Friday, September 21, 2012

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P Lovecraft

I'd never read any H.P Lovecraft. I know about Cthulu and have a basic idea of what he wrote. I think most fantophiles, do, although Lovecraft tends to be classified as horror more than fantasy. That's one very good thing about the list. It gives me the opportunity to read and try classic authors that I may otherwise never get to. That it provides the suggestion of what work to read is also useful.

At the Mountains of Madness, while it was written after a lot of the Cthulu work had already been published, is a good entry to the concept of the Old Ones, who Lovecraft's writings credit with creating a pre human civilisation on this planet.

At 113 pages At the Mountains of Madness is more of a novella than a full length novel. It doesn't actually read like a novel, either.

It's presented as an account of a group of explorers looking for our prehistoric heritage in the Antarctic. There's very little dialog and this does make it a little hard to get to know or empathise with the characters.

I have to admit that working with in the constraints of how he chose to write the piece Lovecraft did an amazing job in two respects. He really gives the impression of a scientific exploration, it gets a little technical and dry in parts, but it creates the fantasy very well.

The other thing was the feeling that things were all going to go badly very quickly. He just kept ratcheting up the tension until I was almost reading through my fingers. Of course things did turn to complete and utter terror, but it was so well well built.

I liked the descriptions and ideas behind the Old Ones and their servants, too.

Although I know it's science fiction and set on another planet I kept thinking of the recent film Prometheus, it's rather like that in concept and execution. The one novelised idea that it also recalled for me was Julian May's Saga of the Exiles, which also deals with how our civilisation 'really' began.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams

Tad Williams is one of the most versatile authors I’ve encountered. From his Tolkienesque epic fantasy trilogy Memory, Sorrow and Thorn to  the cyberpunk tetralogy Otherland, he rarely visits the same territory twice. One of my favourite books ever is Williams’ standalone fantasy The War of the Flowers. I’ve been gradually reading more and more urban fantasy, so I was very happy to hear that Tad Williams had cast his eye in that direction with The Dirty Streets of Heaven.

Urban fantasy these days tends to be the province of vampires and werewolves, although zombies and faeries are starting to claim the territory. Another supernatural creature gaining popularity are angels. That’s where Tad Williams cast his line with The Dirty Streets of Heaven. Bobby Dollar is an earthbound angel who probably has more in common with Phillip Marlowe than he does with Gabriel or Michael. He swears and he drinks, he takes the Lord’s name in vain. Bobby’s job is to guide souls from death, through their initial afterlife trial, and if they pass he sees them off to Heaven.

Things are going relatively smoothly for Bobby and his partner Sam, they seem to win more souls than they lose, and then they’re saddled with an eager young beaver from Records who they nickname Clarence (his real angel name is Haraheliel), not long after they attend the death of a philanthropist and while they’ve got a body the soul is missing.

If Bobby can’t find out what happened then the futures of both Heaven and Hell are at stake, that’s if Bobby can keep himself alive long enough to complete his investigation.

Tad Williams generally likes a lot of room in his books to set things up, possibly why he usually writes epics that are about the same size and weight as your average housebrick. Urban fantasy audiences don’t really go for this and they also tend to like their stories episodic, so that they at least get some sense of closure by the end of the book.  For a Tad Williams book The Dirty Streets of Heaven is really fast paced and still maintains excellent character development and back story mixed in with some high octane action.

Sometimes with popular fiction in a particular sub genre you can get some stereotyping, this wasn’t the case here. Even the peripheral characters were well drawn. I was particularly impressed with Bobby’s ‘love interest’ Casimira, the Countess of the Cold Hands.

One thing that was handled both with class and humour was the depiction of Heaven and the descriptions of the angels. It would have been very easy to inadvertently offend people with this, but it never happened, and I really liked the ideas behind it.

I couldn’t shake the image of Bobby I had in my head as actor Misha Collins. I know this is because Misha Collins plays earthbound angel Castiel in the TV series Supernatural, this is also further evidence of the growing popularity of angels in modern urban fantasy. The fact that the book reads largely like a bit of a whodunit also lends itself to a cinematic view in my head.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven was really well done and a breath of fresh air in the genre. I’m definitely a fan and the good news is that there are two further Bobby Dollar books planned for the future. If they’re anywhere near the quality of The Dirty Streets of Heaven then this fallen angel has a long and successful career ahead of him.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay

Even the précis I read of David Lindsay’s 1920 classic A Voyage to Arcturus seemed to suggest that it was a predominantly an SF novel, not a fantasy one. However those who wrote the book that comprises the list I follow chose it as a Must Read Fantasy novel.

When I read a book I like it to have one of two crucial elements: a strong plot or really good characters. Preferably both. Unfortunately for me A Voyage to Arcturus contained neither.

It’s largely an SF exploration novel of the type that was popular at the time when it was written. It shares something with Edgar Rice Burrough’s opening Barsoom book; Princess of Mars, in that the main protagonist’s voyage to the fictional planet of Tormance, orbiting the real star of Arcturus has no basis in anything resembling science.

Once Maskull has arrived on Tormance, without his two fellow travellers; a native of the planet who goes by the name of Karg and an acquaintance of Maskull; Nightspore, he wanders across the planet, meeting and discussing philosophy with the locals he encounters. He never seems to get anything resembling an answer, merely discusses matters such as life, death, belief and love with them. Maskull himself has virtually no personality and seemingly no motivation or end goal for his ceaseless wandering. The characters that he meets are constructs who exist purely to give Maskull someone to bounce his ideas off. This makes it pretty difficult to form any sort of empathy for them, probably just as well because most of the people Maskull meets usually end up dead because of him.

Lindsay gave his imagination full rein when describing the planet and the life forms on it, and this was quite good, although one had the impression he was only doing it to sort out his own ideas of what he had created. It read a lot like info dumping and didn’t integrate itself smoothly with the rest of the narrative. One idea I did like was that after sharing blood with a native or Tormance, Maskull started to become one physically. They were truly alien creatures with extra eyes and one extra hand and a protuberance on their heads that helped them to communicate.

I was left with a fairly flat empty feeling on completing it.

In a similar vein, although far more action packed and readable is Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Princess of Mars, which was recently turned into the film John Carter of Mars.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

A few months ago I read a new urban fantasy by Chuck Wendig called Blackbirds. Blackbirds was the story of Miriam Black, a young woman cursed with the ability to see a person's moment of death simply from skin to skin contact.

Blackbirds took the reader by the throat and dragged them on a harrowing journey through life's seamy underbelly. It was narrated in 3rd person present tense by the foul mouthed Miriam, and it did not pull it's punches. It wasn't an easy book to read, but it was quick purely from the fact that it compelled you to read on.

Because of the impact Blackbirds made on me, Mockingbird was on my must buy list as soon as I heard about it. I was overjoyed recently to wander into my local SFF bookstore and see Mockingbird with Joey HiFi's striking cover art on it. I'm really pleased that they retained Blackbirds' cover artist and that he went with the same style; Miriam's wild hairstyle being composed largely of birds. You have to be careful with the covers, a close inspection reveals things about what lays within the pages, so if you don't want to be spoiled, don't really examine it until you've finished the book. Mockingbird isn't quite as eye catching as Blackbirds was, but I think that's largely because I preferred the hairstyle on the first book.

It's been some time since the events of Blackbirds and Miriam is trying to settle down to a more normal life with her truck driver boyfriend with the heart of gold and patience of a saint; Louis. Miriam is not by nature a pleasant person, and her curse makes it hard for her to even pretend to be normal. Soon enough her temper gets the better of her, costs her a job and leads to a vision of impending murder. Once again Miriam manages to thwart destiny.

Because she's out of a job Louis arranges her to use her ability with a friend of his to foretell her death. The woman works as a teacher at a private school for girls, girls with troubled lives, the school is as much a reformatory as it is a place of learning. Miriam sees a bleak future for a girl in the school, this twelve year old will die quite horribly unless Miriam does something about it. It's going to take every bit of ingenuity and all of Miriam's fighting spirit to put this one right.

Blackbirds and Mockingbird both have Wendig's marvelously raw and descriptive way of looking at general life. While the subject matter is by it's very nature and the bleak outlook of the protagonist, fairly depressing, there's still a macabre sort of humour about it. Miriam's take no prisoners style of talking is frequently funny, and it's just part of her character.

While Blackbirds was largely a one hander, Miriam gets some allies in Mockingbird. There's Louis of course, Lauren the girl from Caldecotts, who starts Miriam on her mission, is also prominent and I think Miriam can see a lot of her in the smart mouthed pre teen. The teacher from Caldecotts; Katey, who doesn't look like a Katey according to Miriam, is also a welcome addition and ally.

Mockingbird finishes on a high note, sort of, and if there were no more Miriam Black stories this could have ended them, but happily there are and Cormorant is due out in 2013.

If you enjoyed Blackbirds then you will love Mockingbird and if you haven't read Blackbirds then you should do so immediately and then read Mockingbird. Both books are among the best, rawest urban fantasy I have ever read and will keep you turning the pages until the very end, then wish there was some more.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wizard of the Pigeons by Megan Lindholm

Megan Lindholm is better known to readers as Robin Hobb, the author of a number of much loved and highly successful fantasy series set in the Six Duchies. Before adopting the pen name she wrote under part of her real name, which is Megan Lindholm.

I’d read some of Robin Hobb’s books, and while not as enamoured of them as many are I was still interested to see what the work she wrote prior to the Farseer trilogy stacked up against the later and better known books. Another intriguing thing was that Wizard of the Pigeons is classified as urban fantasy.

It came out in 1986, which was almost before there was a subsection classified as urban fantasy, I think at that stage it was still being called contemporary fantasy. It shows how the subgenre has changed since those days, too. No vampires and werewolves in Wizard of the Pigeons, what we have is a homeless man called Wizard who may or may not be able to perform acts of magic, and is battling to keep his home city of Seattle safe from evil, and trying to use his powers to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people, often those who are the most defenceless members of society.

Wizard isn’t the only one of his kind in Seattle, there’s Rasputin and Euripides, and the mysterious woman who found them and brought them together; Cassie. The book follows Wizard as he wanders through Seattle living his hand to mouth existence. Along the way readers meet Rasputin, Euripides and Cassie, as well as the waitress Lynda, who could bring Wizard’s life crashing down about his ears. Interspersed with the narrative are snatches of Seattle’s history as a frontier and goldrush town, as well as Wizard’s past as a Vietnam war veteran, who has tried to escape what he did during that conflict initially through drugs and alcohol and now as a pigeon fancying wizard.

I thought the sections dealing with Seattle’s history were some of the most interesting and best written in the book, and they were something I thoroughly enjoyed. It seems that a number of speculative fiction writers live in Washington state, and Lindholm researched her home city thoroughly to write this book.

Even if I hadn’t known that Megan Lindholm and Robin Hobb were the same person I could see a couple of themes that run through both works. A connection to nature and things not being what they seem at first look. I’ve also found a lot of the Six Duchies work depressing and devoid of hope, that’s something that runs through Wizard of the Pigeons, although it does end on a hopeful note.

It was a quick read, but not an easy one as such, due to me finding it fairly heavy and rather miserable. I also never bought the character of Lynda as being particularly well written, she was a bit of a walking collection of clichés. The disaffected war veteran, seeking escape from the reality of his life is a well trodden path, too. It’s been something that has become increasingly common in urban fantasy since Wizard of the Pigeons made it’s appearance.

I’ve read a number of works in a similar vein, but they haven’t been particularly memorable, because I can’t recall the titles or the authors at present. One book that I was reminded of while reading Wizard of the Pigeons was Jo Walton’s Hugo Award winning Among Others, the protagonist of that is a young girl who believes she sees fairies and that magic works, but the audience is left wondering whether it’s real or only in her imagination, similar to how I was never quite sure if a lot of what happened to Wizard really did happen the way it seemed to, or the readers saw it that way because it was filtered through his perspective.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire

Ashes of Honor is the 6th of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye urban fantasy series, starring changeling PI and knight errant; Toby Daye.

A year has passed since the tragic events of One Salt Sea and Toby is trying to live a fairly normal life, or as normal a life as a half faery woman with a fetch and a Tuatha De Danaan fosterling as a squire can expect to live. She’s also still mourning the death of her lover and childhood friend Connor.

After having a confrontation with a group of goblin fruit peddling changeling kids go badly wrong Toby is collected from the police station by her friend and love interest, Cait Sidhe and King of the Cats; Tybalt. At home, and the reason that her fetch; May, couldn’t come in Tybalt’s stead is Etienne. To say that Toby is surprised to see the stiff necked Tuatha De Danaan at her house, not on business for his, and her liege lord Sylverster Torquill, is understating it somewhat. His reason for coming to her is even more surprising. Etienne has a changeling child, she’s always lived with her mortal mother, and she’s just gone missing.

As Toby has had success with similar cases in the past, she was the first person Etienne thought of. Despite his differences of opinion with her he does respect her ability and he can’t argue with her strike rate. Etienne’s daughter Chelsea has inherited her father’s ability of teleportation, and unless Toby can find her quickly and negate the power her life is not the only one in danger, her abilities threaten to rip the fabric of faery itself apart.

I can’t help it, I always seem to compare the Toby Daye’s to the Dresden Files and I got another comparison with this one. Etienne coming to Toby for help is right up there with the Warden Morgan doing the same thing to Harry Dresden in Turn Coat. Once Etienne has explained to Toby what has happened and why he wants to hire her, everyone other than Toby, Quentin and Tybalt faded into the background.

This one was really the story of how Toby and Tybalt would get together. Something that many fans of the books have been waiting for (not me, I’m not a Tybalt fan. I think it’s because I’m not a cat person, and Tybalt really is a cat in the form of a person) since Tybalt’s first appearance in Rosemary and Rue. There was plenty of Quentin to keep me entertained. I love Quentin, he’s such a total teenager, but he has so many good qualities; loyal, compassionate, brave, I think he always had them, but prolonged exposure to Toby has enhanced them.

Most of the cast that Seanan McGuire has built up over the previous five books popped in and out of the narrative, but it was driven by Toby and Tybalt as they strove to find a scared girl and stop her from plunging their worlds into chaos.

It moved fast and the action didn’t let up from the opening page until almost the very end. The Toby Daye books with their meticulously set up worlds of faery are excellently written with well done action sequences and snappy dialog that sparks and crackles between the characters, the relationships between the principals come across as realistic and believable, and the supporting cast is among the best in urban fantasy today.

I have a couple of quibbles. Toby’s caffeine addiction is overdone. It’s been established over the books that Toby requires regular infusions of coffee to function. I think readers understand that, I know I do, it doesn’t need to be reiterated every couple of pages as it was in Ashes of Honor. The other is that Toby is becoming a little too superheroish. She can recover quickly from wounds, more quickly than any normal person and possibly even other fae, but I lost count of the times that she was almost disembowelled in Ashes of Honor, yet was up and kicking butt in a page or so. That could have been toned down a touch.

Although I know there are further books coming (Chimes at Midnight is due out September 2013 and the author has a contract up to and including book 9) there is a sense of this one having a definite ending. There’s plenty still to explore. Duchess Treasa Riordan (the villainess in Ashes of Honor) could conceivably still present a threat, and as long as she’s alive Rayseline Torquill will be a thorn in Toby’s side as will the Queen of Mist. There are still the questions of who Quentin’s parents are and exactly how old Tybalt is, but Ashes of Honor does give readers a sense of closure to at least one chapter of Toby’s life.

One Salt Sea remains my favourite of the series, but Ashes of Honor is a worthy entry in what is probably the finest urban fantasy series currently being published, and has me counting down the days until the release of Chimes at Midnight.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

Back to Randland. The first time I read The Dragon Reborn I was under the impression that The Wheel of Time was a trilogy. I’m not sure why. Possibly because at the time most fantasy epics were trilogies, with the exception of David Eddings, but his 2 5 book series were both really short enough to have been fitted into 3 books.  Anyway I can remember reading The Dragon Reborn, getting closer and closer to the end of the book and thinking to myself: ‘How is he going to wrap this whole thing up in the next 50 pages.’ Of course I got to the end and was told that the adventure would continue in book 4. Groan.

I actually enjoyed The Dragon Reborn. I’ve liked it every time I’ve read it, and I’ve read it a few times. This is the book where I think some of the series problems became evident. One of the most regular criticisms levelled at Robert Jordan regarding The Wheel of Time is that he takes too long to make things happen. The story continues, but it doesn’t advance. Maybe I didn’t really notice it the first time because I thought it was a trilogy, I’m not sure. The book is about 600 pages long without the glossary, but the story only really advances in the last 200 pages. Despite that I didn’t mind the other 400 odd pages.

I do question his choice of PoV for one section of the book, and that’s because he chose Perrin. Of the 3 male ta’veren in the book I find Perrin the hardest to read. He’s very dull, and any story seen through his eyes suffers the same fate, plus the group he’s with seem to do a lot of that aimless wandering about that anyone who has read my reviews know I just absolutely adore in a book (where’s that sarcasm emoticon?). In The Dragon Reborn Jordan splits his main protagonists up into 3 loose groups for the bulk of the narrative. Perrin, Loial, Moraine and Lan comprise one group (Rand was with them, but he ran off, which is why they spend most of the rest of the book looking for him), Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve are another and Mat and Thom Merrilin are the third. Jordan spends nearly 400 pages orchestrating events so that the three groups along with Rand will all be in the same city at the same time, to witness Rand’s confrontation with the Dark One (again) and proclaim him (again) as The Dragon Reborn.

With that particular précis of things it sounds like I didn’t much enjoy what I was reading, but weirdly enough I actually did. One reason was Mat. When I first decided to reread the series from go to whoa one thing that was firm in my mind was that Mat was my favourite character. After the first two books I was wondering if my mind had played me false, because Mat wasn’t particularly likeable, nor did he even do that much. Once the Amyrlin Seat (leader of the Aes Sedai) has broken the connection with the ruby hilted dagger from Shadar Logoth, the Mat I knew and liked emerged. He pushed his luck to the hilt, he wheeled and dealed, he had memories of youthful hijinks and curiousities complete with their usual painful consequences, he put himself in harms way for his friends while telling himself that he was doing it for his own benefit. This is why I always liked Matrim Cauthon.

I was a little disappointed when the 3 girls left the White Tower in Tar Valon. As I’ve said in earlier reviews the Aes Sedai fascinate me and I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamics and the politics in the White Tower, along with the little bits of information and history I was being fed. The girls aren’t entirely without their charms on a road trip either, especially the big sister/little sister relationship between Nynaeve and Elayne, who being the Daughter Heir of Andor isn’t used to being put in her place, but nevertheless does accept it from Nynaeve. When she gets angry Nynaeve has a habit of tugging the braid she generally wears her hair in, she does it so often that it’s become a bit of a joke about the series in general. There wasn’t a lot of braid tugging in the first two books, but it is in there with a vengeance in book 3. I’m surprised Nynaeve hasn’t pulled her hair out by the roots.

At times The Dragon Reborn has the air of a travelogue through a fictional land. It’s interesting, but one feels that maybe the world building could have been done earlier, or cut down on considerably.

The Dragon Reborn sees the introduction of two female characters I can remember not particularly liking later on. The intensely annoying adventuress Faile, who spends most of the book trying and succeeding to get Perrin to fall for her, and the Aiel Spear Maiden Aviendha. I did occasionally find Aviendha funny, but most of the time she was a bit of a Red Sonja caricature.

Despite the criticisms The Dragon Reborn is an integral and strangely compelling entry in The Wheel of Time, and I’m looking forward to rereading The Shadow Rising, where hopefully some of the questions raised in The Dragon Reborn will be answered.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

2013 Hugo Awards

They awarded the Hugos yesterday, and everyone and their dog is blogging or has blogged about it, so my two cents will be a little different. I’ve been at the last two awards ceremonies, but didn’t attend this one and kept up with the winners on the internet or Twitter, fortunately this also meant I didn’t experience the UStream snafu, which is seriously bad form by UStream.

I’m only going to speak about two categories, because they’re the only two I really think I can speak about with any actual knowledge, or passion I guess.

They will be Best Short Form Dramatic Presentation and the night’s biggie: Best Novel.

As seems to now be tradition the award for Best Short Form Dramatic Presentation was taken out by a Doctor Who episode: The Doctor’s Wife by Neil Gaiman. I don’t have any real problem with that. I personally preferred Let’s Kill Hitler to The Doctor’s Wife, it was more fun, but it didn’t make the ballot. The other 4 nominations were 2 other episodes of Doctor Who (I’ll get to that later), an episode of Community and Chris Garcia’s acceptance speech from the 2011 Worldcon when the fanzine he and James Bacon look after won the Hugo in that category.

I’m going to talk about that particular nomination. I’m of the opinion that it really shouldn’t have been there, but apparently it fits the criteria, and enough people must have nominated it to get it in there. It just seems odd to me. Over recent years the people behind the Hugos have worked really hard to make the awards more inclusive and they’re raised voter participation rates, but then they go and allow something which was really an in joke for people who were at last years awards ceremony to be nominated. It was a funny episode and it certainly got people talking at the convention, but it just seems to smack of exclusivity to me.

Now the winner. As I said I liked the episode, and when Let’s Kill Hitler didn’t make it, I voted for it. It just seems that ever since New Who strode triumphantly back onto our TV screens in 2005 nothing else has really had a look in. I enjoy Doctor Who, it’s a great show, but do we really have to have 3 episodes nominated every year? Surely genre TV doesn’t boil down to Doctor Who and a couple of other random things. Last year the novelty song F*** Me Ray Bradbury made the ballot. It’s a great time for genre TV, if a single Doctor Who episode is considered the best of the 5 things nominated so be it, but let’s have some other shows nominated. That’s it rant over.

Onto the novels. It was, I felt, a stronger field than in 2011. I did a preview in an earlier post, but to recap the nominated novels were:
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R Martin
Among Others by Jo Walton
Deadline by Mira Grant (excuse me when I speak about that, because I’ll probably keep referring to the author by her real name of Seanan McGuire)
Embassytown by China Mieville
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A Corey

Jo Walton’s beautiful love letter to fans and classic SFF took out the award and deservedly so, it was IMHO the best book in the field, and I voted for it. It’s not a controversial choice, it won at least one other major award this year as well. It’s still a bit of a surprise, though. I’d always seen George R.R Martin as the sentimental favourite, although I don’t think Dance was the best book nominated, nor was it even the best book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, but Martin has a huge following and they’re very passionate. As it worked out I think Dance polled the lowest of the five works. I believe Embassytown came second, and I had thought if anyone would topple George it would be Mieville. I wasn’t all that impressed with Embassytown, in fact I think I gave up on it halfway through. It was my first experience of Mieville, and I’ve been since told it probably wasn’t the best of his books to begin with. I just couldn’t connect to it on any level, but he is a popular author and Hugo voters like him. Deadline came in 3rd. I’ve seen surprise expressed that it was nominated in the first place. The people that say that don’t seem to know about Seanan McGuire’s already substantial and ever expanding army of highly enthusiastic fans, plus Deadline is a zombie book. Zombies are hot property right now, and it’s hard to resist books about them that are so well written and clever. I have to say that I preferred the trilogy (Deadline is the second in the Newsflesh trilogy) opener Feed (which narrowly failed to win the Hugo last year), but it didn’t surprise me that Deadline was there or that it was a strong contender. I have to confess to really liking the space opera Leviathan Wakes, I wasn’t all that surprised that it made the ballot, the author’s association (James S.A Corey is the pseudonym for Daniel Abraham and Ty Francks) with George R.R Martin (Abraham is a good friend and Francks is his assistant) didn’t hurt it and helped get some overflow popularity, I would have liked to see it poll a little higher personally, but there you have it.

For the future? I’m really bad at this (not one of my nominations for last year actually made the ballot), but I’ll have a shot, and please bear in mind that this is September and a few big releases are yet to appear. No new instalment of A Song of Ice and Fire (my money is on 2015 at the earliest, and I think I’m being overly optimistic there), so no nomination for George R.R Martin in this category in 2013. I think Blackout by Mira Grant stands a fair chance of making it, the first two books in the trilogy have, so no reason why the closer won’t, and she’s picking up new fans all the time. James S.A Corey released a sequel to Leviathan Wakes, called Caliban’s War, so that could get a nod from those who enjoyed the first one. One half of James S.A Corey in Daniel Abraham released The King’s Blood, the second of his The Dagger and the Coin series, and if anything it’s been better received than the first one (The Dragon’s Path) and that was a damn good book. One of 2011’s major debutants; Mark Lawrence released a follow up to his Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, and that too has had largely positive reviews, so it may be a chance. Of the releases still to come there’s Joe Abercrombie’s A Red Country, and while I can’t comment on it yet, as it hasn’t been released, and I haven’t read it, if it maintains the quality of his earlier books it should be an absolute cracker and Joe deserves a shot at a rocket ship. China Mieville also put out Railsea, and he seems to get a nomination with every book he releases. I haven’t spoken much about SF, that’s largely because I’m a fantophile and I don’t read or see a lot of SF.      

I hope the field in 2013 can be as strong as the field was in 2012 and congratulations to all the winners.