Ten Great Genre Novels to Come Out Of NaNoWriMo

While most of the United States prepares to binge on candy or puts the finishing touches on their costumes, a select group of writers from all over the world are steeling themselves for 30 days of literary abandon with NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month; an event where the competent, the reckless, and the (slightly) insane attempt to create the first draft of a novel solely in the month of November.  Even if a writer completes the challenge, there’s no guarantee that the results will be usable, let alone the next instant classic of genre fiction.  Even so, there’s dozens of lovely books to come out of NaNoWriMo, and whether you’re a reader looking for your next literary fix or a writer looking for inspiration, here’s a spotlight on ten genre novels that began life as successful NaNoWriMos.

1. King Maker by Maurice Broaddus

King Maker Cover

The King Arthur myth gets dramatically retold through the eyes of street hustler King, as he tries to unite the crack dealers, gangbangers and the monsters lurking within them to do the right thing. From the drug gangs of downtown Indianapolis, the one true king will arise.






2. Greetings from Buena Rosa by Nathan Crowder

Buena Rosa Cover

When Manuel de la Vega testified against his fellow officers in a corruption investigation within the Mexico City Police Department, he knew his old life was over. He fled the country, joining the police force in Cobalt City, center of the superhero world.

But when his cousin is accused of murder in a company-run border town, Manuel finds himself making a long-overdue return to Mexico. With a signed confession in the hands of the police, it might not matter how innocent she is.

It will take all of his craft and guile and the help of Manuel’s half-panda assistant Snowflake to see that justice is done in Buena Rosa. And if all that fails, he may have no choice but to resurrect the life he thought he had left behind–that of the masked vigilante Gato Loco!



3. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Shades of Milk and Honey Cover

Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right–and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

Buy [http://www.amazon.com/Shades-Milk-Honey-Glamourist-Histories/dp/0765325608/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382855585&sr=1-1&keywords=shades+of+milk+and+honey ]


4. The Magic Shop by Justin Swapp

The Magic Shop Cover

When Marcus and Ellie’s grandparents decide it would be good for them to tend the family business, the children discover a strange, secret world that has been kept from them all their lives. Not only is the family business a front, but the children learn that they’ve only narrowly escaped death since their birth.

Follow the children, clue by clue, as they uncover the magical feud that has plagued their family for generations.  Will the children survive? Will they find their parents? Those are the small questions. First they must discover the secret their grandparents have been keeping from them all these years. It all comes down to what’s hidden at the Magic Shop.

Buy [http://www.amazon.com/The-Magic-Shop-justin-swapp-ebook/dp/B00CJCUCTG ]


5. Unlikely by (The Genre Underground’s Own!) Frances Pauli

unlikely Cover

Satina knows more than anyone that gangs are bad news. As a Granter, she uses her magic to help people escape them. So far, her sole reward has been a life on the run, dodging from pocket to pocket and only landing in the ordinary world long enough to put her special skills to use.When the goodmother arrives in Westwood, however, a magic-hungry gang is just one step behind her, and their leader wants more than just the town. He wants Satina, and he’ll do anything, use anyone, to get her. Though Satina finds an unlikely ally in Marten, the imp Skinner who manages to help more people than he hurts, it will take all the power they can summon to keep Westwood’s secrets from falling into the wrong hands, to keep one wide-eyed girl from following the wrong man, and to keep Satina herself from falling in love with the only person in the world who knows how much of a fraud she really is.



6. ELEGY by (The Genre Underground’s Own!) Christopher Kellen

Elegy Cover

D’Arden Tal arrives at the city of Calessa to reclaim it from darkness. Even to enter, he must fight his way past the corruption gathering at its gates. Armed with only his mind, his crystalline sword and the sheer force of his will, D’Arden must shatter the chains of corruption which threaten to consume every soul within those stone walls. Deep beneath the earth, he discovers an evil which will cause him to question his faith, his devotion, and his very existence.

Buy [ http://www.amazon.com/Elegy-Arbiter-Codex-Christopher-Kellen-ebook/dp/B005ESFMMY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383085451&sr=8-1&keywords=elegy+christopher+kellen ]



7. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder Cover

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.



8. Darwin Elevator by Jason Hough

Darwin Elevator Cover

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.

Buy [http://www.amazon.com/Darwin-Elevator-Dire-Earth-Cycle/dp/0345537122/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382855507&sr=1-1&keywords=darwin+elevator]


9. Wool by Hugh Howley

Wool Cover

In a ruined and toxic landscape, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.

His fateful decision unleashes a drastic series of events. An unlikely candidate is appointed to replace him: Juliette, a mechanic with no training in law, whose special knack is fixing machines. Now Juliette is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how badly her world is broken. The silo is about to confront what its history has only hinted about and its inhabitants have never dared to whisper. Uprising.

Buy [http://www.amazon.com/Wool-Hugh-Howey/dp/1476733953/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382855555&sr=1-2&keywords=wool ]


10. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

TheNightCircus Cover

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

Buy [http://www.amazon.com/Night-Circus-Erin-Morgenstern/dp/0307744434/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382855632&sr=1-1&keywords=the+night+circus ]

Need more?  Check out some more books put out by Genre Underground Authors.

20 Obscure SF/F/H Books Recommended By The Pros

Understanding why some SF/F/H novels become massively popular while others languish in obscurity is an exercise in futility. For whatever reason, some books simply never get the right combo of marketing support, reader buzz, and magical-mass-market-mojo to become popular. Other books have moments of critical and popular success only to fade into obscurity over time. It’s no surprise then that there are dozens—if not hundreds or thousands—of SF/F/H gems that are largely unheard of and unread by modern readers. In an effort to unearth some of these gems I invited fourteen authors to recommend their favorite obscure spec-fic novels. Along with my own recommendation, we’ve dug up over twenty novels for readers to go out and discover. Enjoy!

-G. Calcaterra

“The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster
-Recommended by Garrett Calcaterra, author of Dreamwielder


Brave New World, Ninteen Eighty-Four, and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We always get credit for being the grand-daddies of dystopian fiction, but E.M. Forster’s novelette “The Machine Stops” predates all of them. First published in 1909, it is a stark warning tale of what could happen when humans become too reliant on technology. It seems more prescient than ever in today’s era of dependency on smart phones, GPS navigation, and auto-correct. “The Machine Stops” is not entirely obscure, having been included in Volume 2B of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthology (1973), but few people know about it today. Dig up the Hall of Fame anthology, the Penguin collection of Forster’s Selected Stories, or find the story free online, thanks to it being in the public domain.


Earth Giant (1961) by Edison Marshall
-Recommended by Howard Andrew Jones, author of the Arabian historical fantasies The Desert of Souls and The Bones of the Old Ones

EarthGiantNot only have I never met anyone who’s read this, I’ve never met anyone who’s even heard of the novel. Labeling Earth Giant fantasy is a little bit of a stretch, for there are only two minor magical moments in the entire book. But then it’s not exactly a straight historical novel, either, as only mythical figures appear within its pages. Instead, it’s the best depiction I’ve ever read of one of mankind’s most famous heroes, Herakles. The stirring exploits depicted within this novel might very well have been those that gave birth to the legends that have come down to us. Sure, the cover of Earth Giant makes it look like one of those 50s/60s historical potboilers where much is promised but very little really happens, but Marshall delivers. Not only are there great story arcs and surprises, but Herakles himself is an incredibly likeable character, far different from his more common brash or even arrogant depictions. Any heroic fantasy lovers really owe it to themselves to track it down.


She and Eric Brighteyes by H. Rider Haggard
-Recommended by CJ Cherryh, Hugo and Locus Award winning author


She is associated with the Allan Quatermain stories: “She Who Must Be Obeyed” is an eternal queen. I was also enchanted with the valiant Umslopogaas, the Zulu warrior… Eric Brighteyes is a Viking romance. I loved the images.






A Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan
-Recommended by Tim Powers, World Fantasy Award winning author

Portrait2It’s about a Depression-era painter who meets a little girl in a park—she’s all by herself, and dressed in last-century clothes, and speaks very intelligently; he goes home and does a portrait of her from memory, and he meets her again, several times, over the years, but she is each time older than the intervening time could explain, and she talks about old events as if they’re current. It’s all very melancholy, really, but a very haunting book. I see Tachyon Publications has brought it back into print, but I bet nobody’s heard of it anyway.



The Art of Arrow Cutting by Stephen Dedman
-Recommended by Misty Massey, author of the fantasy novel Mad Kestrel

artofarrowMichelangelo `Mage’ Magistrale meets a beautiful woman in need of bus fare. In exchange for the money, she gives him a key on a fob made of hair. Mage thinks he’s seen the last of her, but suddenly he’s dealing with crime bosses, deadly ninjas, bakemono and forgetful gods who all seem dangerously interested in the key in his pocket. Dedman’s novel blends Japanese mythology and contemporary fantasy with the wonderfully dark images of classic noir fiction in a nonstop chase through an LA you never imagined. The book is out of print these days, but you can find copies on Amazon or through used book stores.  It’s worth the effort.



Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip
-Recommended by Mary C. Moore, managing editor at Reputation Books and author of the science fiction novel, Angelus 

od_magicFantasy writers often lose something when they become linked to a publishing house. They begin to churn out pale versions of their original works for the sake of more sales, whether it be under pressure of their publishers/agents or for their own gain. It is, unfortunately, not a surprise to a fan/reader when they pick up a newer book by their favorite fantasy author and find they are somewhat disappointed. Sure they get a satisfactory read, but there is something missing, that lovely warm feeling that had filled them when they read that author’s first book. Mercedes Lackey, Anne Rice, even the great Anne McCaffrey or Andre Norton are all culpable of this. Now before you rage, “how dare you!” at me, know that I love each and every one of those authors. They broke down barriers for women genre writers everywhere. They are the grand dames of fantasy and science fiction. They are great writers. But you have to admit, their writing has not, (or did not) evolve/mature very much over their long illustrious careers.

This is not the case of Patricia McKillip. Although McKillip is perhaps best known for her Riddle Master series or The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, both of which were published in the seventies, her later work is where she really starts to shine. Her prose has a lyrical quality to it that is hard to match, and her stories are both wonderfully spiritual and utterly magical. Od Magic, published in 2005—nearly 20 years after her first—is a true testament to an author who has matured in time. You would be hard pressed to find another fantasy novel that captures such earthly beauty and emotion wrapped up in floating specks of magical dust.


Illumination by Terry McGarry
-Recommended by D.B. Jackson/David B. Coe, author of the historical urban fantasies, Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry

illuminationAbout a dozen years ago, big fat fantasies (BFFs) were all the rage. Big names and small (including me, writing as David B. Coe) were putting out epic fantasies, set in imagined worlds, arranged in multi-volume story-arcs. Many of them were good. A few were outstanding. And, unfortunately, some of the very best fell through the cracks of the commercial market. In 2001, Terry McGarry, who is a friend (not to mention an outstanding copyeditor) came out with Illumination, the first book in a trilogy that also included The Binder’s Road and Triad. The Illumination trilogy, as it came to be known, remains one of the finest fantasies I’ve ever read.  Terry’s prose is gorgeous; her characters are unusual, fascinating, drawn with subtlety and exquisite detail; her setting is real and gritty and expertly imagined; her storylines are like barbed hooks—once they’ve got hold of you, they don’t let go. These books deserved far more attention and marketplace success than they received. They should be on the shelves of any serious fan of fantasy.


The Reckoning by Ruby Jean Jensen
-Recommended by Brian Barnett, author of the middle-grade chapter book, Graveyard Scavenger Hunt

reckoningWhenever the opportunity arises for readers to list their favorite horror authors, lists are often short, yet relatively diverse, with a core rotation of names you’ve almost certainly heard of. I’d almost guarantee one name you’ll never find on those lists is Ruby Jean Jensen. It’s a shame, really. She was a talented author who usually relied on ghostly children as the catalysts of terror. The Reckoning was one of many novels in her long career, but it was the first of hers I read and will likely remain my favorite. During the peak her career, she was overshadowed by the likes of rock-star bestsellers Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon and Ramsey Campbell. Though she never got the recognition of those masters, she knew how to bring the horror just the same. One can occasionally find a Jensen novel in used bookstores or online.


The Last City by Nina D’Aleo
Recommended by Ahimsa Kerp, co-author of the mosaic novel, The Roads to Baldairn Motte

lastcityIt’s billed as Bladerunner meets Perdido Street Station, but it’s far closer to Miéville than Dick. The ridiculous levels of creativity are the most noticeable strengths, but there are a great many things gone right. The prose is excellent. The intriguing plot is convincing without ever seeming contrived. But like Mieville (and unlike Dick) this is a book of fascinating characters. Moral, immoral, and amoral alike mix in the mean streets, and while I don’t usually have favorite POV, Eli the imp-breed is sheer genius. He stands out as a great character as much as Tyrion Lannister did in the late 90’s.


Superfolks by Robert Mayer
-Recommended by James Aquilone, writer and editor

SuperfolksWhile Alan Moore gets most of the credit when it comes to creating the modern, deconstructed superhero, it really began with a novel called Superfolks. Published in 1977, Robert Mayer’s first book satirizes and updates such superheroes as Superman and Captain Marvel. This is how the publisher describes the story: “David Brinkley used to be a hero, the greatest the world had ever seen—until he retired, got married, moved to the suburbs, and packed on a few extra pounds. Now all the heroes are dead or missing, and his beloved New York is on the edge of chaos. It’s up to Brinkley to come to the rescue, but he’s in the midst of a serious mid-life crisis—his superpowers are failing him.” Sound familiar? That’s because Superfolks inspired such comic books and movies as Watchmen, Miracleman, and The Incredibles. Still, few people outside comic book geekdom have even heard of Superfolks. Perhaps that’s because of its many corny, dated jokes. (David Brinkley, really?) Besides Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, and Grant Morrison having drawn inspiration from the novel, it’s a must-read for the true superhero aficionado.


Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake
-Recommended by Luna Lindsey, author of the urban fantasy novel, Emerald City Dreamer

titusgroanThe Gormenghast trilogy received varying levels of attention over the decades, but it is now nearly forgotten among fantasy lovers. First published in 1946, Titus Groan straddles the edge between fantasy and gothic literature, weaving a thin thread of story through a parade of darkly quirky characters in precarious situations amid gorgeous and mysterious architecture described with the kind of playful wordcraft impossible to find anywhere today. I found myself underlining passages which I sometimes go back to reread. Unlike modern fiction, there is no main point of view character, and not even a protagonist, per se. Instead you are offered a cast of deeply flawed caricatures, some you like more (or hate less) than others. Indeed, the central character is the castle, Gormenghast itself, ever looming, almost unaware of the bizarre deplorable events playing out in its hallways. This series manages to be simultaneously clever, funny, and grim, and it deserves your attention. All three titles are still in print, available in a single volume.


The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn Flewelling
-Recommended by Craig Comer, co-author of The Roads to Baldairn Motte

bonedollParents can be hard on their children. For Tobin this means being transformed into a boy and sheltered in a remote castle haunted by the ghost of her slain twin brother—a brother murdered by their parents at birth. To say she got a rough deal is an understatement, even without the wizards and warlords trying to hunt her down. Published in 2001, this coming-of-age tale is the first in a trilogy that questions identity, sacrifice, and the terrible things done in the name of Good. Flewelling is better known for her Nightrunner books, but the Tamir Triad is a tightly written series full of twists on classic fantasy troupes. It is both familiar and unique, a combination that hooks you in and keeps you guessing the whole way through.


Lord Darcy, the 2002 omnibus edition, by Randall Garrett (edited by Eric Flint)
-Recommended by Wendy Wagner, author of Skinwalkers

Lord_Darcy_1983_editionLord Darcy is a detective living in an alternate history that diverged from ours in that King John never took the throne, and the Angevin Empire covers most of Europe and North America. There is magic, but the emphasis of all the Darcy stories, which are collected in this edition along with the only Randall Garrett Lord Darcy novel, Too Many Magicians, is on solving mysteries. I adore mysteries of all kinds, and the setting is a gem. These stories were originally published in the 60s and 70s, but they still feel fresh and fun.



Another Day, Another Dungeon by Greg Costikyan and The Hero Always Wins by Robert Eaton
-Recommended by M Todd Gallowglas, author of Judge of Dooms

Fantasy is my biggest love in reading. I’ve been reading fantasy for the better part of four decades, and that’s a lot of books. I first fell in love with Tolkien and Lewis, then moved on to Brooks and Eddings. I’ve read widely across the genre, soaking up the good, the bad, and the weird. One of the things I love most is when a book really surprises me by twisting some expectation of something considered a trope of the fantasy genre. To that, I have two suggestions for books that I had a lot of fun reading.

dungeonThe first is Another Day, Another Dungeon by Greg Costikyan. So often in various publishing market’s submission guidelines, I’ve seen something like, “Don’t give us your D&D adventures.” Few people have the talent to handle a dungeon crawl and make it entertaining. ADAD takes the tropes of early dungeon crawling and ratchets them up to a level of satire that is epic beyond epic. Thieves, barbarian, a cleric to the god of beer, fire mages who can’t seem to understand that other people aren’t immune to fire, and an eleven foot pole (because there are things you wouldn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole). This book is pure, silly fun in a story well told of delving into the dungeon, grabbing the treasure, and then trying to keep the treasure. If you’ve ever played an old-fashioned dungeon crawl, find this book, read it, snicker, giggle, and relive the memories of your misspent gaming youth.

Front Cover 225 300The next book is The Hero Always Wins, by Robert Eaton. Don’t let the title fool you. This book is anything but cliche. It’s rare that a book has me blinking at the pages, or at my Kindle, thinking, “What the hell just happened there?” Especially after a certain wedding in a certain George RR Martin book. Robert Eaton plays on our expectations of fantasy tropes we’ve come to rely on, sticks those in our guts, and twists them like a freezing cold knife. The best part, he sets it up carefully, so that in hindsight, everything fits nicely together. Every twist and turn is foreshadowed with a subtle grace that many writers across all genres take years and dozens books to master. The Hero Always Wins is fun, shocking, and nothing short of awesome. The careful reader might be able to pick out the first big plot twist, but I’d put money they wouldn’t be able to figure out the second, third, or fourth.


Lud in the Mist by Hope Mirlees
-Recommended by James P. Blaylock, World Fantasy Award winning author

ludTim Powers gave me a copy of Lud in the Mist back in the 1970s, assuring me that it was quite likely the best fantasy novel ever written. I think he’s correct. (Neil Gaiman has said something of the same thing recently, and so perhaps all of us are in agreement, and there’s no point in going on here. Even so…) Lud in the Mist was published in 1926, and then again as one of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in 1970, this time without permission of the author, who was assumed (conveniently) to have died, although she had not. Upon its original publication, Hope Mirlees was pronounced a genius, and, according to Virginia Woolf, “rather an exquisite apparition.” Mirlees inherited a fortune from her engine-building father and saw it as an opportunity never to have to write again. Too bad for us. She died in 1978, ostensibly never having learned that her novel had been republished. Lud in the Mist evokes Faery and Faeryland in all its dangerous attractions like no other novel, with the exception, perhaps, of MacDonald’s Phantastes.

(Blaylock’s recommendation was originally published here, along with 9 other obscure fantasy novels he recommends. Reprint of this rec done with his permission. –GC)

See more at: http://garrettcalcaterra.blogspot.com/2013/10/20-obscure-sffh-books-recommended-by.html#sthash.uzoCph60.dpuf

(Originally posted at http://garrettcalcaterra.blogspot.com/2013/10/20-obscure-sffh-books-recommended-by.html)

Review: Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

republicofthievesFor the uninitiated: Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series is like a higher-stakes game of Ocean’s 11, but in a Venetian-style fantasy world. Like all good con stories, the reader is strung along, just trying to figure out how the thieves will manage their impossible plan. A nice bonus for the series is that it can lay claim to actually having all the wit and cleverness that Ocean’s 11 only thinks it has.

The Republic of Thieves is the long-awaited third installment of the escapades of Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen: rogues, thieves, and clever wise-ass bastards. It picks up shortly after Red Seas Under Red Skies leaves off, though is enough of a self-encapsulated book that a new reader could pick it up cold and still have a rolicking good time.

So, what’s inside:

  • Twisted clever schemes upon schemes tied up in other schemes
  • Fantastic quotes like “[The never-fail universal apology is:] I was badly misinformed, I deeply regret the error, go fuck yourself with this bag of money.”
  • Biting satire on political systems and the theater, which in many ways are more like each other than not
  • A touchingly awkward and somewhat-broken romance
  • Spooky-weird mind-melding magi

What’s not inside:

  • A heist or con as clever as any of the multilayered ones in the first two books. That’s OK though, since for once the bigger emphasis was on the characters themselves, who actually spent time telling the truth. (To each other, not to their marks. We can’t have that.)
  • As satisfying an aha-moment as in the end of the first two books. But that’s also OK though, because Republic of Thieves opens more questions than it closes – ones that Lynch has been quietly seeding though the first two books.
  • A timeline for when book 4, The Thorn of Emberlain is coming, because even though I just spent a roughly ten-hour block reading this book, I want the next one already. (Sorry, picky reader gripe.)

************HERE THERE BE SPOILERS************

In The Republic of Thieves, we finally meet the mysterious Sabetha. And hot damn, was she a woman worth waiting for. Her relationship with Locke is explored in two layered stories: one of their past (from how they met, to the tormented beginnings of their relationship) and one of their present, where they are reunited as adversaries, pitted against each other in rigging an election. They play a game of wits as they try to out-maneuver each other, both for the election and to seize control of their relationship.

The two narratives of past and present intertwine beautifully. Lynch does a great job of showing the anguish and elation of confused teenage love, and then showing how so much of that mess remains in adults. In this, it feels like a much more emotionally-mature book than The Lies of Locke Lamora or Red Seas Under Red Skies. It’s a good thing too, because if it weren’t for these fantastic character explorations (the pair’s flirting/fighting makes for the best scenes in the book, and Sabetha nearly always plays Locke like a fiddle), it would be a let-down from the con side.

In the current storyline, the bondsmagi, Locke’s sworn enemies, are the only ones who can save him from his poisoning from book 2. They save his life in exchange for his services in rigging their local election. So here comes a slew of electioneering cons, but few of them are more serious or complex than ones we could easily see happening today. Create a mole in the other organization, or have one in yours? Seen it. Be so obnoxious while campaigning for the opposition that you annoy people into joining your side? Seen it. There’s a laundry list of straightforward mini-efforts like this, and one of Lynch’s strengths is writing the incredibly convoluted cons. There is one multi-step con that leads to the election outcome as a draw, which includes a clever money-laundering scheme. But it’s not nearly as complex as we know Lynch can write.

In the flashback storyline, the young Gentleman Bastards crew of thieves is sent to apprentice at a theater troupe. Here too, the cons are fairly simple, although that’s to be expected from young and inexperienced thieves. Straightforward “whoops we killed the evil nobleman and need to not get caught while putting on a play” schemes are comic, but are excusably so. And at the same time, we readers are treated to the entertaining equivalent of Shakespearean theater in Lynch’s world, so there’s plenty else going on.

But since the emphasis of the story is the exploration of Locke and Sabetha’s relationship, with the cons more as a backdrop (for all that they take up the bulk of the book), that is all fine. The Republic of Thieves shows us a more human side of Locke, behind the wise-ass bravado and pluck. As we get to know how truly and honestly he loves Sabetha, to the point where he makes himself more vulnerable to her than we’ve ever seen him before (and this includes him lying near death poisoned, or near death in a barrel of pee, or any number of other near-death experiences), it looks like the richer and more multifaceted character is being set up for something much much bigger in book 4. Whisperings about his ties to the magi in his distant and forgotten past, whether true or not, make this reader eager to get to the next book already.

************END OF SPOILERS************

TL/DR: Another awesome book from an awesome author. Fast paced and snarky, but tones down a bit of the heist cleverness from books 1 and 2 (though there’s still plenty of it) to make room for a more emotional and human story as Locke and Sabetha’s relationship is finally explored.

609 pages

~ Reviewed by Effie Seiberg

Don’t Tweet Me Bad

Over the weekend, it came out that New York ComicCon actually hijacked the Twitter accounts of its patrons to post enthusiastic self-promoting tweets.

This was not an accident. It was not some technological FUBAR, and it was not an innocent mistake. As Ben Silverman at Yahoo!Games says: “…it was by design. By nefarious, promotional, fine-print design.

See, NYCC was using RFID (that’s radio frequency identification, for those who aren’t as tech-savvy) tags in their badges as a security measure. This way it ties the badge to the person, to prevent people from passing off their badges to someone else. That’s fine (I guess, but my rant on that would take up another post entirely) well and good, except that the con promoters encouraged the badge-holders to link up their social media accounts. When they did, their social media passwords (Facebook, Twitter and probably more) were passed via the RFID tag to the con promoters, who had set up an automated system that blasted tweets that didn’t belong to their owners.

This. Is. Just. Wrong.

I realize that we’re living in an ever-more-connected world. Privacy is nearly a thing of the past (again, another rant for another time) and it seems like we’re handing out our personal information to anyone who’s got a website. An adage repeated more and more on the web is: if the site is free, you’re not a user; you’re the productWe are what’s being sold, and we’re mostly oblivious to it.

Until it gets obvious.

Just attending a con does not give the showrunners permission to post their awkward poetry to my social media stream. (Here’s the picture to illustrate my point.) My opinions are mine, and that’s why my social media account is password-protected. I don’t mind signing in to an app if a con I’m going to wants to produce one, but they’d better be treating my data (especially my damn passwords!) like any reputable company. Using my passwords to login to my social media accounts to post self-promotional drivel makes me look bad. What if I don’t agree? What if I don’t “love” NYCC? What if I’m annoyed by the crowds and a staff member just treated me like crap? That’s hardly the perfect time to be blowing your own horn.

NYCC has since apologized for the “perceived overstep” (nice weasel words there) and called it an “opt-in” service. It might technically be opt-in if you’ve buried the language in your TOS, but unless it comes up with a bright-colored pop-up window that says “WARNING: YOU’RE ABOUT TO GIVE US UNFETTERED ACCESS TO YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS TO POST STUFF ON YOUR BEHALF” I’m going to call it what it is.


Since they got caught, I’m sure it won’t happen again. Still, many genre fans (including myself) are regular convention-goers. We’re not the ones who put these events on, but we’re the ones that makes them mean something by showing our support with our dollars and our time, which is why this news is so important for us. I have to say, if something like this had happened to me, it would make me seriously think twice about attending any convention a second time.

Review: In Siege of Daylight by Gregory S. Close

siegeofdaylight-smIn Siege of Daylight is the fantasy debut of author Gregory S. Close.

This book is the epic-est of epic fantasy. Full stop. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a door-stopper like this one, and even longer since I’ve enjoyed one half as much.

Some books work on the strength of their world-building. Others falter when it comes to the world, but pull you through on the strength of the characters alone. Others may have a stirring plot that carries from beginning to end, with a masterful weaving of threads throughout. I am glad to say that Greg Close succeeds on all three accounts, something much easier to say than to do. His characterization is strong, his world-building simply staggering, and the story itself is brilliant. Though at times, due to its immense length, I found myself wondering whether a certain point-of-view was entirely necessary, the end pulled them all together and left me with an understanding that yes, indeed, they are all necessary.

In the past few decades, many fantasy writers seem to be plying their trade with a certain sense of secret shame and/or irony. Perhaps the most famous work in fantasy right now is George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (thanks in large part to its HBO adaptation), which is a thorough deconstruction of the fantasy tropes introduced by Tolkien and carried like buckets of water by the following generations, slowly slopping their meaning and wonder over the sides as they labor beneath the weight of the grandfather of fantasy.

Greg Close takes precisely the opposite tack. His story runs directly into the face of the fantasy tropes that we’ve been reading for years, and instead of shrinking from them, he embraces them without irony, incorporating them into his world. Instead of being shackled to the norms of fantasy, he bends them to his own purposes, allowing things to feel simultaneously familiar and new. This story contains many of the things we all expect to see in the most cliche fantasy: a young prince with a destiny, a star-struck backwoods boy, knights and kings, mysterious elves, dwarves beneath the mountains, and more–and yet there is enough new imagination here to make these creaking and aged tropes feel young again.

This is a lofty comparison indeed, but In Siege of Daylight works for many of the same reasons that Star Wars: A New Hope does. At their core they are both the Hero’s Journey, but they each contain enough real wonder, enough heart and strength in storytelling that, as a fantasy fan, it may feel like you’re reading about things that you know like the back of your hand for the very first time.

~Reviewed by Christopher Kellen   ChristopherKellen

Author Interview: M. Todd Gallowglas

(Originally posted here on 09/16/2013)

I met M. Todd Gallowglas last year at Conjecture Con in San Diego, California. Being a bit of a newbie on the small SFF convention scene, it was great to meet Gallowglas, a guy who was cheerful and welcoming, making me feel right at home. Gallowglas is a frequent attendee and panelist at SFF conventions, and a born storyteller. In fact, he has been a professional storyteller at Renaissance Faires and Medieval Festivals for over twenty years, and he began self-releasing two series of fantasy novels several years ago, to much success. I interviewed Gallowglas for my recent article at Blackgate, and am now excited to release my full interview with him here.

Welcome! Can you describe your writing career up to this point in a nutshell, and don’t leave out the part about being a Ren-Faire storyteller!

It’s funny that everyone asks about the storyteller bit, like it’s some secret. My professional writing career came out of my storytelling show, “Bard’s Cloak of Tales.” Let’s see…in a nutshell…A few years ago, I had this storytelling show to help make ends meet while I was seeking a position as an English teacher after having gone back to school to earn my BA in English (with a focus on Creative Writing, of course). My wife and a few friends sent me a couple of articles about this Amanda Hawking chick and John Locke dude, saying they were making a killing selling their self-published books straight to Kindle. I said, “Huh…interesting.” A few months later, I put some stuff up to see if I could make a little extra money by sending people from my show to my ebooks. At the same time I jumped into the self-publishing world, I wrote some Cthulu short stories for Fantasy Flight Games and
one of my stories received an honorable mention from Writers of the Future. After a few months, the ebooks made enough so that I could do print books, and now the books have taken over. I still do the storytelling show, but now it’s just one of the platforms for letting people know about my books.

How do you make ends meet? Do you have a day job or do any side work?

Pretty much everything comes through the writing and storytelling show now days. 2013 has been the year where we’ve transitioned out of me having a “day job.”

That’s great. Here’s to your continued success! So, you’ve clearly forged your own path as a writer. What’s worked well for you in finding an audience for your books? What hasn’t?

The show is a big part of it. I joke these days that I don’t have a storytelling show anymore, that I have commercials that look a lot like my old storytelling show used to. Really though, the experience I have with doing the show for so many years has taught me to go out where my readers might be.

I go to a lot of conventions. Before getting published I went to one or two a year. Now, I try and get to everyone I can, to get on panels. I think the fannish community is the coolest part about science fiction and fantasy literature. I can’t stress enough how important it is for new and hopeful writers in our genres to come and be an active part of this awesome community. If you show up for the fans, the fans will show up for you.

Now days, there’s a lot of “white noise” and “jazz hands” on the internet from people trying to get anyone with an eReader to buy their book. I’ve had some small success with this, but I think that’s because of my experience at conventions and Ren faires. Rather than spam out everywhere I can, I look for communities of readers. I show up and try to be part of the conversation/community before I even think about talking about my books. People are much more receptive to writers who act like real people and not the book infomercial of the day.

With the publishing world having changed so much over the last decade or so, do you think it’s even possible to follow the old-school template for becoming a successful author these days?

I’m not sure what the “old-school” template was. From hearing stories about some of the hugely successful “old-school” writers, many claim a lot of their success was based on luck as anything else. I don’t know how true that is, but I do know that publishing is changing at such a huge pace these days that nothing is certain. What worked six months ago, doesn’t work now, or at least it doesn’t work in quite the same way. I know this has a lot of writers and publishers freaking out to varying degrees. I find it exciting. It’s open game for new ideas. We’re in a place where people can’t say, “Don’t do that; it’s a bad idea,” without looking more than just a little ignorant, because a lot of people are trying and succeeding with ideas that are so far outside the box, that Schrodinger might as well not exist.

What’s the storybook ending for your writing career? If your wildest dreams came true, where would you be as an author ten years from now? 

Pretty simple, actually. I’d love to be writing and selling more books. Put my kids through college on royalty checks alone. Go to all the conventions that I’d like. Maybe be a guest of honor somewhere. The really wildest would be a Hugo nomination. That would be cool.

My wildest dreams, the ones that bend the fabric of reality as we see them today, aren’t about me. I’d like to see a change to SFWA that would allow for self-published writers to become members. I’d like to see a self-published category added to the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. We get a lot of flak for having some really bad stuff out there in the self-pub world, but we have some really innovative work as well…some of it better quality than what I’ve seen coming out of traditional publishing. On the other side of that coin, traditional publishing hasn’t always knocked it out of the park.

It’s not so easy becoming a successful author. Why do you bother?

Beats a cubicle? I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to be a writer. I’m stubborn, and I don’t want any of those people from my past who said, “Don’t quit your day job,” to be right.

Mostly though, it’s the same reason I do the storytelling show, and the same reason I will keep doing the storytelling show, even if I make it really big, like Brandon Sanderson, George R.R. Martin, or Pat Rothfuss level of big… I have people who come to my shows, sometimes driving hours out of their way, year after year, to come and see me spin my tales. I see kids’ eyes light up with delight both during my show and afterward when their parents buy them one of my books and I sign it for them. I don’t draw as huge a crowd as some of the flashier acts, like the joust, and I may not have as wide a readership as some other writers, but my fans, both of the show and my books, find joy in the work I produce. They let me know this year after year and book after book. If I decided not to bother, I’d be letting them down. At this point, I don’t think I could bring myself to do that.

That’s awesome. Anything else you want to sound off on?

This is for readers: If you like a writer, any writer, take the time to write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or just post something like, “Hey, I just read this awesome book,” on Facebook, Twitter, or your preferred social media. More than ever before, we writers depend on word of mouth from our readers to get the word out about our books. Those reviews and shout-outs help more than readers will possibly ever know.

Indeed! Thanks for your time and insights.

Garrett Calcaterra

Review: NEXUS by Ramez Naam

(Originally posted at mtoddgallowglas.com on 2013-01-30)

nexus-75-dpi-197x300The best books are those that stay with you, that make you think about the questions they ask long after you put it down. In his stellar debut novel, Ramez Naam does exactly that. Naam offers us a near-future, roller-coaster adventure that will grab you by the throat and won’t let you go even once you finish the novel. This one will stay with you, and keep you thinking. I’m can’t say for sure, but I’m fairly certain, this one is going to be popping back into my brain from my subconscious for a long time yet.

In the book, Nexus is a nanotechnology “drug” that allows users to link wirelessly to each other’s brains. They can share thoughts, memories, and in some cases,  control each other’s actions. Previous iterations of the drug burn out of people’s systems in a short amount of time. It opens with the main protagonist of the story, Kade, experimenting with the permanent version of the “drug,” Nexus 5. He and some friends have created a computer operating system to integrate with the drug, so that it stays with them, and they can add programs and applications to it that make them essentially hyper-human. Needless to say, certain governmental agencies aren’t even remotely okay with this.  Within the first few pages of the book, Kade and his friends are neck-deep in trouble with the US government, but maybe, just maybe, if Kade helps the government, there might be a way out for he and his friends. And that’s as much of the plot as I’m going to give. Anything else would be a disservice to the reader.

Nexus is fantastic. It’s brilliant. Feel free to tack on as many positive adjectives as you can come up with. It’s not just a well-written and thought-provoking book, it’s also highly entertaining. The “high ideas” Nexus calls the reader to consider are woven seemlessly into the plot by the characters. Through their interactions, conversations, and private musings, we see many sides of the trans and post human ideas Naam is working with. The best part is that while each character knows exactly where he or she stands on that particular issue at any moment (some characters do change their stance/outlook, and each of these moments of change come organically from the events they experience), Naam does not beat the reader over the head with any authorial agenda.  Or, if he does, I had such a great time reading the book and getting lost in the story that I completely missed it.

When I sat down to write this review, I tried to come up with pairs of writers I could compare the book to to give possible readers a feeling of what they are going to get. A few of the names bouncing in my head were: William Gibson, James Rollins, David Brin, Michael Chriton, Neal Stephenson, and more. While trying to pair a comparison down to two names I couldn’t. Naam’s tone and ideas are a unique  and fresh voice to science fiction. Do yourself a favor and get on the Ramez Naam band wagon now, so you can say, “I was there when.”

It would not surprise me in the least to see this on the Hugo ballet for best novel at this year’s World Science Fiction Convention.

Reviewed by M. Todd Gallowglas    MTGallowglas

Review: The Dragon Bone Flute by M. Todd Gallowglas

(Originally posted at christopherkellen.com on 2013-04-02)

Full Disclosure: M. Todd Gallowglas is a founding member of the Genre Underground, a friend and colleague. That hasn’t stopped me from reviewing his work before, and it won’t stop me now.

I’ve read several of Mr. Gallowglas’ works by this time, starting with his Tears of Rage sequence and moving on to his Halloween Jack stories and others. However, it wasn’t until I was recently reminded that he’s soon to be releasing a new entry following The Dragon Bone Flute that I remembered that I already had a copy, and it was in my Kindle Cloud Reader, waiting to be read.

As a genuine fan and regular reader of Mr. Gallowglas’ work, I know that he has a sense of humor (Halloween Jack) and a sense of drama (Tears of Rage) but until I picked up this novella (novelette?) I didn’t really quite have a grasp on his sense of wonder. This is a fairy tale with an edge, back like they used to have before Disney sanitized them and robbed them of their real impact. Elzibeth’s tale is short, poignant, and filled to brimming with emotion, music and a true sense of wonder.

Editorially speaking, I found the version of The Dragon Bone Flute that I read to be polished and free of errors. The writing was smooth and unblemished, drawing the reader into the story and not letting go until the conclusion.

I am very happy to give this book a full five stars, with no caveats or qualifications. The Dragon Bone Flute is a beautiful short tale of music, love, fantasy, loss and adventure that deserves a place at the top of any fantasy lover’s reading list.

Reviewed by Christopher Kellen  ChristopherKellen

Review: Deja Vu by Ian Hocking

picturesDéjà-Vu-Hocking-cover-(Review cross-posted from christopherkellen.com, original date 2013-03-20)

Déjà Vu by Ian Hocking is best described as a techno-thriller, a type of book that I’ve enjoyed from time to time (most notably with last year’s review of WIRED and my more recent review of The Cestus Concern).

The plot begins with a twist, and as things go along, it gets stranger and stranger. Set in the not-too-distant future, Saskia Brandt is told only that she needs to capture one David Proctor. She doesn’t know how or why, just that she needs to.

Déjà Vu doesn’t give you a moment to rest as the author’s style carries smoothly along, following the twists and turns of this story deeper down the rabbit hole. When the final plot twist finally comes, you’ll realize just how little you were expecting it… but how perfectly it all comes together.

Déjà Vu also has the notable honor of standing among the finest and most professional indie ebooks I’ve read, with zero typos, grammar errors or questionable punctuation. I must applaud this author for showing a dedication to professionalism and proving that he deserves to be a #1 bestseller.

Although Déjà Vu doesn’t break any new ground when it comes to its chosen subject (you’ll have to read it to see what I’m talking about, because anything else would contain spoilers) it explores a relatively-disused subject in a fun, engaging and thoughtful manner. Recommended.

(Side note: I’m giving this book 4.5 stars, but I’ll be rounding it up on sites that don’t allow half-star ratings, because that’s my chosen policy.)


Reviewed by Christopher Kellen