Article and Interview by Angela and Gerald Blackwell (The Exploding Spaceship)
This weekend, Nov 15th and 16th, NC Comicon is being held at the Durham Convention Center. Featured guests include John and Carole Barrowman, Tommy Lee Edwards, Neal Adams, and Sean Murphy. See the entire guest list and download a schedule at www.nccomicon.com. Some highlights of the schedule include a panel with John and Carole, the US premiere of a new Kung Fu Panda short, a Lego panel with the editor of BrickJournal magazine, artist portfolio reviews and a writing workshop with Carole.
Interview with John and Carole Barrowman
Both you and John have fans in North Carolina and we have wanted for years for you to attend an event here, so we are very happy that you are visiting NC Comicon. Is this your first trip to North Carolina for an author event or convention?
CB: We’re both looking forward to this con! When my children were small, my husband and I did a road trip through the Carolinas and up to Washington DC. It’s beautiful country.
JB: I’ve never been to the Raleigh/Durham area, but I’m looking forward to it, even if only for a quick in and out visit.
What is the US release date for Book of Beasts?
JB: Simon and Schuster will release the third book in our trilogy next year some time. Perhaps later in the summer. We don’t have an official date yet. The cover is amazing, though. Read the rest of this entry »
Article and Interviews by The Exploding Spaceship (Angela and Gerald Blackwell)
This weekend (Oct 31-Nov 2) HonorCon is being held at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown. This is a science fiction convention celebrating military science fiction literature and Honor Harrington’s birthday. Most of the events feature David Weber’s Honorverse which now has a new participant, Timothy Zahn. A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn was released on October 7 (see review here). This is the first volume in a new series about the early days of the Royal Manticoran Navy.
The convention will include events about all aspects of the Honorverse including some panels led by fan groups as well as the expected Weber panels, events about writing and getting published, and some panels on other science fiction universes like Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. You can see a full schedule of events here. Online tickets have sold out, so if you don’t have yours already, then you must buy them onsite, where there are weekend passes as well as Saturday- and Sunday-only passes, as well as reduced-price children’s tickets.
Interview with Timothy Zahn
You have a new book out which is set in the Honorverse. Can you tell us how you went about this collaboration? Did you interact with BuNine as well as David Weber?
David, Thomas Pope, and I first hash out the story, after which I write it all down in a general outline. David and Tom read the outline and we tweak it until we’re all satisfied. I then write the preliminary draft, which is then again filtered through David and Tom (and, via Tom, through BuNine). They send me their comments/suggestions/changes, and I do the rewrite. One final pass by everyone, a final (hopefully final) polish, and we’re done.
What are some of the events you are looking forward to at HonorCon? Read the rest of this entry »
Review of A Call to Duty, Manticore Ascendant: Book One by David Weber and Timothy Zahn (October 7, 2014, Baen)
Timothy Zahn is writing in David Weber’s Honorverse and he presents a story from the early days of the Royal Manticoran Navy. And at 354 pages, it has to be one of the shortest books in the series. Zahn has made himself as much at home in Weber’s extensive universe as he did when writing in the Star Wars universe.
The first four years of Travis Uriah Long’s enlistment parallel the story of the RMN during the same period. There are many people who don’t care about being battle ready, more who lie, cheat and steal, and those honest, hard workers like Travis get punished when they don’t accept that behavior. His refusal to back down to someone who is wrong leads him to switch from Impeller Tech to Gravitics Tech during his post-basic training. This ends up serving him well to get him posted to a ship which is a tightly run place like he imagined they all were before he enlisted.
His outside-the-box strategies to get himself, his mates, and his ship out of danger or to rescue others are just what the revamped RMN will need. For those of you who haven’t read any of this series, this one is a good place to start because it is shorter and occurs earlier in the RMN’s timeline than the books focused on Honor Harrington.
As with all Honorverse books, you get naval battles, ship techie talk, and personal interactions of the crew. This volume was an easy read compared to some previous volumes and is of normal novel length. The plot and pacing are good and we see quite a bit of Long’s character and even what some of his officers think of him, which can be enlightening about that particular officer’s character. Hopefully we will see another volume with Travis Long in the near future.
Review of Falling Sky by Rajan Khanna (October 7, 2014, Pyr)
Airships, feral zombie-like humans created by a disease, and a Jewish hero named Ben Gold all come together to make a very interesting post-apocalyptic first novel. Ben has an airship named the Cherub, which he inherited from his father. Because of the risks of being on the ground, he lives in the airship most of the time.
Ben has hooked up with a group of scientists who want to cure the disease, but their refuge gets attacked by inhabitants from a floating city. Now he must work with the scientists, some old friends, and some new acquaintances to get them and their airships all out of the clutches of their attackers.
It’s fast-paced with good characterization and the background of the world and Ben’s history is a steady trickle throughout the story rather than being dumped on you all at once. Background information pops up as it becomes relevant to the narrative, as it should do in a well-written novel.
Ben balances a current love interest with an old girlfriend but does eventually end up with only one girl. We are left hanging as to their future beyond their surviving the final battle, so hopefully there will be another volume coming soon. This one was around 250 pages, so perhaps a second book was written at the same time and we won’t have to wait long!
Review of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (August 26, 2014, Ecco)
Well, the first thing about this book is that the publishers didn’t market it as a fantasy. It’s classed as a historical novel because it is set in 1680s Amsterdam, The Netherlands. However, the premise of the story is that someone is making tiny copies of Nella’s actual house contents and dolls of her family and people who visit the house, and then sending them to her to fill the doll house she was given as a wedding present. Nella can’t figure out how they are doing it, even when she does determine who. So it is obvious there is a sort of magic or superpowers or something going on here but it is not explained.
The weirdness with the doll house contents is not the main plot of the story. The story is about Nella and the family she has married into. Her husband is not able to be a husband really and his sister still thinks it is her house although Nella is technically the lady of the house. The servants play a big role in the story and as is usual in historicals, the mixing of upstairs and downstairs makes for secrets the entire house tries to hide from outsiders.
The setting of the house is well done with good descriptions of not just the objects but the mood people feel from the furnishings. The city is also well done: Nella walks around and you get a feel for the city. Winter makes everything feel different because of the ice and lack of easy movement in boats.
Note that although Nella is a young adult, there are some adult sex scenes in this book, some of which have same gender participants. It has a bit of blood and violence and some death. All of this is well done with enough visual to demonstrate the horror of something or show the forbidden love being revealed. The weirdness with the doll house gives the entire book a sort of creepy undertone because real world events are reflected in the parcels Nella receives from the miniaturist.
The book is very well written, particularly for a first novel. Note that the main character and her cabinet house are real but the story is made up. The novel has a definite European flavor to it, and does a good job exploring race, sex and class in a way no American writer could manage unless they had spent a great deal of time traveling. Although we primarily read and review speculative fiction, this book attracted our attention because Angela loves dolls, and like much “general” fiction today has a speculative fiction feel to it as well as the historical aspect. We would love to see what UK writer Jessie Burton would do with a historical based in the UK.
In Memoriam: a Review of Returning My Sister’s Face, a collection of Far Eastern tales by Eugie Foster
For those who haven’t heard yet, Eugie Foster lost her battle with cancer and its complications today. Instead of flowers, her husband Matthew wants everyone to buy and read her books and tell everyone else how wonderful her fiction was. So to encourage our readers to do that, we review her wonderful anthology of Far Eastern tales published in 2009 by Norilana Books.
The “Kitsune” cover art by Ahyicodae is beautiful enough to draw buyers without even looking at the stories inside. However, Your Humble Reviewers are extremely interested in Asian culture and art (we are martial artists who like Asian art galleries) so the Far Eastern tales would have drawn our attention even if we didn’t know Eugie. We offer info on all the tales in this collection to encourage our readers to go looking for her work. Please retweet, re-post, and link to this column so the wonderful work of Eugie Foster can be discovered by others.
The first tale in this volume caused a personal discussion with Eugie at a convention and us showing off our phone photos, because she had no idea we were bunny people. We loved her take on the three rabbits chasing motif, “Daughter of Bótù” and we quite agree that people underestimate rabbits. We have been owned by house rabbits since 1994 and think a rabbit warren should be the setting for more fantastical stories. This story is an Asian fairy tale of animal shape changers, humans, and love. It has quite a traditional Chinese feel to it, which is uniquely Eugie, as most other fiction with this feel has been translated, not written in English. Read the rest of this entry »
The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Recent Science Fiction Good Reads: Trial by Fire, Ghosts of Time, and The SaviorPosted: 26 September, 2014
The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Trial by Fire, Ghosts of Time, and The Savior.
Review of Trial by Fire by Charles E. Gannon (July 27, 2014, Baen)
Your Humble Reviewers found this volume to be much more accessible than the previous one, Fire with Fire, with a tighter plot and without such a jarring plot twist. In this book the fledgling Terran Republic is faced with an alien invasion, and that serves to bring the series into much greater focus.
Many of the mysteries left hanging in the first volume are explained in this one, but most were not surprises. The battles are well described with most everything being from an individual’s point of view, with a few larger views thrown in. The smaller attacks on Caine Riordan as an individual are well written with enough fear and confusion as well as fighting to make them realistic and believable.
Usually the viewpoint is of one person and this is done well without information creeping into the scenes which the viewpoint person should not really know. Caine’s love life continues to be a driving factor so interpersonal relationships are as believable and just as confused as those of real people. Read the rest of this entry »
These volumes are young adult or young adult friendly volumes of fantasy we have read in the last few months. Some are from smaller publishers so we thought many of our readers might have missed them. Only the first volume is marketed as a young adult novel, the others are fantasy with appropriate content for most young adults.
Review of War of the Seasons, Book 3: The Hunter by Janine K. Spendlove (Silence in the Library, Dec 2013)
This is the third volume about Story and her adventures in Ailionora, the land of her mother. Elves and dwarves are real, but fairies aren’t what you would expect. Steel harms the beings there, so Story’s knife is a deadly weapon.
Story is engaged to the hunter Eírnin and in this volume that relationship is tested by the arrival of Story’s best friend Josh at the very end of Book 2. Eírnin thinks it’s a love triangle because he doesn’t realize Josh is like Story’s brother, so she wouldn’t think of him in that way. So while the entire kingdom is planning a war against the Winter King to get Story’s sister back and save the entire multiverse, Eírnin and Story spend a great deal of time talking around the problem and avoiding each other. Read the rest of this entry »