Last Day for both Henry Vogel’s Kindle Scout campaign and Paul Celmer’s “IGAAKS” Kickstarter

It’s the last day to nominate Raleigh author Henry Vogel’s The Counterfeit Captain in the “Kindle Scout” program, which awards a book deal to titles based on user voting. So! Help Henry out, all it takes is a few seconds, and if his book does end up winning, you get a free copy. “Losing consciousness as her starfighter bleeds air, Captain Nancy Martin expects a lonely death. Instead, she awakens in a cavernous, empty docking bay. When she is mistaken for the vast ship’s mythical Captain, Nancy finds herself allied with ship native Sko against the enemy who attacked her starfighter. Soon, Nancy is on the run from her enemy, unaware of the far greater menace who controls the ship. Can the counterfeit captain unravel the ship’s mystery before her opponents destroy her?” And as first lines go, this one’s pretty darned good: “What a stupid place to die.” Henry did have a very, very successful Kindle Scout campaign last time around, but didn’t quite get over the final bar. Second time’s the charm, right?

 IGAAKS: A modern fashion take on the ancient Inuit Sun visor project video thumbnail

It’s also the last day (well, 26 hours to go) for frequent Bull Spec contributor and Durham author Paul Celmer’s Kickstarter campaign to fund a production-scale run of his IGAAKS eyewear. What are Igaaks, you ask, beyond “a modern fashion take on the ancient Inuit sun visor”? Well, you may have seen me out at conventions or other events wearing the ones Paul made me way back in 2010. They’re always a great conversation starter, drawing people over to my table to try them on or ask, “Hey, can you really see out of those?” Yes, yes you can see! Paul’s now making them in a variety of cuts and finishes, and somehow (I haven’t caught up with him yet to find out the full story) his Igaaks have made it all the way to Hollywood as well, as seen in the trailers for the forthcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows worn by villain Bebop:

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

Pretty cool, eh? But Paul’s campaign is about 50% short of its $5,000 goal, with barely over 24 hours to go. If you’ve been wondering about getting a pair, or just want to help a Durham artisan get up and running, do check them out today.


Paul rocking the “Bull Spec” Igaaks back in 2010 at NASFIC.

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The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Pieces of Hate by Tim Lebbon


Review of Pieces of Hate by Tim Lebbon (, March 15, 2016)

This story consists of two parts, Dead Man’s Hand and Pieces of Hate. They are The Assassin Book One and Book Two. The assassin’s name is Temple and he is pursued by Gabriel, whose origin story is told in the second book. The stories are set in the town of Deadwood in the Dakota Territory during the late 1800s, and on a privateer ship and in Port Royal, Jamaica during the 1600s. There are flashbacks to hundreds of years before this to Gabriel’s life in Wales.

When Gabriel was living in Wales, his family was horribly murdered and it put him in a bad spot when confronted by the conjurer/assassin who did it. He follows any clues he can get to the location of the conjurer and is destined to chase him until he gets his revenge. Each place he finds Temple is where someone sent the assassin to kill someone famous. In these two stories the assassin’s targets are Wild Bill Hickok and Henry Morgan.

The first story is told from the viewpoint of a young shop owner named Doug who meets Gabriel in Deadwood when Gabriel comes to kill the conjurer called Temple. By this time period Gabriel and his horse look like Death because the wounds he gets when he fights the conjurer don’t heal properly and when he is near him the scars burn. Each fight results in a new scar.

Weird things began to happen in Deadwood involving dead people and dark magic. Gabriel fights Temple and when they both leave town Doug’s life goes somewhat back to normal and he lives out his life there, always on guard for more dark magic conjurers.

pieces of hate cover

During the 1600s Gabriel gets passage on a privateer ship and meets a clergyman named Sparks when he follows the conjurer to Port Royal. The ship and its crew have an adventurous journey but eventually arrive in Jamaica, where they discover that Temple and his target have both left town. They follow in order to try and save Henry Morgan. They catch up with Henry, his crew, and Temple. A big battle ensues and Temple goes overboard. Continue reading

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The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Wonder Woman at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee


Review of Wonder Woman at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee (Random House Kids, March 1, 2016)

This is the first book in the DC Superhero Girls series, which is a new series for middle grades. The entire concept of superhero books with female characters is awesome! This series is being backed with dolls, action figures, and cosplay items at Target, plus an animated special.

For Your Humble Reviewer who has been wanting Wonder Woman books, dolls, and action figures since watching Lynda Carter on television in the 1970s, it meant a happy discovery on book release day which resulted in a quick order from the local B&N. The book was read in one evening, and a run to the local Target led to leaving store with bags full of Wonder Woman wonderfulness.

wonder woman super hero high doll

Teenage Wonder Woman wants to leave her home on Paradise Island and go to high school, like all the other teenage superheroes she sees on social media. She already flies around the world saving people, but because she grew to her teen years so isolated, she doesn’t understand other cultures and social norms. When she starts high school at Super Hero High, her lack of familiarity with social norms and teen culture mean that she really is the “new” girl. Continue reading

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The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal


Review of Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal (, March 8, 2016)

Katya is a futuristic antiques dealer from the West Coast. She is riding her bike on a forest trail and pulling a trailer along behind. Her latest acquisition, a typewriter, is in the trailer. Her sales are dependent on clients believing her videos and social media posts about where in this post-disaster United States she acquired her items. This of course requires being constantly connected to the internet and her customers.

Suddenly she is completely cut off from all outside connection and she discovers a man and a deer nearby. Her discovery means she is a danger to the man and his boss’s project so she gets kidnapped and taken to his camp. The events which unfold in the camp and the relationship between Katya and her captor are the centerpiece of the story. Her captor’s boss and his attitudes and tastes also play a role in Katya’s fate.

forest of memory cover

Kowal’s descriptions make the forest, the deer, the camp, and the characters spring right off the page. It is a profoundly creepy story, and Your Humble Reviewers do not wish to spoil it overmuch. The extensive use of technology and how the lack of it influences the story and Katya’s choices makes the reader look at present-day technology and social media in a new way. It is not a very flattering look at present-day society.

If you like science fiction with a touch of creepiness or urban fantasy set in a natural world, you will love this story. It’s set in the future, but the forest setting makes it feel like urban fantasy. Like many of Kowal’s stories, it is one that makes you think and will leave an impression long after reading.

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Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, February 2016: The Kitchies, Mieville’s This Census Taker, Pinborough’s 13 Minutes, and more

[Editor’s Note: From the Other Side is Paul Kincaid’s monthly column on books and news from the other side of the Atlantic.]

From the Other Side, February 2016
By Paul Kincaid

I’m beginning to worry about the Kitschies. Last year, as I reported, the award seemed to go for a secret ceremony: most people didn’t even know about it until the day itself. This year, they have at least announced the date and venue of the award at the same time that they announced the shortlists, but they have allowed just two weeks between the shortlist and the presentation. Why the rush? I’m not sure that really allows the judges time to revisit the books and consider their verdict, particularly as the same jury has to decide between the five books shortlisted for the Red Tentacle and the five books shortlisted for the Golden Tentacle; but as others have pointed out, it certainly doesn’t allow anybody else much time to acquire and read the books, which stymies the sort of general discussion of the lists that is usually the lifeblood of awards.

And one of the things that usually marks out the Kitschies is the quality of the shortlists, idiosyncratic, bringing to our attention books that often don’t get noticed by the sf field. But this year the shortlist for the Red Tentacle novel award is: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood, Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson, The Reflection by Hugo Wilcken, The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin, The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts. It’s a solid shortlist, but it doesn’t reach into unfamiliar territory the way we have come to expect of the Kitschies. With the exception of the Wilcken, these are hardly books that have escaped the notice of the sf field. The Jemisin was shortlisted for a Nebula on the same day that the Kitschies shortlist was announced, and the Hutchinson (which I persist in regarding as one of the very best novels of 2015) has already been shortlisted for the BSFA Award. Continue reading

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2016 Manly Wade Wellman Award cover gallery

As I’m gearing up to podcast descriptions of all of these books for Carolina Book Beat in the morning, and as nominations have been open a while, here’s a cover gallery of this year’s Manly Wade Wellman Award  final eligibility list of 115 titles, alpha by author:


The Light Who Binds (Bluebell Kildare Series Book 2) Spell of Shattering (Dark Caster Series, Book 4) The Dead Chain
The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1) First Frost (Waverley Family, #2) The Wonderland Effect
The Subterranean Season: A Novel Adventures of a Space Bum III: Finding Galium Serafina and the Black Cloak (Serafina, #1) Continue reading

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The Exploding Spaceship Reviews The Devil You Know by K.J. Parker


Review of The Devil You Know by K.J. Parker (, March 1, 2016)

One of the devil’s minions has to deal with a request from the writer and philosopher Saloninus to sell his soul. Saloninus never made much money as a writer, but he invented a new type of blue paint which made him a fortune.

The writer’s request seems to be an ordinary one and the devil’s minion and the writer get along quite well with the minion being very helpful in locating nice clothes and food. This is a good thing since the minion will be sticking around to keep an eye on his investment. Soon the requests don’t have a purpose that the minion can ascertain. He is forced to ask about several things. It becomes clear that Saloninus has thought this deal out quite a few steps ahead.

The minion is enjoying himself, though, and so doesn’t mind the situation at first. He has great respect for the customer as a philosopher and some of the his works were the basis for several of the minion’s basic tenets of living. He keeps doing what he is asked and doesn’t wonder too much about what Saloninus is doing.

devil you know cover Continue reading

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The Exploding Spaceship Good SF Reads: The Prison in Antares, Silenced, and Mothership


Review of The Prison in Antares: Dead Enders Book Two by Mike Resnick (Pyr, Dec 1, 2015)

Nathan Pretorius hasn’t even healed completely from the previous mission before he and his team are sent off on a new one. The stakes are high for the Democracy because many die every time the Coalition uses their Q-bomb. A Democracy team came up with a defense but Coalition forces killed all but one of them and then kidnapped the survivor!

So Nathan is tasked with getting this man back into Democracy hands at all costs. They play a massive game of double-cross and find the cup (room) containing the pebble (man).

This volume has them taking several spaceships, using some strange local transport, searching a planet wide computer net for maps so they can find their way around a mining and prison planet, doing an extraction of the kidnapped scientist more than once, and of course fighting both on the ground and in space.

prison in antares cover

Continue reading

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The Exploding Spaceship Reviews The Absconded Ambassador by Michael R. Underwood


Review of The Absconded Ambassador by Michael R. Underwood (, February 23, 2016)

This is the second episode of Genrenauts, the multiple-world-hopping adventures of Leah. This time she and her crewmates are off to sort out a breach in a science fiction setting. They go to Ahura-3, in the space opera region. Ahura-3 is a hub for ships and commerce from dozens of species with thousands of languages and variances both cultural and biological; this is not exactly a good operation location for a newbie like Leah. She has to remain with and take instructions from another agent.

Leah thoroughly enjoys her first time in freefall, and soon finds herself on a massive space station. Her first thoughts are that it’s an airport terminal mixed with a Star Wars-style cantina, which probably would describe any space station inhabited by multiple species. She gets to use a cool wearable tablet but she is not as happy about the culture requiring her to wear heavy makeup.

The crew of their ship, the Free Trader Grendel, is known about the station because they have been there three times in the last two years. Everyone splits up to put their ears to the ground in different places to try and identify the breach. Nothing seems amiss when they dock, but as soon as Leah steps into the range of a view-screen she gets a hint, because the big local story relates to all the traffic changes due to the signing of an alliance later in the week. Soon she and Shirin are schmoozing a local contact, with Leah trying to follow her lead so she keeps out of trouble in this fantastic new place.

absconded ambassador cover

Leah’s good instincts help them to solve the problem and the team splits up to handle two locations at once. This gives the reader a chance to learn some background on other team members, knowledge which Leah doesn’t have. They all have a great deal of history and experience so every adventure reveals more hints of their pasts. What Leah will make of it when she learns everyone’s story will make for interesting reading.

Having Roman and King traveling off together gives a definite good cop/bad cop feel to their adventures as well as showing how well they work together from experience. Shirin and Roman definitely have different working styles, and neither does the other’s way very easily, so having them lead separate activities gives the reader a chance to learn more about what the team does as a whole. Both activities lead to explorations of facets of the culture and races of the setting, and so are really interesting to science fiction readers. The larger and more interesting the universe inhabited by the characters in a space adventure is, the more interested readers will be in returning to it. Your Humble Reviewers love this large, complex, multi-cultural, multi-species setting and so hope that Leah visits it frequently!

Buy: IndieBound ($12.99) or Kobo ($2.99)

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The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Recent Good Fantasy Reads: Vendetta, Blood Hunt, and Son of the Black Sword


Review of Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel by Gail Z Martin (Solaris, Dec 29, 2015)

It’s the further adventures of Sorren, Cassidy and Teag from the Trifles and Folly Antique Shop which take us into some secrets of Sorren’s past as they try to determine who is destroying places and people connected to Sorren. When you are a centuries old vampire, the number of enemies you have can be quite large, but few will go to the lengths of bombing your businesses and trying to kill your loved ones and employees.

From the powers needed for the attacks and the type of help being employed, Sorren thinks he knows who it is, but there is one problem: the person responsible is supposed to be dead. Sorren spends part of this book running around the world dealing with multiple attacks on his shops and houses. This leaves Cassidy and Teag without his help at some crucial points. Their local friends help them to survive the attacks, but it becomes clear that Charleston is getting the brunt of the new attacks so Sorren stays there. This turns out to be what the bad guys wanted because Sorren’s house is attacked when he is home.

vendetta cover

In fact, nobody makes it through this story unscathed. Poor Sorren has to deal with the grief from the loss of employees and loved ones as well as the physical attack on his person. We get some views of Sorren’s love life for the first time in this volume. Teag and Anthony’s relationship moves to a new level as Anthony gets a more complete picture of what Teag and Cassidy actually do. He decides his love for Teag is strong enough for him to deal with the strange and scary events, so Your Humble Reviewers see wedding bells coming in a future story. Continue reading

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