Archive for April, 2010

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In Stores: Guy Gavriel Kay’s ‘Under Heaven’

April 27, 2010

If you’re one of the many anxious readers that have been anticipating Guy Gavriel Kay’s newest book, Under Heaven, then wait no more as you can finally run down to your local bookstore and pick it up today! And judging by the first quarter of the book that I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy, and the amount of positive word of mouth it’s received, it’s one you’re not going to want to miss. More than that, it needs to jump to the top of that “to read” pile I know you’ve got!

But whether or not you’ve picked up your copy just yet, you’ll have to take a moment and and check out GGK’s latest essay at Penguin.com where he takes us on a journey into the genesis of Under Heaven and how, for example, the Tang Dynasty of 8th century China influences its setting (and what a setting it is) :

What followed, as I began preparing myself in 2007 for what to do next, was a return to the ‘eastern book’. But something had changed. After those intervening years I somehow found myself more urgently moving towards China itself—treated with my own ‘quarter turn’ towards the fantastic, as one reviewer has described what I do.

The novel which became Under Heaven, was no longer a Silk Road book. Now, as I read and made notes and corresponded with scholars around the world, the new book was going to be inspired by and anchored in the glittering, glorious, sophisticated, violently dangerous Tang Dynasty of the 8th century. One of the absolute high points of civilization—anywhere.

Refer to the essay in full after the jump.

And enjoy the book (look for my own review soon)!

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Quote The Raven

April 20, 2010

“I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”

– Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 1
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Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham

April 15, 2010

Tor announced Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham in early January, but in the case there are a few Willingham and Fables fans lurking about that may have missed out on the news (like yours truly) I wanted to post the following as we await future announcements, including its release date:

‘We are thrilled to be publishing the very talented Bill Willingham in our Starscape imprint. Bill’s first middle grade prose novel, Down the Mysterly River, is a spirited, by turns harrowing, occasionally laugh-out-loud, highly original fantasy that we are confident will enjoy every bit of success as his hugely popular Fables series’ says Kathleen Doherty, Publisher of Starscape/Tor Teen/Tor Kids.

Down the Misterly River was actually first published in 2001 by Clockwork Storybook, and has remained sadly out of print until the announcement that Tor/Starscape had picked it up. Not a lot has been revealed about the book directly from the publisher, but for anyone interested in learning a little more, here’s how the original back cover blurb described the story:

As odd a collection of fugitives as there ever was: a wolf who is not a wolf; a badger who is also an ex-army veteran; the brave sheriff of  a lost forest realm; and a big, ugly, stinky, yellow monster. Together they’re on the run from the dreaded Blue Cutters, who seem bent on their destruction. To escape the Cutters, the four friends will have to flee out of the hills and down the Mysterly River, to reach the one far away place of safety the Cutters aren’t allowed to go: the castle of the Wizard Edgar.

In his Heroes Wood, Bill Willingham has created an enchanting new land of magic and adventure that might lie just down the river from Toad Hall, down the road from Narnia, or over the hill from the Hundred Acre Wood. Willingham gives us deadly sword fights, narrow escapes, lethal traps, surprising betrayals, and all the other necessary elements of a thrilling adventure tale. But at its heart this is also a mystery story, and if the four fugitives can’t first solve the mystery of the Heroes Wood they may never live to reach sanctuary.

I know I was interested in learning more about the tale so there, at least, is an insight into what’s to come for anyone else that’s interested in the project. I imagine that Starscape will find ways to add a little hoopla of their own to the new edition of the book so as soon as more info. is available, and I hear wind of it, I’ll happily post it here.

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Douglas Clegg’s Neverland On Shelves Today

April 13, 2010

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the good people in the public relations behind New York Time’s Best Selling Author Douglas Clegg’s newest novel Neverland, at both Wunderkind and Vanguard Press, who were kind enough to send me an advanced reading copy (unfortunately I just received it this past week and haven’t had the opportunity to peruse the contents just yet) of the book. And while I’ve had my face planted firmly in the other wonderful novel that they sent, Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven, I did have the opportunity of inspecting the book and I’ve got to tell you that it feels great in your hand, that they’ve paid great attention to detail with a striking cover, and old-fashioned pages that make it feel as if you hold a classic in your hand.

And maybe it is, if the praise propelling the momentum of the award winning author and his newest work is an indication:

Neverland is a masterpiece of dark suspense that will forever haunt your dreams.”

— Douglas Preston, New York Times bestselling author

“Clegg (The Vampyricon) crafts a haunting story redolent with the influence of Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, and other classic horror writers. His credible rendering of the internal lives of children and their imaginations give this flight of dark fancy a firm and frightening foothold in reality.”Publishers Weekly

“Douglas Clegg . . . could have hung out with Robert R. McCammon, Bentley Little and Stephen King. These are guys who know America, and know how to literally scare up the best and worst aspects of the American character and slap them into a ripping yarn full of monsters, terror and enough action to keep the pages turning late into the night.”

— Rick Kleffel, book commentator for NPR

Says Clegg himself on writing NEVERLAND:

“This novel, my favorite of anything I’ve written, is about absolute innocence embracing the wildness—and darkness—of the imagination. I was able to explore the destructive nature of family secrets, and how children sometimes create rituals of power as an escape from the world their parents have made.”

But imaginative games are not always innocent . . . and when Beau travels to the Retreat, his grandmother’s forbidding home on Gull Island off the Georgia coast line, resigned to a boring family vacation, he finds that his cousin, Sumter, has other plans.

Sumter has found a run-down shack hidden in the woods, a place “where you ain’t supposed to go,” a place forbidden to them that smells of socks, dead sea creatures—and dread; Sumter christens it Neverland.

Fascinated and terrified by Neverland but thrilled to have made a secret life for themselves in a shack full of old Playboys, smuggled beers, and forbidden words, Sumter and his cousins create a hallucinatory world of dark fantasy, a world ruled by a god of shadows, who Sumter calls “Lucy.”

But the shack is the key to a terrible secret, and the world the children create away from their parents, bound to each other by blood oaths, is anything but innocent. As tensions build at the Retreat and the adults start on their gin and tonics earlier each day, Sumter’s games begin to invoke a nightmarish presence that cannot be contained within the bounds of imagination any longer . . .

The excitement that the publishers have for this book is palpable and the buzz its been receiving is infectious, so I’m really looking forward to tearing into that first chapter to see why its putting such a smile on so many faces. If you’ve got a moment or two, please enjoy the trailer above and then jump on over to Douglas Clegg’s official site for the chance to enter and win a grand prize of an Amazon Kindle, or B&N Nook. You can also read a special excerpt of the novel, and conveniently purchase the book while you’re there.  And I’ve got to say, if you value the people behind the scenes who ultimately get these books in your hands, consider giving this one a shot because they’re going above and beyond to support something they feel is really special. It’s evident in their enthusiasm to share it.

Anyhow, I’ll have more to share of my own about my experiences with Neverland in a future post.

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Under Heaven: To Kuala Nor

April 7, 2010

When I started the blog, I wanted it to be a place where I didn’t just post news bits, and reviews upon finishing a book, but a place where I could also discuss some of my thoughts on what I was reading at the time. I haven’t been able to do that as much as I would have liked so far, but dang if I’m not going to try. Reading is a very personal experience for me and — for good or bad — I have to involve and immerse myself in what I’m reading or there’s little point in my mind for spending time with a book. From time to time, then, I’ll share what I’m thinking about a book here prior to finishing and I hope you’ll get something out of it. As always, feel free to chime in.

[Minor Spoilers Ahead] Fortunately, where the first chapter of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven is concerned, I’m certainly having no problem immersing myself in the story, what with the lead character’s worthy,  self-induced, act of mourning compelling me forward and with prose like this:

In silver light he looked over at his low writing table, the ink-block and paper, the woven mat in front of it. His swords were against the wall beside it. The scent of the pine trees came through the open windows with the night wind. Cicadas whirring, a duet with the dead.

He had come to Kuala Nor on impulse, to honour his father’s sorrow. He had stayed for himself just as much, working every day to offer what release he could to however small a number of those unburied here. One man’s labour, not an immortal, not holy.

The imagery here, and throughout the chapter, is extremely expressive and beautifully so as he brings to life the fantastical Asian tone and setting of Kuala Nor and the surrounding lands. And as I made note of in my last post on the book, here again our “solitary fool” makes mention of the fact that he is not holy, despite the very admirable actions he is undertaking as the novel opens. Granted, it may very well be the case that Tai is not a holy man, but I cannot help but see the admission as evidence of humility rather than an  indictment of the kind of person he is — or thinks he is (perhaps being unable or unwilling to recognize this humility himself).

Shen Tai has been at the business of burying the dead for two years time now at the site of his father’s last battle. There, digging resting places for the bones of fallen warriors on both sides in the harshest of conditions as way of honoring his father and the ghosts that have wailed so many nights awaiting rest. As the chapter, and as his formal period of mourning draws to a close, Tai is presented a gift nearly beyond measure for his service to the dead, as recognized by the opposing army. The gift is of a caliber that he cannot fathom and how this “gift” effects him, I suspect, will have much to do with how the proceeding chapters play out as Kay brings it home ominously in the chapter’s final lines:

The world could bring you poison in a jeweled cup, or surprising gifts. Sometimes you didn’t know which of them it was.

In passing, I also got a kick out of Tai’s passing comment on shaving one morning before he departs out into the cold. Looking in the mirror he ponders a quick shave, but dismisses the thought after “deciding against such self-abuse.” How many times have I had similar thoughts? Just a fun aside, but it’s one of the many small details that I’m enjoying so far about the book, and one of the many insights we’re given about Tai’s sojourn. It’s a very impressive start and I can’t wait to see how the next chapter plays out. Stay tuned for more.

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Looking Forward To: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

April 1, 2010

Who isn’t happy to have stumbled upon a book that sounds genuinely worthwhile but had previously been eluding them? Unfortunately, with the number of talented authors out there penning their hearts away I hate to say that I’m probably missing out on ‘a heck of an awful lot’ these days. Several times a week it seems that I pull up my “Books to Get” file and add a book or two to the list in the hopes of remembering to track yet another great author down — but despite the effort I shudder to think how many great stories I end up missing. Probably shouldn’t think about it.

Whatever the case, it feels good to have eliminated the possibility of missing out on this one: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Book 1 of The Inheritance Trilogy, the debut full length fantasy novel by N.K. Jemisin.

But first a little about it:

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky, seat of the ruling Arameri family. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with a pair of cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.

With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate — and gods and mortals — are bound inseparably.

I don’t know exactly what it is that’s attracting me most about the novel. Maybe it’s the possibility of a rich mythology to dive into, perhaps it’s that compelling cover, and I’d reckon that more than a part of it is the refreshing female protagonist whom we meet in the first chapter of the novel, but whatever the reasons, this is one of those books whose possibilities are simply pulling me towards it and heck if I’m going to fight it. Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven has my complete attention once my (graciously given) advance reading copy arrives, but following that, I suspect The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms it is!

FYI – N.K. Jemisin’s Nebula nominated short story Non-Zero Possibilities can be read (or listened to, as narrated by Kate Baker) here at Clarkesworld Magazine. An extremely interesting piece of work that almost requires introspection at the stories conclusion. I can definitely appreciate that.