strong back story set amidst an ongoing war between vampires and Lessers. I admit I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the entire series in sequence, and while the romances are standalone, each book continues the war and the changes within vampire society thus making the Black Dagger Brotherhood books possibly one of the best vampire paranormal romance series around today. Dark Lover, the first book, is possibly one of the weakest but essential reading as it sets the scene for the rest. The series really hits it’s stride with Lover Awakened and by book number 8, Lover Mine, the reader is left clamouring for more. Highly recommended!

Full details of each book in the series, in sequence:
Title: The Black Dagger Brotherhood series, books 1 - 6
Author:  J.R. Ward
Paperback: Box set, 6 books
Publisher: Signet Book (29 Sep 2009)
ISBN-10: 0451947630
ISBN-13: 978-0451947635

Title: Dark Lover
Author: J.R. Ward
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Piatkus Books (5 July 2007)
ISBN-10: 0749938188
ISBN-13: 978-0749938185

Title: Lover Eternal
Author: J.R. Ward
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Piatkus Books (5 July 2007)
ISBN-10: 0749938196
ISBN-13: 978-0749938192

Title: Lover Awakened
Author: J.R. Ward
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Piatkus Books (4 Oct 2007)
ISBN-10: 0749938234
ISBN-13: 978-0749938239

Title: Lover Revealed
Author: J.R. Ward
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Piatkus Books (3 May 2007)
ISBN-10: 0749938226
ISBN-13: 978-0749938222

Title: Lover Unbound
Author: J.R. Ward
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Piatkus Books (4 Oct 2007)
ISBN-10: 074993848X
ISBN-13: 978-0749938482

Title: Lover Enshrined
Author: J.R. Ward
Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Piatkus Books (12 Jun 2008)
ISBN-10: 0749939036
ISBN-13: 978-0749939038

Title: Lover Avenged
Author: J.R. Ward
Paperback: 736 pages
Publisher: Piatkus Books (26 Nov 2009)
ISBN-10: 0749941731
ISBN-13: 978-0749941734

Title: Lover Mine
Author: J.R. Ward
Paperback: 672 pages
Publisher: Piatkus Books (6 May 2010)
ISBN-10: 0749941782
ISBN-13: 978-0749941789

Giveaway Winner

The time has come. The giveaway closed five days ago. I added some dramatic pause for the lucky winner, but now it's time to reveal, who will get a big, bulky, black book case.

One more to see the prize.

And the winner is:

Raelena Pavey

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

[Review] Watch by Robert J. Sawyer

Title: Watch

Series: WWW 2
Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Jacket art: Tony Mauro
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: ACE 2010
Hardcover: 368 pages
Copy: Bought by me
Order from: ACE | Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

Reviewer: Ove Jansson

I always get a bit cautious after a great first book in a series and try to normalize my expectations. Because otherwise I expect them to exceed the first and become disappointed if it is 'only' as good as the first one. I liked Wake [my review] a lot and this is how I found the sequel.
Webmind is an emerging consciousness that has befriended Caitlin Decter and grown eager to learn about her world. But Webmind has also come to the attention of WATCH-the secret government agency that monitors the Internet for any threat to the United States-and they're fully aware of Caitlin's involvement in its awakening.
WATCH is convinced that Webmind represents a risk to national security and wants it purged from cyberspace. But Caitlin believes in Webmind's capacity for compassion-and she will do anything and everything necessary to protect her friend.
In the first book Wake the World Wide Web became sentient by the grace of mutated data packages, a Chinese firewall and the help of one Caitlin Decter who showed it how to read. Such a monumental event cannot go unnoticed for long. While Caitlin struggles with her everyday life and helping Webmind, an American government agency discover that there is something weird going on with the Internet. First they think it is spies but they soon discover that it is something unknown to them there on the web so they send out agents to interrogate Caitlyn and her parents.

The agency feels realistic and it is noteworthy that the events more or less take place inside the letter of the law according to the book even if Caitlin's parents don't trust them to follow the law and decide to home-school her. I know for sure that in my country any government official wouldn't be allowed to interrogate a minor without the presence of a legal guardian, I am not sure how that is in Canada?

While the agency tries to find a way to destroy Webmind before it becomes too powerful; Caitlin has her trust in it and her teaching it right and wrong unfolds in an endearing way. This is mainly a story about that development of ethics.

The side stories are not as prominent in this book but I expect the Chinese blogger to return in book three. Hobo the video conferencing monkey is going through puberty and are having trouble with inherited behavior. With the help of Webmind he eventually makes the same kind of ethical choice Webmind itself has to do.

I enjoyed Caitlin's personal story where she stays loyal to her friends, snub the jerk that tried to take advantage of her and when she starts to pursue another boy.

It not often that I find a sequel as good as its predecessor but here it comes close. The sense of wonder was greater in Wake but here I connect more with the character and the action is picking up. Watch is another coming-of-age story; the one about the Webmind. I can't wait on part three.

Friday, June 11, 2010

[Review] Wake by Robert J. Sawyer (WWW 1)

Title: Wake

Series: WWW 1
Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Cover art: Steve Biver/Getty & John Lundh/Getty
Genre: Science Fiction | Coming-of-Age | First Contact
Publisher: ACE 2010 (1st serialized in Analog 2008)
Paperback: 352 pages
Order from: ACE | Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

Reviewer: Ove Jansson

I like coming-of-age and first-contact stories. Wake is both. Young blind girl, jump on chance to get sight back, the operation fails and blind girl return disappointed to her home in Canada only to discover she can see the World Wide Web. But she sees something else there too, between the connections, a something, an entity. In wonder she reaches out to the something and it reaches right back. Then it becomes a story about how she helps it learn and grow.

The Author presents some plausible and interesting ideas about what consciousness is and how it has developed over the centuries. I have not dived into the hard science of it so I have no say on that other than it creates a relevant and believable framework for the story to work in. The same can be said about the technical explanation for the Internet becoming sentient.

Wake is also the story about Caitling Decter, a talented teenager fresh out of school for the blind that just started school in a new city, just like in so many other YA novels. There she makes friends with the seeing and to no big surprise starts to develop interests in boys. So besides from her being a feisty beautiful blind genius in math with a web based entity for a friend her life is pretty normal.

The main storyline is Caitling’s but we also gets to follow a Chinese blogger who won’t give up when the government takes down the Internet. His successful attempts to break through the firewalls play a role in the creation of a self aware conscious on the web. The Chinese authorities cut the connection to try to hide a massacre and that will have repercussions on world politics as seen later.

I think the author included Hobo, the ape famous for being the first ape to use videoconferencing to talk to another ape, to further exemplify the development of consciousness. It is also another cute story with some dire threats to overcome. Later Hobo will become even more important.

This book has characters I like and it has interesting and intriguing characters, like Caitlin’s autistic father who hates change but moves his whole family to a new country and a new town so he can work with Stephen Hawking for one month every year. Young Caitlin’s feelings and inner dialogue is also fun and entertaining to read about. I was never an adolescent girl so I have no idea how their minds work but this way works until I know for sure.

This is an adorable empowering young adult novel you should feel proud of reading. Make your kids read it too, they will love it.

Rating 9/10

Sunday, June 6, 2010

REVIEW: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Title: Heart-Shaped Box
Author: Joe Hill
Hardcover: 365 pages
Publisher: Gollancz; Airport Edition, (15 Mar 2007)
ISBN-10: 0575079126
ISBN-13: 978-0575079120
Genre: Horror
Reviewer: Cara
Copy: Bought myself

‘Buy my stepfather’s ghost, read the email.’ So Jude did.

When Jude Coyne heard someone was selling a ghost on the internet, there was no question what he was going to do. It was perfect for his collection of the macabre and the grotesque: the cannibal’s cookbook, the witch’s confession, the authentic snuff movie. As an aging death-metal-rock-god, buying a ghost almost qualifies as a business expense.

Besides, Jude thinks he knows all about ghosts. Jude has been haunted for years… by the spirits of bandmates dead and gone, the spectre of the abusive father he fled as a child, and the memory of the girl he abandoned, who killed herself. But this ghost is different. Delivered to his doorstep in a black heart-shaped box, the latest edition to Jude’s collection makes the house feel cold. It makes the dogs bark. And it means to chase Jude from his home and make him run for his life…

Faded rock star Jude Coyne (I kept thinking Marilyn Manson throughout) is basically a grumpy middle-aged man rattling around in his large ranch house with his assistant Danny, his dogs and his latest girlfriend. He is jaded, bored and without focus. His former bandmates have either died or moved on, and he has a succession of relationships with younger goth-girl types, whom he calls after the state in which he picked them up. But when his assistant receives an email about a ghost for sale on the internet, Jude has to have it to add to his suitably clichéd rock star collection of ‘weird’ things. It arrives – in a heart-shaped box - and this is where the fun begins… this ghost is for real!

The first 120 or so pages are an exciting read. The plot is set, the characters introduced and the creepiness builds. I enjoyed Joe Hill’s sometimes humorous style and was getting into my stride when things fell apart a bit. Overlong character histories slowed the pace down considerably and detracted from the plot. I found myself getting bored but just as I was thinking about giving up, having lost interest in Jude, a plot twist sucked me back in and I quite happily read Heart-Shaped Box through to its conclusion.

Having read some of Joe Hill’s short stories I was looking forward to his debut novel. What soon became clear is that Heart-Shaped Box most definitely is a promising start to a writing career. It is not perfect, indeed the middle third is at times like wading through treacle, but the plot is strong and the characterisation is good. Jude is no more likeable at the end of the book than he is at the beginning, but at least he knows why he is like he is. An anti-hero of sorts, he runs away from the present only to find his past catching up with him. The ghost, on the other hand, is very, very creepy. He manipulates the minds of others and you certainly would not want Craddock McDermott haunting your dreams. Georgia’s progression to Marybeth is well done and I found her to be the most likeable character in the book.

Overall, Heart-Shaped Box is a book of thirds; a strong introduction, dragging middle and satisfying conclusion. Inevitably there are comparisons to the master of popular horror fiction - and the author’s father - Stephen King, but I think this is unfair despite both writing in the same genre. Joe Hill has a modern voice, one with room to develop. His writing style is a little inconsistent here but that, I think, is something that will come in time. Certainly I am looking forward to reading Horns, his second novel.

Rating 6/10

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

[Review] Winter Song by Colin Harvey

This is the story about Karl Allman surviving reentry on Isheimur after his ship is destroyed and how he meets the abandoned colony there, heal some broken bones, hikes across the wilderness, and other twists and turns. Read my review below.

Title: Winter Song

Author: Colin Harvey
Genre: Science Fiction
Cover art: Chris Moore
Publisher: Angry Robot 2009
Paperback: 432 pages
Order by: Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

Reviewer: Ove Jansson
Copy: Bought myself
[blurb]The planet had fallen off the map. When Karl Altman's spaceship crashed, he had only one question: "HOW THE HELL DO I GET OUT OF HERE?" Rock-hard sci-fi adventure. No-one here gets out alive. When his spaceship crashes on an unknown and forgotten planet, scientist Karl Altman discovers himself hunted by an ancient race. The descendants of a Viking race have reverted to a savage culture of sacrifice, pillage and violence. When Karl falls in love with an outcast girl, he has only one goal: escape. But escape is a distant dream on this nightmare planet.
FILE UNDER: Science Fiction [Starship Crash / Abandoned Colonists / Alien Slaughter / Hell Planet]
The book is dedicated to Kate his wife.

There is an 18 pages excerpt from Colin's next book Damage Time at the end of the book.

The Author
This is the first Novel I read by Colin Harvey. He lives in Bristol in the south-west of England with his wife Kate and spaniel Alice. His first fiction was published in 2001, since when he has written novels, short stories and reviews, edited anthologies and judged the Speculative Literature Foundation's annual Gulliver Travel Research Grant for five years. Colin's reviews appear regularly at Strange Horizons and he is the feature writer for speculative fiction at Suite101.

World Building
The universe Karl comes from is a technologically advanced one where singularity has happened, Aye as he calls them ponder their own unfathomably agendas, Traditionalists battle Formers or Ayes. That part of the story also makes me curious on that part of the world; I would like to read more about it.

The scene for this book is Isheimur a partially terraformed planet colonized by earth standard humans of Icelandic descent. The colonists still expect the Formers that started the terraforming to return one day. But they went broke during the wars that made them leave in the first place. Colin paints an intriguing culture surviving on the last remnants of technology the Formers left behind, socially degraded to Viking levels with clans and chieftains. For survival women have been degraded to birthing factories.

There is quite much world building in Winter Song but it never feels disturbing for the narrative. Colin weave it in in the conversations and story telling in a delightful way.

One protagonist is Karl Allman a starship pilot taking a shortcut on his way home when his sentient ship is ambushed by some unfriendly Traditionals. In the last moment when he ejects from the ship it downloads itself in the nearest storage it can find, Karl's brain. Protected by some really spiffy nano-gel he/the ship falls out of orbit and on to a mountainside down below.

Where he is found by clan leader Ragnar with broken bones and in a miserable way. Ragnars sees an opportunity to add another potentially strong working hand to the clan so he orders Bera to nurture him back to health.

The second protagonist is Bera Sigurdsdottir disgraced unmarried mother to a dead born child she never named the father for. She lives on sufferance with the clan since her parents died and there is a reason she keeps the father of her child secret.

Karl starts out as a raving lunatic, driven by urges from his nanotech he eats everything he can get his hands on including grass and dirt. In his scrambled head the ships sentient mind tries to make sense out of his new flesh and meat dwellings; in fact he is the first to emerge from craziness and to communicate with Bera. Ragnar names him Loki and when he comes too and tell them his name, Bera continues to call the ship for Loki as they continue to switch places.

Karl was on his way home to his pregnant poly-marriage wife who is expecting in a few weeks. So he is motivated to get home and leave. Bera helps him find information on the net that might help him but it will mean a long journey.

Their main antagonist is Ragnar the head of the clan, he doesn't want them to leave and when they do he he sets out to capture or kill them.

But that's not enough, the world hides dragons and trolls and other mythical beasts from Icelandic myths and they have to pass through their land to get to their objective. As they do Karl starts to suspect the truth ...

This is a very character driven story. Colin makes the Icelandic heritage and myths in the Isheimur culture come to life and intrigue. The invasive closeness of the clan during the long winters comes across as shackles about to imprison our protagonists.

Karl is not a superman, he comes across as an ordinary man of his time who only wants to survive and get back home.

I am a character guy and here I am happy. The characters are interesting and beautiful even if their culture is crude. Some are not so nice and might be driven by their errors but they all make sense and add their part to the story.

I am also weak for a little romance but don't expect head over heels true love from the first page. There are some issues...

My view
Winter Song is close to space opera with the crashed hero on a primitive planet where he finds love and saves the day theme, but it is so much more, real life like characters, intriguing cultural setting, aliens and some strong moral questions. This is just so much fun to read, you should too.

Rating 8/10
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