Glitch by Hugh Howey

Glitch is a shortstory by Hugh Howey, narreted by Gabra Zackman.

Glitch is 5,000 words or 30 minutes of Audible time. As it is, it is probably my least favourite Hugh Howey story, but that is not because it is a bad story. It’s simply too short and certainly has the potential to be more than a short story.

glitchThe point of view is the main character Samantha. Together with her husband Peter, they create fighting robots for a living, competing in the Gladiator Nationals.

As such, this story is very reminiscent of the movie Real Steel, but it takes the premise one step further. In Glitch, Hugh Howey asks the question of what happens when a robot defies its programming. Is it broken, or is it something else?

The characters are not fleshed out as much as I hoped and wanted, and the story is over before it really ramps up. That is what happens when you write a 15 page story. Nevertheless, it is a good story and if you’ve read and liked other Hugh Howey offerings, you will like this one too. I hope he will revisit this world in the future. There is potential for a great story, in the society outlined and why and how it came to be.

If you’ve read everything else Hugh Howey or like to ponder the ”what ifs” of robotics, this might be for you.

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen is Victoria Aveyard’s debut novel in any genre. She has set this up to be a trilogy.

Reds are the commoners who work day in and day out for the Silvers. They are conscripted to fight the Silvers’ wars when they turn 18. They build, they toil and they make ends meet for the Silvers. This is all because Silvers are god like. They have powers to control water, fire, metal and penetrate your thoughts amongst other things.

redqueenMare Barrow is 17 and is about to be conscripted into the war, along with her friend Kilorn. Her 3 older brothers are all at the war front and there is nothing worse Mare can think of than be conscripted. With the help of her sister, they plan to infiltrate a Silver city, so they can steal something of real worth to buy their freedom, but just as all seems to be going well, the Scarlet Guard (a rebel group) strikes, ruining Mare’s plan.

While reading this book, it reminded me of Golden Son (funny enough the first book in the series called Red Rising), a book I had just read a month or so back. A dystopian world where classes of human’s are separated by their abilities, by their birth. Just like Red Rising, it is about having equality in an unequal world.

Initially, I was thinking nothing of the magic system. Each silver has a different power, and these powers are inherited from their parents. All of the powers require an initial ignition so to speak. Those who control and manipulate fire, can’t actually make it. Same goes with water powers and magnetrons (controlling metals) etc. It was only until near the end of the book that the thought struck me these were like mutants from Marvel Comics.

At no point did Aveyard attempt to explain the powers in detail, which I think is a good thing. However, I don’t think she goes into detail with many things. All the characters seem really dull. At no point did I feel a connection with the characters. Perhaps because most of the characters with teenagers. The one character that I did like, was Julian, but there aren’t nearly enough of him. The world building is sorely lacking. Aveyard tells us many things but she doesn’t describe it and make me imagine the world.

vicWhat Aveyard does do well is make the plot keep moving. Each chapter brings something new and moves the story a long. The ending is perhaps where she really shines (not the fight sequence though) and the cloak and dagger twist is done very well. She gave you hints along the way but I still didn’t really see it coming.

I would really love to see either more character building or world building. Personally I want the former, as I like to love my characters.

After you’ve read Red Queen, go take this quiz to see which power you might have if you live in Aveyard’s world. Though there are some mistakes (it says burners summon fire…they don’t), it is fun and harmless (no need to like or have pop up ads).

Upcoming books in April

skullthroneThe Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett

One of the most anticipated books of this year for sure. However, it isn’t for the good reasons. The Warded Man (The Painted Man in some countries), Book 1 of the Demon Cycle was in my own owrds, just magnificent. It was the best read of that year for me. It had everything, hardship, magic system, world building and character growth. Then the next book The Desert Spear, completely went off track and had several cringe moments along with the WTF moments. Ok, so second book wasn’t so good, Book 3…was just mind boggling.

The forums at BFB have not been kind of Peter V. Brett and he even tweeted that he came upon a forum that slagged in off and how he shouldn’t have looked.

I really want this book to be good. I do. I want some redemption for a man that clearly has a talent for writing, but somewhere along his storytelling lines, he’s made some indifferent calls.

TheRebirthsOfTao-144dpi-21-e1424983024376Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu

Every now and again we like to promote Science Fiction even though our sister site www.bestsciencefiction.com is up and running now.

The Rebirths of Tao is the third book in the Tao Series, and has garnered Wesley Chu with a lot of praise.

Action packed and a page turner, this is one author you should get into if you haven’t already.

graceThe Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Ken Liu has won Nebulaand Hugo award winner. The Grace of Kings is his first fantasy novel and it looks to be another epic series.

The following is from Amazon: Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

dragonsDragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett

One of Sir Terry’s last books to be published after his embuggerance caught him. A collection of short fantasy stories for children (and maybe some adults).

As dragons start to invade and with all the knights out on other duties, it is up to Ralph and his motley crew of helpers to save the castle.

Other books that could interest you:
Emergence by John Birmingham
The Deepest Poison by Beth Cato
Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Renoylds
Joe Steele by Harry Turtledove

 

RIP Terry Pratchett (1948 – 2015)

pratchett_2233925b

 

 

You Will Be Missed

- The World

Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

“Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered.”

A week before Shadow was to be released from prison, the warden tells him he will be turned out early. His wife is dead. On the flight home, he happens to sit next to a mysterious one-eyed man who calls himself Wednesday. Wednesday recruits Shadow to work for him, except this will be no ordinary job; Wednesday tells Shadow that Gods are real. Gods of old. New Gods. Norse Gods, Hindu Gods, African Gods, Gods that have long been forgotten, and Gods that are being forged everyday from mankind’s ever-changing obsessions and beliefs. But Gods are real. And the Old Gods and New Gods are about to go to war.

Not sure whAmerican Gods by Neil Gaimanat to believe or not believe, Shadow gets sucked into a secret world within our world. One where Gods are not nearly as perfect as they should be, and the people are even less so. And caught between the warring faction is Shadow, wanted by both sides for reasons he does not know.

American Gods is not Gaiman’s first novel, but is almost certainly the one he is best known for, along with his graphic novels, The Sandman. I admit, I have never read any of Gaiman’s other works. I once bought a collection of his short stories, called Smoke and Mirrors, which I read very briefly before turning to other books that better held my interest. Suffice to say, then, that I didn’t go into the book with a ton of giddy excitement, despite the critical acclaim I am well aware the book received. Because of that, it should have been rather easy for Gaiman to pleasantly surprise me.

He didn’t.

I found the book a chore to get through. I can admit that the writing was quite good, and Gaiman’s prose is quite poetic and full of metaphors. But it’s too poetic and has too many metaphors. Perhaps I am just dense and simplistic, but I find it hard to read a novel that spends this much time trying to be subtle. Some of that effort, I think, should have given to making the novel more engrossing.

There were parts that I liked. I like the basic idea of the “New Gods,” essentially anything from the modern era that the masses cling to and ‘believe’ in has created a ‘god.’ So we have gods of technology, gods of media, gods of cars, etc. And I like how the Old Gods – the traditional gods, such as Odin, Kali, and others – are shown to be growing weaker and are dying out because not enough people believe in them. I also like how Gaiman skillfully weaves in a wide variety of gods, both well-known and lesser-known, into the plot’s narrative. The premise, then, is solid. So what isn’t?

For me, the main problem is Shadow. As a protagonist, I found him to be exceedingly dull. There is really nothing interesting at all about him, and nor does he seem to actually do anything. Rather, things just happen to and around him. He is neither likable nor dis-likable, neither a hero nor a villain, not great but not terrible. He’s just… there. And considering the entire novel (except a handful of passages) are from his point-of-view, that is a problem.

Another big problem… I don’t quite know how to put this best, but nothing happens in the book. It seems the entire novel is one big (and slow) build-up to something that turns out to be inconsequential. It’s one of those novels you read once in a while that, once you are done with them, just makes you wonder, “what was the point?”

I had another problem with the book. Or rather, it is less a problem with what is in the book and more of a problem with an omission. In a novel that is called American Gods, and features all manner of deities, there was a rather glaring omission of Jesus Christ. Or, indeed, anyone from one of the three main Abrahamic religions. Since Jesus so clearly plays a large part in modern religion in America, I can only assume that Gaiman excluded him because he felt intimidated by the idea of offending the masses. Perhaps he, himself, was offended by the thought? In the version I read, which was the “Author’s Preferred Text,” Gaiman does include a brief chapter after the epilogue, one that was apparently cut out of the final novel. The chapter wasn’t impressive. So maybe the reason Gaiman made the omission is because he simply didn’t know how to include Jesus in a way that was interesting.

The novel has a bit of a twist ending, if you can call it that. Is it still a twist if I don’t care what happens?

In the end, I was glad when I finished it for the sole reasons that I can now read something else. Sorry, Mr. Gaiman. You have a ton of awards and acclaim thrown at this book. So you should have no regrets. For me, I will give the book a whimpering 2.5/5.

 

Review by Afa

Half an Interview

I recently interviewed Joe Abercrombie, and it was totally awesome. I was crazy excited for weeks. I read both his AMA’s from top to bottom and read through pretty much all of his previous interviews to make sure I didn’t ask boring questions. I also read sooo many blogs about conducting an interview and even went to shop for a recorder (which btw, so over priced) and all that reading did me little good when I didn’t turn my phone to flight mode while recording the interview (great free recording apps out there), so … that was a thing.

I saw the interview when Matt Staggs interviews Joe. Joe was being mean, in jest I was hoping, but this made me even more nervous. Turns out there was no need to be nervous. Joe was a total gentleman, cracked jokes liked I had hoped and answers questions really thoughtfully. Plus he let me take a photo with him and signed a huge A3 poster of himself for all the people who wouldn’t be able to see him in person (because they weren’t able or would run away crying :P).

If you want you can listen to the audio, here are some reasons you should struggle through my fan girl laughs and nervousness:

Exclusive scoop! Joe shares his beauty secrets!
L3gacy gets his whiskey question answered and Joe gives some recs
Will Joe write Sci fi?? Listen in for his answer! (7 mins in ish)
Joe gets a bit deep talking about his character (and I ask the most awkward question that was posed on the forums [no thanks to you l3gacy for that one])
Joe throws down to our superb master tweeter
Is an author collaboration in the future? (19 mins)
The missing paragraph from Half the World, the one that was taken out! Hear all about it here! (still not sure if he was kidding, he looked dead serious)
Hear all about Joe’s indecent author’s proposal! (ooowooo)
Want to know WHO is in some of the short stories he has been writing? (28 mins in)
Want to know Danica’s ring tone, you’ll hear it here! Don’t bother to tease me, i’ll own it!
Last minute and a half we discuss the gifts I bought, vegemite and I float my own indecent author proposal.

That is it!

Not really sorry for the crappy audio quality or my girly laughs, you get to hear him talk and joke and tell you some funny stories and that should be enough!

By Danica

Review: Half The World

I think Abercrombie has done it again. This is another great book, right up there with Before They Are Hanged and The Heroes. The sequel to Half a King, Half The World is entertaining, funny, frustrating and full of little twists and turns. What is the most genius about this book is that while Father Yarvi takes a back seat in the book, he has his hand in everything and some could say that he “is” the main character.

Half the World mostly revolves around two characters, Brand and Thorn, two young teens wanting to become a Warriors of Gettland but both ultimately failing in different ways. Father Yarvi then proceeds to pluck them both out of thin air and takes them on a journey to help Gettland gather allies in the coming war. On their journey they will endure many hardships, and those hardships bond men (and women) closer together.

What I really like about this book is that Abercrombie is able to move away from what he is perceived to be known for, grimdark books. While there is violence and war as typical of most fantasy books, he has matured as a published author and woven an intriguing tale. I really liked the interactions between the two main characters Brand and Thorn. I would say that they both act like rash teenagers who think they know everything about the world, yet trip over everything they do because of their arrogance. While readers like myself usually, like my characters grey, these two are of the straight and narrow, but the different is, Brand and Thorn are like Yin and Yang, and both of them together help complete the grey character they I desire.

World building is something that Abercrombie still needs to refine, as I feel everything is always centred around the characters at hand and not much else. Places are mentioned but it is hard to imagine without aids like maps. However, his characterisation makes up for the lack of that. There were many favourites scenes in the book, but I love the subtle hints that he gives through the books, they are semi-obvious but it helps to build up to the ending. And the ending is great, I love how from 1 chapter your minds goes to “oh no” to “hahaha what a dumb girl”.

If you haven’t picked up this series, then I would recommend it, as the last of the trilogy also comes out in July. Half a War will be amazing. I’m hoping for something Gemmell like with Abercrombie’s brush all over this masterpiece.

Upcoming Books in February 2015

Hope everyone had a good rest and spent time with family and friends in Dec/Jan. Obviously there have been some great books in Jan with Firefight, Golden Son and Providence of Fire among many others. Providence of Fire is the front runner in my opinion, but a couple of books in Feb could over take it. LordGrimdark himself appears here and has a rave review from Danica (regular contributor) as well as the finale to The Powder Mage trilogy.

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

The sequel to the very successful Half a King. Yes it is YA but the book is still gritty and full of plot twists. About a crippled Prince of Gettland, Yarvi has a maimed hand since birth. Because of this, he is seen by lesser by many people. When his father dies, he is thrust upon the throne immediately by his mother and that’s where more of his problems brew.

This series reads really well (Danica’s ARC review) and should be high on a lot of other people’s lists this year. If you haven’t picked up Abercrombie before, this could be a great series for you. If you refer something that is completed, then give The Blade Itself a go.


Gemini Cell by Myke Cole

A budding author who was very successful with his first trilogy called The Shadow Ops. A modern day Military fantasy book. He’s been so successful that he’s been contracted to write another trilogy in the same world. Myke Cole is into his social media and he can be seen talking with fans from around the globe. If you like urban fantasy, then give this series or his previous series a try, it isn’t the run of the mill stuff.


Trigger Warning: Short Fiction and Distrubances by Neil Gaiman

He’s got a new book. Wait a second. It’s short stories. But his previous one, Fragile Things in 2006 was a best seller! Neil Gaiman would probably be one of the most popular authors out there. He spans so many different genres and can grab many different audiences. He’s written Sandman (graphic novel), Coraline (children’s book), Neverwhere (fairy tale twist), American Gods (urban fantasy) and other best sellers. Those of us who loved American Gods can be happy (or maybe not) that he has a short story from this world.


The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan

Here it is, the third book of his Powder Mage trilogy. This, much like The Hero of Ages (Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson), will decide whether or not McClellan is the real deal. Can he close off a trilogy. He has a unique magic system and believable characters. His world building still needs to be worked on, but overall a series that you can grab and just enjoy without wanting something too deep . Promise of Blood, Book 1 of the series was one of my favourite books in 2013, and it was contending with Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song, Brent Weeks’ Blinding Knife and Sanderson’s double whopper of YA, The Rithmatist and Steelheart.


Other books of note:
Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Karen Memory by Elizabeth bear
The very best of Kate Elliot by Kate Elliot
A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab

 

Competition: Win a Kindle Glare, Amazon Vouchers and A Providence of Fire!

Here are Bestfantasybooks.com, we want to provide you with insightful articles and great recommendations but we also want to provide you with books to read as well! To celebrate our new design layout and the update of many of our Top Lists, we are running a pretty big competition.

Up for grabs:

RULES OF THE COMPETITION

1) This is a international competition with some exceptions (read below)

2) If you are outside of North America, you must agree to pay shipping for the Kindle (~$15usd). If you disagree, we will give you a voucher instead and draw out a different winner.

3) Each person can only win one prize

4) A Providence of Fire is only for North American Residence only (sorry!)

5) All entries must be in by 11.59pm (PST), Friday 23rd Jan 2015

6) Winners will be drawn after this date and posted on Facebook, Twitter and Blog.

7) To enter, either RT this post on Twitter or like and comment (share if you like!) on the Facebook site. Yes, this means a max of two entries per person. Easy, right? Make sure you like our facebook page and/or sign up for our newsletter so you are notified about more of our giveaways!

8) This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Review: All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park

I don’t really know how else to say it, but All Those Vanished Engines was a frustrating book for me to read. It started off well, as the story of a girl in an alternate version of the South, sometime after the end of the Civil War. Interspersed with scenes from her life are fictional stories she’s composed in her diary, mostly about her future (imagined) descendants. However, this is not representative of the remaining 2/3 of the book.

The expectations I developed while reading the earliest section didn’t pay off later on. Part one followed a rather conventional sort of fantasy (or maybe steampunk) course. You sympathized with the protagonist, you were as eager as she was to find out what was going on, what the secrets were that had been hidden from her. When she was in danger, you rooted for her. Parts 2 and 3 were literary fiction, plain and simple, with some science fiction elements added in. It was lots and lots of the POV character (possibly a version of the author) talking at length about his own life and family and thoughts and recollections.

One of the things that frustrated me is that we kept getting led down a path, only for nothing to result. This was especially problematic in part 3. I was interested in the POV character’s investigation of his family’s history, for example. I had this sense that there was some connecting thread underlying everything, that we were just on the verge of figuring out what it was. And then the book just…ended. And I don’t think I would have understood what was implied by the ending if not for the publicity material supplied with my copy of this book.

At any rate, while I connected with the protagonist for part one, I didn’t have any affinity for the protagonist in parts 2 and 3. I can read books where I don’t connect with the protagonist, if other elements (plot, worldbuilding) make up for it. But I kept putting this book down and finding other things to do rather than picking it back up again.

Other random thought: the highlight of part 2, for me, was an old man’s discussion of the scientific project that has been made into a museum and his explanation for what the apparatus actually was. It was a very interesting idea for me to think about. (This section is also where the title of the book comes from.)

I was able to pull out some themes, so if you like reading for theme and/or making connections among disparate elements, you might like this book a lot. First, as I’ve already mentioned, the POV character from later sections came from a family of authors. And there are authors and/or writers in all three sections of this book. In part one, you have the girl’s diary. In part two, you have sections from a book the POV character is writing for Wizards of the Coast, as well as selections from a writing student. In part three, you have a lot of family history documents the POV character is referring to, looking for clues, as well as selections from books his family members have written. All of these written pieces can be interpreted as they relate to (or further) the main narrative.

Secondly, there’s a strong element of the “unreliable narrator” and/or the blending of real life and fantasy, fact and fiction, in this book (and sometimes the two concepts are inextricably linked). In part 3, the POV character tells a story involving a girl. Then, in the next chapter, he flat out tells you he was lying. It makes you start to doubt other things he’s said. Some meetings take place in Second Life (I didn’t even know people still did Second Life…). Sometimes you start adding facts from the interspersed stories (i.e., writings of the characters) into the main narrative without realizing you’ve done so.

In the end, I feel like I’ve been all over the place with this review. There were some elements I liked and/or found interesting, I was able to pull out a couple of recurring themes, etc. I think there is definitely an audience for this book and that quite a few people will appreciate it. But I also think its departure from some of the conventions of the speculative fiction genre (and/or the insertion of elements of literary fiction) has the potential to turn a lot of readers off.

 

Review by Sneaky Burrito

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