Category Archives: Solaris Books

A Look at Jonathan Strahan’s Year’s Best Collection

strahan years best 10The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Vol. 10
Jonathan Strahan, ed.
trade paper $19.99
ebook $7.99

So back at the beginning of the summer, I decided to try to read through all of the year’s best anthologies, or at least as many as I could. That project hasn’t gone very well for the same reason I’ve not gotten much blogging done in general. Life has been happening, in other words, and I’ve had to devote my time to other things.

But I’m going to try to get as many of these volumes finished as I can before the end of the year. Jonathan Strahan’s series is probably the second longest running after Gardner Dozois’s, a series which had its 33rd installment released earlier this year. I’ve gotten a couple of review copies of previous volumes of Strahan’s series in the past, but this is the first one I’ve finished. Solaris only made the review copies available in PDF format, which my ereader didn’t deal with very well. I would need to resize the font, and doing so messed up the formatting. This year I spent my own money and sprung for the print edition.

Unlike Neil Clarke’s volume (reviewed here), which was exclusively science fiction, Strahan mixes the sf with fantasy.  Here are my thoughts. Continue reading

Be Careful When You Play Dangerous Games

Dangerous-Games-Jonathan-Oliver-smallDangerous Games
Johnathan Oliver, ed.
Solaris Books
Paper $9.99
electronic $7.99 Kindle Nook Kobo

Solaris has become one of the premiere publishers of original anthologies, and I would like to thank Lydia Gittins at Solaris for the review copy. Dangerous Games is a concept anthology that overall I found quite satisfying.

The premise (obviously) is that some sort of game must play a significant role in the story, and that there’s an element of risk involved.  With a theme like that, possibilities are wide open.  And while there are examples of science fiction and fantasy, the overall trend is towards horror, often with elements of other genres thrown in.

Here are some of the ones I like the most: 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.

A Review of Fearsome Magics

FEARSOME MAGICS COVERFearsome Magics The New Solaris Book of Fantasy
Jonathan Strahan, ed.
Solaris Books
Release date October 7, 2014 US, October 9, UK
Mass market paperback $9.99 US,  £7.99 UK
ebook: There’ll be one, but I have no specifics at this time

Solaris is one of the few publishers who still do anthologies on a regular basis. And I don’t mean one or two. I mean at least four or five a year, and well put together ones, at that. And Jonathan Strahan is one of the field’s premier editors at short length. Any anthology with his name on it is going to get my attention. Put the two together, and it’s like peanut butter and chocolate. I’ve got several of his anthologies from Solaris in my virtual TBR pile. (Yes, I’m behind on my reading.)

The one I want to talk about today is his their next one. It’s Fearsome Magics. It’s a followup to Fearsome Journeys (which is in the real TBR pile). A number of years ago, and I won’t look up how many because I don’t want to depress myself with contemplating the passage of time, Solaris published three volumes of The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction and one of The Solaris Book of New Fantasy. They were great anthologies, but for some reason, Solaris didn’t continue them.

Now both series are back. The science fiction can be found in the Solaris Rising series (review of the first volume here). Fearsome is the operating title of the fantasy, with a loose them being defined by the second word.

The theme of this volume is magic.  There’s a lot of variety here, enough that I can almost guarantee that there will be multiple stories that will appeal to any reader and a high likelihood that there will be at least one that won’t be to your taste.  As long time readers of my reviews know, I consider that to be a strength.  An anthology which has a great deal of variety will be a strong anthology.

This one is no exception.  Here are a few of my favorites, in the order they appear in the book. Continue reading

Feasting at The Raven’s Banquet

the_ravens_banquet_250x384The Raven’s Banquet
Clifford Beal
ebook, $6.99  Kindle Nook

I didn’t realize (because I didn’t read the promotional email carefully) that The Raven’s Banquet was the prequel to Beal’s first novel, Gideon’s Angel. Which I haven’t read. But I intend to.

This was a riveting historical fantasy set during the Thirty Years War. Richard Treadwell is a younger son, setting out to make his fortune as a mercenary. He gets a lot more than he bargains for.

The novel is told mostly in flashbacks as Richard awaits trial for treason during the English Civil War. To pass time, he records his memoirs. Continue reading

Talus and the Frozen King

talus_and_the_frozen_king_250x384Talus and the Frozen King
Graham Edwards
mass market paperback, 336 p., $7.99
ebook $6.99 Kindle Nook

Talus and the Frozen King is the start of a new series, and one that I’m looking forward to. It’s a genre blending work of heroic fantasy and mystery.

The hero, known only as Talus, is a wandering bard. He and his companion Bran are looking for the source of what we would call the Aurora Borealis, also known as the northern lights. They enter a village on the island of Creyak, where they discover that the king has been murdered, his body left out in the cold and frozen.

Because of the timing of their visit, they aren’t allowed to leave. The king left behind six sons. Each of them had a motive to commit murder. Continue reading

Kudzu and Snake Handling from Steve Rasnic Tem

blood_kin_250x384Blood Kin
Steve Rasnic Tem
Mass Market $9.99
ebook $6.99 Kindle

Steve Rasnic Tem has been writing horror for over thirty years now. Much of his work has been at short lengths, but from time to time he turns his hand to novels. The most recent is Blood Kin, and it’s a doozy. Don’t read it late at night if you don’t like snakes.

Michael Gibson is taking care of Sadie, his ailing grandmother, up in the mountains of Virginia. He doesn’t really want to, but his life has been one failure after another, so he’s returned home. He spends his days caring for her, watching the kudzu grow, wondering about the shack in the field down the mountain, and listening to his grandmother tell about her growing up.

As he listens to her stories of the area in the Depression, his grandmother’s memories become real to Michael. Literally. He’s transported back in time and experiences everything with her. And her memories have everything to do with that shack in the kudzu. Continue reading

Reading Plans for 2014

This post is a continuation of the thoughts expressed in the previous one.  If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to just to understand the context.  Here I’m going to discuss my reading plans for the year.  They’re going to be a bit different than they’ve been.

I don’t make resolutions, but I do believe in setting goals, whether I reach any of them or not.  I know from experience if I don’t set some sort of a goal, then I won’t get anything accomplished.  Think of this post as a series of goals, goals that are flexible and highly subject to change. Continue reading

Saxon’s Bane is a Harrowing Visit to the English Countryside

saxons_bane_250x384Saxon’s Bane
Geoffrey Gudgion
Solaris Books
mass market US $7.99 CAN $9.99
ebook $6.99 Kindle Nook

I’d intended to have this posted by Halloween, but dayjobbery derailed me. It’s a perfect Halloween read, but don’t let the fact that the holiday is past stop you. It’s worth the time. I’d like to thank Micheal Molcher for providing me with the review copy. He sent it at the end of the summer, and I apologize for taking so long to read it. Like I said, it looked like a good read for the Halloween season, but I didn’t finish it in time.

Very much in the tradition of The Wicker Man, Saxon’s Bane is the story of Fergus, who is injured in a car wreck outside the village of Allingley. His coworker Kate is driving, and before he’s rescued, Fergus sees a Saxon warrior stroking Kate’s hair. Clare is an archaeologist called in to excavate a man found in a drained mill pond. Or more specifically a Saxon who was murdered and buried in a bog.

After he finally gets out of the hospital, Fergus discovers that his life has changed and he can’t go back to his high pressure sales job. It’s more than survivor’s guilt over Kate’s death. He returns to Allingley, where he gets a job at a stable, hoping to continue healing. Clare, on the other hand, has begun to have disturbing dreams about the man she’s studying. Vivid dreams that become nightmares as the events of each dream move closer to the Saxon’s death.

Fergus and Clare don’t realize they have a deeper connection to the events of the past, and that those events are impacting the present.

I’ve been a fan of British television, mainly comedies and science fiction, for years. And while I haven’t had time to watch much in recent years, this book reminded me of why I enjoyed some of the shows I did. Saxon’s Bane made me want to live in a close knit British village. Just not this one.

Gudgion assembles a diverse cast of characters, from the vicar of the local church to the pagan who runs the stables to the leader of the Satanic cult that’s targeted the local church. He builds the menace and dread slowly, then when you think you know what’s going to happen, he goes in a different direction. He also manages to make even the minor characters unique individuals.

The dream/flashback scenes are well done and ultimately properly bloody, and Gudgion gives enough technical data on the history, customs, and language of the Saxons without overwhelming the reader with the amount of research he’s done. I’d love to see his try his hand at historical fantasy.

I really enjoyed Saxon’s Bane. For a first novel (I think it’s a first novel), it’s more polished and smooth than you would expect. Gudgion shows the potential to be a writer to watch. I intend to read his next book.

2012 in Retrospect: Publishing

Rather than doing a single post about what I thought of the past year, I’m going to break things up into some smaller posts.  There will be on short fiction and one on titles I especially enjoyed.  But I thought I would start with publishers.

Last year, I wrote about the publishers I thought you should be reading this year.  That list hasn’t changed much.  The day before I posted that list, I gave reasons why I wasn’t going to be reading much from the main imprints.  Those reasons haven’t changed much, either.  If anything, they’re more valid than ever.

What I’m going to attempt to do here, in this present post, is to assess some of the things I said in those two posts.

First, I said I wouldn’t be buying many titles from the major publishers.  What constitutes a major publisher is probably going to vary among individuals.  That’s fine; it will give us something to talk about.  So many publishers are trying to grab as many rights as they can from authors and paying them so little once you take a close look at the numbers, that I have trouble with supporting such a system, just as a matter of conscience.  Add to that the fact that most of the major publishers are pricing their ebooks way too high, and in some cases as much or more than the paper editions, and I really don’t see the point.

Second, I said I would be reading more indie published authors.  I have.  The mistake I made was listing the authors whose work I intended to read.  The reason that was a mistake is that I haven’t gotten to everyone on the list yet.  Since I’m going to be focusing on small and indie presses in my column over at Amazing Stories (TM), those authors will be moving to near the top of the list.

Here’s the thing that might suprise some people.  I haven’t really missed reading books published by the majors.  I’ve still read a few here and there, and have a couple in my TBR stack.  But for the most part, I’ve enjoyed the small press and indie published works I’ve read.  I’m very selective about what I pick up these days simply due to time considerations.  Most of these works have been as good as what the Big 6 5 However-many-are-left-after-the-mergers are publishing.

So I think my decision to read indie published works has been a good one, and I’ll keep doing it.

Now, as for publishers.  I’m not going to numerically rank them.  I’m going to stick to the same list, but I’ll add a couple of publishers to it.  These are what I would call midsized publishers, in that they get national or international distribution and have major authors in their stables, but they haven’t been around for decades like some publishers have.

First, I included Prime Books as a runner-up because at the time I hadn’t finished any of their titles.  While I still dip into their anthologies without reading them all the way through, I maintain that Prime is one of the best publishers around.  I’ve got collections by Elizabeth Bear and Richard Parks to read, as well as many anthologies.

Orbit Books didn’t make the list last year because I hadn’t read any of their titles.  That hasn’t changed much, but there are some titles I very much want to read, starting with the latest Joe Abercrombie.  That alone puts Orbit on the list.  The fact that they also publish John R. Fultz and Michael J. Sullivan, two other writers I’m looking forward to reading doesn’t hurt, either.

Next is Solaris and its companion imprint, Abaddon.  This is Eric Brown’s publisher, and Brown is one of the best science fiction authors working today.  He writes good space opera, and I love space opera.

Nightshade published some interesting books this year, most of which I still haven’t gotten around to reading yet, including titles Misere, Southern Gods, The Scourge of the Betrayer, and The Pillars of Hercules, plust the more recent Siren Depths and The Tainted City.  Part of the reason I haven’t read these yet is time, but also because Nightshade no longer seems to be responding to requests for review copies.  I try (and occasionally succeed) to post a review around the time the book comes out, and since I ended up buying these titles, the books had in some cases been out a while.  The most significant thing Nightshade did this year, though, was to start the online publication, Eclipse Online, a continuation of their successful anthology series.  I’ll talk about that more in the forthcoming short fiction post. 

I probably read more books by Angry Robot this year than any other publisher, in part because of how their Robot Army program worked and in part because I really like their line.  This is one publisher I’ll keep reading and reviewing, although I probably won’t read quite as many title from them this year simply due to time considerations.  I had three titles I was planning to review when we ended up moving.  In all the commotion, I never read them.  I’m going to try to work them into the queue soon.

Pyr was top of my list last year, and this was another good year for them.  Pyr seems to be shifting its focus a bit, publishing more science fiction and YA titles than fantasy in recent months, but that’s not a bad thing necessarily.  I certainly don’t hold it against them.  They are in business to make money, after all, and markets do change.  I’ve got more titles from Pyr than any other publisher in the queue at the moment, mostly science fiction from Brenda J. Cooper, Mike Resnick, Allen Steele, and Mark Hodder.

These are all publishers who publish mass market and trade, and thus within the budgets of most readers.  Among the more expensive collectible and limited edition publishers, Haffner Press stands out as my favorite, primarily because Haffner publishes some of my favorite authors.  Cemetery Dance and Subterranean are the other two publishers I’ve bought a lot from this year.

These are the publishers I’ve read this year because these guys, from what I can tell, are not only publishing some of the best fantasy, science fiction, and horror, but they also have some of the best business practices around.  With limited time and monetary resources, I want to get the best value I can and support the players (publishers and authors) I respect.  These publishers and many of the indie authors I’ve read have more than provided that. 

So as far as publishers go, these are the one I will stick with in 2013.