Sunday, June 28, 2009

Emperor's Mercy by Henry Zou

In the world of Warhammer 40,000 the big stars always seem to be the marines. The armor-encased Space Marines take up the largest number of books, fight on the front lines, and look the coolest. However, as part of the under-pinning of this shared universe, there is a very small but very vital section following the exploits of the Inquisitors of the Emperor. Given all the power they need to accomplish the Emperor's needs, these inquisitors work on any number of missions.

Originally written about only in Dan Abnett's two trilogies (collected in Eisenhorn and Ravenor: The Omnibus, the latter of which will be reviewed on this site in the not-too-distant future), and acting in a supporting role in a few other books, Henry Zou finally makes his mark on the inquisitors with the first book in his new Bastion Wars series.

Inquisitor Obadiah Roth has been called to the Medina Corridor to search for the Old Kings, a mysterious ancient artifact that most don't believe exists. At the same time, the Ironclads, a group of Chaos warriors, begin a system-wide assault on the Medina Corridor, ravaging the planets and their populations. It quickly becomes apparent that these two events are linked.

Roth, along with his side kick Silverstein, head to the Medina system and begin the search, fighting the forces of Chaos the whole way, at the same time dealing with a traitor in their own midst and an admiral who doesn't want the Inquisition's help. Moving from planet to planet, the mystery unfolds as the casualty list grows higher.

Zou packs in a huge amount of action, somehow fitting a very solid plot into the midst of it all. Roth has a very believable demeanour, as he struggles with the losses and the many difficult decisions he has to make. The minor characters also feel well fleshed out. The action never flags through the book.

I have read a number of the Space Marines novels in a number of series, and almost always loved them. However, I never had any interest in the Inquisition part of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Zou changed my mind. His fast-paced, high action novel left me with a high desire to read the sequel, as soon as it comes out. I see great things in the future for this new author.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Y: The Last Man, Volume 2: Cycles by Brian K. Vaughan

After far too long a break since the first excursion into Y: The Last Man (see my review of the first volume, Unmanned) I return with volume 2 of this series. I was extremely impressed with the first book, and I had really high hopes for the second one.

After the explosive (literally) conclusion to the first volume, Yorick, Ampersand, Dr. Mann, and Agent 355 head west. The trip is difficult, and in an attempt to save time, the group hops onto a train. Things become difficult, and our heroes land in a small town in Ohio, where things seem a bit too perfect.

Vaughan ratchets the action up further, as more and more pieces of this strange new world come to the fore. The art continues to be excellent as well, as the characters and the situation are depicted accurately, and not too far over the top. The conclusion leaves huge mysteries for the future, and I for one can't wait to get to the next volume. Expect more soon.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Across the Sky by Mark Rich

I had never heard of Mark Rich prior to this collection, but it was published by Fairwood Press, and based on their masterful collection of stories by Ken Scholes, Long Walks, Last Flights, and Other Strange Journeys (see my review), I had very high hopes for this book. While not as consistently great as the Scholes book, this one was still worth reading.

“Across the Sky”—The collection starts off with a nice tale of alien-human relations, and the beginnings of a brighter future. A fun tale, with more seeming to be under the surface than above it.

“The Real Thing”—A slightly gimmicky idea that leads to an otherwise entertaining tale. Rich creates interesting characters, even if the basis of the story seems a little too unlikely. In a land of distance and credit, can a man who wants “the real thing” find what he is looking for?

“Foggery”—Another tale of contact between humans and aliens, in this one Rich creates the character of Benny Fogg, reporter and human, who just wants to do something heroic so he can win the girl. One of the best tales of the bunch.

“They Arrived”—One of a few poems in the collection. A fun idea, well written.

“The Beauty Monster”—Another story that just seemed a little too gimmicky for me. The irony of the ending seemed a little overdone as well. Rich wrote fun characters and an okay story around an idea that I just don’t find interesting in the way it is presented.

“Smoking Gun”—Another of the excellent tales, this one is a murder mystery without a disappearing body, few clues, and a very well-thought out ending. Excellent.

“Fifty Cents”—Poems either work for me or they don’t. This one didn’t.

“Overdue”—This tale was a little too artsy for me, but it was still readable, without doubt. As people are checked out of a human library, their disappearance leads to repercussions on Earth.

“The Suckers”—A very entertaining tale in the “too much technology is bad” vein. In a world where so much is a part of a virtual reality existence, how does one find love and happiness, and how real can it be?

“Forever Down the Ringing Grooves”—This is another of Rich’s assortment of more literary, artsy tale. I found this one just a little too artsy and not enough solid story. This tale of communication tried too hard to be literary.

“Souvenir”—Another poem. Another that didn’t work for me.

“Impossible Alone”—When two old friends who have been out of touch find themselves together again, what secrets might come out? This story attempts to play with that, to mixed results.

“The Never-Winner”—A very interesting and intriguing tale of a future space race, and just who might end up winning. This one shows Rich at his best, and is worth every minute.

“Whenever They Go Out”—A fluff piece that was worth the time it took to read all two of its pages, but not much more.

“Spindle-Legs”—The best of the poems in this collection, Rich’s piece tells a tale that is both interesting and unpredictable.

“The Asking Place”—Another artsy story that I wanted to like, that I felt I could have liked, if it hadn’t sacrificed the story for literary merit. I wanted this one to be so much more than it was.

“To Hunt in Fields”—A solid tale from Rich, this extrapolation of the increase in marketing of medicinal devices, and how it can be taken to an extreme, was fun and thought provoking. Very good.

“Staying the Course”—The last poem. Again, didn’t do much for me.

And there I stopped. I don’t know why, but all my push to finish this book died. There is one more story, “The Apples of Venus,” which is getting great reviews, but for whatever reason it is that drives my subconscious, I lost my desire to read the very last story. Haven’t started it, just can’t make myself, not any time soon. I think I just hit my limit of more artsy SF, and needed to move onto new things. I’m sure my overload of “good literature” while working at my literature degree didn’t help.

I did still read most of it, all except for about 40 pages, so I still feel I can fairly judge the overall grade for the collection. This book would definitely be for the fan who is looking for more literary-aspiring science fiction, but I feel like the casual fan, looking for just a few stories to entertain and to sit down for an afternoon of enjoyment, would find about half of these stories not quite to their enjoyment. As I am working on this site to rate books of that sort, and get enough artsy literary works from my course load, I just don’t feel like this one lived up to the enjoyment I had hoped for it. If you are looking for a serious read, look no further. If you want something that you can sit down with and find fun, exciting, and engaging, you may want to pass. A couple stories were work to finish.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Luke Is Back From His Moving Trip, So What Is With the Delay?

Well. Soon after getting back, I managed to break my ankle, and have been a little out of it the past few days. I am back on track now (I think/hope), so, minus work taking reading time, look for the usual time for reviews again, at least two a week. Tomorrow evening will bring a review of the Mark Rich collection out from Fairwood Press, Across the Sky, and a few days after that look for Emperor's Mercy, the new book out later this summer by new author Henry Zou. Thanks for the patience; I have returned!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Web: GulliverZone by Stephen Baxter

Moving away from the media-tie ins for what may turn out to be a very short while, I turned to a book that I found at a very small bookshop at a bus station. Despite it being a novel for children or very young adults, The Web: GulliverZone's author, Stephen Baxter, is one well known for his adult science fiction novels and stories. Having read some of them, I was very curious to see how his foray into the much younger age groups progressed.

In 2027, the world is at peace. Conflict has stopped, and people live in a harmony we can only dream of. To celebrate this, every February 7 is World Peace Day, in which the entire globe rejoices their peace, and among other things, access to The Web, and all of the amusement parks contained within, is free. This isn't the Internet, but a virtual reality world in which people can immerse themselves in "real" situations, from the safety of their home.

Our main character, Metaphor, along with her brother, Byte, and school mate Wire (No, not real names, but aliases. In this world, they seem to hold almost as much importance, however) travel into The Web on World Peace Day, with the sole focus of getting to the newest theme park, GulliverZone. Once they arrive there, they enter the world of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, and meet the Lilliputians, tiny people who fit in the palm of your hand. Things seem to be going great, until Metaphor learns that these tiny people may be more than just data, and that far more may be going on behind the scenes. World Peace Day hasn't yet reached the digital world.

While obviously very light fare, this book still managed to be fun and entertaining. The content was obviously geared towards children, but there was a lot of extra stuff in there that only adults would pick up on, such as names (the President of the United States was named Samuel Jackson. Coincidence? I think not). The foreshadowing was also nicely done, as was the extensive use of Swift's famous novel. All around, Baxter did an impressive job. For the average adult, this won't be your favorite book, but it was entertaining enough while on the bus ride. While the first part of a series, this book has a full end, and can be read as a stand alone.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Resistance: The Gathering Storm by William C. Dietz

After a very busy time packing for a move, a very long bus ride was uncomfortable, but a good time to get some reading done and get back on track with this site. The third of three back-to-back media tie-ins, Resistance: The Gathering Storm by William C. Dietz is based on a video game for the Playstation 3, Resistance: Fall of Man. I don't own a Playstation 3, nor have I ever played the game, or even read a novelization of a video game before, so this was an all around new experience.

In Resistance: The Gathering Storm we follow the character of Nathan Hale, a soldier in the United States Army in an alternate 1951. He is a member of an elite group of soldiers known as Sentinels, who were tested on to become stronger, faster, and far more durable, among much else. The United States is fighting an invading alien threat, known as the Chimera, who use a virus to take over the populace, and transform them into more Chimeran troops. The world has begun to fall to these invaders, and the USA is one of the last countries standing, but it is falling before the onslaught as well, with northern states controlled by the aliens.

Nathan Hale is a veteran of the conflict with these invaders, and as such plays an active role in the fight against them. He leads multiple missions, while struggling with the loss of his family, and a government that isn't nearly as pristine as the cover it uses. The conflict is bloody, and many characters don't make it to the end of the book, which has twists galore.

This novel achieves multiple things. First, it creates a believable alternate world, one with a believable environment. Second, it is host to characters that are very intriguing and easy to relate to. Third, it tells a story that you just can't put down. I could not have asked for much more from a novel that I was reading over the long days of a Greyhound ride. This book was worth every penny paid, and more than worth the time. An excellent alternate history, military SF novel.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

About This Long Delay...

I'm finishing up the move, and will be unable to get enough computer access to put up any new reviews for the next couple of days, on top of being extremely busy. But after a long bus ride for the next couple days, look for reviews to return, along with some other exciting stuff. Keep peeled, the best is yet to come!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red by Ridley Pearson

The second in a string of media tie-ins for Luke Reviews, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red acts as a prequel to the Stephen King mini-series Rose Red, eventually becoming a TV mini-series in its own right.  After publication the book was revealed to have been written by Ridley Pearson, famed thriller author.  Having never read a novel by Pearson before, I had no idea what to expect in terms of quality or how well I'd like him, but based on his popularity, and the connection to a Stephen King work, I decided to give it a try.

In the early 1900s, Ellen becomes engaged to John Rimbauer, oil tycoon, and her life as Mrs. Rimbauer.  However, John turns out to be a very dominating, domineering husband, who uses his wife for whatever ends he wants, and cares for her no more than for her ability to provide him with a male heir.    As they travel on a year long honeymoon of world wide proportions, Ellen becomes deathly ill from a disease John picked up during one of his many nightly visits with the native women.  However, she is nursed by guide, nursemaid, and eventually sister-like friend, Sukeena.  Sukeena helps Ellen through her pregnancy with her first child, Adam, and continues on work with Ellen when the Rimbauers return to their palatial mansion, soon to be known as Rose Red.

Throughout the building of Rose Red, many strange and violent occurrences fraught the building process, including murders, grave diggings, and disappearances, lending Rose Red a haunted atmosphere that it more than lives up to upon completion.  Throughout the diary, we are treated to all of the events as they affect Ellen, working the epistolary format to its best use.

While the book reads like the prequel to a movie at times, and the ending is very much open ended enough to lead right into the paranormal mysteries of Rose Red, it was still fun to read.  While looking forward to watching the mini-series on DVD, I hope that the book really adds to it.  For those not interested in the mini-series, this might be a fun, short diversion, but nothing substantial or stunning.


Monday, June 8, 2009

False Gods by Graham McNeill

Dan Abnett's Horus Rising (review) began the saga of the fall of Horus, the greatest hero of the Imperium, in The Horus Heresy, the prequel series to Black Library's famous shared universe saga Warhammer 40,000, based on the Games Workshop game of the same name.  Abnett's novel was my introduction to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and also my favorite entry into the world thus far.  It was with great excitement, and very high hopes, that I began False Gods, the second installment of The Horus Heresy.

After the events of Horus Rising, the Sons of Horus (formerly the Luna Wolves) head to Davin, where a traitor to the Empire of Mankind has set up shop.  Flowing along with the dark, almost demonic hints of magic in the undertone from the first novel, there are whispers of darker possibilities, and the rest of the novel reflects that, giving a far darker, bloodier, more violent tale.  We still follow Loken, as well as other members of his Legion, as they fight to bring together all mankind, and destroy those that don't want to take part.  After Horus is mortally wounded, the Legion starts to take sides, those that want to uphold the ideas of the Great Crusade being undertaken, and those that will do anything to save their dying Warmaster, all while a religious cult that worships the Emperor is on the rise.

This huge level of conflict, with dozens of key characters, would be lost and fumbled in the hands of a lesser author, but McNeill matches and surpasses Abnett's prior entry, flinging caution to the wind, and leaving characters that are long-standing beaten, broken, dead, or acting like we never thought they would, yet these drastic changes of life and attitude are all done fully and well, with enough time for change and plenty of reason to make it all feel very organic, and completely realistic.  As the battle lines are drawn, their are people you care about on both sides, and confusion in the air about the level of power this mysterious Emperor holds, and the many chilling moments are more than enough to make you question what you presumed about all of the characters.

This novel was more action-packed, more suspenseful, more affecting, more intriguing, and more exciting than any other Warhammer 40,000 novel I have read yet.  McNeill does a masterful job with these characters and situations, and leaves on an ending that begs for you to move straight to the sequel.  This book, from what I have read so far, sets the bar for all over Warhammer 40,000 novels.  It will be a tough one to top.  I can't wait for the next Horus Heresy book, or to read the other books out by Graham McNeill.  I'm a fan.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Moxyland Free Sample by Lauren Beukes

Having earlier released a free sample of Kaaron Warren's Slights, Angry Robot Books now has released a sample of their other July release, Lauren Beukes' Moxyland.  Follow the link for the mulitple download formats Angry Robot has available.

Based on the short bit available to us, I am a bit torn.  The book works to introduce new vocabulary seamlessly, like major works such as William Gibson's Neuromancer or Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, but all I really felt was confused at first.  There is so much being thrown at you in the first couple of pages that many bits didn't make sense, or felt entirely unnecessary.  At the same time, however, I could feel that there was a lot going on with the story, and despite the confusion, it really drew me in, leaving me to want to figure out this place of odd slang and odder art.  Despite what I felt were weaknesses, I still look forward to this one, and I hope that it all comes together the farther along you read.  I must admit, from what I read, I have faith that Beukes could be the author to do just that.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Brief Note For the Next Week Or So

I'm currently out of town, helping my girlfriend move.  What does this mean?  For Luke, plenty of labor and moving of boxes.  For the reader?  Luke may be slightly slower on putting up posts, as he is very busy with a lot of other things at the moment, has very little time to read, and his access to the internet is uncommon at best.  So, please be patient for the next couple of days, as I am working with that crazy little thing known as life.  I really appreciate it.   

And I'm not stopping!  Since I've been gone, I have still gotten up reviews of 30 Days of Night and Mystery of the Maya, as well as an interview with Kaaron Warren.  I hope you enjoy them, and don't go away!  There are a number of exciting things on the horizon!  Keep your eyes peeled for the review of False Gods by Graham McNeill in the next day or two!

Mystery of the Maya by R. A. Montgomery

Growing up, I read a number of books.  While the volume was great, and memory of many of them has long since flown from my mind, the joy of Choose Your Own Adventure books and the fun afternoons they gave me hasn't dissipated.  Having grown up since then, all of the many interactive books they published have since disappeared from my shelves, until very recently.  It was with a bit of excitement that I heard that there was a re-release of some of the original books, yet I didn't pursue them.  However, when I was recently at a small bookstore while on vacation, I found a couple and all of the old excitement returned.  I had to pick up a couple.  The first of these that were read was Mystery of the Maya by R. A. Montgomery.

In this Choose Your Own Adventure, your friend Tom has disappeared after a recent trip to Mexico, studying the mystery of the disappearance of the Maya.  Worried, you travel down to Mexico to find Tom, with the help of his guide, Manuel.  As the choices add up, you can meet Dr. Lopez, who will offer you a very special potion, or you might even encounter the UFOs that our 2012-engrossed world is expecting.  Adventure, magic, conspiracy theories, and violence infuse the time-traveling, revolution starting tale.

While this may not be a massively engrossing tale, and it certainly will only lead to a couple hours of entertainment, it is a solid nostalgia trip, ad a lot of fun.  I read through them with my girlfriend, deciding together on choices and using them as a type of game.  This is a fun book for trips, and perfect for young adults.  Repetitive and full of holes, so don't seek great fiction, but some non-thinking fun.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Interview with Kaaron Warren

I recently read the preview of Kaaron Warren's new novel, Slights, and loved it (my "review" of it can be found here).  With the release of her new novel flying towards us, I wanted to ask Kaaron a few questions, and she was more than gracious in answering.

Kaaron, thank you for the interview!  

No worries! Thanks for asking me. 

You have a new novel, Slights, coming out from Angry Robot Books!  Congratulations!  Can you tell us a little bit about the book? 

Slights is about a woman who, at 18, accidentally kills her mother in a car accident. Stephanie (Steve) experiences near death as a result of her injuries, but she sees no shining light, hears no loving voices. Instead, she finds herself in a cold dark room, surrounded by people she barely knows. The only thing she recognises in them is anger; she sees that they are anxious for her to die so they can devour her. She visits this room a number of times throughout the novel as she attempts suicide periodically. She is unpopular, disliked, unable to fit in to society. She gradually recognises the people in the room; each and every one is a person she slighted in some way. Steve becomes obsessed with death. Her brother, a successful politician, has no time for her, and her police officer father died years earlier, a hero. She is obsessed with her own death because in the afterlife, at least, she is the centre of attention. And she becomes obsessed with the deaths of others. She digs up her backyard with the intention of planting night-blooming jasmine, a comfort flower. Instead, she finds odd things; a cracked glass cufflink, an old belt, a dented lunchbox, a shoe heel, many more odd, small items. These lead her to understand more about her past, and about why she is driven to do the things she does. 

I read the short preview of your new novel and found it already, in the first ten pages, carrying a sense of mysterious dread, in part built up by what I called your "minimalistic" style.  Do you agree with that explanation of your style?  What do you feel influenced your writing in general, and specifically this new novel, in regards to both style and substance? 

I do tend to use less descriptive words rather than more. This is partly inspired by my level of boredom. If I’m bored writing it, I figure the reader will be doubly bored reading it, so I go in a different direction. I try to find words which set the scene without spending too much time.

I also like the challenge of creating a mood with minimal words. I was obsessed with writing micro shorts for a while. Fitting a story into 50 words. I love playing with a sentence and saying it as succinctly as possible. This is one which won a competition a few years ago:

The night before my twenty-first birthday 

At five, I mastered the language of the Heavens.

At fourteen, I was taken as a barren bride; only the chosen have children.

My husband had blood of ice.

Today I learnt that all lives must end at twenty-one.

Hold me my young lover.

I hear alien soldiers at the door. 


I remember in Year 5 or so, learning that you could use “Suddenly” instead of “All of a sudden.” Seriously, it was a revelation to me. Maybe that’s the kind of writing I do. The ‘suddenly’ school of writing! 

There are many influences on the way I write.

Daphne du Maurier, Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Carver, Martin Amis, William Vollman, Harlan Ellison, Stephen King. All for different reasons of style and substance and because they have their own way of telling a story.  

I also use badly written stuff as inspiration. I notice words misused, or long dull descriptive paragraphs and I think, “Avoid that.” 

With Slights, both the style and substance were influenced mostly by the main character, Steve. The way I wanted tell her story, in a simple, conversational way, meant there wasn’t much room for extra words. I think a lot about how people’s lives are ordinary to them as they are living them, no matter how extraordinary they appear from the outside. I wanted to capture the sense that Steve feels her life is not all that unusual. That everyone lives the way she lives.  

On your blog, you just recently gave a recipe for cheese biscuits (I can't wait to try some!), and I must say, that just doesn't seem like the teller of horrific tales I had envisioned.  So, which are you more: (to use your phrases) the "kindly domestic person" or "the nasty horror writer"?  How do you balance the two?  

I have a theory that horror writers, butchers and plumbers are always nice people. They work with dead bodies, filth and waste and yet they are always kindly!  

I am a sum of the two things. I always say that writing horror releases my dark side. I believe everybody has a dark side; I can utilize it in my fiction, meaning I can maintain a positive outlook in my real life. Balancing the two isn’t really difficult, because the lines are clear. It’s not that they are completely cut off from one another; often I’ll be scribbling ideas for the next story while stirring the bolognaise sauce. Or ideas for stories will come to me while I’m reading a kids book to the children. I thought of my story “The Smell of Mice” while reading a version of Snow White to the kids. In it, the smoke from the witches’ fire rises purple. The image gave me a chill, and I built “The Smell of Mice” around that image and that feeling. 

I read somewhere in another interview that you are squeamish.  At first, that seems odd, but when we look at other big name horror writers, they seem to be squeamish as well, and/or hold a large number of fears (Look at Stephen King, that man seems to be afraid of everything!).  Do you think that this is in some way critical to writing great horror fiction?  

It certainly is important for me. I need to be moved by something , have feelings for it. I often write stories inspired by the things I’ve seen and heard which offend me or upset me. In “Ghost Jail”, one of my Fiji-inspired stories, I write about the beggars here who walk around with laminated letters proving they have lost their house or their parents. Proving they need money. It upsets me at two levels; the poverty of the beggar, and also the manipulative nature of the begging. I think you need to have passion in your writing or you’re just going through the motions. As I said above, if I’m bored, then the reader will be. I need to be feeling the story as I’m writing it.   

A lot of people think that, as a horror writer, I should be tough. And I admit; not a lot scares me when it comes to fiction or to movies. The Ring did it for me, as did The Shining. The computer game Shrelock Holmes, the Awakened, totally freaked me out! I had to stop playing it with my kids and it was really scary. I loved it.

I’m no fan of slash horror and don’t even like medical drama. 

How do you feel about the horror genre in general?  Are you a fan of horror fiction, or more so of non-horror fiction?  What do you think the strengths of the genre are today?  

I read very broadly. I like stories which surprise and take chances, which is why I like the authors I’ve listed

I’ve just finished reading “Walk to the End of the World” and “Motherlines” by Suzy McKee Charnas. Now I have to wait for the next two in the series to be delivered. The books are entrancing, involving, disturbing and thought-provoking. She writes so much from within the world we see it as insiders, rather than as observers.  

There is a lot of good stuff about horror fiction. Readers are more critical, more discerning, and they want more from their horror fiction. Horror is so honest in what it says and does. It doesn’t spare the feelings of the reader and I think that’s a good thing.  

And finally, what can we expect in the future from Kaaron Warren? 

There are my next two novels from Angry Robot. “Mistification” is the story of a man who learns all he knows from the stories he hears, and he hears some pretty nasty stories. “Walking the Tree” is about a large island almost filled by an ancient tree. About the communities around and inside the tree, and the teachers who seek lovers as they walk the Tree. 

I have a story upcoming in Datlow and Mamatas’ “Haunted Legends” anthology. This story is another Fiji-inspired story. I’ve got another called “The Edge of a Thing”, about ghostly chiefs, in a British Fantasy Society anthology. 

There’s also my Ishtar story, which will be published with stories by Cat Sparks and Deborah Biancotti. We’re loving this project. I’m writing Ishtar in the past, Deborah is writing her in the present, and Cat is writing her in the future. Gilgamesh Press is publishing this one.  

Thanks again, Kaaron.  I look forward to more of your work in the future! 

Thanks, Luke! I hope you like the rest of “Slights” as much as you did the sample.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

30 Days of Night by Steve Niles

When it comes to vampires, there is a whole list of who has written about them, dating back hundreds of years. If we are to travel through the history of the vampire in the English speaking world, we will still hit on names from John Polidori, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Stephen King, and even the very recent Stephenie Meyer, with works like “The Vampyre” (see my review), Dracula, Interview With the Vampire, ‘Salem’s Lot, and the Twilight series. Among these people also belongs the great Steve Niles, creator and writer of 30 Days of Night, as well as many sequels. I was curious about all the hype this series was receiving, and picked up the first book.

In the town of Barrow, Alaska, the sun sets for 30 days straight, due to the extreme northern location of the town (Barrow happens to be farther north than any other town in America). The unexpected consequence: Barrow becomes a safe spot for vampires. This violent vampire classic deals with the resulting confrontation between the vampires and Barrow’s sheriff.

The pace of this book is as fast as they come. This had one disappointing side effect, in that I felt like there wasn’t a lot of meat to this. It took about an hour to read, just blew by, and I sat there thinking that for two hours entertainment, I could pay the same price and go to a movie. Besides the very small amount of content, this book was entertaining. I will probably be picking up the second book. Don’t expect a great story, solid characters, or a long tale, but look for fun and a quick horror fix.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Interview with Ken Scholes

Those of you who read my review of Ken Scholes' powerful collection Long Walks, Last Flights & Other Journeys know just how highly I thought of it. Therefore, you can easily understand why I was more than just a little excited about getting the opportunity to ask Ken some questions.

Ken, thank you for the interview!

First off, I want to congratulate you on an incredible collection, Long Walks, Last Flights & Other Strange Journeys. You are a master of the short form. Do you have any more short stories coming out soon? Plans for any future collections?

Thank you, Luke. I'm so glad you enjoy my short fiction. It's a form I love to write in and it's where I've practiced my skills the most over the years. There are still stories in my inventory that will appear here and there but lately all of my writing effort has been going into The Psalms of Isaak, my five volume series with Tor. Still, in the gaps between books I hope to generate more short stories.

And yes, there are plans for a second collection possibly as soon as 2010. I'm putting together the table of contents now and it will include some of the pieces that have come out since then, including "A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon" from and "Grail-Diving in Shangrilla with the World's Last Mime" from Subterranean Online along with other stories that have shown up over the last year or so and a few earlier pieces that didn't make it into the first collection.

The breadth of your topics is vast, to say the least, covering historical figures such as Hitler, Hodgson, and Lewis, venues such as Hell, nursing homes, and Japan, and managing to work in folktales and cultural references. How much research do you have to do for most of your works?

The research largely depends on the topic of the story. For the stories with roots in history, literature or mythology, I do end up spending some time becoming familiar. And sometimes I do the research as I'm actually writing. When Sean Wallace asked for a Japanese fantasy, I spent about four evenings researching and writing "Hibakusha Dreaming in the Shadowy Land of Death." It probably went the fastest of my research-heavy tales. I needed to spend time looking at Japanese folklore, conditions in post-war Tokyo and a bit about Ed Deming but I was able to do it on the fly. With "Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk" I saturated myself with A.A. Milne for a few weeks before attempting the story. In "The Man With Great Despair Behind His Eyes" I spent a good deal of time both in the Lewis and Clark journals, biographies of Lewis and what little we know of the D.B. Cooper case. With "Into the Blank Where Life is Hurled," I skimmed several Houdini biographies along with several of Hodgson's novels.

I enjoy research though I don't write as many stories that require it these days. Still, I'll hope to go back and tackle more once I'm more established as a writer with my series.

Your have a new novel out from Tor entitled Lamentation. Can you tell us a little bit about it? How about the series, Psalms of Isaak, in general?

Happy to talk about it. Lamentation is based on the short story "Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise," a story that did pretty well in the world when it came out in the August 2006 issue of Realms of Fantasy. It was my first pro-level publication after winning Writers of the Future and after I saw the art they commissioned Allen Douglas to create for it, I realized there was much more to Isaak and Rudolfo's story than meets the eye. I conceived of four interconnected short stories that would tell the larger story of who destroyed Windwir and why. When the second story was rejected for not standing alone quite as well as it could have, I was encouraged by my friends, family and even the editor at Realms of Fantasy to finally go and write a novel. Lamentation uses the first and second short stories as bookends and fills in the gap between. It follows the lives of four people as they witness the destruction of Windwir and are changed by it. The five volume series continues that exploration with action, intrigue, war, and plots within plots as the characters unravel the mystery and are transformed by the circumstances. The first book has received a good deal of critical acclaim and generated a lot of nice fan mail. Canticle, the second volume, is due out in October. I'm working on the third volume, Antiphon, and am nearly finished.

Finally, what can we expect in the future from Ken Scholes?

Well, I reckon more of the same. I'll always come back to short fiction because I enjoy it so much. And I'm learning to love the novel form, now, too. So certainly more of those. But I've also always had my eye on other forms of storytelling because so many of those forms influenced me as a writer. I'd like to dabble more in screenwriting at some point -- I have a collaboration there that is slowly coming together around one of my short stories. And comic books are high on my list as well. Of course, until I'm able to go full time and pour more energy into the writing, I'm pretty limited. I'm hoping the work I'm doing with The Psalms of Isaak will create a foundation that will let me diversify a bit and explore other forms of storytelling while at the same time staying firmly rooted in novels.