Sunday, January 31, 2010

Flight by Sherman Alexie

Part of starting up Luke Reviews was to read books that aren’t quite in my usual repertoire. This has been something that has greatly expanded my reading enjoyment. Books like Killer Summer, Bad Things Happen, The Hidden Man, and a number of others fall into a realm where I don’t read much, and directly contributed to other books I picked up afterwards, like The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Keeping that in mind, here is another book that is a little off the radar. It has a fantastical plot element, to be sure, although that isn’t the point of the plot.

Zits isn’t happy. After his father abandoned him and his mother died, he has gone from foster home to foster home, never settling down, never living a good life. After repeatedly going to jail, he finally bumps into Justice, another inmate and the first person Zits felt really cared for him since the death of his mom. However, Justice is brainwashing Zits, culminating in the unthinkable: Zits walks into a bank and guns down every person inside. But as he is shot in the head by guards, he falls back in time, and begins an odyssey that explores hate, violence, forgiveness, and love.

Sherman Alexie is right up there with Leslie Marmon Silko and James Welch among Native American writers. Having read books from each of the others, Alexie brings the tale of race and difference and wanting to belong without having to be what you aren’t to a far more human and wonderful level. His character sees the conflict from both Native American and white perspectives, and is far from the gross stereotypes of either violent warmonger of noble savage that seems so common in modern fiction.

The story is very episodic, yet each episode flows into the other in a very organic way, making complete sense and fitting together like pieces of a puzzle. As each trip in the past gives Zits a more complex picture of the world, he shows a breadth of change that is quite vast, yet never feels unnatural. In a very short novel, Alexie makes his character accessible and human, and doesn’t have to sacrifice the story to do so.

This was a definite step outside the box for Luke Reviews, but strongly recommended. It is a slightly different offering, yet it still does contain the action and adventure that you see in most Luke Reviews titles. But like the best of those reviewed here, it surpasses genre, and is a good story.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Next Ten

I used to run a series of posts entitled “A Hint of What’s to Come.” It just gave a look at the upcoming books. Despite being a nice look ahead, I went a little overboard, made huge lists that were impossible to keep my interests stuck to, and with the last one didn’t even come close to keeping it up. So, with a new idea comes a new title. “The Next Ten” will give you glimpses into what ten books I’m looking at reading next. It isn’t to say that there won’t be a few things in between these ten books, because small things come up, but Luke Reviews promises to get to these books in the very near future, only interrupting the order long enough to review an exciting book that just couldn’t wait, before resuming the flow. Here are Luke Reviews’ Next Ten (Title by Author (date of publication of edition read/publisher of edition read):

Flight by Sherman Alexie (2007/Black Cat)

Sons of Dorn by Chris Roberson (2010/Black Library)

The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (2002/Broadview Press)

Rynn’s World by Steve Parker (2010/Black Library)

Explorer X – Alpha by L. M. Preston (2010/Phenomenal One Press)

Snow Angels by James Thompson (2010/Putnam)

Molly Fyde and the Land of Light by Hugh Howey (2010/Broad Reach Publishing)

Gran’s Secret by Trevis Powell (2010/BlackWyrm)

Death & Dishonour edited by Alex Davis, Nick Kyme, and Lindsey Priestley (2010/Black Library)

Call to Arms by Mitchel Scanlon (2010/Black Library)

These are the Next Ten at Luke Reviews, but as said above, smaller projects will get slipped in between. Look for reviews of “Raven’s Flight,” the new Black Library audio drama by Gav Thorpe, as well as some classic Marvel cosmic action!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Avengers: Kree/Skrull War by Roy Thomas

I spent quite a bit of time trying to get a real grasp of the cosmic milieu of the Marvel Universe, and hit on the major texts of the ‘90s (minus Operation: Galactic Storm, which is a two-volume tale to keep your eyes out for a review of on here). However, a lot of important events that set the foundation of the cosmic universe happened in the ‘70s, and I wanted to take a look at them as well. The two classic stories I wanted to make sure and not miss were the Kree/Skrull War storyline that ran through Avengers, and the Dark Phoenix Saga storyline that ran through X-Men. Combined, the two stories address all three of the major space empires in the universe, and looked like solid foundational reads, beyond being classics of the genre. The first one I took a look at was the Kree/Skrull storyline, collected in Avengers: Kree/Skrull War.

Beginning with a exiled Kree warrior on the run on Earth, snowballing into Kree attempt at annihilating humanity and a Skrull attempt at kidnapping Kree, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” the Avengers, team together to fight political maneuvers to trap them in a conspiracy theory plot, save the Kree-spawned race of Inhumans, keep the exiled Kree Captain Marvel safe from the government and the Skrulls, and stop a war between the Kree and Skrull Empires, the two greatest space faring peoples in the Universe.

While this book does occasionally show its age, mainly with its art style and the exclamations (e.g. “Faaaaan-tastic!”), the story itself doesn’t feel out of place with today’s comics at all. While it has far more “reading” than action-oriented art that is seen today, it helped give the story a much broader sense of appeal. It did occasionally slow things down, but when things hit their head, the pace is breathtaking. Definitely a book that starts slow as it builds up to its real plot, but explodes when things start to get rolling.

Characterization of some of the characters isn’t fully-fleshed, due to this being a small segment of a very long and storied comic narrative, but it is very easy to quickly pick up who’s who, and where any tensions lie. The newer characters get a more exacting characterization, and when you don’t find out much, you can tell that it is on purpose, to retain the mystery.

Avengers: Kree/Skrull War is a classic. For today’s comic reader, you might find it a tad dated in parts, and a little slow going occasionally. The denouement is more than worth working through the slow beginning, though, and I encourage you to keep at it. A great starting point for those interested in the history of the cosmic realm explored in Annihilation, Annihilation: Conquest, War of Kings, and the ongoing Realm of Kings.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Top 15: An Update

After announcing the Top 15 not too long ago, along with author comments, I thought I was done with the list, but I just received an email from Harry Dolan, author of Bad Things Happen, with his comments on his first novel being listed in the Luke Reviews Top 15 of 2009.

From Harry Dolan: I'm grateful to see that you've chosen Bad Things Happen as one of your Top 15. I feel very fortunate that readers and critics have responded to the book as strongly as they have. I'm working on a follow-up now, which will once again feature David Loogan and Elizabeth Waishkey. The tentative title is Very Bad Men. It should be out in early 2011.

I hope you guys enjoyed hearing from the authors, and I can’t wait to see what 2010 brings!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ill Met in the Arena by Dave Duncan

Apparently Dave Duncan is quite the fantasy author. He has written a ton of books, and received quite a lot of acclaim. So how is it that I never heard of this fellow until I picked up Ill Met in the Arena, his fortieth book? And I thought I knew my way around the SF/F section… Anyways, This is a bit of an anti-review.

Ill Met in the Arena follows an aged arena competitor who has a secret past. He battles and bests a noble and this brings him to the attention of a lot of people. In a world where women rule and everyone has some sort of psychic ability, this tale of political intrigue and action weaves in one nameless man’s tale that is at the root of the society.

I didn’t finish Ill Met in the Arena. That said, it isn’t even remotely the novel’s fault. The new semester is just starting up, I moved back in after being gone for a few weeks on vacation, and just to top it all off, I got bit by a dog. Life came hard and fast for a bit, and kept me away from the book too long. With classes about to begin, and new books on the horizon, I didn’t want to have to restart everything, so I’m setting the book aside for a little bit. I will be back, and will tell you all about the experience. For now, Ill Met in the Arena will receive no numerical rating.

That said, from the first half of the book (which I did finish), this is one very much worth picking up. It is brilliantly written, with an intriguing society (even if, in its attempt to reverse gender role stereotypes, it manages to reinforce them in other cases) and characters that are beyond humanlike. The depth of characterization is truly masterful. This is a book I highly recommend based on what I have read, and I will certainly be keeping an eye out for Dave Duncan in the future.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cadian Blood by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Warhammer 40,000 is a diverse setting. Beyond the obvious infinite possibilities of an Empire of millions of worlds, the built-in settings for series of books give a number of options. Like the space marines? Then there are series galore: Ultramarines, Blood Angels, Grey Knights, Soul Drinkers, Dawn of War (aka Blood Ravens), Space Wolf, Salamanders, Imperial Fist, etc. If that isn’t your cup of tea, you can focus on the Inquisition, as they fight heresy. Series include the Eisenhorn trilogy, the Ravenor trilogy, the Inquisition War trilogy, and the new Bastion Wars series. Luke Reviews has delved into both of those segments, but never before have I looked at the Imperial Guard novels, a series of stand-alone books that follow the men who aren’t enhanced war machines or religious fanatics. So it was about time to give the Imperial Guard a look.

On the planet Kathur, Chaos has overrun the populace, killing many and leaving the rest viciously ill. Those who die wracked with this disease don’t stay dead; they rise up again, and conquer the world in the name of Chaos. Reclaiming the planet seems like it should be a minor ordeal of blasting the planet from space, but things get complicated. Kathur is named after Saint Kathur, hero of the Great Crusade, and full of relics of his life. The Empire refuses to let these holy sites be destroyed, and instead send in a series of guardsmen to recover Kathur. Among them are the Cadian 88th Mechanized Infantry, in part led by Captain Thade. They must survive the onslaught of plague-ridden zombies if they hope to return home.

This book has been getting seemingly nothing but good reviews, so I was very excited to give it a look. This of course made me even more baffled than normal when the beginning just fell flat, due to excessive amounts of telling and not showing (“Don’t tell the reader, show them”). It was dry and not at all engaging for the first 20 or so pages. A recap of the history of the planet, and the onset of the Plague of Unbelief.

And then Cadian Blood took off. Once the story set into place, it was brilliant. Dembski-Bowden hits every part right, creating very memorable characters in Thade and his lieutenants, creating a flow of action that never let up, and making the story incredibly easy to find yourself drawn into. Almost unparalleled in Warhammer 40,000 fiction, Dembski-Bowden’s first novel brings the realities of war in this setting to life, and he doesn’t hold back.

One minor quibble that I had was his choice of announcing that certain characters would die before they actually did in the story, as well as a slight lull about two-thirds of the way through, but otherwise Cadian Blood was a brilliant work. I am very much excited about Dembski-Bowden’s next novel, Soul Hunter.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hard Contact by Karen Traviss

Quite a while ago, I read The Star Wars Trilogy omnibus. Afterwards, I wanted to read more books in the Star Wars universe, and then it never really happened. I picked up a couple of books, but just never got to them, but when Christmas gift cards rolled in, I picked up a copy of Hard Contact, the first volume in the Star Wars: Republic Commando series, by Karen Traviss. I had heard quite a bit of good about her work on this series, and wanted to give it a look.

Republic commandos are the elite troops of the Grand Army. They work in small groups to achieve goals that no one else can. They grow up and train with the other four members of their unit their entire lives. However, when four commandos each lose the rest of their unit, they are put together into Omega Squad. The four soldiers are sent to Qiilura, where the Separatists have a nanovirus facility working on creating a virus that will kill all clones it contacts. When the mission set-up falls apart in the process, the plan changes, and the four soldiers must struggle to complete their mission and protect the entire army of the Republic.

One of the most entertaining parts of Hard Contact is that, despite being emblazoned with Star Wars all over the cover, it doesn’t feel like a Star Wars book. I always had minor problems with jedi, who could do anything with the force, because they seemed too filled with deus ex machina potential. However, Hard Contact focuses on the men who are on the front lines, the “normal” people who aren’t imbued with supernatural powers. Traviss does an excellent job making each clone humanized, and she addresses the hard question of morality when it comes to cloning an army of cannon fodder. Traviss touches on some deep topics, and makes this far more than a video game tie-in, but instead a deeply thought out saga of four very fallible men.

That does mean that occasionally the story’s speed seems to slow a bit, and a couple of times I felt that it lagged more than I would like. This was always made up for with strong plot and characterization.

Hard Contact is a solid first novel in the series, and I will be looking for the next book, maybe not immediately, but one day.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Beware by Richard Laymon

When you take a look around the Horror section of my personal library, only Stephen King and maybe Dean Koontz are represented with more volumes than Richard Laymon. When it comes to horror, it is hard to top Laymon in many categories. He is brilliant at getting you to deeply care about characters very quickly, his writing style is both fast paced and descriptive, and he doesn’t waste words. His books aren’t necessarily the biggest of deep-thinkers, but for sheer fun, they are hard to beat in genre, if you are willing to enter a world of horror-movie levels of violence and gore. So it was with a lot of excitement and hope that I picked up Beware.

A small town market is terrorized by an invisible entity that first vandalizes, then murders. However, this thing turns out to be far more than an unfriendly ghost, and as ties to a witch-cult are revealed, its up to a reporter, a crime author, and a kidnapper to save the day.

Beware continues the Laymon trademark of quickly getting involved with characters, as well as over-the-top violence. The scene is quickly set, and you jump right into the story. However, things go downhill a bit from there. The invisible man (as it is revealed to be very quickly) and the witch cult both felt like tacked on supernatural effects to make it fit more into this vein, but the story read very much like a straight crime-thriller. There is nothing at all wrong with a good crime novel, but the tacked on supernatural elements made the two genres jar against each other, rather than coalesce.

The writing was solidly done, but the story just paled in comparison to other Laymon works, which show a much smoother plot. This one just felt a little cobbled together and rushed. The ending also left me a bit displeased. Beware isn’t a bad novel. It just isn’t a great one like I have come to expect from the work of the late Laymon. I would suggest this one more to people who are already big Laymon fans, and who can pick out the characteristically Laymon bits and enjoy those, but I would point people new to Laymon to other books as a better first taste of the author. For Laymon-ites only.


Friday, January 15, 2010

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Luke Reviews began with Science Fiction, which easily shifts into including Fantasy and Horror. I also had a love for thrillers, and wanted to add them in, making the site very much a reading-for-pleasure ordeal. However, it was very infrequently, sadly, that I added mysteries to the site and my reading list. However, I got into a mystery mood, and wanted a good one, and had always hoped to read a book by the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie. As all points weaved together, and a Christmas gift card arrived to facilitate the measure, I went out and picked up Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Styles Court is home to the wealthy Cavendish family. It is a peaceful, serene location, even during war-time, and is the perfect place for Hastings to recover after receiving a wound at war. However, the house is rocked when Mrs. Inglethorp, the step-mother of the current generation of Cavendishes, is murdered. Luckily, Hastings’ good friend, Hercule Poirot, lives in town, and he sets about to solve the mystery.

At this point, it is hard to begin anywhere other than stating that The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the best mystery I have ever read. For sheer enjoyment, it would seem to be impossible to surpass. All of the characters are fleshed out richly in so few pages, especially the eccentric Poirot, who is hilariously odd in his own special way. The mystery is set in a wonderful historical setting that keeps the advent of modern technology from making the novel age poorly. The mystery is plenty complex and multi-faceted.

At a scant 198 pages, it baffles this reviewer that such a complex and twisting plot could be fully fleshed out, but Christie wastes no words or space, and gets to her point so well that there is no room for any slowing of the story. It is nothing but fun, the perfect mystery to revamp the mystery part of Luke Reviews to its prime. After this, I had to immediately go out and buy the next Hercule Poirot novel, The Murder on the Links. Check this novel out!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Forged by Chaos by C. L. Werner

I finally got into Warhammer Fantasy. I had the pleasure of reading The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade: Volume Two by Dan Abnett & Mike Lee, and loved it. So I wanted to give it another go. After hearing good things about C. L. Werner (author of Blood for the Blood God), his newest novel, Forged by Chaos, the third novel in the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning series based on the video game of the same name.

Forged by Chaos follows…well, here is the first problem. For a 400 page novel, it follows a massive cast of characters, many of whom are small enough that they could have been consolidated. The Chaos characters in particular just gelled together in my mind, and their unpronounceable names didn’t help. A first chapter filled with too many names and facts that didn’t mean anything to me and a fight that had no meaning behind it in my mind, left me with an immediate coolness, and it continued this trend from there. The characters felt flat, the action was frequently without motive, and it just didn’t work.

I wanted to like this book, but it wasn’t happening for me, and I could tell that pretty quickly. Based on the NEW Luke Reivews scale, a book I couldn’t get halfway through receives a 1. That may seem overly harsh, but the rules are the rules, and when I leave before I can make it halfway, it seems like a failure for me.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Peter & Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham

Many months back, I read the first two Fables graphic novels, and had quite a bit of fun with them. I wanted to read more of them, but as seems to frequently happen to me, that went unfulfilled for quite a while. When I saw that Fables scribe Bill Willingham was putting out a Fables novel, I was pretty excited about it, both because it was stated that it required no knowledge of Fables graphic novels to enjoy (meaning that my being way behind wouldn’t hurt my enjoyment) and because it would give me a chance to finally get back on board.

Peter & Max tells the story of Peter Piper, who sets out to stop his evil brother Max, who would like nothing more than to bring upon the end of the world. However, this is just a nice frame to wrap around the real meat of the story, the flashbacks that give Peter, Max, and the rest of the Piper family, along with Peter’s wife Bo Peep, a full background story, from before the events of the fables that made them famous, through them, and into their future lives as refuges in New York City, hiding from the evil Empire that took over their world.

The novel works quite well in telling the story from childhood of Peter Piper, how he grew to become a hero and how he fell in love with Bo Peep. Max is developed to become a serious villain (think of another famous Piper from folklore and legend), and the plot is a lot of fun. Willingham does an excellent job of bringing everyone up to speed on exactly who and what the Fables are, and why they are in New York City. He inserts cameos from a number of other characters, ranging from Snow White, Ichabod Crane, and the Big Bad Wolf. The illustrations in the novel, done by Steve Leialoha, are wonderful. They were of perfect fairy-tale quality, and matched Willingham’s whimsical, humorous, and fable-esque writing style perfectly.

The only downside to this book is the conclusion, which felt very rapid. The entire modern day story, which begins as the crux of the novel but swiftly becomes the very brief background plot, revamps a bit towards the end, but seemed to be a little too easy for Peter Piper to win the day. However, that does little to diminish a very fun story that should interest (or re-interest) anyone in the great Fables series.

Also included is the very short graphic story “The Price of a Happy Ending,” written by Bill Willingham and illustrated by Steve Leialoha, that works as a sort of epilogue to the epilogue, and tells the story of Peter and Bo in the war with the empire, and is a bit of a somber note after the ending of the novel.

For fans of fairy tales, fables, folklore, legend, and myth (as I most certainly am), as well as those who enjoy straight fantasy, adventure stories, and fun, quick reads, pick up a copy of Peter & Max. I promise you’ll have a lot of fun.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Top 15 Books for 2009

After celebrating the end of the year, and the whole of of the 2009 releases reviewed at Luke Reviews, it is time to celebrate the best.  After some tough calls while narrowing down the list, Luke Reviews presents "The Luke Reviews Top 15 Books of 2009"!  Listed in alphabetical order of the author's last name, here are the books selected as the creme of the crop from 2009, along with comments from a number of the authors (and editor!) who made the list.  A huge thanks goes out to all of the people who got back to me and said something (particularly those of you who went above and beyond the call of duty; your responses were pure gold to read), and for all of the kind words.

The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade: Volume Two by Dan Abnett & Mike Lee

From Dan Abnett: I'd just like to say that Mike and I are delighted and honoured that the second Darkblade omnibus has made your best of 2009 list.  Thank you for the accolade--Merry Christmas and a very Happy 2010!

Resistance: The Gathering Storm by William C. Dietz

From William C. Dietz: It was a thrill to learn that Luke had chosen Resistance: The Gathering Storm as one of his top fifteen books of the year.  Working with the folks at Insomniac and Sony is a wonderful way to build out a really compelling universe in a way that compliments the games.  I'm writing a second book for them now and enjoying every moment of it.  I write original novels too, like my Legion of the Damned books, but tie-in work provides an opportunity to be part of a team.  And an excuse to play games and call it work!

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

(Sadly, Luke Reviews never heard back from Harry Dolan)

The Hidden Man by David Ellis

(Sadly, Luke Reviews never heard back from David Ellis)

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

(Neil Gaiman has a rule of thumb that he doesn't answer questions for websites unless you go through his agent, so Luke Reviews didn't contact him)

Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue by Hugh Howey

From Hugh Howey: It's a real honor to make an "best of" list, but this is a special thrill for me (and not because it's my first and only one).  That it comes from a reviewer brave enough to be a critic, someone I trust to point out my work's faults and help me improve as a storyteller, makes inclusion a real treat.

When I wrote the book, I didn't dare dream of it getting picked up by a publisher.  I just wanted to please my wife, the most discerning and ornery reader I know (in a good way).  That it has gone on to win rave reviews, selling far more copies than I have friends and family, was quite unexpected.  That it landed on an end-of-the-year list such as this, I can only say: publish in October, not in January.

Thanks, Luke.  And congratulations to all the other authors.  They are now on my reading list.

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Volume Twenty edited by Stephen Jones

From Stephen Jones: One of the reasons I put together anthologies is for people like you.  As an editor, I don't expect the reader to like every story in a book--after all, it reflects my taste--but I do hope that most readers enjoy the majority of them.  What I loved about your review of The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #20 is that you "got" every single story in the book--you understood exactly why I chose a particular tale, and in an age where most online "reviews" are little more than personal blogs, it is refreshing to find a site that actually still makes an effort to review books intelligently and insightfully.

I am extremely honoured that you have chosen The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #20 as one of your Top 15 Books of the Year--it was an obvious milestone in the series and my career--and I hope that you will continue to spread the word for all genre material in 2010.

My best wishes to you and all your readers for a happy and prosperous New Year!

Storm Approaching by Brian Libby

From Brian Libby: Gold and Glory, the second volume in the Mercenaries series, should be available by early summer.  Check, or write me at brnlbb(at), for more information  on my books.  No glory without honor!

Courage and Honour by Graham McNeill

From Graham McNeill: This was a fun book to write, as it was a chance to get back o basics with the Ultramarines.  I'd taken them off to the Eye of Terror in Dead Sky, Black Sun and left them there for a while, as I went off and did other projects, but they were always itching to get back to Ultramar.  I knew right away that I couldn't just have them turn up at the gates of their Chapter Monastery and say, 'Hi, we're home...' so that entailed The Killing Ground, a novel about the steps on the way home.  Like DS, BS, it was a novel that took the Space Marines out of their comfort zone and had them doing very un-Space Marine-like things, so with Courage and Honour, it was time to rectify that.

I wanted this to be the book that reminds the reader why Space Marines are the premier fighting force in the galaxy.  The Imperial Guard may number in the millions, but it's the Space Marines that do the really hard work, the missions that absolutely cannot be allowed to fail.  This was going to be a war novel, a book that had the Space Marines doing what they did best, killing their foes with complete and utter dedication and professionalism.  I wanted Courage and Honour to be a simple story, and when I say that I don't mean without complexity, I mean that is showed the Ultramarines--and Uriel--in the most classic Space Marine light possible.

These weren't Space Marines operating outside the Codex Astartes, these were warriors who fought with their Primarch's holy tome as their guide, and were winning with it at their side.  Of course, I wanted elements that weren't exactly codex, which is what led to Learchus going behind enemy lines and learning what had driven Uriel to make the choices he made.  It's a book with plenty of action, from all levels of the conflict, and I hope shows the brutality of warfare in the 40K universe, while also highlighting the heroism and horror that can come out of such desperate conflicts.

It's an honour to write about such an illustrious Chapter, and to have Courage and Honour chosen as one of the fifteen top books of 2009 by Luke gives me the pleasant thought that I did something right.  Let's just hope that the follow up book, The Chapter's Due is similarly well received.

The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa

(With the language barrier--Luke doesn't speak Japanese and Issui Ogawa's entire site was in said language--Luke Reviews was unable to contact Issui Ogawa for comment)

Hunt at the Well of Eternity by James Reasoner

From James Reasoner: Thank you so much for including Hunt at the Well of Eternity on your list.  I had a great time writing the book, and the fact that so many people have enjoyed reading it is very gratifying.

Kell's Legend by Andy Remic

(Andy Remic was kind enough to explain his very busy situation right now, and our schedules just wouldn't line up, so Luke Reviews couldn't get a comment from him)

Harbinger by Jack Skillingstead

From Jack Skillingstead: Harbinger is based on a loosely connected series of stories I published in Asimov's.  In fact, the connection is so loose, I doubt most readers even noticed it--and it may be the connection exists mostly in my own head.  The idea of so-called consciousness evolution was the starting point, a sort of organic singularity.  But in writing the novel I became fascinated by how individuals interpret experience/phenomenon through their own filters, and that took the narrative in different directions.  I'm gratified the book has been so well received, generally, and am especially happy to see it make Luke's Top Fifteen.

Slights by Kaaron Warren

From Kaaron Warren: Writing Slights was difficult.  It took a lot out of me emotionally, because I devoted myself to understanding the character Stevie, who is harsh, murderous, funny, and at times repugnant.  It was worth the pain if she works on the page.

Emperor's Mercy by Henry Zou

(Luke couldn't find any way to contact Henry Zou and let him know of his selection, so no comment was collected)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2009 Year End Wrap Up

As 2009 has wrapped up, and 2010 is just beginning, it seemed like a great time to look back on all of the releases from the past year that were reviewed here at Luke Reviews.  Listed below are all of the books released for the first time in 2009 that I reviewed.  In bold are my 15 favorite books published in the past year (they may not have been the highest rated initially, but they are the ones that stuck with me most).  CHECK OUT LUKE REVIEWS TOMORROW FOR A SPECIAL FEATURE ON THE "TOP 15," ALONG WITH STATEMENTS FROM THE AUTHORS!  They are listed by genre, then by date of review.  I hope you enjoyed the past year of reading as much as I did, and that 2010 will be just as great a reading year as 2009!


Assault on Black Reach: The Novel by Nick Kyme

Resistance: The Gathering Storm by William C. Dietz

Across the Sky by Mark Rich

Emperor's Mercy by Henry Zou

The Killing Ground by Graham McNeill

Harbinger by Jack Skillingstead

Courage and Honour by Graham McNeill

The Radio Magician & Other Stories by James Van Pelt

Wolverine: Tales of Weapon X by Fred Van Lente and Marc Sumerak

Ravenor: The Omnibus by Dan Abnett

The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa

"Fires of War" by Nick Kyme

Prime by Nate Kenyon

When Shadows Fall by L. Ron Hubbard

Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue by Hugh Howey

"Thunder from Fenris" by Nick Kyme


Book of Secrets by Chris Roberson

Kell's Legend by Andy Remic

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Storm Approaching by Brian Libby

The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade: Volume Two by Dan Abnett & Mike Lee


Castaways by Brian Keene

House of Mystery, Volume 1: Room and Boredom by Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham

Monstrous edited by Ryan C. Thomas

The Vampyre, The Werewolf and Other Gothic Tales of Horror edited by Rochelle Kronzek

Slights by Kaaron Warren

Isis by Douglas Clegg

Dark Entries by Ian Rankin

The Golem by Edward Lee

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Volume 20 edited by Stephen Jones


Hunt at the Well of Eternity by James Reasoner

G.I. JOE: Above & Beyond by Max Allan Collins

Killer Summer by Ridley Pearson

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear by Charles Ardai

The Hidden Man by David Ellis

Hostage to Death by L. Ron Hubbard


Asimov's Science Fiction--September 2009

Black Gate--Spring 2009

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade: Volume Two

Before diving into how wonderful this book is, I'll begin by listing the contents.  The book starts off with a foreword by Dan Abnett, then hits the core of the omnibus with the novels Warpsword and Lord of Ruin. This is followed up by an afterward by Mike Lee, and then a reprint of the graphic story DarkBlade, written by Dan Abnett and illustrated by Kev Hopgood, which was the basis for the entire series.  Each novel in the Chronicles of Malus Darkblade series is based off of one of the episodes from the story.

You can see my thoughts on each of the novels in their individual reviews:


Lord of Ruin

DarkBlade by Dan Abnett: The original story is rather spare.  Told in a series of very brief encounters, we get to see Malus Darkblade attacking each of the final "champions" on his path to getting each artifact.  While this leads to a very action-packed few pages, it is almost entirely devoid of characteriztion.  Abnett & Lee worked from a very bare frame to create such vastly scoped and well thought out novels.  The graphic story isn't great, but it is a nice historical piece of a sort, showing the beginnings of the saga.

All in all, The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade: Volume Two was a wonderful fantasy saga.  The omnibus, despite its great size, reads rather quickly, in part because it is so hard to put down the story.  I have rarely had as much fun reading a fantasy as I did with this one.  If you are a fan of fantasy, Warhammer, Dan Abnett, Mike Lee, Black Library in general, or anything similar, check this book out!


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lord of Ruin by Dan Abnett & Mike Lee

After tackling Warpsword, the first novel in The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade: Volume Two, I dove straight into the second novel in the omnibus, and the fifth in the series, Lord of Ruin.

Following Darkblade's adventures in the previous novel trying to capture the Warpsword of Khaine, this novel begins at the end of Darkblade's journey, and then through a series of flashbacks tells the story of how Malus Darkblade gathers the final artifact and confronts Tz'arkan, the demon who is holding his spirit prisoner.  Can Darkblade hold off an invading army of Chaos creatures led by his evil sister, survive an encounter with Malekith, the Witch King, and still manage to get the final item and make it back to the demon's cave in time?

The plot of the story begins a little slow, as the stage is set, but once the ball gets rolling, there is no stopping it.  Lord of Ruin packs as much story as possible into its pages, filling them with action, adventure, moments of horror, a touch of humor, and a lot of gusto.  Malus Darkblade becomes even more of a fully-developed, well-envisioned character that feels as human as a dark elf could.  The plot is sufficiently over-the-top and action-packed to make this a wonderful thrill ride, moving from the more individual warring of Warpsword to broad scale, all out war.

Abnett & Lee upped the ante with this novel.  It was a brilliant action saga, that managed to both wrap up the main storyline from this first story arc, as well as set up the next arc that I hope comes far sooner rather than later.