Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: "Heir to the Jedi" by Kevin Hearne

I can’t remember the last time I read a Star Wars tie-in novel, but it must have been 10 or 12 years ago at least.

For a time in the mid-to-late 1990s, I was buying them regularly. I read Timothy Zahn’s incredible Thrawn Trilogy (don’t get me started Disney), and several of the series that came after that. But in the early ’00s, I drifted away from tie-ins altogether – Star Wars or otherwise.

So what draws me back in? Kevin Hearne.

I’ve loved Hearne’s Iron Druid series, and I thought “Heir to the Jedi” ($28, Del Rey) would be great fun. I also harbored hope that, with the obvious title nod to Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire,” it might be the beginning of something as strong.

The truth is, though, it’s kind of boring.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: "The Burning Land" by Victoria Strauss

When Victoria Strauss’ debut novel “The Arm of the Stone” came out, I was impressed.

I continued to enjoy her work through the sequel “Garden of the Stone” and the first book of her second series, “The Burning Land.” A recent re-release of “The Burning Land” ($7.99, Open Road Media) gave me the chance to revisit Strauss’ work.

“The Burning Land” opens on a world coming out of more than three quarters of a century of conflict between the religious Aratists and the atheist Caryaxists. The Aratists have regained control of the land and are going about the process of setting things back to their version of right.

Gyalo, a powerful and promising young Shaper, is chosen to lead an expedition across the Burning Land, a vast and inhospitable desert believed to be the resting place of the god Arata. Leaders of the church have heard rumors of Aratists who were banished into the desert by the Caryaxist regime, and their Dreamers have recently caught glimpses of what might be a community built by the surviving Aratists.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tribute: Sir Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)

When I was in high school and college, there were several really good used book stores in the area. They were a haven for me – a place where I could get a lot of books for not much cash and even trade in what I had for credit.

It was on a search through the shelves of one of my favorite haunts that I happened upon a slim volume by the title of “Sourcery.” It was likely the strange spelling of the word that first caught my attention. When I pulled it from the shelf, things got even stranger. The cover featured an inexplicable picture of a sort of addled looking wizard and an orangutan. For a buck, I couldn’t resist adding it to my stack. I just had to see what it was about.

That’s how my 25-year-long love affair with Sir Terry Pratchett began.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review: "The Warded Man" by Peter V. Brett

I’ve been meaning to read Peter V. Brett’s “The Warded Man” ($7.99, Del Rey) for years, but a recent deal on the electronic version of the book finally gave me a reason to get around to it. As usual, I’m sorry I waited.

“The Warded Man” introduces us to an interesting post-apocalyptic world where people hide in fear of corelings – demon-like elemental creatures who emerge from the earth at nightfall to terrorize and kill. The only protection from the creatures are the magical wards that, if created properly, can keep the demons out. It’s rumored that once there were offensive wards that allowed people to fight the creatures, but those have been lost – if the stories were even true to begin with.

Brett’s story focuses on three survivors, all from small villages. Arlen dreams of seeing the world as a Messenger, the brave travelers who dare the corelings and the open road to bring news and supplies to the outer villages. Those dreams turn darker in the wake of a demon attack on his village that reveals some awful truths about his life and the people around him.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: "As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride" by Cary Elwes and Joe Laydon

If you asked me to name my favorite movies of all time, “The Princess Bride” would certainly be in the Top 3, if not No. 1. So it should come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride” ($26, Touchstone), a memoir of the making of the movie by Westley himself, Cary Elwes, and Joe Laydon.

In the book, Elwes offers his thoughts on the movie and the popularity that it’s come to enjoy over the years despite its soft initial run in theaters, as well as some fantastic stories from his casting through a reunion of the surviving cast members 25 years later.

Scattered throughout Elwes’ remembrances are short notes from many of the film’s stars, as well as director Rob Reiner and producer Andrew Scheinman.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: "Flex" by Ferrett Steinmetz

What if magic could be distilled in drug form so that everyone could experience its benefits? That’s the concept that drives Ferrett Steinmetz’s “Flex” ($14.99, Angry Robot).

Unfortunately, the magical crystal Flex also comes with Flux, the downside in Steinmetz's world – the counter to the magic that causes bad, often disastrous things to happen.

That is, until Paul Tsabo comes along. Paul is an ex-cop, who now works for an insurance agency, tracking down magic users, called ’Mancers. He’s legendary as the only mundane ever known to have killed a ’Mancer, but he lost a foot in the process, and is still haunted by what he did.

Now, going through a divorce, he’s discovered a secret about ’Mancers – that while the consequences of their magic can often be devastating, they’re also capable of great beauty. They’re broken people whose ‘mancy is fueled by their own obsessions: video games, music, art, even bureaucracy – Paul’s specialty.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: "Kill City Blues" by Richard Kadrey

I thoroughly enjoyed the early books in Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series, but I wandered away after “Devil Said Bang.” I thought the idea of Stark being Lucifer would be more appealing than it actually was, and I thought that was the weakest book of the series.

So, a couple of years later, I’m looking for a quick read, and “Kill City Blues” ($14.99, Harper Voyager) is still sitting there in my TBR pile. I decide that it’s time to dive back in to the story.

Stark is out of Hell and back in L.A., though he’s still enjoying the devil’s posh digs on Earth for the moment. His Jade girlfriend Candy is with him, and for the moment, life is pretty good for the Sandman.

He still has a mission, though. The rebel angel Aelita has escaped with the Qomrama Om Ya, a powerful weapon that she intends to use to kill the split personalities of God. It just so happens that the Qomrama might be the only thing that can save the world from a race of gods more ancient than its own who are determined to break through and take their revenge.