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Let’s play ball! Summerland by Michael Chabon June 5, 2010

Posted by taryn in best books ever, fantasy, good covers, young adult.
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Cover of Michael Chabon's SummerlandThis is on my list as a must-read for young and adult readers.

Pulitzer prize-winning author Michael Chabon creates an incredible fantasy world where an unlikely hero has to save the world … with baseball

In Summerland, Chabon sets his literary sights on creating an American fairytale, it’s like a modern American version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe featuring the greatest of all American sports, baseball.

Summerland is a place where the sun always shines and it never rains, not in the entire history of Clam Island. It’s where everybody plays baseball. The people of Clam Island are obsessed with baseball, as is Ethan’s dad. But Ethan is hopeless at baseball. He is so bad, he often just stands at the plate and lets the balls go by, much to the despair of his teammates.

But one day it rains in Summerland and everything changes. Ethan is recruited by a bunch of baseball-mad ferishers (American fairies) who want him to save the four worlds … with a baseball team.

(more…)

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justice, warlords and magic: good stuff June 6, 2008

Posted by taryn in Uncategorized.
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Kate Elliot, Spirit Gate, Crossroads Book 1, Orbit. Published 2007.

I have not read any Kate Elliot before and picked this book up on impulse, seeing that great cover, a great teaser page and the Orbit tagline.

People that ride eagles and serve justice? Very very cool. ‘The Guardians’ a mysterious and magical race? Cool. A fanatical, evil and magical army, hiding from justice? Also very cool. Strong and diverse female characters? Nice one.

This is high up on my list for a must-read. Elliot races through the plot and leaves you wanting more. She introduces a whole new world and set of characters part way into the book. I was a bit annoyed at first with the sudden scene change, but it quickly drew me in with its characters and Chinese/Warlordian parallels.

For hundreds of years the Guardians ruled the Hundred, but these unearthly beings have faded from human sight and no longer exert their will on the world. Only the reeves, patrolling from the skies, still represent the Guardians’ power. But there is a corruption in the land that not even they can control, and fanatics are devastating villages, towns, and cities, slaughtering all who oppose them. Outlanders Anji and Mai are fleeing their homeland with a company of dedicated warriors. On reaching the Hundred, they form an alliance with Reeve Joss, and determine to stand against the devouring horde. But, as region after region slips into chaos, a young woman sworn to the Goddess may be all that keeps them from annihilation

Now, I am eagerly awaiting my copy of Shadow Gate to arrive.

Check out her blog, some interesting musings, enough to get lost in for an hour or so?

(The UK cover, above, is so much better than the US/Aus cover, below).

 

A lovely fantasy twinset May 28, 2008

Posted by taryn in best books ever, fantasy.
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What do you call two books in a series? A twinset? Musings aside, this is another great offering from Orbit, one of my favourite sf&f publishers. A fast-paced classic fantasy tale, this is one of my must-reads.

The Innocent Mage

The Awakened Mage

Asher is a strapping young fisherman living in a small fishing village of Lur. He heads to the big city to make a bit of cash to buy his own boat and look after his Da. He scores an excellent job liaising between the races and advising the young and magic-less (and disabled) Prince Gar.

Lur is ruled by the Doranen, an arrogant and magical elf like race. They escaped to Lur from the evil tyrant Morg and now a magical barrier is all that protects them. Asher is an Olken, one of the original inhabitants of Lur. They are banned from using Doranen magic, on penalty of death, but rumous abound of their own ‘earth’ magic, forced underground. Asher of course has loads of this new magic, is the prophesised one and is pulled this way and that as Morg tries to break the barrier and underground Olken magickers try to use him.

The characters are fascinating and flawed (kudos to another strong female character) and the world itself is very entertaining. Love the magic scenes, the weatherworking (love a bit of blood in magic). The world Miller has built is very cool and easy to get absorbed in.

The Innocent Mage and The Awakened Mage are called the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series. I read these back in October 2007 and have also passed them over to my 14 year old sister who loved them. Albeit she found the ending not quite to her liking and a bit depressing.

Read an extract of The Innocent Mage and The Awakened Mage.

The Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker 1), Karen Miller, Orbit, April 2007.
The Awakened Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker 2), Karen Miller, Orbit, September 2007.

a quality sf novel February 11, 2008

Posted by taryn in sci fi.
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Iain M Banks Matter“In a world renowned even within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one brother it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one – maybe two – people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, even without knowing the full truth, it means returning to a place she’d thought abandoned forever.”

Matter is a slow burn (plot-wise). It’s set in his familiar Culture universe, but manages to mix in medieval fantasy with the sci fi that Banks does so well. The extract publicised by Orbit is actually the whole first chapter, so will give you an idea of the pace. It takes a fair amount of back story/ scene setting before the plot really gets moving. For detail hounds like me though, it’s not really a problem and the subsequent race to the finish gets your blood moving.

Prepare yourself for some lengthly discussions of ‘Shellworlds’. I had to re-read one section a few times where Banks is describing the Sursamen Shellworld. But the artificial planet/Shellworld is fascinating and deserving of much scene setting. Worlds within a world, built by some mysterious and extinct race.

The Ship names are as hilarious as ever, my favourite being Lightly Seared on the Reality Grill. The scenes in the Culture are full of Culture gadgets, environments, Culture versions of holosuites, glanding and AI.

The feudalism of the Eighth [level] on Sursamen is a refreshing counter to the Culture ‘verse. The Sarl are a blood thirsty war race, determined to conquer nearby levels/worlds. They use gunpowder, flying beasts, horses, swords, chariots and pistols.

The dialogue, in usual Banks style, is fabulous. The Sarl are, unsurprisingly, old English in style, while The Oct, a species who are supposed to mentor The Sarl and believe they are descended from the original creators of Shellworlds, speak in a lyrical, philoshophical extreme Yoda style. Confusing, bizarre and completely alien.

I liked Steven Poole’s review in this weekend’s Guardian – cheeky and critical. I didn’t notice the links to Lord of the Rings, 2001 or Raiders of the Lost Ark. But I do agree that the ending leaves a bit to be desired and seems unbalanced compared to the first few acts.

However, Matter is well worth reading and persevering with, this is satisfyingly good sf.

Iain M Banks, Matter, Orbit, Jan 2008

best of 2007 January 17, 2008

Posted by taryn in best books ever.
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A quick round up of 2007, from my perspective…

best sci fi author

neal asher (narrowly beat marianne de pierres and sean williams)

neal asher was a new discovery in 2007. He wins my best sci fi author of the year, for having a great style, galaxy and a multitude of stories to read.

best fantasy author

naomi novik

naomi blew me away this year with the Temeraire series. Enthralling medieval fantasy writing, each book has its own complete story. It’s a great alternate history earth with fantastic dragons I’d like to jump on. Plus muskets, ships and battles. What more could you want? I’m looking forward to the new release due later in 2008.

I also hope Peter Jackson gets on and does the movies! Read the article.

biggest disappointment

william gibson, pattern recognition

This book was an ordinary mystery. I was expecting some sci fi blow your mind stuff. It’s not to be. I think the biggest disapointment was being recommended this book by so many esteemed friends and colleagues. Boo. 

Also, as a marketer and generall ‘spread the word-er’, the brand and ‘cool hunter’ aspects were weak in my opinion.

(william gibson narrowly beat out trudi carnarvon for the black magician series).