Shake Hands with the Devil

I seldom review movies on this blog. . .

This little piece is not meant to be construed as a review. Yet I urge everyone to go see Shake Hands with the Devil. Based on Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire's bestselling novel of the same title, it depicts the events that led to the genocide in Rwanda. And since the producers kept Dallaire as a consultant, you truly get the feeling that you are seeing a genuine dramatization of the atrocities which occurred in that small African country.

I was afraid that the producers would try to sugarcoat it, which would have ruined the movie for me. Fortunately, they go ahead and point a finger toward those who deserve the blame, as well as the shame that is associated with it. Unless you like to bury your head in the sand and pretend that everything is peaches and cream, it showcases the travesty that the United Nations can be. It demonstrates just how inadequate and what a disgraceful mockery the Security Council can be. It shows (but they let him off the hook too easily for my taste) how Kofi Annan refused to act and attach any sort of importance to the massacres that were taking place. That merry bunch of idiots failed to qualify these horrible acts as a "genocide," for they would have then been forced by international law to intervene.

So they stalled for time, while over 800,000 Tutsi were exterminated by the Hutu, all in about 100 days. And I was extremely glad when I discovered that the producers didn't pull any punches and laid the blame of that blatant inaction on those who are worthy of infamy for allowing a genocide to occur during their watch: The international community in its entirety is to blame, of course, but France and the USA could have put a stop to the atrocities before it became wholesale slaughter. And Belgium deserves its share of the blame for withdrawing its Peacekeepers in the middle of the conflict.

Needless to say, Shake Hands with the Devil is a powerful film. Shot on location in Rwanda for the most part, it certainly makes you stop and think about just how incompetent and incapable the UN is when it's dealing with that sort of crisis. . . This is no big budget, feel good flick, so I figure it won't remain in theaters for long.

Do yourself a favor and go see it.:-) The truth of what took place in Rwanda is ugly, but I believe it should be seen and understood. . .

For the last time: I AM NOT Patrick Rothfuss!!!

I honestly don't know how or why this is happening. . . Again. I know I was the first person to review The Name of the Wind, and I'm thus responsible for starting that internet buzz surrounding his fantasy debut. Along with Rob, I was probably the first one to do a full-length interview with the guy. And yes, we have the same literary agent in Matt Bialer. But that doesn't make me Patrick Rothfuss! After all, you can't really mistake one Pat for the other. Indeed, I'm much more handsome than that scruffy-looking Rothfuss fellow!:P

No but seriously, this is getting a little weird. At first, receiving emails and PMs from fans asking me if I'd be willing to sign their copy of The Name of the Wind and other stuff was kind of funny. But now I'm wondering how it all began. And with a new thread on a message board that claims that this is Patrick Rothfuss' blog, I guess I have to set the record straight once more.

Patrick Rothfuss' blog can be found here. Mind you, it's a good blog, though not as cool as the Hotlist, that goes without saying!;-)

Pat: No worries -- I never signed any of your books! Other than a few Goodkind and Stanek jokes thrown into the mix, no third parties were harmed in the process!:-) By the way, when can I expect my galley of Wise Man's Fear!?!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 25th)

In hardcover:

Terry Brooks' The Elves of Cintra is down five positions, ending its third week on the charts at number 10. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Sandworms of Dune is down five spots, finishing its sixth week on the NYT list at number 22. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

S. M. Stirling's The Sunrise Lands is down two positions, ending its second week on the bestseller list at number 27. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Sherrilyn Kenyon's Devil May Cry is down six spots, finishing its sixth week on the NYT list at number 32. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

William Gibson's Spook Country is down eleven positions, ending its sixth week on the prestigious list at number 33. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is up one spot, finishing its 24th week on the charts at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Troy Denning's Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Inferno is down three positions, ending its third week on the NYT list at number 11. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen R. Donaldson contest winners!

Each one of these lucky people will get their hands on a complimentary copy of Donaldson's Fatal Revenant, courtesy of Putnam. Many fans are eagerly awaiting this one, and I'm curious to see what they'll think about it!:-)

The winners are:

- Jeremy Gardner, from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA (Mortice Root on

- Kendall P. Bullen, from Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

- Antonio Scarpelli, from Olympia, Washington, USA (Balon on

- Philippe Sylvain, from Levis, Québec, Canada

- Wayne Martin, Jr., from Claremont, New Hampshire, USA

Thanks to all the participants! And stay tuned for my interview with Stephen R. Donaldson, coming your way next week!

Quote of the day (900th post of this little blog of mine!)

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.


HUNTER'S RUN (limited edition) contest winner!

The name of our big winner has been drawn. Thanks to Bill and the Subpress crew, he will receive copy number 1 of the upcoming limited edition of George R. R. Martin, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham's Hunter's Run. To learn more about this title and additional limited editions, check out

The winner is:

- Chris Bergen, from Hoffman Estates, Illinois, USA (Wedge on

Thanks to all the participants!;-)

Shameless Plug: The Gap

Since this is sort of an unofficial Stephen R. Donaldson week on the Hotlist -- what with my Fatal Revenant book review, the announcement of the contest winners, and the upcoming interview with the author -- I thought that this new shameless plug would be apropos.:-)

In my opinion, not only is the Gap the best sequence Donaldson has ever produced, but it is also one of the very best science fiction series out there. However, as is the case with everything that bears Donaldson's name on the cover, it's not for everyone. If you have yet to read the Gap series, I urge you to do so ASAP! It's will thrill and disturb you in equal measures. The Gap is without the shadow of a doubt Stephen R. Donaldson at the top of his game.

- The Real Story (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Forbidden Knowledge (Canada, USA, Europe)
- A Dark and Hungry God Arises (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Chaos and Order (Canada, USA, Europe)
- This Day All Gods Die (Canada, USA, Europe)

And thanks to the generosity of the folks at Bantam Dell, I have a full set for you guys to win!;-) What better way to make this shameless plug what it's meant to me!?!

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "GAP." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

DREAMSONGS contest winner!

Well, this giveaway turned out to be the most popular contest I ever did.

In the end, 1107 entries were tallied, with only one lucky winner getting his or her hands on the grand prize: A set of autographed Advance Reading Copies of George R. R. Martin's Dreamsongs, volume 1 (Canada, USA, Europe) and Dreamsongs, volume 2 (Canada, USA), courtesy of the folks at Bantam Dell.

Moreover, George, being the kind-hearted author who cares about his fans, will personalize the books for the winner. Thus ensuring, at least I hope so, that the two ARCs won't appear on Ebay in the near future. . .

The winner is:

- Kathy Holtz, from Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Many thanks again to all the participants, and stay tuned for more!;-)

Fatal Revenant

I was eager to read the second volume of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Though a vast introduction, The Runes of the Earth, with its cliffhanger ending, left fans begging for more. Hence, I couldn't wait to return to the Land once more, and see where Fatal Revenant would take this tale.

The sequel begins right where The Runes of the Earth ended. But if you are hoping for a happy reunion between Linden and Thomas Covenant and her son Jeremiah, you are obviously not familiar with Stephen R. Donaldson's work. Revelations are made that will break Linden's heart, and she must find the strength within herself to persevere.

As was the case with the previous trilogies in the Covenant saga, Donaldson's narrative conjures up vivid and magical images. Vast in scope and vision, Fatal Revenant answers many questions that were raised by its predecessor. Indeed, secrets about Kastenessen, the Durance, the skurj, the Giants, the Haruchai, Kevin's Dirt, the Elohim, Roger Covenant, the Demondim, the ur-viles, the Waynhim, and more are revealed. Add to that a journey back into time, the introduction of the Insequent -- a cabal of powerful wizards who oppose the Elohim, a showdown beneath Melenkurion Skyweir, and a lot more, and you have a very satisfying reading experience in front of you!

I truly enjoyed the manner with which the author brought Fatal Revenant to a close, even though it is more or less anti-climactic and yet another cliffhanger. I expect some readers to find this off-putting, but I thought it was apropos to end it in such a fashion.

As always, my main complaint remains that the dialogues often don't ring true. When a vulgar villager uses a vocabulary which would put an English major to shame, something's not right. So expect terms such as condign, sooth, benison, puissant/puissance, oblique/obliquely, etc, to pepper throughout the chapters of this novel.

Given the author's career, I was expecting a bit more character growth in this second volume. And yet, other than where Stave is concerned, there is not much growth to speak of. Still, since Linden and her companions find themselves into dire straits at every turn, this might explain why. . .

One facet of this novel which could have been better is the pace. Donaldson's Covenant books have never been known for their fast-paced narrative, but various portions of Fatal Revenant are sluggish and break the overall rhythm of the story.

Nevertheless, fans of the Thomas Covenant saga should love this new installment. As a matter of fact, you may pre-order this one without fear that it won't live up to your expectations.

The press release claims that the addition of a synopsis of all previous Covenant books at the start of this one makes Fatal Revenant the perfect jumping-on point for new readers, who will supposedly find the story easily accessible. This, I must say, is the biggest lie I've heard in quite a while. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are a highly imaginative saga that resounds with depth and complexity. As such, it is impossible to jump in at this point without reading the first two trilogy, not if you want to appreciate this tale for what it is -- one of the classics of the genre.

Fatal Revenant is for aficionados who crave high fantasy tales with depth and substance.

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

How 'bout them Cowboys!?!

By defeating the NFC champions, the Bears, last night -- in Chicago, no less! -- the Dallas Cowboys are now 3-0! Hopefully they won't find a way to screw this up. . .

One thing's for sure: They have been playing some good football since the beginning of the season, and they appear to be one of the elite teams in the NFC!

Go Cowboys!:-)

R. A. Salvatore contest winners!

These five lucky people will receive a copy of R. A. Salvatore's latest, The Orc King, compliments of Wizards of the Coast. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Richard Iger, from Miami, Florida, USA

- Andy Myhr, from Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

- Jeff McGuirk, from Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

- Jaimeet Aneja, from Columbia, South Carolina, USA (Jaimeet on

- Zachary Rosenberg, from Orlando, Florida, USA (Lightsnake on

Thanks to all the participants!:-)

George R. R. Martin's DREAMSONGS

I received my advance reading copies for both volumes of Martin's Dreamsongs last week. I was meaning to talk about it then, but Jordan's death sort of got me sidetracked. Already published in the UK and as a limited edition by Subterranean Press in North America, Bantam Dell will be publishing this collection of novellas and short fiction later this fall.

I perused both volumes this week, and Dreamsongs looks like it's going to be the perfect opportunity for people like me, namely those who are not well acquainted with the author's award-winning short fiction, to discover GRRM's early work.
The ARCs don't showcase the artwork that will precede every piece, yet it's obvious that this US edition of Dreamsongs will be gorgeous.

I'm really looking forward to reading both Dreamsongs, volume 1 (Canada, USA, Europe) and Dreamsongs, volume 2 (Canada, USA). As a compendium of George R. R. Martin's earlier, this should be quite interesting!

You should look into this!:-)

Win a copy of Daniel Abraham's The Long Price

Daniel Abraham's first two novels, A Shadow in Summer and A Betrayal in Winter, will be published as an omnibus in the UK. Titled The Long Price, it will be released soon. For more info about this title, click on this link. I have six copies up for grabs, compliments of Orbit.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "PRICE." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

Naomi Novik contest winners!

Thanks to the great folks at both Del Rey and Voyager, I had quite a few prizes for you guys to win in this Naomi Novik Bonanza!;-)

First of all, here are the three winners who'll receive a set of the first three Temeraire novels, courtesy of Del Rey:

- Anthony Peak, from Long Beach, California, USA

- Ron Fay, from Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA

- Brian Barlow, from West Jordan, Utah, USA

One lucky winner will get his hands on the US edition of Novik's newest, Empire of Ivory (Canada, USA, Europe):

- Marten Logsdon, from Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA (Kadere on

And three people will receive a copy of the UK edition of Empire of Ivory:

- Tala V.C. de Vera, from Quezon City, Philippines (Arwyl on

- Daniel King, fromWellington, New Zealand (Bebop2606 on

- Joan I. Guardiet, from Barcelona, Spain

I figure I made a lot of people happy tonight!:-)

Stay tuned for more!

Jeff Somers contest winners!

Okay, so the names of our two winners have been drawn. Each will receive an autographed copy of Jeff Somers' The electric Church, compliments of Orbit. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Jeff Deveaux1, from Seattle, Washington, USA

- Robert Davis, from Kinston, North Carolina, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Neil Gaiman contest winner!

The name of our big winner has been drawn! The lucky bastard will receive a copy of the limited edition of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, courtesy of Subterranean Press. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Karl Wehage, from Prince George, British Columbia, Canada (Lokiman on

Thanks to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 18th)

In hardcover:

Terry Brooks' The Elves of Cintra maintains its position at number 5 for the second consecutive week. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Sandworms of Dune is down four positions, ending its fourth week on the charts at number 14. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

William Gibson's Spook Country is down two spots, finishing its fifth week on the NYT list at number 22. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Sherrilyn Kenyon's Devil May Cry is down ten positions, ending its fifth week on the bestseller list at number 26. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

S. M. Stirling's The Sunrise Lands debuts at number 35. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Troy Denning's Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Inferno is down one spot, finishing its second week on the prestigious list at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is up eight positions, ending its 23rd week on the NYT list at number 9. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Terry Brooks' Armageddon's Children debuts at number 32. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Robert Jordan -- RIP

Hard to believe that it actually happened. . .

It should come as no surprise that James Oliver Rigney, jr., aka Robert Jordan, succumbed to the terrible and insidious illness that afflicted him. The author had such a positive mindset that we all believed he could beat this thing. Sadly, after a long and arduous struggle, he finally passed away.

Jordan's approach to his daily combat against his illness reminded me of two WoT quotes:

"Death comes to us all. We can only choose how to face it when it comes."

The other one is the popular Aiel oath:

"Till shade is gone, till water is gone, into the Shadow with teeth bared, screaming defiance with the last breath, to spit into Sightblinder's eye on the Last Day."

Say what you will, Jordan never stopped believing that he would beat this thing, and his attitude made everyone believe that he would come out on top. He never gave up, even during the most difficult episodes. He had the heart of a true champion, and he went down swinging, fighting every step of the way.

There is very little I can say that can possibly do justice to the man and the writer he was. Many have done so already, most more eloquently than I could ever hope to be. Jordan's death leaves me numb. I never thought it would have that sort of impact on me. . .

I'm not surprised by the outpouring of love he's been receiving from around the world. Few authors can claim to have touched as many lives as Jordan. The legacy he leaves behind is a testimony to the sort of person he was. All who knew him say that he was a gracious and unassuming man. In spite of his immense success, he remained an affable individual till the very end, a great friend to those around him, and, more importantly, a loving husband.

Words are inadequate to pay tribute to him. After all, what can I possibly say that has not already been said? I guess the only thing I can do it tell you how it all began for me. . .

I started reading The Wheel of Time in the fall of 1991, which means that the saga has been a part of me for nearly half of my life. I was only 17 years old, beginning my first semester of college. Authors such as David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Raymond E. Feist and Margaret and Tracy Hickman were fantasy's biggest draws at the time. The Dragon Reborn had just been released.
Oh, I had heard of Robert Jordan before that, mind you. There was a buzz surrounding the release of both The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt in 1990. We're talking about a pre-internet buzz here, which was quite something, considering that it was all word of mouth. And yet, from the height of my 16 years, as well as the wisdom or lack thereof that could be attributed to the adolescent dumbass that I used to be, I opined that this "Conan guy" couldn't be that good.

But when The Dragon Reborn hit the NYT bestseller list, I decided that I would give Jordan a shot. In retrospect, I must admit that The Eye of the World didn't quite do it for me. It showed a lot of promise, but I felt that it fell a little flat. Re-reads showed me how good and how deep the story was, have no fear. So it's a good thing I had a paperback copy of The Great Hunt to read immediately afterward. That book blew me away! Jumped into The Dragon Reborn right after that, and the series blew my mind!

In less than two years, Robert Jordan had redefined the genre. The Wheel of Time was so vast in scope and details, it dwarfed everything else on the market and made those bestselling writers (my favorite fantasy authors at the time) look like a bunch of amateurs. In the wake of the following WoT volumes, Jordan took epic fantasy to new heights, demonstrating that there was something beyond Feist, Brooks, Donaldson, Eddings, Kurtz, and the rest. Robert Jordan's popularity helped paved the way for other multivolume fantasy epics. Without Jordan, there's no George R. R. Martin, no Steven Erikson, no Scott Lynch. There would have been no Terry Goodkind (he did "borrow" several ideas from Jordan, after all), either, which would be no great loss to the genre. . .

Somehow, The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos raised the bar even higher. Like most, I agree that the series peaked with that 6th volume. I mean, what an ending! "Fuck me" moments are few and far between, especially for someone who's read as much SFF as I have. But Rand's kidnapping, with Perrin going after him, and the battle that ensued made for one terrific ending. And then Mazrim Taim materializing on the battlefield with the Asha'man, thus engendering a veritable carnage, made me close the book and shake my head in wonder. Reading, I felt quite certain, was not supposed to be this much fun. And when the Aes Sedai tried to give shit to my man Rand, my favorite line of the series so far came from Taim, an unlikely source: "Kneel and swear to the Lord Dragon, or you will be knelt." I feel giddy just to think about it and what it meant at the time!

It was inevitable that such a big saga would require a number of transition books to bridge the "opening" of the series with the ending sequence. Like most, I never expected that this transition phase would require four volumes. And yet, I could live with that. After all, at that point Rand, Mat, Perrin, Lan, Nynaeve, Egwene and the others were like old friends. All I wanted was for the story to move forward. And we were always learning new things about the Forsaken, so I was more or less satisfied.

It was around that period of time that publishers realized that the internet could be a great tool if utilized properly. Do you guys remember those early AOL live chats with Jordan!?! For Christ's sake, I changed ISP just so I could attend those chats! One hour with our favorite author, with everyone groaning in the comment section when an idiot went ahead and asked a stupid RAFO question! Man, it feels like a lifetime ago. . . People posting transcripts of book signings, so that we could debate what Jordan had revealed, made for hours of discussion online. Those were the good old days of the internet, when I used to make a hobby of heckling Mercedes Lackey and R. A. Salvatore. . .

A Crown of Swords was delayed twice, raising the interest level for the 7th volume to a frenzy. Why the hell did Tor decide to scrap the cover on which Rand had his sword? I can still remember when Tor put the cover blurb on the internet! Brief, of course, but no one cared. Heck, we had just learned that Rand would go mano-a-mano against Sammael, in Shadar Logoth of all places! People were speculating on message boards like crazy. And then the prologue was posted online the following spring, driving us all out of our minds!

The Path of Daggers, Winter's Heart and Crossroads of Twilight are easily the weakest volumes in the saga, and the author's decision to explore many of the less interesting subplots instead of concentrating on the main storylines alienated some fans. Still, important events such as the Dragon Reborn driving the Seanchan back and defeating them, the cleansing of saidin, Mat meeting the Daughter of the Nine Moons, and many others maintained my interest in the series. The story was moving forward, even though Jordan took his own sweet time.

Knife of Dream was the best book since Lord of Chaos. We could sense that the end was near, and boy was it cool to read. I had to drive 25 miles to get this one on the pub date, because the staff at my local bookstore were too anal retentive to get the novel out of the boxes in the back store and "could I please come back later this week, it should be available then!" Reading that book filled me with excitement, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on A Memory of Light. . .

There's a selfish part of me who's happy that the author, on his death bed, took the time to record everything, so that A Memory of Light will one day see the light. Because, like it or not, I'm buying this, even if Robert Stanek writes the damned thing. I would ask people to please stop with the Kevin J. Anderson jokes, as they're not funny. At this juncture, we have no idea just how far along Jordan was with this final WoT volume. It might take a while for us to find out. . .

Countless people are wondering and bitching about that fact. As for me, I simply wish to say thank you. Thanks for the countless hours of unadulterated reading and re-reading pleasure your books provided for nearly two decades. Thanks for creating something that became a living and breathing entity, something that elicited countless hours of debating and speculating on hundreds of message board. Thanks for remaining accessible, even though your popularity attained a level that made this well nigh impossible. And thanks for letting me be a part of it. As I said, WoT has been a part of my life for 16 years now. Robert Jordan touched the lives of many different people, in a myriad of different ways. I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if it weren't for him.

When my fantasy debut is ultimately published, there were two people who have had such a big influence on my writing that I wanted to send a finished copy to: George Lucas and Robert Jordan. It didn't matter if my agent/editor/publicist/etc wanted to or not, these two were getting a copy, even if I had to pay for them and ship them myself. A simple package with a brief note thanking them and letting them know how much their creations meant to me, and my hope that the book they held could possibly entertain them for a few hours. I can never repay them for the positive influence they've had on me. They were such an inspiration to me, and I could only hope that they'd enjoy the novel. Unfortunately, I'll never get to send that little note to Jordan. Which is a shame, really. . .

James Rigney: Thanks for the memories, my friend. As I mentioned before, I'll be eternally grateful for what you have done and what you leave behind. However, it saddens me that you couldn't complete your life's work. As was the case with Frank Herbert, this is as big an injustice as I cant think of.

The adventure began 16 years ago for me in Emond's Field, with trouble brewing in the Two Rivers and Moiraine and Lan showing up to set in motion events that would reshape the world, and I'm looking forward to see how it will end. Your death is a great loss to the genre. You will be missed. . .

You've had your share of haters and detractors, of course. But in this house you will always be respected. Your books will forever hold a special place in my heart and on my shelves. In spite of what anyone claims, like Tiger Woods, at his best Robert Jordan was almost untouchable, as demonstrated by The Great Hunt through Lord of Chaos.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family. James Oliver Rigney, jr., may you rest in peace. I can almost see you smirk when you realize that you never did tell us who killed Asmodean!

Fighting back!

I'm not yet ready to write a piece about Robert Jordan's passing. I took the news pretty hard, like many other fans of the author, and I need a bit of time to collect my thoughts to say something that will do justice to the man and his work. . .

Few people are aware of this, but my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer between Christmas and New Year's Eve a few months back. Understandably, it's not something I felt compelled to shout from every rooftop. Needless to say, the entire family took it rather hard, what with the news coming during the Holidays. If someone close to you suffered from that cancer, you know just how insidious the disease can be and how powerless we are as we witness our loved one wasting away. My mother had the surgery and she went through chemo for many weeks. Fortunately, she is now all right, and we'll know in October if all traces of the cancer are gone. Sadly, not everyone is that fortunate.

Ever since that fateful day right after Christmas, I've been thinking about finding a way to raise funds to help find a cure. No matter how insignificant one feels, I still wanted to do something, -- anything. I discussed a couple of ideas with my agent, Matt Bialer, but none of them seemed viable at the time. Well, Jordan's death has galvanized my resolve to do something. And do it now!

Hence, from here on to December 31st, I will donate the proceeds of my Amazon Associates Programs to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Granted, I've been an associates for over a year, and I've accrued the sum of about 50$ in that span of time. Not exactly the kind of amount which can make a different, some would say. But I disagree. In such an andeavor, every single penny counts.

So if you want to help, all you need to do is click on any of my Amazon links (the Canada, USA, Europe links you see in various posts) and purchase your stuff from there. It doesn't matter if you wish to buy that particular novel or not. As soon as you click on those links, you're good to go!:-) So whether you're shopping for books, DVDs, CDs, yada yada yada, old and new, every purchase you make will help raise funds to find a cure for Breast Cancer. You don't need to spend more, to donate any of your hard-earned dough, or to do anything special to support this worthy cause. Simply click on a link before buying whatever it is you want. As crazy as it sounds, it's as simple as that! With new releases from Brooks, Martin, Pratchett, Novik, Goodkind and so many more already out or on the way, it's never been easier to do a good deed when buying books by your favorite SFF writers.

To be honest, I have no idea just how much money this will generate. But, in the end, I really don't care. I feel the need to do something, and this is the first step. When all is said and done, I'll be proud to write a cheque for 50$, 500$, or 5000$.

If you have a blog/website/whatever and you wish to help spread the word about this, feel free to do so. I nearly lost my mom and now I've lost my favorite author to such calamities. I think it's time to fight back. . .

Robert Jordan has passed away. . .

It is with great regret that I must make this announcement. Robert Jordan passed away this afternoon at 2:45pm. My deepest condolences go out to his family. The news was announced on the author's blog earlier today.

I can't really say more at the moment, for I can't really put into words what this means to me as a fantasy reader and a big fan of the Wheel of Time.

I know that fate works in mysterious ways. . . It happened to Frank Herbert, and now Robert Jordan has been robbed of his chance to complete what should be one of the definitive works of fantasy of the 21st century.

May he rest in peace.

All I can say is, "Thanks for the memories, for which I'll be eternally grateful."

The British Fantasy Awards 2007

The British Fantasy Society has announced the nominees for the 2007 British Fantasy Awards a while back. For a full list of categories and nominees, check out this link. The winners will be selected next weekend. . .

Best Novel: The August Derleth Award

- Chaz Brenchley, BRIDGE OF DREAMS, Ace Books
- Mike Carey, THE DEVIL YOU KNOW, Orbit Books
- M. John Harrison, NOVA SWING, Gollancz
- Tim Lebbon, DUSK, Spectra
- Scott Lynch, THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA, Gollancz
- Sarah Pinborough, BREEDING GROUND, Leisure Books
- Mark Samuels, THE FACE OF TWILIGHT, PS Publishing
- Conrad Williams, THE UNBLEMISHED, Earthling Publications

Ian McDonald contest winners!

These three lucky people will receive a copy of Ian McDonald's excellent River of Gods (Canada, USA, Europe), compliments of Pyr. To those of you who haven't won, you must now get that book ASAP!;-)

The winners are:

- Dan Smith, from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, USA

- Matt Palmer, from Lubbock, Texas, USA

- Sarah Heacox, from Los Angeles, California, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Empire of Ivory

Last year, Naomi Novik burst into the fantasy scene with three highly entertaining novels which earned her the John W. Campbell Award. Temeraire/His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, and Black Powder War were a veritable breath of fresh air in an otherwise often stagnating genre, each installment showing more potential than its predecessor. Using the Napoleonic Wars as a backdrop, Novik revitalized the oldest cliché in fantasy -- the dragons. And in so doing, she created something fresh, hip and extremely original.

Hence, it was somewhat of a tall order to follow this up. Indeed, Empire of Ivory needed to live up to the high expectations generated by the first three volumes in the series. And once more, Naomi Novik, writing with the skills of a veteran and with remarkable panache, rose to the occasion!

A tragedy has struck His Majesty's Aerial Corps. An epidemic of unknown origin is decimating the dragons' fleet, forcing most of the survivors into quarantine. Which leaves England virtually defenseless against Bonaparte's encroaching armies. As France's sorties become bolder and more frequent with each passing day, it's up to Laurence and Temeraire, along with a few uninfected dragons, to find a cure to the deadly contagion. Their mission takes them to distant Africa, where they believe a cure might be discovered. Yet in the heart of that mysterious continent lies a secret which could change everything. . .

Once again, Novik builds on existing storylines and comes up with a number of fascinating new plotlines. In previous reviews I claimed that some facets of Novik's earlier Temeraire novels hinted at a lot more depth than meets the eye. And Empire of Ivory demonstrates that it is indeed the case, and no doubt about it.

I must admit that I feared that this series would become a bit formulaic and episodic in style and tone, with Temeraire and Laurence coming through at the end of every book. Well, let's just say that Naomi Novik disabused me of that notion with this one. The author has quite a few surprises up her sleeve, which Empire of Ivory proves beyond the shadow of a doubt.

My only complaint lies in the fact that this novel ends with a major cliffhanger. Don't get me wrong: This one is as self-contained as the previous volumes. But I hate the fact that I now have to wait a year before discovering what happens next, especially in light of that ending! Incidentally, the next volume will be published in hardcover (at least in North America).

With four interesting and entertaining novels under her belt, there is no question that Naomi Novik is for real. And with such accessible books, it won't be long before she surpasses Anne McCaffrey as the "dragon lady."

Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

THE NAME OF THE WIND about to be released in Europe!

Unless you were stranded on a deserted island, you have indubitably heard of Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind (Canada, USA, Europe). If you haven't, head out to to see what the fuss is all about!

The Name of the Wind will likely be named the fantasy debut of the year by Yours Truly. And now, Gollancz are about to release the novel in the UK and the rest of Europe. Just a few more days to go before the official pub date.

Give it a shot. Chances are you won't be disappointed!;-)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 11th)

In hardcover:

Terry Brooks' The Elves of Cintra debuts at number 5. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Sandworms of Dune is down four positions, ending its fourth week on the charts at number 14. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Sherrilyn Kenyon's Devil May Cry is down four spots, finishing its fourth week on the NYT list at number 16. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

William Gibson's Spook Country is down five positions, ending its fourth week on the bestseller list at number 20. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

J. R. R. Tolkien's The Children of Húrin is down two spots, finishing its 20th week on the prestigious list at number 28. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Troy Denning's Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Inferno debuts art number 7. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is down six positions, ending its 22nd week on the charts at number 17. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Win a copy of David Forbes' THE WORDS OF MAKING

I was a beta reader for this one in manuscript form last year. And now, I have five copies of David Forbes' The Words of Making, sequel to The Amber Wizard, for you to win, compliments of HarperCollins. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "WORDS." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

Jeff Somers Interview

Ever since I've read The Electric Church (Canada, USA, Europe) earlier this summer, I've been looking forward to interviewing Jeff Somers. The author's blog is hilarious, so I knew for certain that this was quite a character. Judging by his answers, it turns out I was right!;-)

Hopefully it will pique your curiosity enough to give the book a shot. . . To learn more about it, check out


- For the benefit of those not familiar with you and your work, can you give us the "411" on Jeff Somers?

Sure. All you need to know: Born in Jersey City, New Jersey but no one believes it because I am not very tough-looking; went to public grammar schools where I learned to curse extravagantly and a private Jesuit High School where I learned, well, Latin, mainly; was an Eagle Scout though my main memories of the Boy Scouts involved being dirty most of the time, drinking cheap blackberry brandy in the woods, and living life on the edge of a Lord-of-the-Flies situation any time we went camping; majored in English during college because I suspected (rightly) that this would allow me to sleep in and skip most of my classes; have been writing since I was about nine when I crafted a ninety page exercise in Tolkien plagiarism titled The War of the Gem; married above my station in life and am living peacefully with stronger-than-she-looks wife and three cats.

- Without giving anything away, can you give us a taste of the story that is THE ELECTRIC CHURCH?

It's set in an unspecified future after the world has undergone Unification—the forging of a single world government and the destruction of all national borders or distinctions, resulting in The System of Federate Nations. This wasn't an easy or even popular process, and the whole word was rocked by riots which were eventually brutally put down by the newly formed System Security Force, a world-wide police force with extremely wide latitude, well-trained officers, and very little oversight or restraint.

Unification had a disastrous effect on the economy, and the world has settled into a split between the haves and the much more numerous have nots. Droids do most of the labor, so there aren't many jobs. It's a pretty bleak life, and most people feel completely justified in becoming criminals just to survive.

Another option has been creeping onto everyone's radar: A new religion, preaching that a single human lifetime is not nearly enough to attain salvation—only by becoming a cyborg, a robot body with a human brain—can you live essentially forever and have enough time to contemplate your sins. And despite the fact that everyone agrees that is one extreme and freaky decision, this new religion—The Electric Church—is the fastest growing religion in the world.

That's the world in which our narrator, Avery Cates, lives. Cates is a contract killer. He likes to think he's a little better than a thug, but the fact is he kills for money, and feels justified in doing so because he lacks any other realistic options.

Naturally, when Cates and the System Police and The Electric Church get mixed up with each other, things go downhill. Fast. And in very entertaining ways.

- As one of their launch titles, is it a bit daunting to realize that Orbit USA are relying on you to make an impression on the market?

I don't think about it, to be honest. Thoughts like that lead to madness. I just mutter a Serenity Prayer and drink heavily.

- Are you happy with the advance reviews you have seen thus far?

Sure—they've been more or less positive, so I can't complain. I read reviews, but I don't ponder them too much—good or bad. I mean, there's no point in making little fists of rage when you read someone who dislikes your work—just as there's no point in shooting your guns in the air when someone likes you. Like Cliff in Singles says, all that negative energy just makes me stronger.

- What can readers expect from the sequel, THE DIGITAL PLAGUE?

If The Electric Church is fast-paced, The Digital Plague is warp drive. I intentionally hit the ground running, more or less in media res and never let up. It was fun to write. I had a time frame for the story that's kind of ridiculously short, as far as what happens in a matter of days, but that was how I saw it.

It's a story that involves a plague of sorts, after all, and a lot of times what people do with plague stories is take their time, show the collapse of civilization, explore how people respond to it. I wanted to do it a little differently, where everything happens so damn fast you never get that sense that you know what's about to happen. Or at least I hope that's what I've accomplished.

- What's the progress report on THE DIGITAL PLAGUE? Any tentative release date yet?

I think we're shooting for spring/summer of 2008. I've completed the manuscript and turned it in, so I'm pretty sure we're on schedule for that—and thank goodness, because my Corporate Masters would beat me with oranges wrapped in bath towels if I missed that delivery date. I fear them.

- In terms of worldbuilding, you used the post-apocalyptic environment, though you offer few details about the Riots and the creation of the System of Federated Nations. Will we learn more about what led to the Riots and the Unification in the next book, or are you planning to utilize the worldbuilding as a backdrop that doesn't intrude too much on the rest of the story?

Definitely as little intrusion as possible. I want the story to have an immediate feel, and people just don't go around pondering the backstory to things. It slips through in dribs and drabs, in subtle references and things half-attended to.

Plus, the characters are often on the move, rapidly trying to not be killed or escape from someplace, and I just can't see characters pausing in the midst of a gunfight to have a lengthy internal lecture about why things are the way they are. It's sort of like Broadway musicals—do people ever actually break into song during their daily lives? Maybe. But do I want to go watch them do it? Nope.

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write THE ELECTRIC CHURCH in the first place?

I read Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency when I was a kid. Didn't get most of it, of course—I mean, I enjoyed it, but when I read about the book now I realize that there was a lot going on in that story that just flew over my head. I have a terrible memory and things I read usually descend into a partially-recalled murk almost immediately, but one thing I did remember from this book was the couch jammed in a stairwell in an impossible way, a way that meant the couch would have had to have been beamed into place because otherwise it violated the laws of physics. That messed with my mind.

That has nothing to do with my book, however. The other thing I remembered from the book is the Electric Monk, which was an appliance invented to believe things for you, sparing you the burden of having to believe them yourself. A brilliant idea, but I took it and ran it through my brain, which has gears made up of Thundercats and Battlestar Galactica reruns, and I saw a dark side to that: Take the sort of religious fire-eaters who always want to tell you you're going to hell and all that, then make them into heavily armed cyborgs. I'm surprised I was the first one to make this transformation from Adams' work, actually.

- What was your inspiration for the Monks and the Electric Church?

See above.

- Could you tell us a little of the road that saw THE ELECTRIC CHURCH go from manuscript to published novel?

My lord, do we have time? This book is a prime example of how you can never tell how things are gonna go.

First, cast your mind back to 1990. This was when I wrote the first manuscript of the story. I named most of the characters after friends of mine, which, looking back, wasn't a good idea since most of my friends were girls. Most of the main parts of the story were there, but the writing was flabby, as I imagined a group of ruthless people seeking the truth about The Electric Church but having endless cocktail-party conversations along the way, filled with witty banter and insults. Witty banter is fine, of course, but basically my characters would be in gunfights and making nonstop jokes, because I was enamored of myself as a humorist back then.

The manuscript sat for ten years. I started to read more widely, reading stuff that wasn't spec fic, and for a while I wrote a lot of mainstream fiction or attempted-literary fiction. Some wasn't bad. My first published novel, Lifers (out in 2001), was written during this period.

After that I returned to the central story and themes of TEC a few times, trying to rework it in a more intelligent fashion, but didn't get too far. Then in 2004 I saw an advertisement for a web site called Another Chapter. Their idea was to deliver serialized fiction via email—you'd subscribe to something and get another chapter every week. Get it? I didn't think much of the business model, to be honest, but they were looking for spec fic and offered a royalty contract, so I thought it'd be a good exercise if nothing else. I submitted a proposal and they accepted it, assigned me an editor, and I started rewriting the whole thing.

Well, the web site went out of business a few months later, but the editor they'd assigned to me was none other than Lilith Saintcrow (, author of the Dante Valentine series being published by Orbit (and lots of other stuff). She loved TEC and offered to show it to her editor. I didn't think much would come of it, but I said sure, and her editor bought it!

So there you go: A more convoluted path to publication you can't find.

- What made you decide to go with the first person narrative for this novel?

This was instinct—I had Cates' voice in my head. The man's been bitching about things in my head for years. This is one reason why I drink.

- Avery Cates and his merry band of misfits are a fun and interesting bunch. Are you surprised by the fact that you managed to make a hitman so endearing?

A little—especially because Cates is kind of mean. He's constantly bullying people. But I think the mitigating factor is that he truly feels that he has to be this way—that the world will walk all over him if he doesn't put up a constant fight. I think the reader can see that. And his longing for a past world where things were fair and made sense—a world that maybe didn't actually exist—softens him, because you get the feeling he'd jump at the chance to become an accountant or a butcher, if he had the chance.

- Will you be touring to promote the book this fall? If so, are there any specific dates that have been confirmed as of yet?

I haven't contemplated a formal tour. So far I have one reading scheduled in New York at Rocky Sullivans ( in Brooklyn, new York on September 24, and I'll be mooching around World Fantasy Con in Saratoga in November if anyone wants to buy me a drink. I'm sure we'll be adding a few readings and such as we go.

Plus, I often starting quoting my own work when I run into people in taverns, usually accompanied by a little staggering soft-shoe and the expectation that they buy me a drink, and I've been toying with the idea of counting these 'performances' as 'readings'.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

My main strength is a brutal willingness to cut, cut, and then cut some more when I'm revising. At least half of what I write is complete crap, and my strength lies in realizing that. I think. That, and years of alcohol abuse has taught me how to not go to the bathroom for hours and hours, allowing lots of unbroken writing time.

- Orbit came up with a terrific website to promote THE ELECTRIC CHURCH ( Did you have any input during the process of creating the site? What do you think of the final product?

I actually wrote almost all of the content—the words, not the code. I'd set up a site that had the same concept—official site for the Church, a hacker breaking in and vandalizing pages to warn you, a code here and there for fun—and they took that and re-worked it on a classier and higher level, and then added a lot of complex codes that were fun to work through. I really enjoyed that, coming up with puzzles or having puzzles presented to me, and then writing little scripts and such for chatbots to say or actors to record. The guy I worked with at Orbit, Alex Lencicki, is amazing—very sharp and smart, and he made the site into something I never dreamed it could be.

- The fact that there are a website and a blog dedicated to your work is an indication that interaction with your readers is important to you as an author. How special is it to have the chance to interact directly with your fans?

First off, I don't have fans. Not yet. What I have are vaguely interested people who might decide to read my book. The folks who have read my zine aren't fans because my zine is an embarrassing collection of personal anecdotes involving me getting drunk, weeping, and losing my pants—there's no respect there, so they're not really fans.

That said, I like interacting with people over the web. It's a nice buffer. Because I am truly thankful and amazed that people find my writing or my persona interesting and entertaining, so I want to interact. But I also fear people, because so many are crazy. I'd always worry about people coming to burn down my house because they didn't like that last plot twist where my main character is revealed to be one of Santa's Elves, or to have been dreaming the whole story.

You may think I'm kidding about the burn down the house thing, but I am not.

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a Hugo Award? Why, exactly?

That's tough, because I probably can't name a Hugo winner. I've certainly read a few Hugo winners—because I remember seeing the blurb on the cover about it and thinking, well, that's nice—but I can't remember that fact about them. And I don't rush out to buy Hugo winners just because they won.

On the other hand, my first novel, Lifers, was reviewed in the New York Times in 2001. The review was positive if not effusive, and it had exactly zero impact aside from a few kudos from friends and other writers. There was no bump in sales, no other attention—a month after the review it was like it had never happened. Now, my publisher back then was tiny and had no marketing or PR department to speak of, and had zero presence in book stores, so the fact that they couldn't capitalize on it wasn't surprising. But still, I expected something.

In the end, I think I'd go for another NYT appearance if only because my Mother would give me a blank stare if I said the words "Hugo Award".

- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the cover that graces THE ELECTRIC CHURCH?

Cover art cannot be underestimated. When I was a pudgy lad in big plastic glasses, I bought a lot of spec fic, and I chose almost all of it based on a cursory glance inside and the cover. For some reason I was a complete sucker for those Daryl K. Sweet covers Del Rey paperbacks always sported. I think I bought them all. Every single book Del Rey published in the 1980s. All because of those Sweet covers.

I love the TEC cover. It's striking, it's creepy, it's clean, and I think it captures the mood of the story very well. Of course my original suggestion of a photo of me drenched in blood and holding a knife toward the reader in a threatening manner would've been good too.

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

I don't, and I don't lose sleep over it. I like it this way. This way, we get to be ominous and disreputable. The Ominous and Disreputable Writers who Smoked and Drank Too Much. Want to join?

- Here's a chance for you to make your pitch. Why should jaded readers spend their hard-earned money on THE ELECTRIC CHURCH?

You mean aside from my need for liquor monies because my wife only gives me $5/week in allowance? I'm really bad at this, and usually resort to (semi)comical begging. Here goes, though: It's an exciting book—fast paced, with neat surprises, and the world feels very real. If that sounds even vaguely interesting, I think you'll love it. And if you feel cheated at the end, well, I won't refund your money—or even the tiny, tiny part of it that might eventually trickle down to me thousands of years from now, when the sun has gone cold and we're all just brains in floating jars communicating via thought—but I will send you an apologetic email, how's that? AUTHOR OFFERS APOLOGETIC EMAIL IN LIEU OF REFUND. That's a sexy headline.

- Can you tell us a bit more about your magazine, THE INNER SWINE?

I call it a zine, since it's really a labor of misguided love. About 15 years ago some friends and I decided we'd cut out the annoying middle man and just publish our own magazine. We had grand plans, and for about 2 years we played around with them, accomplishing nothing, really. One by one my co-conspirators dropped away, until I was left with the bits and pieces of material already produced and sole stewardship of the damn thing. So I threw together everything I had and added a few other things, and The Inner Swine was born. We're almost 50 issues in now.

It's a complete vanity project—I write about 97% of all the material, don't accept submissions, and every issue is just me ranting incoherently with my ignorant opinions and misguided thoughts. Plus fiction I couldn't sell anywhere, really terrible poetry, most of which was written when I was 20, and other ridiculous things. Some people find it amusing. For a while I had national and international distribution, but these days we're down to just our subscribers, which number a few hundred. There's a web site if anyone's interested:

Our motto is: Misinformed opinion. Bad Poetry. STYLE.

- If your wife was indeed right and THE ELECTRIC CHURCH makes you famous, how will you handle all that newfound attention?

Most probably by embarrassing myself on a daily basis. I was not meant for public consumption. Trust me, this is why I lurk in my grubby office, churning out fiction like a Phantom of the Opera. Put me out in the public eye with a few drinks and I'll go all Britney Spears on you.

- Anything you wish to add?

Well, I begged people to buy copies in an earlier question. . .so I'll beg people to buy some of Lili Saintcrow's books, also published by Orbit, because Lili rocks and her books are incredibly exciting and well done, and her editing on The Electric Church definitely improved it.

Thanks for the questions—this was fun! Hopefully I didn't come off as too dorky. The Dork Factor is my burden in life.