Category Archives: Night Shade Books

A Review of Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year Volume Eight

Datlow Best Horror EightThe Best Horror of the Year, Volume Eight
Ellen Datlow, ed.
Night Shade Books
Trade paper $15.99
ebook $14.99

Since this is a review of a horror anthology, I’m going to run with that theme and say August has come from one of the circles of Hell. Just which one, I’m not sure. I need to brush up on my Dante. I finished this book two (three?) weeks ago, and I’m just now getting a relatively quiet and uninterrupted moment when I’m not too wiped out to put coherent sentences together. (The previous post doesn’t count. A careful reading will show I wasn’t in a good mood, and I don’t write reviews when I’m cranky crankier than usual.)  The only part of the process that went the way it should was requesting the book and the quick response.  Thanks to Brianna Scharfenberg of Night Shade Books.  Delays in reading the book and posting the review are entirely mine.

Datlow is one of the most accomplished editors in the field.  I know that any project, whether reprint or original, will have a top-notch selection of stories.  That’s the case here.  Not every story was to my taste, but then I don’t expect them to.  The only anthology that will be completely to my taste will be one I’ve edited, and maybe not even then. Continue reading

A New “Year’s Best” Debuts

years best SFThe Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume One
Neil Clarke
Night Shade Books
Trade Paper $17.99
Ebook $12.99

So, you may ask, what am I doing reviewing a science fiction anthology on a fantasy blog, especially when I have an entire blog devoted to science fiction?

I said, “You may ask”.

Thank you.  I thought you’d never ask.

Well, a couple of months ago, a review copy arrived in the mail.  (Thank you, Briana Scharfenberg of Night Shade.)  This is Clarke’s first time to edit a year’s best anthology.  He’s been the editor for years of Clarkesworld magazine, so he’s got the experience to tackle this type of a project.

Now, I’ve bought most of the annual retrospectives that claim to contain the best stories of the year for a long while.  I’ve started many of them, but I usually don’t finish them.  Too many other things vying for my attention, and I rarely read anthologies or collections straight through.  There’s usually some novelus interruptus going on at some point.  Or would that be anthologous interruptus?  Anyway, I decided to give this year’s batch (or many of them, at least) a try.

Because this is the first volume of Clarke’s series, and because this blog gets a lot more traffic than any of my others, I decided to review it here, where more people will see it.  See.  That’s reasonable explanation, isn’t it?

Anyway, on to the review.  The questions you’re most wanting to ask is are the stories any good?  Does this volume actually contain the best stories published in the past year?

Continue reading

Bloodsounder’s Arc Concludes

Chains_of_the_Heretic_TP_COVER_FINALChains of the Heretic
Jeff Salyards
Nightshade Books
Hardcover $25.99
Trade Paper $15.99
ebook $14.99

And so it comes to an end. I finished this book over a week ago, and I’ve found myself reluctant to write the review. At first I thought it was just time constraints. I had final exams to write and to give and to grade. I had all the usual stuff that happens at the end of the semester that takes up time. Like averaging and posting grades. Meeting with students about why they had a C when they were sure they were going to get an A. (That didn’t happen this semester, but you get the idea. I did have some meetings with a few folks about grades.)  Or why they have the grade they have when they didn’t attend most of the labs.  (This always happens.)

But those things are over and done.  I’ve got plenty to do to get ready for summer classes and fall, what with the new lab room coming online.  But none of that is urgent, and much of it depends on other people doing certain things before I can do certain other things.

So what’s my point rambling on like this?  I finally realized that by writing the review, I was done with the story and the characters.  (Those that survived to the end, at least.)  And I didn’t want to be done. Continue reading

Veil of the Deserters

Veil of the DesertersVeil of the Deserters
Jeff Salyards
Night Shade Books
Trade Paper $15.99
ebook $13.99

Jeff Salyards emailed me late last year asking if I would be willing to review his new novel, Chains of the Heretic. Having quite enjoyed his first novel, Scourge of the Betrayer, I immediately said yes. And created for myself a small problem. Chanins of the Heretic is the third novel in Bloodsounder’s Arc. And I hadn’t at that time read the second, Veil of the Deserters.  So that’s what I did.

I commit dayjobbery in acdemia, and this semester has been unusually hectic.  You may have noticed I’m not posting as often as I have in the past.  There are reasons for that.  I finished Veil in about thrice the amount of time I normally would; the reasons it took so long had nothing to do with the book.  The reason it’s taken nearly a month to get the review up have nothing to do with the book, either.  (Unless the universe takes aim at me this week, there will be a flurry of reviews of books I’ve readover the course of the last three months.)  I’m hoping to read and get the review of Chains up in a few weeks.

If you’re a fan of grimdark fantasty, then Jeff Salyards is an author you will want to check out.  He’s extremely good. Continue reading

“Arimetta” by Manley Wade Wellman

kadath_1981071_v1_n4“Arimetta” was originally published in Kadath #4 in July of 1981, something that isn’t listed in the ISFDB.  It was reprinted once in Sin’s Doorway and Other Ominous Entrances, The Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman, Volume 4 (Night Shade, 2003).  The latter is where I read it.  It’s the type of story set in the mountains that Wellman became known for.

This is a fairly short tale, one that’s loosely connected to the John the Balladeer stories.  Earl Wood is wandering the mountains and ends up literally singing for his supper in the cabin Big Don Imbry shares with his wife and daughter.  John taught Earl how to play the guitar, which makes him immediately welcome.

One of the songs Earl plays is “Wildwood Flower”, which he learned in Arkansas.  The song is an actual folksong, not a fictional one.   (Here’s Johnny Cash singing it.)  Welllman changes the name of one of the flowers mentioned from “aronauts” to “arimetta”.  That line has been changed in all the recordings I can find of it online to “the pale and the leader and eyes look like blue”.

“Arimetta”, from what I’ve been able to determine from my Google-Fu, is a woman’s name from that region of the country that’s no longer common and doesn’t appear to ever have been. Continue reading

“The Golgotha Dancers” by Manly Wade Wellman

Golgotha Dancers“The Golgotha Dancers”
Manly Wade Wellman
ebook $0.99

This story was originally published in the October 1937 issue of Weird Tales.  It’s now available as a short story in electronic format.

This is an early Wellman, so it doesn’t have the strong sense of place as his later work set in the Southern mountains, such as the John the Balladeer stories.  Still, it’s a solid piece of fiction in its own right, even if it isn’t Wellman’s best work.

Just so you know, below the CONTINUE READING line, there will be spoilers. Continue reading

The Raksura Return

Stories of the RaksuraStories of the Raksura, Volume 1
Martha Wells
Night Shade Books
trade paper, $15.99
ebook Kindle $9.99 Nook $7.49

Have you ever had one of those books that took you forever to read?  Not because the book isn’t interesting, but every single time you try to read it, you can’t get more than a few pages further along before something interrupts you.

That was my experience with this book.  It seemed the Fates were conspiring to thwart me every time I picked the book up.  But I persevered.

And I can say it was nice to revisit this world.  I would also like to thank Lauren Burstein of Night Shade Books for the review copy.  There are two novellas and two short stories here plus a couple of appendices.  Here’s what you get. Continue reading

When October Goes

Layout 1Now that Halloween is over, I’m going to shift gears a bit.  Time to return to more sword and sorcery here at Adventures Fantastic.  Or at least solid adventure fantasy.  I’ve already started reading Shattered Shields, edited by Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, which hits shelves on Tuesday.  I don’t know if I’ll have the review up by the release date, but I’ll do my best.

Pyr and Solaris have both sent me copies of some cool titles since the first of the summer that I never got a chance to work into the schedule.  I really want to go back and pick read some of them.  They’re mostly fantasy, but there’s some science fiction mixed in.  Also, Night Shade has sent me some titles, and one of the first I’ll read is Stories of the Raksura, vol.1, by Martha Wells.  I’ll probably start that one by the end of the week.

Speaking of science fiction, there are some titles sitting around I want to read.  Some of them will be popping up at Futures Past and Present as I work them in.  I’ll also be reading some mystery/noir titles and reviewing them at Gumshoes, Gats, and Gams.

Plus there are some titles from various other publishers I want to read.  I’ll be mixing them in at random.  I’m going to try to strike a balance between titles that someone has sent me and stuff I just want to read for fun.  So you never know what’s going to pop up next.

What to Read While Waiting for Abercrombie’s Next Book

ScourgeoftheBetrayer-2Scourge of the Betrayer
Jeff Salyards
Night Shade Books
hardcover $24.99
trade paper $14.99
ebook $24.99 Kindle ($12.99 at this writingNook ($13.99 at this writing) Baen ($6.00 at this writing)

If you like your fantasy gritty and dark, with layers of plots and schemes, then Jeff Salyard’s debut novel will probably be right up your alley.

It’s been out for a while, but as regular readers of the blog will know, I’m a bit behind.  And I have no idea why the ebook is priced the same as the hardcover.  I sure didn’t pay that much.  (This wasn’t a review copy.)  Baen has the book at a reasonable price, which is where I got  my copy.

But I digress.  This isn’t a rant about ridiculous ebook prices.  This is a rave about how good this novel is.  If Salyards can keep up this level of quality with the rest of the series, he’ll be a major player in the field. Continue reading

A Look at Zachary Jernigan’s No Return

No Return
Zachary Jernigan
Night Shade Books
hardcover $26.99
ebook $12.99 Kindle $14.84 Nook

It was a Friday night in early April, and I was up late reading when I got a beep from my phone indicating an email.  The subject line was something about a request for a review.  My initial knee jerk reaction was to decline on the grounds of I had committed to a number of titles and was behind.  So I went to the computer to reply, not feeling like replying on my phone.  I had to open the email to do this.  In the process I read the first couple of sentences and immediately I changed my mind.  “Of course I’ll review your book.”  I may have even said it out loud.

The author was Zachary Jernigan, and the book, No Return.  It’s Mr. Jernigan’s first novel.  It was published by Night Shade in March, just a couple of weeks before Night Shade shut down operations.  (To put things in context, a few days prior to my receiving this email, Night Shade announced that it was selling its inventory, provided a certain number of their authors went along with the deal.)

As you might guess, Mr. Jernigan was nervous about how things were going to work out.  I have friends and acquaintances who are published by Night Shade, and I very much want things to work out for them.  I told him it would be sometime in May before I could work No Return in.  He said that would be fine.

Before being asked to do the review, I had seen the book, but with everything on my plate I’d decided to let it pass.  I’m glad I read it, and would like to thank Zachary Jernigan for providing the review copy.  I’d also like to thank Tom Doolan for recommending me to him.

This is one of those novels that’s marketed as fantasy but could be science fiction if you squint right.  It’s set on the planet Jeroun.  There is a god on this planet, or rather in orbit around the planet.  His name is Adrash.   He’s worshiped by about half the people on the planet, who think he will bring salvation to mankind.  The other half of the planet think he’s nothing but bad news and will eventually destroy the planet.  There’s much speculation regarding what his motives are.

There are five main characters.  Vedas, a member of a sect that opposes Adrash.  Berun, an artificial man whose body consists of a number of brass spheres.  Churls, a female fighter with a gambling problem.  These three are traveling across the only inhabited continent to attend a fighting tournament in which the matches are to the death.  Each member of the group has a motive for traveling, although it’s not necessarily the motive they’re publicly stating.

Elsewhere, in the Kingdom of Stol’s Academy of Applied Magics, two mages are engaged in academic politics of lethal proportions.  Ebn and Pol, female and male, are trying to physically reach Adrash, but not for the same reasons.  I say female and male rather than woman and man because these two aren’t human.  They’re half breeds, part human, part Elder.  The Elders are an extinct race.  There’s a thriving market in Elder corpses, and Elder sperm or egg is still fertile and can be used for breeding purposes.  Eldermen are one of the results of this breeding.  Ebn loves Pol, who couldn’t be less interested. Their relationship drives this portion of the plot to a large degree.  Their desire for power and the lengths they are willing to go to attain it drive it rest of their story arc.

The chapters alternate viewpoint characters, in the order I’ve listed them.  I found the chapters dealing with Vedas, Berun, and Churls the most enjoyable.  Ebn and Pol are both such vicious and unpleasant people that I didn’t particularly enjoy spending time with them.  That’s not necessarily a negative.  I view Ebn and Pol to be villains, and they’re not your typical stock villains.  Jernigan infuses them with understandable motives and a level of complexity that’s sadly lacking in most villains.

All of the principle characters are fully fleshed.  There’s a great deal of action in this book, but there’s even more character development.  Jernigan takes us deep inside these people’s heads and reveals what makes them tick.  They’re all highly flawed, but at least in the case of Vedas, Berun, and Churls, they try to do the right thing, even if they aren’t always sure what the right thing is or even agree about what’s right and wrong.

At the end of the book, I found the changes in the characters to be the most enjoyable part of the novel.  I’ve read works by authors with more books under their belts who don’t handle the character development was well as Jernigan does.

The prose is smooth and flowing.  Zachary Jernigan writes in a style that propels the reader along without ever getting in the way of the reading experience.  He’s not so impressed with his own turn of phrase or flowery metaphors that he forgets moving the story along is the most important thing.

The world Jernigan has created is fresh and original but not so bizarre I couldn’t easily relate to it.  It has a history going back 15 millennia. While a map would have been appreciated (and there may be one in the dead tree edition), the geography is described well enough that I had no trouble understanding where things were in relation to each other.  The cultures are  complex and not entirely uniform.  Jernigan gives us information about different sects and splinter groups, which adds a sense of depth to his world building.  For the most part, he balances the amount of information he gives us and avoids excessive infodumps.

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you that No Return contains a great deal of graphic content, both violence and sex, occasionally in the same scene.  (I’m thinking of one particular scene near the end of the book.)  Enough so that if you’re squeamish, this might not be the book for you.  There’s more than one passage in which a character masturbates to a detailed sexual fantasy, and Ebn’s sexual tastes are…well, let’s just say innovative.  Injuries and death, defacing of corpses, and other acts of violence are detailed throughout the narrative.  There were passages that pushed my comfort zones.  Depending on your tastes and comfort zones, you might want to approach this one with caution.  Or not.  Your mileage will vary.

The previous paragraph aside, I found No Return to be one of the most original novels I’ve read in a while and quite enjoyable in spite of some uncomfortable passages.  Jernigan has left room for a sequel.  I’d definitely be interested in reading it. 

I wish Zachary Jernigan the best in his writing endeavors, and I sincerely hope the Night Shade situation doesn’t stall his career.  I used the world “stall” intentionally.  If everything he writes is this well done, he’ll carve out a name for himself sooner or later if he keeps writing.   I hope it’s the former rather than the latter.