Review: Hawk by Steven Brust

Hawk by Steven BrHawkust (9780765324443): Tor (2014)

It’s been years since Vlad Taltos has been back to the Imperial city of Adrilankha. He’s been on the run from the Jhereg, the Dragaeran House of the criminal underworld, who he made extremely unhappy. He’s not been able to see his friends, his son, or his ex-wife, Cawti, in all this time. He’s also had to wear a Phoenix Stone to shield himself from sorcerous scrying, cutting himself off from magic. But Vlad’s tired of running. And now he’s a got a plan to get back in the Jhereg’s good graces (hopefully). It all hinges on the collection of certain objects, the study of obscure trade laws, a bit of witchcraft and sorcery, the help of his old friends, and learning to think like a hawk. And staying alive long enough to make it all happen.

Hawk marks the triumphant return of Vlad Taltos to Adrilankha and, in some ways, a return of the series to some of its old form. Back is the iconic (and ironic) assassin, wisecracking his way through the city with his familiar, Loiosh, on his shoulder, dodging danger at every turn and staying two steps ahead of his enemies (most of the time). It was good to see Vlad back on his home turf and getting some of his own back from the Jhereg. It’s been far too long. It was also good to see his friends again, especially Kragar. And smoggy Adrilankha, a character unto itself. The novel is a homecoming and doesn’t disappoint.

What also doesn’t disappoint is Brust’s writing. The dialog is witty (as per usual) and the prose is clever and quick. There is never a dull moment in the book–and this is a novel in which much of the book is spent with Vlad walking up one side of the city and down the other. Quite the accomplishment.

All in all, an enjoyable return to a remarkable series.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Published! “Thirty Nine” Appearing in Stupefying Stories!

Stupefying Stories March 2015My second published short story (entitled “Thirty Nine”) now appears in the March edition of Stupefying Stories. You can pick up your copy for Kindle at Amazon here.

“Thirty Nine” is the story of a failed inventor who finds that perhaps he’s discovered a bit more than he’s bargained for in his latest failure.

Don’t forget, there are also some other stupefying stories in this issue you’ll want to check out as well. So pick up your copy of Stupefying Stories!

ADDENDUM: You can get the print version of the book from Amazon here and from CreateSpace here.

Posted in Announcements and News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Tome of the Undergates (The Aeons’ Gate Book One) by Sam Sykes

Tome of the Undergates

Tome of the Undergates (The Aeons’ Gate Book One) by Sam Sykes (9781616142421): 2010 (Pyr)

Adventurer.

For me, the term has always had a romantic connotation. Swashbuckler. Explorer. Hero. But in Sam Sykes’ exciting and rambunctious series, the word is synonymous with cutthroat, murderer, and associated only with those who would take on the vilest of jobs. They are a step below even mercenaries and sell-swords. Adventurers are scum of the earth–and the protagonists of Sykes’ book are hard-pressed to prove their reputations as otherwise.

There’s Lenk, their leader, a talented swordsman who hears a deadly voice in his head spurring him on to kill. Then there’s Kataria, a barbaric schict who farts in her sleep (and doesn’t smell very good otherwise) who adventures in order to kill as many humans as she can. The rogue, Denaos, is everything the reputation of the adventurer encompasses–cowardly, murderous, and drunkenly carousing. Gariath, the haughty dragonman, is enigmatic and violent, as prone to injure himself as the humans in his path. Asper, the cursed priestess, tries to do good but finds her faith in humanity waning as she follows her companions into danger time and time again. Finally, there’s Dreadaeleon the wizard, who follows knowledge for its own sake and whose magic can prove dangerous to both his target and to innocent bystanders.

This ragtag group are all on a quest to find the Aeons’ Gate for their patron, a priest by the name of Miron Evenhands. But while onboard a ship bound for their next destination, they are attacked by pirates who target Evenhands–or, more precisely, a tome in his possession. When the tome is ultimately taken by a demon allied with the pirates, the adventurers agree to chase it–and the demon–down. Of course, the fate of the world hangs in the balance–as well as a thousand pieces of gold.

Imagine if Joe Abercrombie wrote RPG fiction and you’ll get a feel for this novel. Deeply gritty with a sense of the absurd and a through-line of humor, the prose is highly enjoyable. The characters are somehow likeable, despite their many flaws. These are definitely not characters you want to be or to be around, yet you continue to want to read about them. It’s clear that the author is having a great deal of fun with his story and that comes through in the reading. It’s contagious.

The plot is a pretty straightforward adventure story. The events of the novel are set up by a long sea battle that takes up a good third of the book. Still, there are monsters, sirens, a strange warrior race, demons, all manner of good stuff in here. It is definitely not light on the action.

All in all, Tome was an excellent opening for a series that I want to read. I’ll be looking for the next book in the series, Black Halo. Highly recommended.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Distractions of 2014

Well, it’s a new year here at the Serial Distractions Beard Straightening and Yak-Poking Emporium ™ and that means we look back at what we did with an eye to what we can do in the future.

Top Posts

Of the 5 most viewed posts for 2014, only the fifth was actually written in 2014. The rest were written in previous years. WordPress assures me this means my writing has staying power. I think this means I need to be writing more relevant posts. The most viewed post was Moon Over Wisconsin: Science Fiction and Big Ideas a piece I wrote back in 2010.

Views and Visitors

My blog was viewed 2197 times in 2014. Not too shabby for my little darkened corner of the internet. This is up from 1540 in 2013. We had 1033 visitors in 2013 as opposed to a whopping 1595 in 2014. This still isn’t as good as in previous years, but we seem to be picking up from the slump that was 2013.

Top Distraction

Content-wise, I didn’t write very many reviews this year. That is definitely something I need to fix in 2015. That being said, my stand-out, Top Distraction of 2015 is easy to pick this year:

Cold in July by Joe R. Lansdale

This book has everything I love by one of my favorite authors.

I hope your 2015 is going well so far and look forward to spending it with you with some great books this year.

Posted in Announcements and News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

Blue BlazesThe Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig (9780857663351) Angry Robot (2013)

Mookie Pearl is a thug. When the Organization is in need of some muscle, Mookie has it in spades. When the Boss needs some kneecaps busted, Mookie’s happy to oblige. And when the goblins in the Underworld get restless, then it’s Mookie that the Organization sends in to settle them back down again. A great slab of a man with a bowling ball head and ham-hocks for hands, Mookie is a bruiser in both the criminal and supernatural underworlds and a force to be reckoned with. But when forces conspire to rock the natural order of things in the Organization–forces that may be led by his estranged daughter, Nora–Mookie is forced to go both underground and Underground to defeat them and stay alive.

Wendig has created a unique character and mythology for this unusual urban fantasy. Instead of the usual crop of werewolves, witches, and vampires, we have goblins (or “gobbos”) and underground civilizations and the walking dead (but not zombies–just, the dead). Mookie is a different kind of hero. He’s not a loveable lug–he’s more complicated than that. But he’s identifiable and likeable and, most importantly, someone who you want to go on this journey with.

And what a journey it is. As usual with Wendig, the plot is a roller-coaster ride of wild characters and pulp violence peppered with profane dialogue. There are roller derby street gangs, creepy snake-people assassins, assault four-wheelers, eldritch cults, and charcuterie. Satisfying in every way.

And yet…

And yet, I still came away unsatisfied. Not quite sated. I have no objective complaints about the plot, the writing, the overall grim tone of the novel, nothing. But still–something lacked. Something didn’t quite click with me. Not like Blackbirds or Double Dead did.

Don’t mistake me. I still want to see what’s in store for Mookie. This is a book I can still wholeheartedly recommend to others. But it didn’t “wow” me like his previous work has.

Still, if you’re looking for something different in urban fantasy, definitely give The Blue Blazes a read. Wendig’s unique voice and Mookie are well worth your time.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment