Thursday, January 30, 2014

Guest Post: Atlantis Fandom Makes a Comeback by Andrew J. Peters

Andrew J. Peters

We have a guest post from author Andrew J. Peters about his book which was published in November of 2013 - The Seventh Pleiade. It’s an action oriented and romantic young adult fantasy.

Atlantis Fandom Makes a Comeback

Atlantis has resurfaced as a topic of interest among sci fi and fantasy fans. It started with fantasy author T.A. Barron’s release Atlantis Rising and continued with the BBC’s Atlantis mini-series.

I’m happy to be part of that trend. My recent release The Seventh Pleiade is a fantasy re-telling of the ancient legend. It’s the story of a young prince who becomes a hero during the last days of Atlantis. The clues to save his kingdom are hidden in mythology, such as the mystery of Atlas’ lost daughter (the “Seventh Pleiade”) and an old creation story about a race of men who hid below the ground during the earth’s first destruction. One of the things that makes the story unique among Atlantis-inspired adventures is that the main character is a gay teen.

The Seventh Pleiade

The book came out last November, which was just around the time that both Barron’s title and BBC’s series débuted. That wasn’t planned. As authors know, it can take years to write and sell a novel, and sometimes years after that for the book to work its way through a production schedule. The release date for The Seventh Pleiade was a lucky coincidence.

You could say that Atlantis fandom has pretty much been constant, going back nearly twenty-five hundred years to the time when Plato wrote the original story. Early fantasy adventure authors explored the legend, including Jules Verne (10,000 Leagues Under the Sea), Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan) and Arthur Conan Doyle (The Maracot Deep). The tradition was continued by Robert Heinlein (Lost Legacy) and J.R.R. Tolkien (The Silmarillion), and contemporary authors like Clive Cussler (Atlantis Found) and even Stephen King (Hearts in Atlantis) to name a few.

Still, Atlantis stories never quite became a craze of the magnitude of fantasy tropes like wizards, vampires, zombies or post-apocalyptic dystopias. There hasn’t been a huge cross-over Atlantis franchise. In comics for example, Superman, Spiderman and most recently Ironman have had enormous movie runs. But the superhero from Atlantis, Aquaman, has never gotten his due.

Maybe the time is right.

Sociologists say that cultural trends are cyclical. They come back about every thirty years. Here’s my not-entirely-scientific analysis. Let’s say Atlantis had its zenith in popularity in the 1920s. That was when writers like Lewis Spence got worldwide attention for “scientific” theories proving that Atlantis really existed (The History of Atlantis), and celebrity psychic Edgar Cayce recorded “conversations” with Atlanteans, and one of the very first motion pictures (L’Atlantide) was inspired by the legend.

Thirty years later, in the 1950s, Hollywood released the big budget blockbuster Journey to the Center of the Earth based on the book by Atlantis enthusiast Jules Verne, and pulp sci fi publisher Lester Del Ray made Atlantis famous again for readers (Attack from Atlantis).

In the 1980s, Marion Zimmer Bradley had the best-selling Fall of Atlantis, there was the award-winning movie Cocoon, and emerging video game giant Atari created a game (“Atlantis”) that had players defending the lost city from Gorgon invaders.

That takes us to the 2010s, and back to my earlier observation that Atlantis is bubbling up in books and on the small screen. I think there’s more to come this decade. I know there will be more to come from me. I’ve got a prequel and a sequel to The Seventh Pleiade in the works.

Nov. 19th, 2013 | 340 pages | Bold Strokes Books

Andrew J. Peters likes retold stories with a subversive twist. He is the author of The Seventh Pleiade, based on the legend of Atlantis, and the Werecat series. A former Lambda Literary Foundation Fellow, Andrew has written short fiction for many publications. He lives in New York City with his husband and their cat Chloë.

Here’s the description for The Seventh Pleiade:  Atlantis is besieged by violent storms, tremors, and a barbarian army. 

For sixteen-year old Aerander, it’s a calamitous backdrop to his Panegyris, where boys are feted for their passage to manhood.

Amid a secret web of romances among the celebrants, Aerander’s cousin Dam goes missing with two boys. With the kingdom in crisis, no one suspects the High Priest Zazamoukh though Aerander uncovers a conspiracy to barter boys for dark spiritual power. Aerander’s proof, an underground vault that disappears in the morning, brings shame on his family and suspicions of lunacy. The only way to regain his honor is to prove what really happened to the missing boys.

Tracking Dam leads Aerander on a terrifying and fantastical journey.

He spots a star that hasn’t been seen for centuries. He uncovers a legend about an ancient race of men who hid below the earth. And traveling to an underground world, he learns about matters even more urgent than the missing boys. The world aboveground is changing, and he will have to clear a path for the kingdom’s survival.

The Seventh Pleiade buy links: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Bold Strokes Books; or IndieBound (to find your nearest independent bookstore.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Release: Tales of High Hallack Vol 1 by Andre Norton

Tales from High Hallack - Vol 1 - Andre Norton

New Release: TALES OF HIGH HALLACK, Volume 1, the collected short stories of Andre Norton.

For the first time, the Grand Dame of science fiction—Andre Norton—has her short stories gathered for her fans’ reading pleasure. Tales reach back to the 1930s, as fresh and relevant today as they were when she wrote them . . . such was Andre’s skill. High fantasy, fables, science fiction, coming of age stories, and more fill three volumes. This impressive, must-have collection includes stories of Witch World. There are cats sprinkled here and there, as Andre treasured them so. And there is magic in the writing, unequaled prose to delight readers of all ages.

High Hallack was a place in Andre’s fiction, and was also the name of her genre writer’s library she opened in Tennessee. It is a wondrous keep that she called home, and now High Hallack opens its gates and allows these amazing stories to tumble out.

Lose yourself in her enchanted words, and read them again and again.

Norton’s stories have been curated in TALES FROM HIGH HALLACK, Volumes 1 (January 14, 2014), 2 (May 20, 2014), and 3 (Fall 2014). This collection of previously published short stories includes many themed anthologies from periodicals that are no longer in print.

450 pages | Premier Digital Publishing | January 14, 2014

Alice Mary Norton (1912-2005) the “Grand Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy,” published works for over seven decades as a author, editor and poet. Norton authored over 130 novels, almost one hundred short stories, in addition to editing several collections in the science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, and western genres. Norton was the first female winner of the Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy prize as well as the Nebula Grand Master prize. Norton additionally obtained Skylark, Barlog, and World Fantasy prizes.

Purchase at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Nobody Comes Back by Donn Pearce

Nobody Comes Back

Review by John for Nobody Comes Back by Donn Pearce.

John’s quick take: A gritty historical fiction set during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII – think an updated The Red Badge of Courage crossed with a dose of Catch 22.

John’s description:   As WWII reaches its climax, an unsettled Toby Parker is too young to enlist in the American Army but can’t think of anything else to do. To date his life has been characterized by neglect, instability and struggling to make ends meet. He manages to finagle his way into the army and after some brief training finds himself shipped off to France. It is late 1944 and Germany is struggling to hold back surging Allied forces - but Hitler decides to make one last major offensive push in the Ardennes with the ensuing “Battle of the Bulge” totally taking the Allies by surprise. After landing Toby is almost immediately thrown into a vicious battle.

Any thoughts Toby might have had about the nature of war are soon swept away. Quite apart from the terrifying and bloodthirsty engagements with the enemy, what he experiences is bewildering, confusing, totally chaotic and at times absolutely illogical. Having to learn quickly, a wounded Toby tries desperately to survive, but it is sometimes not clear if the greatest danger comes from the Germans or from some on his own side. A lifetime’s worth of experiences are crammed into just a few searing days.

A historical footnote for those that are interested - the Battle of the Bulge was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by the United States in WWII. It also severely depleted Germany's war-making resources, thereby restricting Germany’s ability to defend itself during the final stages of the war.

John’s thoughts:   This book doesn’t pull any punches about the nature of war; it is very graphic and feels authentic. Apart from the viciousness of humans, one of the overriding themes of the story is the chaos of war. For sure the Battle of the Bulge was a confusing engagement and I’m not sure if Pearce has accurately reflected that or whether he has embellished it a bit – but it certainly makes for a compelling story. The development of the Toby Parker character over just a few days is remarkable. I’ve no right to comment on whether or not it is realistic, but it certainly does ram home the awful nature of war and what it does to people.

The element of Catch 22 comes in with the idiotic behavior of some people and the bureaucratic and nonsensical orders that had to be followed. There is also some deep irony in enemies sometimes treating people better than supposed friends.

There is a lot to like about this book. It is easy to read, interesting and pulls you along. Sometimes the action almost got to be almost too much – but there again what was I expecting in choosing to read a book like this? If you like historical fiction set in times of war then I’d certainly recommend this book. I’d rate it three stars.

Forge Books | October 2013 (first pub date 2005) | Trade Paperback | 256 pages

For more information on Nobody Comes Back please see our Incoming Books feature for November 8, 2013.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: The Golden City by J. Kathleen Cheney

The Golden City

Review by Shellie for The Golden City by J. Kathleen Cheney

Shellie’s quick take:  A complex and fantastical historical mystery and romance set in a make-believe gas-lit Portugal. It contains dark magic, mermaids and Selkies.

Shellie’s description:  Oriana Paredes is a spy. She is also a maid for a local female Aristocrat in The Golden City, which is located in Portugal during the very early 1900’s. She is a “Sereia”, a siren or mermaid of sorts, which she hides from almost everyone since her species has been banned from the city by the current King.

When Oriana finds herself sinking, upside down, in the city’s river inside a room-sized-box with her human employer, she is understandably the only one who manages to survive. She realizes that there is fowl play and perhaps something a bit more sinister and magical, so she becomes determined to find the killer of her employer and friend.

She also begins to realize that the murderer may have killed others too, since the room-sized-box is not the only one anchored in the city’s river waters; there is in fact an installation of them. They are a miniature replica of the Aristocratic houses of The Golden City, placed there as an underwater art show in a representation called The City Under the Sea.

Shellie’s thoughts:  I enjoyed this novel – quite a lot actually. It’s a great first effort for the author since it has a complex plot, an intriguing mystery, and good romantic tension, so it keeps the reader interested and moving along. The author has an intelligent and detailed writing style which makes the novel thought provoking. All these are elements always welcome in a good story. 

I liked that the story is also set in a familiar world, so it’s easier to read than some fantasies where the location and character names can be vastly different than what we are accustomed to. It’s also easier to sink into this almost realistic world because of its well-known paranormal creatures – water-related beings such as Sereia, Selkies and water Nymphs. All the above are nice aspects for a first novel.

However, I had issues with some of the editing. The story left me with a number of dangling questions about some of the author’s mythology around the fantastical creatures -  especially the Selkies. I also had an issue around the uses of the names “The Golden City” and “The City Under the Sea”; both are so similar and became confusing. Lastly, I found myself rereading a number of sentences that did not make complete sense. I generally take responsibility for confusions such as this, however, it happened often enough that I was forced to take note. Regardless, I ended up ignoring and skipping over these parts so that the flow and enjoyment of the story would continue.

I’d recommend this to anyone interested in historical fantasy, and those who enjoy steampunk (it’s set during the gaslamp era), readers who like mermaids or Selkies, dark magic, or paranormal romance. I will definitely read the next book in the series since I would like to know what happens to the characters and still have questions about the Selkie and Sereia mythology. All in all I rate this debut novel a 3.5 star. A good first effort and start to a series.

384 pages | 05 Nov 2013 | Roc | 18 - AND UP

For the publisher’s information on The Golden City see our Incoming Books post that includes the book – November 8, 2013.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Incoming Books: January 17, 2014

Dylan - Dennis McDougal

It’s our Incoming Books feature for January 17, 2014.

Dylan: The Biography by Dennis MacDougal

The ultimate biography of the musical icon.

Bob Dylan is a music hero to generations. He’s also an international bestselling artist, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author, and an Oscar winner for “Things Have Changed.” His career is stronger and more influential than ever. How did this happen, given the road to oblivion he seemed to choose more than two decades ago?

Dylan’s 72, and this final act of his career is more interesting than ever—yet the classic biographies like Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades (first published 1991, updated 2001) and even his own Chronicles: Volume One (published 2005) came too soon to cover this act.

Now this groundbreaking biography digs deep into Bob Dylan lore—including subjects Dylan himself left out of Chronicles: Volume One. Dylan: The Biography moves beyond analysis of lyrics or well-worn biographical facts to focus on why this beloved artist’s American odyssey has touched so many souls—and how both Dylan and his audience have changed along the way. What happened during the past two decades to transform a heroin addict into one of the most astonishing literary and musical icons in American history?

Through extensive interviews and connections with Dylan’s friends, family, sidemen, and fans, Los Angeles Times journalist Dennis McDougal builds a new understanding of Dylan, as well as the real story behind the myths. Was his romantic life, especially with Sara Dylan, much more complicated than it appears? Was his motorcycle accident a cover for drug rehab? What really happened to Dylan when his career fell apart, and how did he find his way back? To what does he attribute his astonishing success? McDougal’s interviews and meticulous research offer a revealing new understanding of these older questions—and of the new chapter Dylan is writing in his life and career.

ARC Edition | 540 pages | Wiley (Turner Publishing) | May 13, 2014

The Paladin Prophecy - Mark Frost

The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost

Readers of I Am Number Four, The Maze Runner, and Legend will love this exciting new adventure series by the co-creator of the groundbreaking television show Twin Peaks, with its unique combination of mystery, heart-pounding action, and the supernatural.

Will West is careful to live life under the radar. At his parents' insistence, he's made sure to get mediocre grades and to stay in the middle of the pack on his cross-country team. Then Will slips up, accidentally scoring off the charts on a nationwide exam.

Now Will is being courted by an exclusive prep school . . . and followed by men driving black sedans. When Will suddenly loses his parents, he must flee to the school. There he begins to explore all that he's capable of--physical and mental feats that should be impossible--and learns that his abilities are connected to a struggle between titanic forces that has lasted for millennia.

Random House | Young Adult | Trade Paperback | Pages: 528 | January 7, 2014

Alliance - Mark Frost

Alliance by Mark Frost

Readers of I Am Number Four, The Maze Runner, and Legend will love this sophisticated adventure series by the cocreator of the groundbreaking television show Twin Peaks, with its unique combination of mystery, heart-pounding action, and the supernatural.

After exposing the sinister underground society of students known as the Knights of Charlemagne, Will West stays at the Center over the summer to explore his newly developing physical and mental abilities. Meanwhile, his roommates investigate the Knights' shadowy purpose and discover unsettling information about their own backgrounds. Will and his friends must quickly figure out what's going on and separate friend from foe as they prepare for the coming fight.

Random House | Young Adult | Hardcover | Pages: 352 | January 7, 2014

The Five - Robert McCammon

The Five by Robert McCammon

Robert McCammon’s first contemporary novel in nearly two decades, The Five tells the story of an eponymous rock band struggling to survive on the margins of the music business. As they move through the American Southwest on what might be their final tour together, the band members come to the attention of a damaged Iraq war veteran, and their lives are changed forever. This is a riveting account of violence, terror, and pursuit set against a credible, immensely detailed rock and roll backdrop. It is also a moving meditation on loyalty and friendship. Written with wit, elegance, and passionate conviction, The Five reaffirms McCammon’s position as one of the finest, most unpredictable storytellers of our time.

Tor Books | November 2013 | Mass Market Paperbound | 608 pages

Prospero Lost - L. Jago Lamplighter

Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplighter

More than four hundred years after the events of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the sorcerer Prospero, his daughter Miranda, and his other children have attained everlasting life. Miranda is the head of her family’s business, Prospero Inc., which secretly has used its magic for good around the world. One day, Miranda receives a warning from her father: "Beware of the Three Shadowed Ones." When Miranda goes to her father for an explanation, he is nowhere to be found.

Miranda sets out to find her father and reunite with her estranged siblings, each of which holds a staff of power and secrets about Miranda’s sometimes-foggy past. Her journey through the past, present and future will take her to Venice, Chicago, the Caribbean, Washington, D.C., and the North Pole. To aid her, Miranda brings along Mab, an aerie being who acts like a hard-boiled detective, and Mephistopheles, her mentally-unbalanced brother. Together, they must ward off the Shadowed Ones and other ancient demons who want Prospero’s power for their own….

Tor Fantasy | June 2010 | Mass Market Paperbound | 448 pages

The Haunting of Twenty-First-Century America - Birnes & Martin

The Haunting of Twenty- First-Century America by William J. Birnes and Joel Martin

In this companion volume to The Haunting of America and The Haunting of Twentieth-Century America, national bestselling authors William J. Birnes and Joel Martin explore today’s intellectual and spiritual awakening—one that is challenging traditional belief systems.

Birnes and Martin show that, though many governments deny the importance of a spiritual component to national policy, even the most conservative governments have based social and financial policy decisions on a profound belief in the existence of the paranormal, ghosts, and spirits. From using psychic spying programs to gather intelligence on enemy nations to investigating the use of mind control to impede the abilities of hostile troops, the U.S. government has continuously developed paranormal weapons and tactics alongside their more mundane counterparts. U.S. Presidents from Franklin Pierce through Ronald Reagan regularly relied on the paranormal, using trance mediums, channelers, and astrologists to help plan agendas and travel schedules.

The Haunting of Twenty-First-Century America is unlike any American history you will ever read—it posits that not only is the paranormal more normal than most people think, but that it is driving current events to a new “Fourth Culture” of the twenty-first century.

Forge Books | December 2013 | Trade Paperback | 416 pages

He Drank, and Saw the Spider - Alex Bledsoe

He Drank, and Saw the Spider by Alex Bledsoe

For fans of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and Glen Cook's Garrett PI novels, comes the newest installment in Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCrosse series, He Drank and Saw the Spider.

After he fails to save a stranger from being mauled to death by a bear, a young mercenary is saddled with the baby girl the man died to protect. He leaves her with a kindly shepherd family and goes on with his violent life.

Now, sixteen years later, that young mercenary has grown up to become cynical sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse. When his vacation travels bring him back to that same part of the world, he can’t resist trying to discover what has become of the mysterious infant.
He finds that the child, now a lovely young teenager named Isadora, is at the center of complicated web of intrigue involving two feuding kings, a smitten prince, a powerful sorceress, an inhuman monster, and long-buried secrets too shocking to imagine. And once again she needs his help.

They say a spider in your cup will poison you, but only if you see it. Eddie, helped by his smart, resourceful girlfriend Liz, must look through the dregs of the past to find the truth about the present—and risk what might happen if he, too, sees the spider.

Tor Books | January 2014 | Hardcover | 320 pages

Who Fears Death - Nnedi Okarafor

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okarafor

International award-winning Nnedi Okorafor enters the world of magical realist literature with a powerful story of genocide in the far future and the woman who reshapes her world.
In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways, yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different--special--she names her Onyesonwu, which means "Who fears death?" in an ancient language. It doesn't take long for Onye to understand that she is physically and socially marked by the circumstances of her violent conception.

She is Ewu--a child of rape who is expected to live a life of violence, a half-breed rejected by both tribes. But Onye is not the average Ewu. Even as a child, she manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, and during an inadvertent visit to the spirit realm she learns something terrifying: Someone powerful is trying to kill her.

Desperate to elude her would-be murderer and to understand her own nature, she embarks on a journey in which she grapples with nature, tradition, history, true love, and the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and ultimately teaches her why she was given the name she bears: Who Fears Death.

Mass Market Paperback | 432 pages | 04 Feb 2014 | DAW

Only the Good Die Young - Chris Marie Green

Only the Good Die Young by Chris Marie Green

You know the theory that ghosts are energy trapped when someone dies violently? It’s true. I know it for a fact....

My name is Jensen Murphy, and thirty years ago, I was just an ordinary California girl. I had friends, family, a guy who might have been the One. Ordinary—until I became a statistic, one of the unsolved murders of the year. Afterward, I didn’t go anywhere in pursuit of any bright light—I stayed under the oak tree where my body was found, and relived my death over and over. So when a psychic named Amanda Lee Minter pulled me out of that loop into the real world, I was very grateful.

Now I’m a ghost-at-large—rescued by Amanda (I found out) to be a supernatural snoop. I’m helping her uncover a killer (not mine—she promises me we’ll get to that), which should be easy for a spirit. Except that I’ve found out that even ghosts have enemies, human—and otherwise…

Mass Market Paperback | 416 pages | 04 Feb 2014 | Roc

The Grendel Affair - Lisa Shearin

The Grendel Affair by Lisa Sherin

We’re Supernatural Protection & Investigations, known as SPI. Things that go bump in the night, the monsters you thought didn’t exist? We battle them and keep you safe. But some supernatural baddies are just too big to contain, even for us…

When I moved to New York to become a world famous journalist, I never imagined that snagging a job at a seedy tabloid would change my career path from trashy reporter to undercover agent. I’m Makenna Fraser, a Seer for SPI. I can see through any disguise, shield, or spell that a paranormal pest can come up with. I track down creatures and my partner, Ian Byrne, takes them out.

Our cases are generally pretty routine, but a sickle-wielding serial killer has been prowling the city’s subway tunnels. And the murderer’s not human. The fiend in question, a descendant of Grendel—yes, that Grendel—shares his ancestor’s hatred of parties, revelry, and drunkards. And with New Year’s Eve in Times Square only two days away, we need to bag him quickly. Because if we don’t find him—and the organization behind him—by midnight, our secret’s out and everyone’s time is up.

Mass Market Paperback | 304 pages | 31 Dec 2013 | Ace

Invasive Species - Joseph Wallace

Invasive Species by Joseph Wallace

There can only be one dominant life form on Earth.

In the remote African wilderness, a rainforest is dying. But something else has come to life: A newly evolved predator that has survived the depredations of mankind, only to emerge from its natural habitat faster, stronger, and deadlier than anything humanity has ever faced.

And it is no longer man.

Paperback | 496 pages | 03 Dec 2013 | Berkley | 18 - AND UP



Flowers in the Attic - V.C. Andrews

Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews

A major Lifetime movie event—the novel that captured the world's imagination and earned V.C. Andrews a fiercely devoted fanbase. Book One of the Dollanganger Family series.

At the top of the stairs there are four secrets hidden. Blond, beautiful, innocent, and struggling to stay alive…
They were a perfect family, golden and carefree—until a heartbreaking tragedy shattered their happiness. Now, for the sake of an inheritance that will ensure their future, the children must be hidden away out of sight, as if they never existed. Kept on the top floor of their grandmother’s vast mansion, their loving mother assures them it will be just for a little while. But as brutal days swell into agonizing months and years, Cathy, Chris, and twins Cory and Carrie realize their survival is at the mercy of their cruel and superstitious grandmother…and this cramped and helpless world may be the only one they ever know.

Book One of the Dollanganger series, followed by Petals in the Wind, If There be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows.

Media Tie In Mass Market Paperback | Pocket Books ( Simon & Schuster) |  416 pages |  January 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Giveaway: Sebastian's Way by George Steger

Sebastian's Way - George Steger

Giveaway for Sebastian's Way by George Steger. We have one hardcover copy of this historical fiction novel for a US address.

About Sebastian’s WayIn a dark age of unending war and violence, one young warrior opposes a mighty king to forge a new path to peace…

During the savage Frankish-Saxon wars, the moving force of his age, Karl der Grosse, King Charlemagne, fights and rules like the pagan enemies he seeks to conquer. But in the long shadow of war and genocide, a spark of enlightenment grows, and the king turns to learned men to help him lead his empire to prosperity.

One of these men is the unlikely young warrior Sebastian. Raised in an isolated fortress on the wild Saxon border, Sebastian balances his time in the training yard with hours teaching himself to read, seeking answers to the great mysteries of life during an age when such pastimes were scorned by fighting men. Sebastian’s unique combination of skills endears him to Charlemagne and to the ladies of the king's court, though the only woman to hold his heart is forbidden to him. As the king determines to surround himself with men who can both fight and think beyond the fighting, Sebastian becomes one of the privileged few to hold the king’s ear.

But the favor of the king does not come without a cost. As Charlemagne's vassals grapple for power, there are some who will do anything to see Sebastian fall from grace, including his ruthless cousin Konrad, whose hatred and jealousy threaten to destroy everything Sebastian holds dear. And as Sebastian increasingly finds himself at odds with the king’s brutal methods of domination and vengeance, his ingrained sense of honor and integrity lead him to the edge of treason, perilously pitting himself against the most powerful man of his age.

This fast-paced adventure story brings Charlemagne's realm to life as the vicious Christian-pagan wars of the eighth century decide the fate of Europe. Filled with action, intrigue, and romance, Sebastian's Way is a riveting and colorful recreation of the world of Europe’s greatest medieval monarch.

October 3, 2013 | iUniverse | Paperback  | 370 pages

To enter this giveaway please fill out the Google form:

About the Author:   A native of Louisiana, the author followed a long tradition of young men from the Deep South by seeking to improve his prospects in the military. From a green second lieutenant in the famed 101st Airborne Division to battalion command in Vietnam, Colonel Steger spent most of the rest of his military career in four European tours as an intelligence officer and Russian foreign area specialist, working on both sides of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. He traded sword for plowshare in a second career in academia and is now Professor Emeritus of history and international affairs at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. The motivation to write Sebastian’s Way came from his experiences in both war and peace, from fourteen years in Germany and Eastern Europe, and from his love of teaching medieval and other European history courses.

Steger is an avid hiker and trail biker, and much of the story of Sebastian came out of time spent in the woods and fields of eastern Kansas. In memory of Mary Jo, his wife of many years, he and filmmaker son Ben spent a recent summer trekking across Spain on The Camino de Santiago, one of Europe’s oldest pilgrimage trails. He lives and writes in rural Kansas and has four other grown and gifted children.

For more information please visit George Steger’s website. You can also find him on Facebook.

This giveaway is part of a tour. To see the other blogs participating and for more information about the tour’s host please click on the badge below.

Sebastian's Way Tour Badge

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Review: 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke


Review by John for 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke

John’s quick take: Continuing the story told in the classic science fiction movie and novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, this chronicles what happens when an international team is sent to Jupiter to investigate the fate of the 2001 mission.

John’s description:  In 2001 the crew of the spaceship Discovery found a mysterious monolith orbiting Jupiter; it’s clearly an alien artifact. The spaceship’s computer (known as HAL) had started to act oddly and caused the death of all but one of the crew. David Bowman, the lone survivor, manages to disable HAL and then continues on with the mission. When he leaves Discovery and starts to explore the monolith he disappears, with his last words sent back to Earth being “My God, it’s full of stars!” But there is now a newly created version of Bowman, unobtrusively watching over Earth and humans, unsure of what his next steps should be.

Nine years later a joint Soviet-American team travels to Jupiter on a Soviet spaceship. The objectives are to find out all they possibly can about the 2001 mission from Discovery’s records, and to further investigate the monolith. A key to unlocking some of the mysteries surrounding the 2001 mission is to resuscitate Discovery and to delve into HAL’s memory banks – so a vital member of the 2010 mission is the scientist who created HAL. There are another two Americans aboard who are deemed necessary, but the rest of the crew is Soviet. There are ongoing political tensions between the two countries and neither is happy about having to partner with the other, but there are some necessarily tight deadlines that have to be met, and only the Soviets have a ship that is ready in time. Inevitably the relationships between the crew factions are strained as the mission starts out.

As the ship gets nearer to Jupiter there are some big surprises in store; there is also the horrendously dangerous braking maneuver which entails circling Jupiter and using its gravity to help slow the ship down. Finally they rendezvous with the dead US ship, Discovery, and then start the arduous task of trying to bring it back to life. They also have to carefully bring the powerful HAL back online, unsure of what they will find and how it might react to the newcomers. Meanwhile the huge monolith seems to be inert and unperturbed by their presence. But by far the biggest shock is yet to come. And “Bowman” continues his watch and starts to flex some of his newfound powers.

John’s thoughts:    2001: A Space Odyssey was such a classic movie, which was groundbreaking in all sorts of ways. The ending left some audience members scratching their heads a bit, though the resulting novel did clear things up at least somewhat (the movie was a result of collaboration between Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, while Clarke followed up with the novel). In many ways it cried out for a sequel, but more than twenty years passed before Clarke released this novel.

It was a tough act to follow, but employing his usual gifts of huge imagination, technical credibility, and first-rate storytelling, Clarke did a terrific job. In common with most Clarke books, this is a really fine read. The futurism and science don’t get in the way at all, but rather add to what is a really cool story. This is an easy read – which is not to diminish the depth and complexity of the plot. And of course there are plenty of surprises to keep you turning the pages.

It is not unusual in many science fiction books to find that characters are rather thin and under-developed, taking a back seat to “gee whiz” plots and grand visions, but that is not a problem that I have found with Clarke – the characters in this novel are interesting and have some depth, as are those in most of his books. (Though I must admit that this is my first Clark read in a long time and it was in my student days when I voraciously read his books, so maybe my memory is playing little tricks with me).

All in all, this is a great read that I’d recommend to any and all science fiction fans; though of course it has been out for a long time now so perhaps most have read it already. You don’t have to have read 2001 first as the key elements are recounted in 2010 - but it will help to provide a little added background and color. I’d also say that for non-science fiction fans who want to test the water, Arthur C. Clarke is a great place to start. I’d rate this book 4 stars.

P.S. It only just occurred to me how apt it is to rate science fiction novels using a system of stars!

First published by Granada Publishing UK in 1982.

This is our first post for 2014 and it is a bit later than planned since my blogging computer is currently being repaired. (They said it was something to do with Windows being corrupted. Not fun). However in the meantime and with a slight learning curve I’ve managed to figure out how to use John’s work laptop to publish this. I also have my fingers crossed that I don’t loose any data (i.e. already completed reviews and other posts) while they are repairing my desk top.

Beyond the computer drama, we both hope you had a great holiday season and are enjoying this new year!

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