For some unfathomable reason, Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon has been sitting on the shelves of my apartment for years, patiently awaiting my attention. And as inexplicable as it may sound, I read the author's epic The Baroque Cycle beforehand, for I believed that going through the prequels would make reading Cryptonomicon an even better experience. Though it does give you some background information on certain events and characters, let me emphasize the fact that one should not feel obligated to read Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World to fully enjoy Cryptonomicon. It reads very well on its own.

If you relish big (900+ pages) and complex novels, then Stephenson's Cryptonomicon might be your cup of tea. And my sources indicate that it's child's play compared to the author's forthcoming Anathem (Canada, USA, Europe), so consider yourselves warned! Convoluted doesn't begin to describe the plot and subplots. As was the case with Quicksilver, some portions of the book get technical to a degree I'm not sure I understood in its entirety, but it doesn't prevent you from following the storylines. Still, I'll admit that I did skim some parts pertaining to mathematics and the equations involved for the decryption of German and Japanese secret codes when my head began to spin.

I particularly loved how Neal Stephenson linked the events occurring prior and during World War II with the explosion of the World Wide Web and all its ramifications. Cryptonomicon is an absurdly ambitious endeavor, and Stephenson finds a way to deliver the goods!

This doorstopper novel is comprised of three principal storylines. The first one focuses on Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, a mathematical genius in the U. S. Navy. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Waterhouse will be assigned to the secretive outfit known as Detachment 2702. Their mission is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that the Allies have cracked the Germans' Enigma code.

The second storyline features another member of Detachment 2702, one crazy Marine named Bobby Shaftoe. If you've read The Baroque Cycle, then I'm persuaded that the name rings a bell. Needless to say, Shaftoe's gung-ho style makes for a lot of action-packed and hilarious scenes.

The third storyline centers on Waterhouse's grandson, crypto-hacker and would-be businessman Randy. He and his partners are attempting to create a data haven in Southeast Asia, but they are besieged on all sides by foreign governments, multinationals, and shady individuals, all of whom are trying to prevent them from accomplishing their objective. To Randy's dismay, he will unearth the makings of a conspiracy which dates back to WWII and Detachment 2702, and which is also linked to yet-to-be-broken Nazi code named Arethusa.

Cryptonomicon is extremely vast in scope, and I got the feeling that the author at times sort of "got lost" along the way in this sprawling novel. Indeed, some chapters are little more than ramblings that don't move the plot forward. And yet, Stephenson's witty writing style is such that most of these, though they contribute very little in the overall story arc, will have you cracking up. The Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse ejaculation management program immediately comes to mind!

Ambitious, complex, funny, wild, fascinating, insightful -- Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon is all that and more.

Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8/10

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

News update

A little over a week ago, as I was trying to make sense of what I had on tap, I told you guys that I had a lot of marbles up in the air. Now that the smoke has cleared somewhat, I have a better idea of what you can expect to see on the Hotlist in the coming weeks.

I finished Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon last night, so a book review will follow in a day or two. I'm now about 100 pages into David Louis Edelman's MultiReal, and the sequel is as good as Infoquake thus far.

As far as interviews are concerned, you can expect to see Q&As with Chris Evans, author of A Darkness Forged In Fire (Canada, USA, Europe), with Melinda Snodgrass, author of The Edge of Reason (Canada, USA, Europe), with David Louis Edelman as soon as I'm done with MultiReal, and with Joe Abercrombie, to promote the US release of Last Argument of Kings. I might also try to put something together with Ekaterina Sedia, but it's all a question of timing.

In addition to the giveaways that were announced in the "This and that" post, I do have a lot of goodies for you! First and foremost, I will have prize packs consisting of about 10 different books each up for grabs, both from Solaris and Orbit. Stay tuned for that!

I will have a signed first edition hardback copy of Peter F. Hamilton's The Temporal Void (Canada, USA, Europe) for you to win. I will have three copies of the UK edition of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Justice (Canada, USA, Europe), as well as three copies of the US edition of Joe Abercrombie's Last Argument of Kings (Canada, USA, Europe). As always, there is more to come in the contest department!:-)

I will likely be unveiling a new feature in the next couple of days. I don't want to expose the whole thing at the moment because there are a few kinks to iron out, but this new feature is based on many readers' suggestions. So I went around and asked authors and editors if they were interested, and things are progressing nicely at the moment. See, even if I don't have time to respond to all your messages, I do read everything that comes my way. If all goes well, the first two authors to be "showcased" will be Patrick Rothfuss and Richard Morgan. . .

Oh, before I forget, Robin Hobb got back to me regarding that new feature, and she told me that Dragon Keepers (her upcoming Rain Wilds novel) should be turned in before the end of the year. Which means that, if all goes according to plan, the book should hit the shelves in late 2009!

Speaking of new features, there is another project I have in mind, and which I'll try to sell to various authors. It's a shot in the dark as we speak, but if it works it could be quite fascinating. I'll keep you posted if there is any forward momentum, otherwise I will let it die a slow death. . .

That's about it for now.:-)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Trailer

Don't know about you guys, but I hadn't seen this one yet. . .

It sucks being back home. . .:-(

Though I know many people hanging around in these parts are glad to have me back in SFF blogging mode, I have to admit that I terribly miss backpacking around Eastern Europe. I realize that a rainy day in Helsinki or Riga beats a rainy day in Montreal, hands down!

The toughest part of coming to terms with the fact that the adventure is over is when you go through your digital photos to select those that you will get done. In my case, that meant reviewing over 1200 pictures. But now that the final cut has been decided upon, it's pretty much the end of the road for me.

I couldn't help but smile when I came across my very own SI swimsuit issue, which was a covert operation while I was exploring the various beaches of Jurmala, Latvia. I have one of those compact digital cameras that fit in your pocket, so I didn't have any of those great zoom lens permitting me to capture the natural beauty of the Latvian women in all of their splendor. No, this was an undercover gig from the get-go, with me risking my health by taking snapshots of sexy girls and trying to make sure that jealous boyfriends would not knock my lights out in the process. Surprisingly, I came up with quite a few pics that my friends (the guys, it goes without saying) will find artistically appealing!;-) Those on Facebook should see a couple of them!

In addition, I was pleased to discover that Club Essential (the biggest club in Riga) posted pics of the night we were there. Thankfully, Yours Truly didn't make the cut, but many fine ladies did. I poked around their website for a few minutes, and here's a couple of reasons to consider visiting Riga.

The gorgeous blonde with the shot glass at the top of the post just downed a Pirag -- vodka, apple juice, and cinnamon -- after which you bite into a piece of orange. Quite good, yet I wouldn't want a hangover from that alone.

Ah, Riga. . . If only I could be there right now!;-)
For the record, Club Essential wasn't particularly the shit. Especially not with those expensive drinks! But the scenery, as everywhere else in beautiful Riga, was arresting!:p

Should SFF bloggers get paid???

Gabe Chuinard wrote an interesting piece on the subject yesterday. Although I agree with him to a certain extent, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea of getting paid per se. At least not in the sense of having an employer, as this could shatter what credibility I've built over the years. In addition, I wonder how much liberty one would have if someone else who pays the bills would be calling the shots. Still, a lot of what Gabe says has merit, and it deserves to be explored and discussed a bit further. To all you kids out there, see how Gabe and I can agree on occasions!:p

It goes without saying that maintaining an oft-updated SFF book-reviewing blog is a time-consuming affair. Alas, the vagaries of life dictate that we all need to have jobs and/or go to school. Society demands that we spend time with friends and family, that we take care of our significant other, or spend a ridiculous amount of time and energy looking for one (only to realize how good we had it when we were single, though being single gets old after a while, and the whole viscious circle begins anew). Someone has to take the kids to the babysitter, do the groceries, go to the gym, have a social life, yada yada yada -- all in all, the components of a "normal" person's existence. Hence, as an ever-growing number of hours are consumed by what is essentially a hobby, this means that blogging either gets in the way of other, more important stuff, or that some of your nights are getting shorter. It doesn't matter from what angle you decide to look at it, it soon becomes obvious that blogging takes a lot of your time.

So are publishers using some -- perhaps all -- SFF blogs as cheap labor? The answer is yes. The Blogosphere is a resource for them, and like all resources publishers will exploit it to its fullest, even though they still don't fully understand the phenomenon. Let's face it: Were our roles reversed, we'd do the exact same thing. It's a business, after all. The main problem, as I see it, is that way too many bloggers make it too easy for publishers to exploit the Blogosphere in such a way. As Gabe pointed out, too many people feel beholden to the publishers sending them review copies. Read what you feel like it, period! I received well over 200 books a year nowadays. And if memory serves me right, my most "prolific" year in terms of reviewing saw me read 45 or 46 novels. How do I select what I'll read? By simply choosing what strikes my fancy at any given time. I must wholeheartedly agree with Gabe that the credibility of such reviewers can be put in question at some point.

Naturally, I can't speak for everyone involved, but I never had any intention of using the Hotlist as a springboard to become a professional literary critic. Heck, this whole blogging experience was not supposed to last more than a few weeks for me, and now look at me! Going in, I was pretty much convinced that this was going to be a vulgar hobby, that it would never get me anywhere. When, absurdly, it did, I realized that to maintain the content of the Hotlist would turn out to be a labor of love, so to speak. I was acutely aware that I would never get paid what I "deserved" for everything I did, and that was all right. For a time, at least.

The last year saw the Hotlist's traffic increase even more, meaning that I was now spending more and more time making sure that the blog was up to the standard I had established over the years. As you know, I elected to put a number of ads on the blog to get a little something back for the time I spent bringing you Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. Blogging was now getting in the way of a lot of things in my life, and I needed to get something in return. It's still too early to assess whether or not those ads will be worthwhile, for me and for those who post them.

As I mentioned, though I wanted to find ways to monetize the blog to a degree, I remain uncomfortable with the idea of getting paid "directly" for the blogging I do. Mainly because I've been doing this for the fun of it, and as soon as it becomes akin to a job and becomes tedious, then I'm out. I've always said that, if I had been in this for the money, I would have gone into porn. And I'm serious! This has been an extremely cool gig for nearly 4 years, but I never for a second believed that it would earn me good money at any point in time. Moreover, if we got paid by anyone for our reviews, rumors of bribes would come out of the woodwork, casting the entire Blogosphere into a negative light.

Having said that, I'm all for getting paid "indirectly." I said it before and I'll say it again, it's not the readers who should be pick up the tab. Publishers have money, they have marketing budgets, etc, so they should be the ones spending the money. After all, readers fork out their hard-earned dough to buy novels based on my recommendations, so it would be hypocritical to demand that they possibly do more. Also, the online community has been, historically, a non-paying market. Personally, I created Pat's Fantasy Hotlist because I wasn't getting what I wanted out of reviews, in newspaper and SFF magazines that I needed to pay for. I think that most of the appeal in the Hotlist lies in the fact that fans can just get news and reviews free of charge in a single click of their mouse. Hence, I get the feeling that the online community -- or at least the bulk of it -- has no interest in paying for any services bloggers provide. Which is why I decided to go for the ads on the blog. And ads that generated funds through renting space for a period of time, not per click. Still, the fact that Gabe clicks on the ads on websites of interest speaks very well of him, and more people should be doing it (since many of our favorite sites and message boards depend on the revenues generated by such clicks).

One of the main problems, I feel, is that most publishers don't really know what to make of the Blogosphere taken as a whole. As Gabe mentions, there has been a proliferation of SFF blogs in recent years. So much so that even I, one of the players, can't make sense of all that's going on. There are simply too many blogs out there, and editors and publicists don't have the time or mental energy to wade through the crap to discover the jewels. The fact that I'm still telling editors to send ARCs to this and that blogger in 2008 goes to prove that the Blogosphere has grown to such an extent that it's simply beyond them to evaluate the quality and content of all the SFF book-reviewing blogs out there.

Before anyone calls me out on this, yes I'm aware that I'm partially to blame for this sad state of affairs. As an editor reminded me not so long ago when we were bitching about this very problem, Pat's Fantasy Hotlist was -- shall we say the inspiration -- behind the creation of quite a few blogs which saw the light in the last few months. I fought for so long to get publishers to recognize that content was more important than the medium used (back then, a blog was perceived as a virtual turd. They only sent out ARCs and review copies if you had a website). I wanted publisher to recognize that some bloggers deserved the kudos and some respect. To my consternation, they went for the medium instead of the content. And now, anyone who took 5 minutes to create a blog can get his or her hands on review copies. Makes you kind of wonder what it was all for, in the end, eh???

Anyway, being too busy to monitor blogs on a regular basis, publicists find it easier to send out review copies to just about everyone who has made it to their mailing list. As Gabe pointed out, it's a business expense for them and they have a budget for that. So it's nothing for publishers to do that, what with it being part of the deal. And I don't see this changing any time soon. To make matters worse, the "we're all a happy-go-lucky family" attitude among certain bloggers undermines the credibility of the entire SFF Blogosphere. Truth to tell, all this political correctness sometimes makes me want to puke. I mean, to be all it can be to fans and SFF readers, the Blogosphere needs to be a dysfunctional family, the way it was a few years back. With so many bloggers so afraid to make a faux pas, scared to say anything that will halt the flow of free books, is it any wonder that many blogs bring absolutely nothing to the dance. Say what you will of guys like Gabe Chouinard, Jay Tomio and William Lexner, they stand up for what they believe in, come hell or high water. This is what makes them such interesting bloggers. I want the Blogosphere to be the kind of family that's going to end up on Jerry Springer!

From what I gather, it appears that publishers feel that only a small number of SFF bloggers have "something worthwhile" to say, and hence deserves to get more than just review copies. The thing is, in my opinion there are several blogs worthy of recognition out there. And somehow, due to all the crap that dilutes the quality products, they are overlooked. I've always made it a point to attempt to raise awareness in them, but it doesn't always work. . .

But everything comes to those who can wait. If there's one thing I've learned in the last three and a half year, it's that the wheels of the publishing world machine move extremely slowly. The internet, and blogs in particular, are perceived as a resource, but most publishers constantly appear at a loss as to how to utilize these tools to their fullest potential.

You must also consider the hierarchy of these big companies. Take me for example. When I finally decided to go with the ads for the Hotlist, something that took months of reflection, I contacted every single person I know in the business -- agents, authors, editors, publicists, directors of marketing, even one president! Everyone who got back to me felt that it was a terrific idea. Editors-in-chief and senior editors wasted no time forwarding this information to their online marketing people, so that things can follow their course. If you've been paying attention, you likely know that publishers have not been duking it out to bid on the ad space found on the Hotlist. Keep in mind that the people occupying the highest echelons of that hierarchy are really interested in those ads. But I figure that the online marketing departments have their own hierarchy, and the committees are studying the merits of the idea, etc. As is the case with everything, it's going to take time. In all likelihood, it's going to take a couple of months.

At some point, publishers will determine which blogs are worth their while, and SFF ads will probably become as common place as book giveaways. Don't forget that I had to fight with publicists for about a year before anyone deigned to give me the opportunity to host a giveaway. Gabe's idea for a genre ad network is wonderful, but I doubt that we'll see it happen any time soon. Unless, as Ran pointed out on Westeros, someone creates it, for I doubt that publishers would be willing to work together to put such a network together. Still, it would speed things up and help monetize a lot of blogs and websites without putting the reviewers' credibility in jeopardy.

Unfortunately, as far as truly getting paid is concerned, unless you write for a paying market, I don't see that happening anywhere in the future. Just the possibility that bribes could be exchanged would probably undermine the whole thing. . .
Don't know if I'm making a whole lot of sense here. . . Which is why I shouldn't be writing such long posts before going to bed. . .

So the idea of getting paid in legit fashion doesn't sit well with me. Oh, I'm no fool (though many would dispute that claim); I'm well aware that the Hotlist's popularity helps move some books. Indeed, the amount of traffic the site generates never ceases to astonish me. I know that, in terms of monetary value, I give a lot more than I receive. But in the end, the SFF genres have given me a lot. Authors have provided me with countless hours of reading pleasure for over two decades now. Call me stupid (I've always been a bit of a romantic), but it does feel good to be giving something back to both fantasy and science fiction.

Running the Hotlist allowed me to get in contact with some of my favorite authors. It permitted me to discover a slew of new and promising genre writers. It has put me in touch with pros and fans alike, made me a part of the SFF community, which has made everything quite rewarding.

Hence, as much as I encourage publishers to buy more ad space on the blog, and as much as I urge everyone to click on those Amazon links, I'm nevertheless getting a lot more out of Pat's Fantasy Hotlist than I ever bargained for. And money can't buy that. . .

Perhaps it's easy for me to say this since I never had any aspirations to be more than a vulgar fan reviewer. I don't know. Hang in there, Gabe. Opportunities will arise in the future, and as one of the preeminent bloggers out there you'll have the chance to take advantage of them, whatever they turn out to be. As I sais, things need to follow their course, and in the publishing universe that can take a while. . .

Now, can someone tell MJH to say something I won't like! Gabe and I can't be seen agreeing on stuff like this. After all, we both have reputations to uphold. . .;-)

Jacqueline Carey contest winners!

Our three winners will each get their hands on a complimentary copy of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Scion (Canada, USA, Europe), courtesy of the kind folks at Orbit.

The winners are:

- Cheryl Lim, from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (cat catching on

- Rita Silva, from Palmela, Portugal

- Georgi Tsochev, from Sofia, Bulgaria

Thanks to all the participants!

Quote of the day

It would be an idyllic tropical paradise if not for the malaria, the insects, the constant diarrhea and resulting hemorrhoids, and the fact that the people are dirty and smell bad and eat each other and use human heads for decoration.

- NEAL STEPHENSON, Cryptonomicon

DVD sale on Amazon

Since many of you took advantage of the last promotion, I have just been notified that several DVD boxsets of popular TV shows can be had for up to 53% off on Desperate Housewives, Greys Anatomy, Ugly Betty, Dexter, Lost, Entourage, etc.

In addition, SFF titles such as the Matrix installments, Heroes, Batman Begins, Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate: The Ark of Truth, Stargate: Continuum, The X-Files, Alien, Planet of Apes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Millennium, Dark Angel, Roswell, etc, can be purchased at up to 58% off.

There is also a Blu-Ray deal: Buy 2 titles and get one free. So you might want to browse around and see if there's anything that strikes your fancy. . .:-)

Though, as a matter of course, they don't offer the same deals, I found stuff discounted at up to 63% off on and 67% off on

Check it out here: Canada, USA, Europe

Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky

A positive buzz appears to surround newcomer Adrian Tchaikovsky's fantasy debut, Empire in Black and Gold, and the novel is being talked about on a number of forums of late. When Robert gave the book two thumbs up, I knew I needed to learn a bit more about the author.

So here's a Q&A meant to give Tchaikovsky the opportunity to introduce himself and his work. For more info about Empire in Black and Gold: Canada, USA, Europe.


- Without giving anything away, can you give us a taste of the story that is EMPIRE IN BLACK AND GOLD?

Empire is about progress. The world of the insect kinden was once dominated by superstition, slavery and magician-lords, but a revolution of the mechanically-inclined ended that and ushered in a new age of supposed enlightenment and science. Now the fruits of that age are ripe: the Wasp Empire, with its legions of airborne warriors supported by automotives, flying machines and advanced weaponry, is rolling across the world. The cities of the Lowlands are either occupied with their own struggles or too blinkered to see the danger, and so Stenwold Maker, a Beetle-kinden statesman and spymaster, takes it on himself to open their eyes.

- Tell us a little more about yourself. What's the 411 on Adrian Tchaikovsky?

You learn something new every day. I had to look '411' up. Well, I've gone from Lincolnshire to Reading to Leeds, studied Psychology and now practice law, so something of a chequered career. I'm also a sometime (bad) actor, keen Larper and occasional cartoonist.

- Can you tell us a little more about the road that saw this one go from manuscript form to finished novel?

The key was getting an agent. I'm something of an old hand at the book submission game, but had never had much luck approaching publishers before. It's a very hit and miss business. I'd been flogging the manuscript for Empire about all the usual channels (just like several manuscripts before), but this time I struck lucky, and a chap called Simon Kavanagh got hold of it and decided he liked it. He then proceeded to tear strips off it until he was happy to tout it to publishers. There followed a lot of him working hard and me fretting and bothering him at every opportunity, and at last came the news that Macmillan had made an offer.

- What can readers expect from the upcoming sequels?

Escalation! Well, anyone who's read the first book should get the sense that the world is much bigger than the slice of it you see within Empire. As the Wasps march across the map, the scope of the books will broaden, and readers will get to see more of places, concepts and kinden that have only been mentioned in passing before. There's always something new.

- What's the progress report on the next volume? Any tentative release date yet?

Actually it was a major selling point for my agent to bring to the table that I had books 1-3 already complete (or at least draft-complete). That means that we can have a fairly snappy release schedule - book 2 is Dragonfly Falling which should hit the shelves February 2009, with book 3 six months after that.

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

Been and gone, unfortunately. For a new writer, I think publishers are a bit leery of putting them out for signings too much, because it looks very sad if they're sat there with nobody turning up. The worst I heard was one new writer who went to a convention to sign, and got the table next to Terry Pratchett: a queue of people long enough to go to the moon and back, and not one of them sparing the poor bloke a glance. Still, I did a signing at Waterstones in Reading, and had a very respectable turnout - the store sold almost every copy they got in, which has to be good. There was a reading/signing in Garforth too, near Leeds, in support of the local independent bookshop.

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write EMPIRE IN BLACK AND GOLD and the rest of the series in the first place?

The world of the insect kinden has been around in my imagination a long time, being slowly added to and modified. I started working on it before coming to University, and it's been simmering away for years while I wrote other stuff. Insects, basically: I've always had a thing for insects, but they get a very bad press, and so I thought I should do something about it. On the other hand I didn't want to do some kind of Watership Down for earwigs, and so what evolved was the world of the kinden: races of human beings that each cleave to an insect totem, and draw their character and their powers from that insect. Once you have that, and you see just how many Wasp-kinden you've just called into existence, the rest of the plot tends to drive itself.

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

Originality of ideas is very important to me, although you can be as original as you like and still fall flat if you've not got good characters, so maybe I should say that. Or good plotting. Being the UK's premier insect-based genre writer?

- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write EMPIRE IN BLACK AND GOLD and its sequels?

No Elves. No Dragons. All right, some wizards, but not a beard or pointy hat amongst them. No princes disguised as stableboys slaying evil overlords according to their immaculate destinies. Also, more enormous insects than is traditional. Seriously, though, what I was most concerned to avoid was the standard fantasy world, both the Prince Valiant-Merrie England-MGM sort of knights and twee little kingdoms that seems to be all the flesh left on the bones of both Tolkien and Mallory, and also the circular history concept, whereby absolutely everything in the world's past is relevant to the current plot, and at the end of it everything's resolved and everything goes back to the way it was, save for the stableboy who may or may not now be the prince. I'm keen for the world to live, to be bigger than any and all of the books, and for the events that shape that world to leave it different, changed. Otherwise, what's the point?

- In light of the current market, are you tempted to write one of those enormous fantasy epics which continue to be the most successful series at the moment?

Well, following on from the above, the world will go on, whether I write about it or not. I'd quite like to continue to chronicle it for as long as possible. Whilst there are three books currently in the offing, the possibility of (x) more volumes in the saga can't be ruled out.

- The fact that there is a website 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?

We're back to progress. You can't ignore the net community especially if you're writing fantasy, where your readership is on average extremely technically Apt. The chance to actually get direct feedback from the people who are actually buying and reading the book is both exciting and intimidating.

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

Interesting question. I'd guess the award would be a lasting feather in your cap, whereas the bestseller list would mean that more people were actually reading. Ask me again should either of them actually be on the horizon.

- What authors make you shake your head in admiration? Many fantasy authors don't read much inside the genre. Is it the case with you?

I can't put this strongly enough: I read fantasy. If you go on my site, I write about fantasy. I credit the authors deserve the credit. Mervyn Peake, for example. Mary Gentle. China Mieville. Gaiman, Erikson and M. John Harrison. Also some American authors like Peter S. Beagle and Gene Wolfe. Especially Gene Wolfe. Writers who have done something different with the genre.

- 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 EMPIRE IN BLACK AND GOLD?

Covers are important. People judge books by them, after all. A lot of fantasy books go out with "man on horse in front of castle" covers. For Empire it was very important to everyone that there be a human figure there, because we wanted no confusion about how human the insect-kinden actually were, and the image we ended up with is a good rendition of one of the Wasp light airborne, perhaps even the villain/anti-hero, Thalric.

- More and more, authors/editors/publicists/agents are discovering the potential of all the SFF blogs/websites/message boards on the internet. Do you keep an eye on what's being discussed out there, especially if it concerns you? Or is it too much of a distraction?

It would be wonderfully rugged of me to say that, heedless of blame or praise, I cling to the inviolable purity of my calling and manfully ignore everything that people are saying about me (or aren't saying about me, which Mr Wilde reckoned was worse). It would also be untrue. Let's face it - an author new to the shelves thinks of very little other than "are people reading my book?", and I'm lucky/unlucky enough to live in a time when a search engine will keep me as informed as I could wish about the subject any time I want.

- 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.

People are very snobby about genres - even some fantasy authors, as you've noted - and this is while a novel like, let's say, The Time Traveller's Wife can be mainstream and win prizes as a mainstream literary venture, despite the fact that, let's face it, it's an entertaining piece of speculative science-fiction. On this basis there's more than simple content building a wall between mainstream and genre fiction, and unfortunately, fight the good fight as all of us may, I suspect that division is going to be insurmountable. Which is a shame, because the division is artificial. All fiction is speculative, because those people aren't real, those acts were not enacted. Fiction set in the "real world" is still reinventing that world.

- Anything you wish to add?

Just to say, for people who have enjoyed the book, there will be short stories and art added to the website, to tide readers over between Empire and Dragonfly.

US cover art for Scott Lynch's THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES

Hmm, can't say I'm too thrilled about it. . .

It will be interesting to see what Gollancz will come up with. . .

Another black eye for the genre. . .

Here's another interesting nugget of information which was unearthed while I was making my way down the Baltic States. You all know that SFF Awards are not always seen in the most positive of light. Well, this one, this time from the Locus Awards, will not help matters much, at least where SFF fans are concerned.

After all the votes were submitted and the poll closed, Locus announced a rule change that will see a subscriber's votes count for twice the value of the votes submitted by non-subscribers (the majority of voters).

You can find all the pertinent information in Ken's post, as well as various links and discussion in this thread on Westeros.

More and more, I get the feeling that SFF Awards show as much integrity and transparence as international boxing federations. As a huge fan of the sport, let me just say that you do not want to be compared to the WBC (World Boxing Council), or the WBA (World Boxing Association). Come to think of it, the IBF (International Boxing Federation) and the WBO (World Boxing Organization) are not much better. . .

Win a copy of L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s MAGE-GUARD OF HAMOR

Thanks to the folks at Tor Books, I have three copies of Modesitt's latest Recluce volume, Mage-Guard of Hamor, up for grabs! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "HAMOR." 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!;-)

New websites of interest

If, like me, you spent the last couple of weeks on vacation, your mind bent on sightseeing, catching the right train at the right time, with 90% of your brain's capabilities rerouted to think about Polish and Latvian girls, or if you were caught up in more worthwhile pursuits, you might not be aware that Tor Books' website has re-launched yet again.

Here's what the new now stands for:, a site for news and discussion of science fiction, fantasy, and all the things that interest SF and fantasy readers, is an initiative of Tor Books and of the Macmillan group of publishers. It presents original short fiction, new sequential art, extensive art galleries, and commentary on science fiction and related subjects by a wide range of writers from all corners of the science fiction and fantasy field. Its aim is to provoke, encourage, and enable interesting and rewarding conversations with and between its readers.

Random House has done the same with

Suvudu is a new website catering to news from all sci-fi and fantasy creative media—books, audiobooks, gaming, manga, comic books and movies! Content will include podcasts, videos, reviews, interviews and original blog posts, all brought to you by some of the best talents in the sci-fi, fantasy, graphic novel and gaming industries.

Imagine the San Diego Comic Con—but on a website all year round!

Sounds great, right?

That’s just the beginning. Sci-fi and fantasy fans will also play a role in Suvudu. Visitors are encouraged to comment on the posted content, contribute information they deem pertinent, and send in suggestions to make Suvudu the best it can be. Links to offsite blog and website content will be highlighted. As a community sharing and growing with one another, every relevant bit of news will have benefit—given voice on Suvudu for those who would hear it.

Suvudu will grow over time. In the coming months Suvudu will not only be a news blog but will evolve to include a library of free science fiction and fantasy books, advanced reads of forthcoming projects, exclusive looks inside the creative process of the publishing world, and incorporate a forum for like-minded fans to converse with one another.

These could become great SFF resources, so I encourage you to check them out. Which reminds me that I should register. . .:-)

Win a copy of Tobias S. Buckell's SLY MONGOOSE

I have a copy of Tobias S. Buckell's latest, Sly Mongoose, for you to win, compliments of the kind folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "MONGOOSE." 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!;-)

This and that. . .

As I knew it would be, it's been kind of a mindfuck to get my normal life back on track after spending 5 weeks traveling around Poland, Finland, and the Baltic States. I'm aware that I cut it a bit close by coming back just in the nick of time for my friend's wedding, and then resuming work on the following day. Oh well. . .

The Hotlist should also return to its habitual bits and pieces in the next little while, so bear with me.:-) There's a lot of stuff up in the air as things return to normal, but here's what's on tap for the next couple of weeks.

Book Reviews

I'm currently reading Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon (Canada, USA, Europe), which I'm quite enjoying so far. Next in the rotation will be David Louis Edelman's Multireal (Canada, USA, Europe).

After that, I'm interested in Glen Cook's Chronicles of the Black Company (Canada, USA, Europe), Ekaterina Sedia's The Alchemy of Stone (Canada, USA, Europe), and/or the anthology Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy (Canada, USA, Europe, and

Of course, if ARCs for Neal Stephenson's Anathem (Canada, USA, Europe), Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book (Canada, USA, Europe), or Terry Pratchett's Nation (Canada, USA, Europe) show up in the mailbox in the meantime, well that might screw up the batting order!


I have a few threads to follow up on, as there were plans for a couple of interviews prior to my departure for Europe earlier this spring. But as things stand, I have to concrete commitments at the moment.

In all likelihood, I will have a few Q&As lined up for the near future in the next couple of weeks. . .

A number of contests have already been confirmed. The first, from Subterranean Press,will be for a full set of numbered deluxe hardcovers from Tim Powers: Last Call (Canada, USA, Europe, and, Expiration Date (Canada, USA, Europe, and, and Earthquake Weather (Canada, USA, Europe, and

I will soon make the announcement for a contest for Tobias S. Buckell's Sly Mongoose (Canada, USA, Europe), and I should also have one for L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s Mage-Guard of Hamor (Canada, USA, Europe). You can also expect a giveaway for Brandon Sanderson's The Hero of Ages (Canada, USA, Europe).

I'm also working on giveaways for Stephenson's Anathem, Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, and Pratchett's Nation, so stay tuned for that.

For those interested, you can still register for Ian Cameron Esslemont's Return of the Crimson Guard (Canada, USA, Europe) giveaway.

I have to contact various editors and publicists about this, which means that there might be more to come.

So in a nutshell, these are the coming attractions. . .

Win an Advance Reading Copy of the Subpress limited edition of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's THE SHADOW OF THE WIND

Hmm, I have a feeling that this giveaway might be popular. . .:-)

Thanks to Bill and the folks at Subterranean Press, I have an ARC of the limited edition of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's superb The Shadow of the Wind for you guys to win. Since this is basically a limited edition of a limited edition, it's the perfect collector's item! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "JULIAN CARAX." 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!;-)

David Weber contest winners!

Our two winners will each receive a copy of David Weber's By Schism Rent Asunder, thanks to the nice folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Stephen Wrighton, from Madison, Mississippi, USA

- Matthew Roy, from West Des Moines, Iowa, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Win a copy of the Subpress limited edition of Naomi Novik's THRONE OF JADE

Thanks to Bill and the rest of the Subterranean Press gang, I have a copy of the limited edition of Naomi Novik's Throne of Jade up for grabs! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "JADE." 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!;-)

Daniel Abraham contest winners!

This one is now in the books! Each of our five winners will get their hands on a complimentary copy of Daniel Abraham's An Autmn War, courtesy of Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:
- Patrick McCracken, from Queen Creek, Arizona, USA

- Chris Emden, from Williamsburg, Virginia, USA (Tempra on

- Taijwant Geer, from Caroni, Trinidad

- Parto Barkhordari, from McLean, Virginia, USA

- Kevin McCloskey, from Bakersfield, California, USA

Thanks to all the participants!;-)

Carlos Ruiz Zafon's THE SHADOW OF THE WIND

As you know, I gave Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind (Canada, USA, Europe) a perfect score a few weeks back. If you haven't read this novel yet, I encourage you to rectify the situation and give it a shot ASAP. Indeed, it's the perfect book to bring on vacation!

My parents picked up my mail while I was traipsing around Poland, Finland, and the Baltic States, and, as expected, I had quite a few packages awaiting my return. To my surprise, one of them contained an ARC of the Subterranean Press limited edition of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's international bestseller.

All I can say is that this looks like it's going to be a beautiful edition. Fans of the authors and collectors should consider getting this one. As for me, well I'm keeping the ARC, thank you very much!

For more info about this limited edition: Canada, USA, Europe, and

David Louis Edelman contest winners!

The names of our three winners have been drawn. As they have yet to read Edelman's excellent scifi debut, all of them will thus receive both Infoquake (Canada, USA, Europe) and its sequel, MultiReal (Canada, USA, Europe), compliments of the folks at Pyr.

For more info on the author, Infoquake and MultiReal, check out

The winners are:

- Michael Dionne, from Mansfield, Connecticut, USA

- Jacob Gest, from Denver, Colorado, USA

- Jennifer M. Pierce, from Okemos, Michigan, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

TOLL THE HOUNDS cover art contest winner!

Thanks to the generosity of artist Todd Lockwood, our winner will get his hands on an art print of the American cover of Steven Erikson's Toll the Hounds (Canada, USA, Europe). You can check this and other fine illustrations at

The winner is:

Reuben Hubbard, from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Thanks to all the participants!;-)

We now return to our scheduled programming. . .

Well, after 3 flights and more than 16 hours, I finally landed in Montreal last night. I was so tired and jetlagged that I left the window of my car open. Of course, there was a thunderstorm during the night, so the driver seat is soaked. Ah man. . .

Nothing like doing the groceries can make you realize that you are officially back, and how irrevocable the end of the trip is. I have a wedding to attend tomorrow, and I resume work on Sunday, so I won't even have time to recuperate.

So here's a little something for those who have been waiting for some SFF-related material for the last couple of weeks! In my defense, I did post three reviews in the last month or so, which is still more than several book-reviewing blogs out there.

Malazan fans have been grumbling more and more lately about the fact that the Subterranean Press limited edition of Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon is late. Everyone knows that it's due to the fact that the artist is late in delivering the artwork. Rejoice, then, Malazan aficionados, for Bill from Subpress and Michael Komarck have given me the permission to post another sketch!

So here are a few prints that you have seen before, with a sketch of Raest facing the dragons as a bonus!;-) See how I'm looking after you guys. . .:p

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

Vilnius, Lithuania: Churches, churches, and -- yes, you guessed it -- yet more churches!

The city of Vilnius is renowned for its baroque churches. It's one thing to read about it, but it's quite another to realize that there seems to be a baroque church on every street corner. I mean, they're basically everywhere. Most of my pics from Vilnius show churches. So much so that I will never be able to figure out which is which when I get back home.

The Old Town of Vilnius is beautiful, though there are still a lot of work to be done. As is the case across the Baltic States, there are cranes and scaffoldings everywhere, with crews of workers refurbishing buildings, etc. For all that it's supposed to be a party place (at least during the weekend), Vilnius is much more quiet and laid-back then Tallinn and Riga. A bit more romantic as well. Think about Vienna, Austria, but on a much smaller scale.

The main difference is how friendlier people are here. Lithuanians have been dubbed the "Spanish of the Baltic" and they're much easier to chat with than their cousins in Estonia and Latvia. Simply say, "What about them Celtics winning the NBA title?" and you'll have a hoops discussion on the way. Lithuanians are crazy about basketball. You might remember that they came very close (losing by a single point) to beat the American Dream Team in the Olympics.

Though the service industry is said to be mediocre, I have been well served in bars and restaurants thus far. Knock on wood!

Understandably, the main attractions in Vilnius are baroque churches. Trouble is, after a few you sort of get the feeling that you've seen them all. I've lost track of how many churches (Gothic and baroque) I've been in and out of. . . The Museum of the Genocide Victims house in the former KGB building is a must. Once again, you see that the Soviet yoke was as bad -- or even worst -- than the Nazis'. As a matter of course, checked out Vilnius Cathedral and went up to the top of the tower of the Gediminas Castle for views of the Old Town. Too bad the Royal Palace is undergoing renovations and won't open till 2009. I visited Uzupis, which is supposed to be a bohemian district inhabited by artists, squatters, etc -- a bit like Christiana in Copenhagen. I was a bit disappointed by the fact that there is close to nothing to see, especially since I walked all the way there. For the designer clothes and the posh shops, get yourself to the New Town's main promenade, Gedimino prospektas, where you'll see those who want to see and be seen. Every big city has a street like this, and it's good for the eye candy!;-)

Yesterday the weather was nice, so I took the bus to see the medieval castle of Trakai. The castle can be found on a small island in the middle of Lake Galve, and it makes for a very enjoyable day trip.

I'm kind of bummed out today, as it is the very last day of my Eastern European adventure. Can't believe that it's already over. Time really flew by! I'm sure glad I came, and I now realize that Finland should never have been on the itinerary. I should have spent those days in Poland, or simply wandering around and exploring a bit more of Estonia, Riga, and Lithuania.

For anyone looking for a place to go, you can't go wrong with any of these destinations. The timing is perfect, as inflation, though on the rise, has yet to reach the level the adoption of the euro as the main currency will bring. Those 4 countries are in complete effervescence, with the old making place for the new. These people have had to fight hard to maintain their identity, their traditions, and their cultures. They're proud of their newfound independence, and they are looking at a bright future ahead. The elderly people you see here have had it extremely hard, and it shows. But the younger generation is vibrant, looking forward to the new opportunities that are open to them. In Poland and Latvia especially, you'll feel that special vibe.

So whether you are looking for culture, architecture, night life, good food, cheap drinks, or some of the most beautiful women in the world, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are a must!:-) Although it's not the fairytale that many believed when their countries became part of the EU, you can see that they are moving forward and the sky's the limit. These countries are also lands of contrast, where old-time charm competes with new, modern skyscrapers. One must never forget that programs like Kazaa and Skype are Estonia products. So is it any wonder that there are wifi taxis over there!?!

Unlike Poland, which was a pain in the ass at times because no one spoke English (which, in retrospect, was all part of the fun and the adventure), you'll never have any problem being understood in Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius. And even outside the main cities, if tourism is blooming there, someone will be happy to help you out.

I've now been to 30 different countries around the globe. And yet, I feel that this latest trip may have been the most rewarding one so far. The timing was good, visiting each country part of the Baltic States before the euro took over (same thing with Poland). It's a time of change in each of these countries, but the people nevertheless desire to hold on to what they have fought to preserve for the decades of oppression at the hands of the Germans and/or the Soviets. There's a lot to see, a lot to do, and you can do it all on a budget without missing out on anything. It won't be true for long, so consider visiting those places as soon as possible. As for me, 5 weeks abroad will have cost me (I haven't made the calculations yet) about a paltry 3000$, and that includes the plane ticket. Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are all accessible from cheap flights from London and beyond, so check it out.

I know I say this every time I return from a trip, but I WILL go back to each country. Sadly, I feel like I've missed out on a lot of things everywhere. I've already listed where I would have gone in Poland. But given more time, in Estonia I would have gone to Saaremaa, Parnu, Tartu; in Latvia, I would have visited Sigulda, Cesis, Liepaja, and Ventspils; in Lithuania, I missed out on the Hill of Crosses, Kaunas, Klaipeda, and the Curonian Spit. So you see, I have to go back there! And yes, the gorgeous ladies are an incentive that is not negligible!!!:p

Next time you hear from me I'll be back in Montreal, so this blog will resume its habitual programming. Still, I hope that some of you enjoyed following my adventures and misadventures these last few weeks! I know that many people cannot afford to travel, so hopefully these little blog updates made you dream about new places to discover.

The return to reality will be atrocious, as I have a wedding to attend on Saturday and I resume work on Sunday. . . Ah, the humanity!