This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

30 July, 2012


Cover by Martin Bland


ISBN: 978-0-85766-261-3
Pages: 448
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
Publishing date: US/Canada 31 July 2012, UK/e-Book 2 August 2012

On the cover:

Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot.

For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.

    At the start of the epilogue this seems like it is going to be a story about a family with a difference, the mother and daughter being von Neumanns i.e. robots/artificial humans. But before the epilogue has ended there's an event that makes it go in a different direction.
   There are some great action scenes along the way, Ashby is very good at getting the intensity of it across to the reader. But Ashby is also shows great storytelling skill when it comes to the "quieter" parts of the novel.

   As with any Science Fiction story the setting is important to the experience. What we get here is a future that isn't at its surface all that different from the present. But it becomes clear as the novel progresses that much has changed, and the glimpses Ashby gives us of this are fascinating.
   The setting isn't that important to this story actually, what is important are the vN and how they fit into society.

   Ashby excels when it comes to the vN, when we first meet them they seem slightly alien to us, but that soon changes. As Amy, the protagonist, learns more about herself and the history of vN so do we. This is integrated very well into the narrative, and although we get a lot of information it never gives the reader a feeling that they are being infodumped upon. The information flows very well, and is so interesting, that it is at times hard to tell when we are being told things, and when we are learning by "osmosis" as we absorb the story.

   The vN, and everything we learn about them, really is something that gets the thought process going. Ashby sets out many moral dilemmas connected to them. Some of these are connected to things that most of us will find reprehensible, but there are other questions raised that aren't so easy to have an opinion about. Fortunately, Ashby never preaches to the reader, instead she makes us think about what is presented. And there really is a lot to contemplate in this novel.
   This is in many ways philosophical Science Fiction, in that it poses many big questions about how we as humans interact with other beings. It also is a story about someone who is different from others, and how they cope with that. As such I think it can be read and enjoyed by anyone with an interest in those subjects, and is not really a novel that should be confined to the Science Fiction corner of the book world.

   As a whole, this is a remarkably good debut novel. There's action, quiet contemplation, twists and turns, and it has a beautiful ending with a note of hope to it. There is so much that is great in this novel, that I don't want to single out any element. Everything in it comes together to create what very well could be the best Science fiction novel I read this year.
   Science Fiction fans would do themselves a disservice if they don't get this novel, and I see no reason why any other reader shouldn't get a hold of it too. This is one book you really don't want to miss.

NOTE: There's a short story with one of the main characters from the novel on the Angry robot Books website, you can read it here.

An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

LINKS: Madeline Ashby  Angry Robot Books

27 July, 2012


Cover design and art: Joe Roberts


ISBN: 978-1-84901-305-5
Pages: 500
Publisher: Robinson
Published: 27 May 2010

On the cover:

Have the last days begun?

Humankind has long been fascinated by the precarious vulnerability of civilization and of the Earth itself. When our fragile civilizations finally go, will it be as a result of nuclear war, or some cosmic catastrophe? The impact of global warming, or a terrorist atrocity? Genetic engineering, or some modern plague more virulent even than HIV or Ebola?

   As usual when I review anthologies, I will give a (very) brief review of each story before I give an overall view of the anthology.

First published in Universe 2 edited by Terry Carr (Ace Books, 1972)

   This is a story about commercial time travel to the end of the world. It's a pretty strong apocalyptic story. It is pervaded by a strong sense of irony that Silverberg manages to convey rather nicely. And it's a really good start to the anthology.

First published at , 2002

   A Nepali set story about end of the world prophecy. Joshi manages to tell a lot in just a few pages. The story is well written, and it is very refreshing to see an Apocalyptic Science Fiction story set outside the Western world.

First published in Interzone 198, May/June 2005

   Set in war-torn Africa, this is a cautionary tale. Although this is very much Science Fiction, both in that it is set in the future and that it has a main element that is classic Science Fiction, the topic is very relevant to our time. This makes it a better story, and it is one I really liked. It is made all the better by avoiding being preachy.

First published in Omni, June 1994

   This story centres around the wife of a scientist/viruologist. At its core this is actually a relationship story (, I wouldn't go so far as calling it romance), it's the story in the background that makes it Science Fiction. And the Science Fiction part is both original and very well written. It's a different take on a familiar story, and I highly recommend reading it.

First published in Jim Baen's World, August 2006

   A very tech-centered story about trying to keep the world together when it faces the apocalypse. This is actually a pretty good story, but it fell a bit to far from my tastes. For me it was way to tech-oriented. Apart from the tech aspect the rest of the setting barely felt sketched out. I have no doubt it will appeal strongly to to those who are more interested in the workings of tech than I am, but I felt the scope of the story is too narrow to make it universally appealing.

First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 1999

   Endless rain all over the world is the apocalyptic setting of this story about a woman who tries to escape the catastrophe with her husband. In some ways I would hesitate to cal this Apocalyptic Science Fiction. Although that is the story's setting its theme is a much more mundane one. It is not a bad story, but I feel its theme has been done so many times that it didn't give me something new.

First published in More Amazing Stories edited by Kim Mohan (Tor, 1998)

   On an island threatened by rising waters one man tries to stand against the pressures of his wife to follow the lead of others. A rather strange story. The writing is good, but it didn't really connect with me, I'm sure others will find it to their liking.

First published in Postscripts 9, Winter 2006

   A look at events leading up to the end of the world, done with a humorous twist. This is a pretty weird story, it is both serious and very lighthearted. It's a very original take on the genre, and I found it very refreshing. Definitely a story worth reading.

First published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, January 1985

   This is a typical Cold-War nuclear apocalypse tale. And as such it feels dated now, and I can't see that it would have felt very fresh or original when it first was published back in 1985. This story failed to speak to me at all. It is technically well written, but that is all it has going for it. Neither the story nor the characters stand out from the many other nuclear war stories.

First publication

   Reynolds tells a tale of a very dystopic future. It's a strange story with a central premise that can be a bit hard to wrap your head around at first, but it does grow on you. I really liked this story, mostly because it felt original to me in many ways. There are certainly elements that are familiar from other Science Fiction tales, but here they are taken in a different direction. A great story from a future with an unexpected apocalyptic event.

First published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, February 1996

   A very short end of the world story that still manages to pack in quite a lot. It is a kind very short story that I really like. And Landis has managed to let the main character come more to life in under four pages than some authors do in a whole novel. I highly recommend this.

First published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, April/May 2004

   This is a strange Post-Apocalyptic story. It takes a bit of time to get a grip on the structure of it, but once you do it has got a very good flow to it. This will not be for everyone, it is a bit too surreal for that. It's a good story that is a bit let down by confusing jumps back and forth in the timeline.

First publication

   This is the story of three children who discover a treasure house in a deserted post-apocalyptic city. This is really a great story, and one I think every reader will find to be a great experience to read.

First publication

   A story about who survived the apocalypse, but just as much about what caused it. All told through the eyes of a single person, and what he has experienced. This made me a bit uncomfortable. There are lots of questionable messages here that aren't really explored in a way I feel they should have been. Whether getting the reader thinking about it was Reed's intention I don't know, but that is not the way it came across to me. This is one story that you have to make up your own opinion about, I'm not really sure what to think.

First published in Sci Fiction, May 2005

   Bear tells the story of a woman driving through the wasteland to deliver a package. A good story that is slightly let down by it feeling like it has been told many times before.

First published in Synergy SF edited by George Zebrowski (Five Star, 2004)

   This story feels like a pointless exercise in stringing paragraphs that seem to have been edited out of a literary Science Fiction novel together. If it has anything to tell at all, it seems to consist of the opening Bible quotation and the last sentence. Utter drivel.

First published in Amazing Science Fiction Stories, May 1972

   This is a story of two journeys through history. It is excellently written and really grabs hold of the reader. It is definitely one of the best stories in this anthology, and it is an example of a really great Science Fiction short story.

First published in Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1951

   Leiber serves up a tale of a very different post-apocalyptic world. This is a truly original offering, at least I have never read anything like it before. It is a beautifully written story with great characters, tension, and it takes the reader on a wonderful journey.

First publication

   A story of travelling across a warm deserted landscape. There's a lot to this story besides the basic quest format it takes. Brown has managed to give the reader a good idea of how the world looks, and how it functions. The story is also a nice take on hope in a desperate situation. Very enjoyable.

First publication

   This story is set in a very well realised post-apocalyptic future. The story itself is not as important as the worldbuilding here, although it is a very good story. The future presented here is a very interesting one, it is a setting I would like to see much more of. Great Science Fiction.

First published in Science Fiction Age, November 1998

   Williamson has written a story that is about exactly what the title says. It's a wonderful story full of human drama. I loved this story when I read it in Science Fiction Age on its first publication, and I don't think any less of it now - quite the opposite. In my opinion this is the best story in the anthology, and one that every Science Fiction fan should read.

First publication

   This is the diary of the last human. It is a great concept, and it is very well executed. This is a story I really liked, it is a quick personal tale that has a lot of heart to it.

First published in Asimov's Sience Fiction Magazine, July 2005

   Baxter gives us several snapshots of the history of the world after the apocalypse. The way the story is structured works very well despite its short length. It's a "fun" look at what might be humanity's future that makes for a great short story.

First published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, December 2004

   The story of an old man living in the wilderness. This is in many ways a "quiet" story, one that doesn't need to shout to tell its tale. It is a lovely little melancholy story, and it serves as a great ending to the anthology.


   As with any anthology not all the stories here were for me, but there was more hits than misses and only one real dud. I read this on and off for a couple of months, and I think that is the best way to read it. Although there are many differences between the individual stories, this anthology felt a bit too restrictive in subject matter, and that made the stories feel to similar.
   I would have liked this to have a broader scope in subject matter, but that isn't the real problem. I felt that this was way too centered on the US, remove a couple of stories and you could call it The Mammoth Book Of American Science Fiction Apocalypses. I would really have liked to see more stories set elsewhere, even Europe is neglected here.

   Despite the problem I had with the narrow subject and location, I enjoyed this anthology. The stories themselves are different enough that it doesn't get boring, and there's enough spread in original publication dates to make it an interesting peek at this Science Fiction subgenre.
   It is a great place to start for those who want to check out Apocalyptic Science Fiction. And if you are a fan of that genre already and doesn't have this book, you really should remedy that at the earliest possibility.

26 July, 2012


Cover art (Lions): Larry Rostant
Cover photo (hills): Irene Suchocki/Trevillion Pictures


ISBN: 978-1-444-72057-0
Pages: 774
Publisher: Hodder/Hodder & Stoughton
First published: 29 March 2011
This edition published: 22 November 2012

On the cover:


A remarkable woman - a huntress and healer who challenges every rule, but who yearns for acceptance.

Ayla lost her own people when she was a child. In the harsh landscape of the Ice Age, where to be alone is the greatest threat, her life has been a fight for survival - and a search for belonging.

But Ayla has an overwhelming sense of destiny that pulls against the needs of her heart. She hungers for knowledge and experience of the world. And what she learns will change life forever.

   This is the final volume in the story of Ayla. And as a enjoyed the previous ones I was really looking forward to see how her story was going to end. Unfortunately I was left rather disappointed.
   Auel is very good at telling the history of the people of the Stone Age/Ice Age, and it was my interest in history that brought me too these books in the first place. And that aspect of the novel works very well, you get quite a good insight into daily life in the period it's set, and there's no doubt that much of it is at the very least plausible.
   Before I go into specifics, I think I should mention that reviewing books has made me a more critical reader, and I may not have felt that the book had as much problems if I had been reading this before I started reviewing.

   The central story is in itself an interesting one, Ayla is taken in a direction that means we get closer to certain aspects of Stone Age life, but there's not really enough story in this journey to fill all the pages of this book. -And it shows.
   There is a lot of infodumping here, and while much of it has to do with Stone Age life and is quite interesting in itself, it breaks up the narrative. It can even be confusing at times as to where the non-fiction description in the narrative starts and begins. Personally I would have preferred this to be separated out with footnotes that referred to an appendix at the back of the book.
   In itself these non-fiction passages wouldn't have bothered me much, but there's lots of other small things that slow down the narrative and seems unnecessary.

   Repetition is a problem, we are told the same thing several times. This got on my nerves quite often, and it seemed like Auel was trying to hammer home things that were clear the first time. There is also much repetition of what has happened in the previous volumes, and even though it's more than five years since I read those I felt it was way too many reminders. Some of them where even repeated.
   Further repetition is made in the story itself. There are elements, that while happening at different times and locations, are very much alike. These come while Ayla is travelling, something that I felt was the strength of the previous volumes, but just didn't work here due to there being very little new on the journey.

   This novel isn't all bad. Despite the problems I have outlined above, there is really much that is good here. Auel still tells a very interesting story centered on Stone Age society, and the history is really fascinating. There is no doubt that Auel has done her research, and although it does shine through too much, it is really good to see a story that really feels like it could be a story from the time it is set in.
   The delving deeper into shamanism is also done very well, and it makes for the most interesting part of the book - and also what feels the freshest.

   I had some trouble with the ending of the book. It just didn't feel like a satisfying end to the story of Ayla, and it felt a bit abrupt.
   But to be fair, it was good to read about Ayla, Jondalar, and all the others again. And I do think that those who have liked this series so far will find it a good read despite its shortcomings. I know I am glad I read it, and I in no way wish I had refrained from reading this novel.
   This is a flawed finish to the Earth's Children series, but it is well worth reading anyway. Other readers may not find what I have mentioned as distracting as I did. And for those who have an interest in Stone Age history I would say the series as a whole is essential reading.

LINKS: Jean M. Auel  Hodder & Stoughton

25 July, 2012



   Back in May I posted that I hoped I would have a new internet connection up and running within three weeks. Well, that was very optimistic of me, it took about a month more than I thought it would. Now I have an internet connection that is stable, and should continue to work fine. And I must say that is bliss after the shitty connection I had before. It feels very good going to the computer knowing that I will be able to go online, and not having to walk to the PC "praying" that I'll be able to go online today.


   Now that I actually have a stable internet connection, I will be blogging regularly. I plan to have a post up each weekday, and one on either Saturday or Sunday. But plans can of course change without notice, sometimes things happen.

   I have of course been reading books when I have had no internet (, although I do follow the Tour de France, so the last three weeks I haven't done that much reading). When I read I take pretty extensive notes, so I have a lot of material from which to write reviews. (NOTE: I could have written reviews in Word or OpenOffice and just posted them later, but sitting in front of a computer that should be online just makes me pissed, and that makes for bad reviewing.)
   Coming up are reviews of some Stephen King books, the two next books in The Inheritance Trilogy (first reviewed here), the two Strange Chemistry launch titles, a couple of non-SFF books, and several SFF books. And I will be doing some articles, more cover reveal round-ups and maybe some new stuff I've been thinking about.

   I hope you will find what I have coming up interesting, and that you will continue to follow my blog. Tomorrow I'll have another review up.

24 July, 2012


Cover art: Cliff Nielsen
Cover design: Lauren Panepinto


ISBN: 978-1-84149-817-1
Pages: 398 (+ appendix and extras)
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 4 February 2010

On the cover:

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky - a palace above the clouds where the lives of gods and mortals intertwine.

There, to her shock, Yeine is named one of the potential heirs to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with a pair of cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history. 

   This novel starts  out looking like standard Epic Fantasy, but it doesn't take long before we are introduced to the gods who make this a departure from the standard Epic Palace Intrigue Fantasy.
   The intrigue of royalty is the starting point of the novel, and through the heroine, Yeine, we are introduced into it. That she is both the narrator and an outsider at the palace is a good choice by Jemisin. We get to learn as Yeine does, and this is handled very well. There is never a feeling of Yeine being clueless just to get information across to the reader, and we in some way grow with Yeine as the story progresses.

   The royals are very much linked to the gods, and they are an integral part of the story. Jemisin handles the gods very well, they come off as very realistic.
   Gods aren't really all that uncommon in Fantasy, and you sometime get the feeling that they are carbon copies of the Greek/Roman/Norse pantheon, that is not the case here. Jemisin's use of gods in the story feels very fresh, and they are a very important part of the story - they are in fact central to it. Since they are gods they are of course powerful, but Jemisin has created a nice twist that limits them and at the same time elevates them to more than "just" gods.
   This is probably the best use of gods I have ever seen in Fantasy, and for those that are interested in gods they alone make the book worth getting.

   The story of this novel is a great journey. As mentioned above it starts out pretty traditionally, but soon takes another turn. There's so many twists and surprising events here, that at times it is almost hard to keep up. This is Jemisin's debut, but she comes off as a so well accomplished storyteller it never really comes across as a first book.
   While the story is, mostly, set in just one location it is an epic one in scope. It never feels constrained by the limited setting, and it doesn't suffer from being deprived of the large sprawling world that we get in most Fantasy. Jemisin instead manages to make this a strength, and although we do get quite a bit of history, this is very much focused on the characters.

   Yeine and the gods are very interesting characters, and the focus on such a small cast of characters makes this feel very intimate. The first person narrative brings us into the head of Yeine, and as we follow her journey we become a part of it. The gods are also well developed, and they are great characters in their own right.

   All in all this is a really great debut. It has a different feel than all the Grimdark, and is a very good antidote for those that feel Fantasy is all about the "gritty". For any fan of Fantasy, and (non-monotheistic) gods in general, this is a must buy. As Fantasy debuts go, this is one of the best.

LINKS: N. K. Jemisin  Orbit

23 July, 2012


Cover art: Adam Tredowski


ISBN: 978-1-78108-022-1
Pages: 259
Publisher: Abaddon Books
Published: 29 May 2012 (US/CAN)/21 June 2012 (UK)

On the cover:

Ed Carew and his small ragtag crew are smugglers and ne'er-do-wells. thumbing their noses at the Expansion, the vast human hegemony extending across thousands of worlds...until the day they are caught, and offered a choice between working for the Expansion and an ignominious death. They must trespass across the domain of humanity's neighbours, the Vetch - the inscrutable alien race with whom humanity has warred, at terrible cost of life, and only recently arrived at an uneasy peace - and into uncharted space beyond, among the strange worlds of the Devil's Nebula, looking for long lost settlers.

A new evil threatens not only the Expansion itself, but the Vetch as well; in the long run, the survival of both races may depend on their ability to lay aside their differences and co-operate.

   This is the first book in what is going to become a shared world universe. So apart from the story, the worldbuilding is of course important, and I'll start with a little bit about that.
   Considering the length of this book, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there shouldn't really be room for much worldbuilding, but there is quite a lot of it. Brown manages to get across a lot about how this universe functions in the relatively small space he has at his disposal. And he manages to do it in a way that doesn't intrude on the narrative.

   The world/universe we are presented with here is a very interesting one. It starts out as pretty much a standard Space Opera world, but it soon goes beyond that as we move into the Weird Space in the title.
   We learn quite a lot of the human Expansion, a sort of empire, but not so much that there is nothing left for later volumes. And when it comes to the aliens, we get very interesting glimpses that give us enough to go on, but leaves a lot of room for further exploration. In both cases, the humans and the aliens, what we get is intriguing enough in itself to carry this novel. And it leaves the reader with an appetite for learning more about this universe.
   The only little niggle I had with the worldbuilding was that there is a "lost race" thrown into the mix. But although that in itself is not necessarily very original, it was handled well. And I had no problem with it as the novel progressed, it is in fact one of the parts of this universe that I would like to know more of.

   So, all in all this is a great setting for a Space Opera type Science Fiction universe. It comes across as well thought out, . With lots of details that can be expanded upon, not to mention much that is hidden, this looks to be a shared world that will be well worth following in the future.

   To the story. The opening is very interesting, and I was pulled in after the first chapter. It is not long before we have had our first adventure, and from there the novel takes a turn that makes it even more interesting.
   There's actually two distinct narratives here, and the second is introduced just as the first one seems to going in a familiar Space Opera adventure direction. And although it's obvious from the start that the second narrative is connected to the first, this isn't a weakness. The extra information we get fleshes out the story a great deal, and it adds to the suspense and mystery.

   Mystery is the central word for this story. There's a lot of it, and it is very hard to get a grip of where the story is going. Brown offers up answers to the mysteries he presents, but frequently in such a fashion as to make them seem even greater. You get the feeling that there is much more to come as you read on, and you will not be disappointed. Not everything is answered fully, but there's satisfying answers that make this a fully formed novel. And there's a great sense of there being so many more stories left to tell, which is a great feat connected to the excellent worldbuilding.

   The main characters in this novel at first seem a bit standard, but as we get to know them they become very much fully developed. There's still a feel of there not being anything groundbreaking about them, but this isn't a problem at all. They are very interesting people, and it was a joy to follow their journey.
   I don't know if we will see any of them in later Weird Space volumes, but I wouldn't mind getting to know them even better. Brown is good at getting you close to his characters, and at the end it is a bit sad to be leaving them.

   As a stand alone Space Opera novel, this is a nice, fast paced, adventure story with lots going for it. There's an open ended, with the possibility of sequels, ending. But we still get a full, satisfying story.
   As the first novel in a shared world, this is excellent. We have enough info already to know that this is a very interesting setting, and there's enough that is hinted at around the edges of this novel, that there is the possibility of lots of interesting stories set in the same universe.
   If you are a fan of Space Opera, I would highly recommend getting this novel, it is a great and quick read. And I would say it would be a great introduction to the Space opera genre for those that are not familiar with it.

NOTE: The second Weird Space novel by Eric Brown, Satan's Reach, has already been announced, and has a release date of Summer 2013.

   This novel was provided to me for review by the publisher.

LINKS: Eric Brown  Abaddon Books  Abaddon Books Blog