Blog Archives

Most Anticipated Books of 2014

For two years now, my goal has been to read as many different kinds of novels as I can. I’ve tried out several different genres/subgenres that I normally would not, and the experience has helped me in becoming a better reader and a reviewer. Being a prolific reader and reviewer is all about diversity, in all its different forms. And that’s what I’ve come to value most.

Still, its not that easy, dealing with the diversity, or just the sheer volume of all the reading. When I put together the 2013 list of my most anticipated books (link), I intended to read all of them. But sadly that never happened and somewhere along the way I just lost track. The 2013 list had 51 books on it. The 2014 list has 41 books on it. A much more manageable number I dare say.

We’ll see how the year pans out and whether or not I will indeed be able to get through all them. I remain hopeful as ever. And there will be some more lists going up in the next couple weeks, so stay tuned for those.

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Are Classics Re-readable?

As part of my “Top 25 Series To Read In 2013” reading challenge, I’ve read a fair amount of books this year that can be considered to be classics of science fiction and fantasy, in all their different forms. There is a certain charm to all these novels that has persisted long after they were first published. Whether we talk about Frank Herbert’s space operatic political intrigue epic Dune or Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s true-to-style epic fantasy Dragons of Autumn Twilight, I’ve had a lot of fun with these novels.

And that is my question: are they re-readable? I’ve read Dune and Dragons of Autumn Twilight several times since when I first read them in 2001. I think they are rereadable, but I’m not completely sure. Is the question answerable in part with regard to whether the book is good or not? We shall see.

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The A-to-Z Author Survey

Earlier this month I posted two surveys on my blog. Sort-of surveys at any rate. You can find the one about books here and the one about comics here. I really had a lot of fun doing those, and I thought it would be fun to doing them again, but with a cool twist that I hope sounds as inspired to you as it does me. Or maybe not.

I spent the last 3 hours thinking of some kind of a blogpost to write. There are some ideas I had but nothing I could put up today, which was the whole point really. So yeah, this is going to follow the same meta layout as the other surveys. I’m not limiting this survey to just novelists, I’m including comics writers as well.

Hope you enjoy! And do share your thoughts in the comments!

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Publishing and Marketing 03: Women in SFF Part 1

One question that is being asked by many in the wake of the recent SFWA controversy, and all the commentary it has spawned in various places about misogyny and sexism within the publishing industry is: “If I want to read more books by female authors, where do I start?”

Often times, I think it is rather disheartening to hear such a question. Women have been writing books for a long, long time. And for people to not even be aware of that, or for that matter, be able to perform a basic google search about who are the big names right now? Doesn’t speak so well for us as a community. Speaking of the industry in the broadest sense, we are all very close-ranked, and to break out of the apparent restrictions is not easy. Sure its “easy” to get published as a woman, but to receive recognition? That’s an uphill battle.

It all comes down to respect. And when it comes to respect within the publishing industry (or even just in general in daily life), never ever use the word “political correctness”. That’s a dirty word to use, and it betrays a lack of ability to engage, and wilful dismissal of a very serious and ongoing issue that affects us all. Just look at the entire entertainment industry as a whole, whether its novels or comics or movies or even news.

In such a state, it is absolutely essential that we willingly look to broaden our horizons. We should take chances and read outside of our comfort zones, because otherwise we don’t challenge ourselves and we just propagate the “like begets like” scenario and we cannot grow as an individual.

Which is what this editorial, the third in my Publishing and Marketing series, is about: stepping out of your comfort zone. If you’ve never read a book by a female author before, then my suggestions herein are an excellent place to start.

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The Names Schedule

Last time I announced that I had gotten in touch with a few debut authors from this year and the past about a series of guest posts for the blog – Names: A New Perspective. This was borne out of my fascination and interest for how I name things in my fiction, and how published authors do it as well. All the relevant details are all in that first post. Over the last few days I’ve received all the entries for the first wave of posts and I just wanted to share the schedule with all of you. The response has been excellent and I can’t thank the authors enough for their own interest.

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Names: A New Perspective

As I briefly mentioned in my August Report, I’ve been hammering out a series of guest posts on the blog, all written by debut authors of this year and the last and the one before. The topic is how the names of characters and places and other things within their novels (and other works where appropriate) fit into their setting, their relevance and their power. My own (old) thoughts on the matter can be found here and here. Here are the details of how I’m approaching all these guest posts.

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Best of the Best Part 1

Twitter has been buzzing lately with “best of the year so far” and “most anticipated lists”. Looks like everybody and their fictional cat is on the bandwagon. So I thought I’d do one too, a “best of the half-year” list that is. I mean why not, I’ve read so much good stuff this year that it all deserves recognition anyway. I already do a top-of-the-month list anyway, as you can see on the Reading Awards page, so this should be good fun either way.

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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So Much To Do

And so little time. *sighs*

Two weeks on since my last post, and things have been extremely hectic. And that is an understatement since I am totally bogged down with work. Not my day job of course, but with what I call my night job: writing.

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Much Needed Update

Arite. So it’s been quite a while since I did one of these.

But if you’ve been keeping track, and I know a hell of a lot of people have been, you know that I’ve been super busy reading, reading, and more reading since I got back from GDUK2011.

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The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell (Advanced Review)

In the depths of space, the Silver Skulls take on the might of Huron Blackheart and his Red Corsairs.

– The Gildar Rift, a Space Marine Battles novel by Sarah Cawkwell.

Note: I would like to point out that this is an advanced review since the novel itself will not be available to the general public until December this year, and was available only to the people who were at Games Day UK a few days ago.

The Space Marine Battles range for Warhammer 40,000 is a rather interesting one. It is about telling the stories of some of the greatest battles fought by everyone’s favourite post-humans in their charge to protect Mankind. As such, as far as my knowledge extends, all the novels out so far have been inspired by snippets or otherwise in the existing background, whether it is years old or relatively brand new.

The latest addition to this range is the Silver Skulls/Red Corsairs oriented novel The Gildar Rift, courtesy of Sarah Cawkwell, who is BL’s first published female author. But she is a short story veteran, courtesy of Hammer & Bolter, and aside from Ben Counter who has been in every single issue of that e-magazine, she is the most prolific author in the same, with no less than 4 short stories.

Sarah has effectively become the Silver Skulls author, much as people would argue that James Swallow is the Blood Angels expert, or Graham McNeill is the Ultramarines expert. And that is no way a bad thing since she has brought to life one of the sidelined, lesser-known chapters and really given them a life of their own.

Having read her previous short stories about the Silver Skulls, I was rather excited to read this novel, particularly since the characters are all different, with the focus being on a different company and different heroes and different villains.

In short, The Gildar Rift is an amazing novel, and it is definitely a good placement in the Space Marine Battles range precisely because of the reasons I have already mentioned and because it is so different in its pacing compared to the others. It starts a little slow, but then builds up quite well and then maintains that pace throughout, all the way till the end.

It also, quite extensively, narrates rather fearsome and tension-ridden space battles, which are a joy to read. The ground assaults and the naval warfare are well-balanced in screen time, especially since the main hero is the Silver Skulls Master of the Fleet, Daerys Arrun, Captain of the Fourth.

In the novel’s timeline, things are rather dire for the Silver Skulls as their numbers are on a continual decline and there is a whispered undercurrent of tension between the battle-brothers of the chapter and their Prognosticators, their Chaplain-Librarians on whose visions and auguries the chapter decides whether or not to fight.

That all said, the characters act like they are supposed to act, irrespective of rank or faction. The Space Marines talk like Space Marines, the Chaos Space Marines behave like they are supposed to, and so on. Nothing in their dialogue or in the way they act is in any way jarring, unlike some of the other novels that can be named.

And of course, if you have seen the covers, then you will know that Huron Blackheart is featured in the novel and this traitor warlord handles his screen-time with a presence that just leaps off the covers. This is the second (edit: third) time I have read of him in a novel, the first being some old short story about a White Scars infiltrator among the Astral Claws (edit: and second being Skull Harvest in the Heroes of the Space Marines anthology), and he was a delight to read. Now I really want to read Blood Reaver to see how Aaron Dembski-Bowden has handled him.

The novel is itself set entire within the Gildar Rift system, a system notable for its treacherous space lanes because of numerous asteroid debris belts that have a significant effect on the plot several times. As one of the systems under the protection of the Silver Skulls, the chapter deploys quite a significant presence to counter the invasion by the Red Corsairs, who use misdirection and traps within traps to lure the loyalists away. Huron Blackheart and Daerys Arrun are quite a match for each other and the climax of the novel alone is worth picking it up.

Oh and for fans of the Chaos Codex, expect some rather nice surprises. I have a feeling that the first mention of them (there are two) in the novel will really force people to not put down the novel and just keep reading.

There are a few small hiccups in the novel, which I suspect I just need to read again to make sense of, but in no way, during the reading are they ever significant enough to disrupt the experience.

Like Battle of the Fang, and unlike The Hunt for Voldorius, the novel does have a twist which is the main reason for why the Red Corsairs attack and why the Silver Skulls must defend their flagship. I am not sure if I am so keen on this twist as I feel that it really could benefit with some more background on it, as well as a future short story or novel where it is explored further. It definitely deserves either of those. I will say though, that the twist is rather unusual and is the sort which divides people’s opinions. But it is i no way something that is jarring or unexplained or just there for the heck of it. There are reasons and situations which make it viable in the here and now, and why it must be protected at all costs.

Overall, The Gildar Rift is one novel I would definitely like to recommend to people, whether or not they like Space Marines. For fans of Chaos Marines, this is especially recommended for those who want more Huron after Blood Reaver. I do hope that Sarah Cawkwell gets a chance to write either a sequel or another Silver Skulls novel.

Rating: 8.5/10

Games Day UK 2011

The biggest Games Workshop event of the year. After the singularly disappointing experience that was Games Day LA 2008, GDUK’11 was a blast.

I did everything I wanted to do. I talked to all my favourite authors who were in attendance. I got all the books I wanted. I met some great fellow Boltholers. I submitted my two short story summaries for the BL pitch board. I went to the BL seminar. So the long and short, here goes.

The evening before, I met with Paul, who I had asked to buy some books for me that I wouldn’t be able to get at GD, and his friend James. We had a quite a bit of fun time in the Premier Inn Restaurant just chilling and talking 40k while watching the sports channel. We were later joined by Bod (the Inquisitor) and much later, Schafer. I was rather eagerly awaiting Schafe since he had my ticket to the event 🙂

The evening therefore was rather fun and enjoyable, culminating in some nice pizza and diet coke that I rather enjoyed. My first British pizza, hah!

It was discovered during the course of the evening that the entrance queues for GD were to be rather large so I got up quite early the next day to head over to the LG arena. The light Birmingham drizzle didn’t dampen my spirits and as it turned out, the queues to get in were in fact large. But the staff were processing the folks fairly quickly.

I bumped into Narry while in the unorganized mass of people heading into the arena and quickly divested him of the copy of Space Marine Collector’s Edition I had asked him to buy for me. Take note folks, that package is rather bulky. It just about barely fit in my backpack.

Once inside, we quickly headed over to the BL area, on the far side of the arena, to grab our tickets to the “Writing for BL Seminar” but spent roughly a good 20 minutes going back and forth all over the convention floor trying to find the right place to get said tickets. Which we eventually did after quite a bit of effort.

Then it was time to head over back to the BL area, where I grabbed my two tickets to the Author Cafe sessions and then proceeded straight to see the one person I definitely wanted to meet. Sarah Cawkwell aka Pyro. After a rather warm welcome, she patiently waited while I flipped through my copy of the programme to get it signed by her.

After promising that I was going to purchase a copy of The Gildar Rift soon-ish I quickly got Gav Thorpe and James Swallow to sign the programme as well, as well as having them sign my copies of Age of Darkness and in Jim’s case, Black Tide. Funny thing, I turned out to be a minor celebrity since they both knew who I was when I introduced myself as Shadowhawk. (more on this later). Well I had already talked to Jim off-forum through his site to get some advice so that wasn’t as much of a surprise but hey, he still knew who I was 🙂

Then me and Narry got into the queue for the sales area but that was going nowhere so we just headed off to attend the seminar, which was being hosted (chaired?) by Christian Dunn, John French, Jonathan Green and Sarah. Much hilarity ensued during this seminar, which turned out to be partly a new release info seminar since some of the people really seemed to have not understood the title of the seminar. Ah well. I got my question answered so I am rather hopeful about one of my short stories that I sent off during the submissions window in the summer.

With the seminar done, it was a mad dash back to the BL area, on the diagonally opposite side of the convention center to see the state of the sales queue. It was now a rather daunting affair, with at least 200 people in the line. Feeling slightly disappointed, I went off to my first Cafe session.

And it rocked.

The first thing Sarah said when she saw me was “Didn’t I just leave you at the seminar?”. *Evil grin.*

Well she talked animatedly about TGR and her other upcoming projects, one of which is the audio drama called Indomitable featuring Marneus Calgar and Chaplain Cassius. As well as some other stuff, which included HANSUM SPESS MAHRINEZ. Women.

The time was cut short though when a BL staffer told us that the authors would have to be rotated around, and my group found ourselves hosting Nick Kyme next. Let me tell you, as much as Graham and Dan might be popular among the fans, Nick is one of the coolest people I have ever met. Long talks were had about Vulkan’s fate, the nature of his lost relics, what happened to Ferrus Manus after Istvaan V, Nick’s next in-work project which is a Ferrus Manus novella for the HH and the Salamanders in 40k. Me and Schafe asked a fair bit of questions and Nick was happy to answer our insane ramblings.

High point of talking to Nick was when he approached me later and told me that I had asked some great questions. Oh my!

The third author of the 11.30 cafe session was Chris Wraight, the man who gave us the masterpiece that is The Battle for the Fang. And he is a great person to talk to as well. His thoughts on the nature of the Space Wolves as they are at the end of the Horus Heresy, how the chapter is going to change over the years et all were interesting. So were his thoughts on the Iron Hands when I asked him about his next project, Wrath of Iron, an Iron Hands Space Marine Battles novel. Talking with him has convinced me that the novel will be another great piece of work that, in the same vein as Fang, delves into the intricacies of the Iron Hands’ nature and their relations with the citizenry of the Imperium and the Adeptus Mechanicus. And Iron Fathers. Expect this one to be a bestseller.

Well, now I finally had some damn time to go off and do whatever I wanted. So the time from 12.30 till 2.30 was spent trying to get into the sales queue and pick up the novels I wanted, and then get them signed by all the authors. Oh and the GD anthology as well.

So the haul was rather good. And I got them all signed! Wheeee!

Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight
The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell
Nocturne by Nick Kyme
Hammer & Anvil by James Swallow
The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill
Shadow King and Caledor by Gav Thorpe
Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
The GD 2011 Anthology

I should probably say at this point that I bumped into Nick at least three times because I kept forgetting that I had stuff to get signed by him and he just looked at me like I was a dork 😀 But hey, this was still a feat because at times his queue was almost as big as the ones for Dan Abnett and Graham McNeill! Someone was popular.

Speaking of popular, I would be fairly in correct in saying that Sarah was needlessly worried about how her queues were going to be near non-existent. Glad to say that her queue was rather long at times, especially when it took me about 20mins of waiting to get my copy of TGR signed. Cheers for her success. I have started reading the novel and am quite a bit along and definitely liking what I read. A review will definitely be up soon.

I should also mention that I got 20 seconds of a great time with William King as well, getting him to sign my 8 year old copy of Grey Hunter, my first ever 40k novel. That man looks all excited and pumped up to be back on the BL scene. Best wishes to him!

In all this madness till now, I was lucky enough to grab a small bite of lunch, much to my relief.

After that, it was back to the next author cafe session, this time with Jim and Aaron. Sandy Mitchell was there as well but I have no interest in the CC novels so I skipped his talk.

The best piece of info I managed to get from Jim about his upcoming projects was a Space Marine Battles novel concerning the Blood Angels. Mighty exciting topic I’d say and one that is long overdue. The conversation with him also included tidbits about the Garro audio novels, in conjunction with some of the things mentioned by Christian during the seminar earlier, and I am rather interested to see how Garro, Varren, Rubio and Loken’s arc progresses next.

Aaron is, well, Aaron. We got some tidbits about his thoughts regarding gene-seed capabilities, his as-yet nebulous thoughts about the future of the Night Lords novels, why he chose a Fenrisian woman to be the Inquisitor character in his upcoming Grey Knights novel The Emperor’s Gift and some other stuff.

It bears saying at this point that I had run into him just before the Cafe session and gotten him to sign my newly-purchased copies of Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver. When he asked what my name was for the sig message, and I told him my forum name, he said “you are that guy”. Always nice to be known so 😀

Well after all this excitement, there wasn’t much to do. I had already submitted my two short story summaries to Laurie Goulding, who was covering the Pitch board. And I had already had a helping of the H&B First Anniversary cake, courtesy of Christian, but I went back for a second helping. It was a damn good cake.

Spent the remainder of the time just chilling around, talking with some of the other Boltholers, chatting with Laurie regarding the Spring Submissions and the pitch board, chatting some more with Sarah and that’s about that.

Oh and I did manage to somehow squeeze in some precious seconds with Dan Abnett when he was finally leaving, getting him to sign my programme and my copy of Age of Darkness. Also went over to see Graham and do the same signing gig. Big shout-out to him because the staff had already closed his queue but he took the extra time to sign stuff for me and a couple other stragglers with me.

All in all, a very, very fun day. I would love to come back next year and have even more of a blast. Perhaps I’ll even have had something published by then 🙂

For some more details regarding exciting information courtesy of the authors and the editors, check out this link.