To say it’s been a while would be a complete understatement! Life gets busy even when you wish it’d slow down. . . .
I don’t have a lot of new writing news, though I did land a sweet gig managing most of the visible web content for The Lit Pub, and I got to review Matt Bell’s truly excellent novel(la) Cataclysm Baby for [PANK] Magazine recently as well. If you haven’t read this book (or anything else written by Matt Bell) you should totally do so, ASAP!
HBO’s Game of Thrones just wrapped up its second season and it was honestly just as fantastic as its debut! Our crack reviews “team” (i.e. Dustin Luke Nelson and I) at InDigest Mag compiled a list of our likes and dislikes about the show’s deviations from the book. I was actually pretty happy with what we came up with when all was said and done!
Speaking of Game of Thrones, I recently finished reading book 5 of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, A Dance with Dragons, and it was simply epic — almost as good as book 3, A Storm of Swords (just ignore the middling Amazon reviews; trust me). Now the only real problem is waiting for G.R.R.M. to finish writing book 6. . . .
Though, problematically, finishing all five of the “Song of Ice and Fire” books in such quick succession has left a significant, nigh gaping sci-fi/fantasy-tinged hole in my reading life; a hole I’d forgotten existed since reading Tolkien in high school; a hole I’ve been trying desperately to fill for the past month. So like most anything I do, if I’m going to do it right (i.e. “all out”), I research the hell out of it and then hit the bookstore.
Here are some of my latest acquisitions:
I sort of went “no holds barred” on this venture. We’ve got series, standalone books, sci-fi, steampunk, fantasy, and everything in between. Lord of Light was recommended to me by my “go to” man with a plan, David Atkinson. As soon as he started describing it to me, I didn’t need any further coaxing — I was definitely sold. Acacia by David Anthony Durham actually got some really great praise from George R.R. Martin, himself, which was good enough for me.
And American Gods was written by Neil Gaiman, which in and of itself should be fairly self-explanatory.
Moving down the stack is The Difference Engine, a book by two more authors who probably need no introduction: William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. I highly recommend the 20th Anniversary Edition with a great intro by Cory Doctorow and some really interesting commentary at the end from the authors. Sandwiched in the middle of the four books that are part of their own series is Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic, called by many readers and critics alike “the best Russian sci-fi novel ever written” (and also spawned the STALKER movie(s) and video games).
See? I told you I did some research.
The last four books in the stack are the meat and potatoes (according to me) of my foray back into sci/fantasy: parts of epic series that are both critically-acclaimed and loved by readers.
Gene Wolfe’s “Book of the New Sun” series seemed like as intriguing a place to start as any, and the first two books Shadow & Claw have not let me down so far. [N.B. Kyle Muntz, Michael Seidlinger, Eddy Rathke, Matt Wencl, and I have been having a conversation on Goodreads about how literary Wolfe’s work really is (though it’s admittedly a little less accessible than most fantasy), with a few references to Borges and Kafka tossed in for good measure!]
The last two books/series are just as significant as the rest: Glen Cook’s Chronicles of The Black Company  (books 1 – 3), and Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon (book 1 in the “Malazan Book of the Fallen” series). These series are beloved by many (and — here and there — hated as well) by many readers, but the amount of discussion generated by these two series demands attention and familiarity. I felt that, if I wanted to contribute to the discussion, I’d need to dive into “The Black Company” and “Malazan” lore.
Ultimately, there is an even more significant reason I’m reading all of these books, more personal: I’ve finally started writing the epic I’ve had on the back burner of my writing mind for a decade. Its working title is Deorum et Viri Ω (a rough Latin translation for “Of Gods and Men”). I haven’t given out many details to many people, but ultimately, in the essence of keeping the project moving forward, I’ve decided to collaborate on this project — a la Gibson and Sterling — with a friend of mine from grad school (and sci-fi/fantasy/comics/heroes/epics nut in his own right), Aaron Stueve.
It probably goes without saying that this blog post will require lots of follow-up reports if I’d like to keep any number of my 6 or 7 blog readers out there. So I will, cross my heart! Plus it’ll be a lot of fun to chat about these great new (old) books I’m finally getting around to reading!
 Earth is long since dead. On a colony planet, a band of men has gained control of technology, made themselves immortal, and now rules their world as the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Only one dares oppose them: he who was once Siddhartha and is now Mahasamatman. Binder of Demons. Lord of Light.
 A deadly assassin sent from a race called the Mein, exiled long ago to an ice-locked stronghold in the frozen north, strikes at King Leodan in the heart of Acacia while others unleash surprise attacks across the empire. On his deathbed, Leodan puts into play a plan to allow his children to escape, each to their own destiny.
 1855: The Industrial Revolution is in full swing, powered by steam-driven cybernetic Engines. The adventure begins with the discovery of a box of punched Engine cards of unknown origin and purpose. Cards someone wants badly enough to kill for.
 A saga of “Urth” perhaps millions of years into the future — the sun is weakening, there has been a major glaciation, but somewhere in the southern hemisphere exists a complex civilization, rich in hierarchy and tradition, and still using some of the ancient artifacts whose power source is almost inexhaustible
 Set in a time so distant from ours, the sun is a dull red ball in a dark sky, futuristic cities are half-buried mounds of ancient rubble, and magic is as natural as walking.
 Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must. They bury their doubts with their dead. Then comes the prophecy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more. . . .
 The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. . . However, the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand . . . .