Booktopia SF & Fantasy Buzz
January 2014 | Edition 12
Welcome to the January Science-Fiction & Fantasy Buzz
Well it's the end of 2013 and the start of 2014. A whole new year of reading - and a year with some awesome titles due for publication. What books you ask? Well rest easy gentle reader, and I shall bring you all the news on the latest and greatest the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre has to offer.

And kicking it off for 2014 is the debut novel of Brian Staveley, The Emperor's Blades . Wow. I have no hesitation in putting this one forward as the debut of 2014 - I am that impressed with it. If something better comes along from a new writer later this year... well... I don't know. I guess we will have been spoilt!

In other news, we've had word that Michelle Sagara has completed the next Elantra novel, Cast in Flame (squee!) due for publication this August, and somewhat unexpectedly MTV has bought the TV rights to Terry Brooks' Shannara series. That should be interesting.

Happy New Year and happy reading!

Kind regards

Mark Timmony
Supreme Overlord of Science Fiction and Fantasy



(Psst: These are the perfect holiday books as well. Order now for delivery in the New Year)

Follow me on Twitter: @MarkTimmony

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Book of the Month
Click here for more details or to order THE EMPEROR'S BLADES
by Brian Staveley

You can go a long time reading fantasy novels, patiently waiting for the next book by a favoured author to be released and hoping you come across a gem that you can add to your list of 'writers to look out for'. Brian Staveley has become one of those writers for me.

The Emperor's Blades is an impressive debut. Packed with strong characterisation and rich world-building that doesn't overwhelm, it paints a captivating tale of fate and consequence as the scions of a royal house are thrust unprepared into their inheritance and an ancient enemy makes their opening gambit in a bid to reclaim their world. Staveley weaves each point of view into an impressive tapestry that offers different angles by which he explores the history and culture of the setting while narrating a driving tale of coming of age and murder mystery. 

I loved this book and devoured it over a couple of days. It is passionate, hopeful, heart-wrenching, thrilling, shocking and twists like an oil-covered eel. It is absolutely everything I love about epic fantasy and the perfect way to kick off a new year!

The circle is closing. The stakes are high. And old truths will live again . . .

The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy.

His son Valyn, training for the empire's deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. He expected a challenge, but after several 'accidents' and a dying soldier's warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can take action, he must survive the mercenaries' brutal final initiation.

Meanwhile, the Emperor's daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father's murderer in the capital itself. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice.

And Kaden, heir to an empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God's disciples teach their harsh ways - which Kaden must master to unlock their ancient powers. When an imperial delegation arrives, he's learnt enough to perceive evil intent. But will this keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?

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Terry Pratchett jumps to the top of the bestseller list this month with the latest Discworld novel, while George R. R. Martin positions himself in spots two and four with the able assistance of some friends and excitement over the next movie instalment of The Hobbit pushes the book back to number three!

And don't forget, the rest of the bestsellers are listed in the sidebar to the right - just click on the link at the top of the email if you can't see them.

by Terry Pratchett

by George R.R. Martin
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To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork - a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it's soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom read more

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Short and to the point. That's Tyrion. Here are the finest, funniest, rudest and wisest sayings of the miniature Machiavelli; the dwarf with a brain the size of a planet and a heart of (tarnished) gold ...'Sleep is good. Books are read more

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by J.R.R.Tolkien

edited by George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois
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Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an unexpected journey read more

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The collection will also feature a new and unpublished 100pp novella by George R.R. Martin set in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire - now the award-winning HBO show, Game of Thrones. The novella, entitled The Princess and the Queen, will reveal the origins of the Targaryen Civil War, read more

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What I've Just Read: Continuing my effort to widen my sci-fi reading I've finally picked up Peter F. Hamilton's Pandora's Star . I was going to read this years ago but, for whatever reason, put it down. Wow. An immense tome of politics, space opera and crime Pandora's Star brings all the things I love in epic fantasy into a sf novel but with technology instead of magic. Go figure.

What I am Reading: Nightshade by Stephen Leather . This has been out for a while and I don't know how I missed this one. Stephen Leather, better known for his thrillers, embarked a few years ago on the paranormal adventures of PI Jack Nightingale. Atmospheric, page-turning and gritty, these urban fantasy thrillers are not for the faint of heart - this one has been keeping me up at night!

What I am Reading Next: Judas Unchained, the sequel to Pandora's Star. Given the ending of book one I can't read anything but! 

The Dog in the Dark, the latest book in the Noble Dead series comes out this month. Set in one of the most impressive worlds of fiction I've come across in a long time it never fails to impress as the authors move out of myth and carve a true epic of fantasy and horror.

Fancy trying a touch of Spanish influenced fantasy? Then look no further. A refreshing change from English influenced fantasies J. K. Cheney's debut The Golden City takes place in an alternate Portugal, and is a delightful tale of murder, spies, selkies, and very dark magic.

If you have not read Cate Tiernan you are missing out. Nominally considered an author of 'young adult' fiction her work is utter magic. A twister of tropes and mistress of wonder she has played with witches and immortals and now turns her remarkable talents to shapeshifters. Read her if you dare, for once you start it is very, very difficult to stop.

And last but never least, Touch, the second book in Michelle Sagara's urban fantasy finally hits the bookshelves this month. Playing with the boundaries of life and dead she weaves a haunting tale of love and loss, painting a unique view of the afterlife. Emma and friends continue to battle the necromancers of the Queen of the Dead, struggling to free the departed from eternal imprisonment. Sagara has a way of cutting to the heart while offering a gentle and warm balm to soul. I heart Michelle.

by Barb & J.C. Hendee

by J.Kathleen Cheney
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Magiere, Leesil, and elven dog Chap are continuing their quest to find the powerful Orb of Air. But they are not alone. Aging elven assassin Brot'an has forced his company on them while also offering his protection. Chap doesn't believe his ruse, however.As they sail, Magiere struggles with her own dark nature, using Leesil's love as an anchor read more

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For two years, Oriana Paredes has been a spy among the social elite of the Golden City, reporting back to her people, the sereia, sea folk banned from the city's shores...When her employer and only confidante decides to elope, Oriana agrees to accompany her to Paris. But before they can depart, the two women are abducted and left to drown. Trapped beneath the waves, Oriana's heritage allows her to survive while she is forced to watch read more

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by Cate Tiernan

by Michelle Sargara
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What is your birthright? Since she discovered the truth when she turned 13, Vivi Neves has rejected everything her parents hold dear - their heritage, culture, traditions, and especially their dark family secret. They are haguari - cat people, shapeshifters who turn into jaguars, as their ancestors have done for thousands of years.Then, tragically, her parents are killed read more

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Nathan died in the summer before his final year in high school, leaving behind a mother who was devoted to him and a girlfriend he loved. His mother and his girlfriend, Emma, are still alive; Nathan is not. But he wakes in his room-or in the shrine his mother's made of his room-confused, cold, and unable to interact with anyone or anything he sees read more

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Bleak, mysterious and clinical, the atmosphere of The Echo resembles that of 2001: A Space Odyssey. James Smythe carves himself a place as a master of the slow reveal and once you reach that knife edge and fall into 'hooked'... there is no going back.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is another debut not to be missed. A confronting journey into survival versus society, it traverses the depths of humanities dark-heart and the heights of its selfless heroism. More than just dystopian science fiction this novel is as brutal as it is beautiful. Read it!

Science fiction, fantasy, military fiction, and urban fantasy - the Shadow Ops series is hybrid that stretches the imagination and takes you on a roller-coaster ride to the town of Thrilling! Breach Zone is all seat-of-your-pants action, adventure and mayhem. Who needs caffeine when you have Myke Cole to keep you awake all night?

In The Bowl of Heaven two titans of SF join forces to bring you a classic tale of space exploration and encounters of the alien and mysterious kind. A first contact novel not to be missed this collaboration is an awesome example of the best ideas of the 'golden years' of SF being brought to a newer audience.

by James Smythe

by Pierce Brown
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The disappearance of the spaceship Ishiguro twenty-three years ago devastated the global space program and set back exploration for a generation. Now, thanks to the tireless efforts of twin brothers Mira and Tomas Hyvonen, the program has been resurrected. Spearheading a new age of human discovery, the brothers also hope to solve read more

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Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars. Generations of Helldivers have spent their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that one day people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying read more

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by Myke Cole

by Gregory Benford, Larry Niven
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The third book in Myke Cole's acclaimed Shadow Ops series. The Great Reawakening introduced magic into an already volatile world. Many of those with newfound powers have been conscripted by the US Army ...but when the barriers between our reality and the source of this magic starts to fall, they will have to decide who they are really fighting for.

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In Bowl of Heaven, the first collaboration by science fiction masters Larry Niven (Ringworld) and Gregory Benford (Timescape), the limits of wonder are redrawn once again as a human expedition to another star system is jeopardized by an encounter with an astonishingly immense artifact in interstellar space: a bowlshaped structure half-englobing a star, with a habitable area equivalent to many millions of Earths, and it's on a direct path heading for read more...

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Brian Staveley1. To begin with why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself - where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I'm grew up in New Hampshire, a small, cold state with some mountains and some rock in the northeastern part of the US. I'm sure I was raised in a house, but most of my childhood memories involve roaming the woods, building forts, fording rivers, and climbing trees. Eventually I went to college in the same state, a wonderful experience, but one in which I was forced to spend what could have been some valuable adventuring time inside studying.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve, it seemed self-evident that there was no profession more noble or practical than that of the knight errant. Unfortunately, that sort of work fell out of vogue a while back, so I was forced to become more realisitic. I turned to poetry (both the writing and the reading), but that turned out to be even less profitable than knight errantry, not to mention the fact that it involved considerably less exercise. Finally, by thirty, I'd realized that I wanted to write books, and so I set out to do so, not realizing quite how long it takes to write an actual book.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I thought the big things mattered more and the little things mattered less.

4. What were three works of art - book or painting or piece of music, etc - Click here for more details or to orderyou can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

As I kid, I devoured Ursula Le Guin's novels , reading almost entirely for the dragons and the unnamed shadow monsters and such. Later, I realized just what a staggeringly good prose stylist she is, and just how brilliantly she's able to bring her questing, generous, unflinching sensibility to any topic she chooses. She is, in my mind, the ultimate example of a writer who can tell a ripping good story while, at the same time, crafting sentences and paragraphs that invite reading, and re-reading, and re-reading. The same goes for William Faulkner - dazzling writing, nail-biting plot-lines - but Faulkner lacks Le Guin's seemingly effortless mastery. I love Faulkner, but you can always hear him muttering in the background.

Then there's Johann Sebastian Bach. Whenever I feel like I've accomplished something, literary or otherwise, I just listen to a little Bach. Something like the D-minor chaconne makes my stacking the wood or writing a chapter feel like pretty meager fare... but then, I get to listen to Bach, the amazement of which more than makes up for my own failings.

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5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

The scope. A novel (or a series of novels) offers more range than just about any other art form. There are no length constraints on a novel (don't tell my editor I said that), and while each genre has its tropes and tendencies, there are no strict formal requirements. I spent many years writing poetry, an experience that felt like being hunched over a jeweler's bench trying to set tiny gems into intricate settings. I enjoyed that work, and found it excellent training, but eventually I started to get a crick in my neck. After a while, I got tired of squinting. Writing a novel feels more like building something huge - maybe one of those neolithic burial mounds - that takes forever but that allows you to dig down into the earth as far as you want, or to look up at the position of the sun.

As far as non-writing art forms go? Well, if you heard me try to play the banjo, you'd understand why I don't play music. And let's not even get into the visual art thing.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel...
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The Emperor's Blades tells the story of three adult children of a murdered emperor - two sons and a daughter; a monk, an elite warrior, and a politician - who are trying to uncover the plot that led to their father's death. This proves a harrowing task in its own right, and is made harder by the fact that their own lives also seem to be in danger. Even worse, as the novel progresses, the goals of the unknown murderers start to look larger and more terrifying than the simple usurpation of a single empire.

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

Whenever a new reader emails me to say she stayed up until 3AM finishing the book, and that I can go to hell because now she's useless at work today and irritated that the next book won't be out for nine months, I consider that a success.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I admire anyone who sits down with a story to tell and works as hard as she can, as long as it takes, to tell it well.

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9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I'm not sure my ambitions are so grand. If people love the books and I'm able to avoid becoming a hunchback from using the computer sixty-two hours a day, I'll be happy. Oh, and I suppose I want my son (who is now just a year and a half old) to pick up one of my books some day and think I did a good job.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Don't expect it to get any easier.

Brian, thank you for playing.

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In This Issue

Book of the Month


What I've Been Reading

Epic Fantasy

Science Fiction

Ten Terrifying Questions

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