Not that many titles in this roundup, and no non-fiction, as I’ve been spending most of my reading hours plowing through Glen Cook’s brilliant Black Company series once again. This was prompted by the sudden release of Port of Shadows, a novel set between the first and second novels in the original saga. There’s a full review of Port of Shadows below.
Apart from that, this roundup has the return of Sandman Slim, two brilliant Swedish art sci-fi books, and some velvety, twisted grimdark fantasy.
Sandman Slim is back from the dead! Kind of. He is, as the title says, Hollywood Dead. And is forced once again to perform another task for Bad People.
Hollywood Dead is the weakest novel in the series so far, mostly because it, like Slim himself, lacks energy. The series is at its best when it’s a huge motorcycle roaring through Hell blasting The Misfits on a ghetto blaster, but this installment is more of a whimper, with a subdued, self-doubting Slim.
It’s understandable for Kadrey to have some trouble with where to take the series after having literally conquered Hell and stormed Heaven, but the brashness and hell-bent-for-leather rock’n’roll energy of the earliest novels were what made them so fun and special, so Hollywood Dead feels like an interstitial.
Still, I’m not giving up on the Sandman and am looking forward to the next one.
Simon Stålenhag’s Tales from the Loop is like it was designed specifically for me: Nostalgia for a Sweden of the past and sci-fi dystopia mixed into one with gorgeous artwork. But it’s not just about the artwork, which mixes mundane, usually overcast, Swedish landscapes and objects of the ’80s with fantastic sci-fi objects, but also a series of vignettes from the perspective of a boy growing up in this alternate reality.
The Loop of the title is a particle accelerator that enables the creation of wonderful but poorly understood technologies.
I read this one slowly, basking in the artwork and letting the emotions in the vignettes seep in.
Things from the Flood continues the story begun in Tales from the Loop, with the boy narrator from the first book moving into adolescence and something going horribly wrong with the Loop.
Not quite the experience of Tales from the Loop, perhaps because the premise has already been unfolded, but still strong and deeply emotional.
Smith Spark uses language like a dagger in this odd and twisted grimdark fantasy. It features some of the usual fantasy tropes like dragons, prophecy and magic, but treats them in fresh, new ways.
The Court of Broken Knives is grimdark wrapped in velvet and compulsively readable, though a bit difficult to get through as several of the characters are such terrible, terrible people. But hey, that’s grimdark for you.
This is novel one and a half in the amazing Black Company series, dropping in uninvited but welcome long after the series conclusion and covers events that take place after the end of the first novel, The Black Company. This is kind of weird, yes, but very welcome for fans of the series.
One often underrated part of the mythos is how much it plays with unreliable narration. Different annalists—Black Company chroniclers—cover events differently with different focuses and takes on characters, sometimes even disagreeing on pure facts. It adds to the depth of the series.
Port of Shadows takes this to a whole new level, with Croaker—the current annalist—admitting to having his memories tampered with and being kept out of the loop for operational security reasons.
It’s also different in tone than the other installments, with more interpersonal relationships, including Croaker’s with a brand new Taken called Mischievous Rain. Or is she a new Taken? DUN-DUN-dun.
Whatever or whoever Mischievous Rain is, she certainly is interesting and brings out new sides of our old hero Croaker.
Port of Shadows also provides glimpses back into the early days of the Domination, just enough to whet your appetite for more.
It’s an unfulfilling novel in many ways, with Cook doing a lot more playing with the form than he usually does, but it’s a brand new novel of the Black Company! So let’s rejoice.
Note: The links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny kickback, which motivates me to keep writing these reviews. If you deign to purchase one of the books through them, it’s appreciated.
Includes Hollywood Dead, Tales from the Loop, Things from the Flood, The Court of Broken Knives, and Port of Shadows.
Includes The Storm Before the Storm, White Trash, Calypso, Tell the Machine Goodnight, Prince of Fools, and Provenance.
Mostly excellent non-fiction in this installment. Includes Fantasyland, The Miracle of Dunkirk, Das Reich, The Undoing Project, Waiting for the Punch, Vacationland and Points of Impact.
Lots of sci-fi in this installment. Includes Retribution, Boomerang, The Collapsing Empire, All Systems Red, and Ninefox Gambit.
A worthy inclusion to the Malazan canon and great high fantasy to disappear into in troubled times.
Includes a mea culpa, Hillbilly Elegy, Gulp, The Stars are Legion, and The Kill Society.
Lots of fiction series in this one. Includes Grunt, 1177 B.C., Louder Than Hell, Smarter Faster Better, The Hanging Tree, Death’s End, Chains of Command, and Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?.
Hey kids, you like epic fantasy? ’Cause I've got some epic fantasy for you.
This installment features grimdark fantasy, peppy astronauts and the Roman Empire. Includes SPQR, And On That Bombshell, The Code Book, Schiit Happened, Beyond Redemption, The Severed Streets, The Martian and Veiled.
Includes The Antidote, One Nation, Under Gods, Losing the Signal, The Todd Glass Situation, The Last Policeman, The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, Beacon 23, Killing Pretty and Queen of Fire.
Lots of fantasy and sci-fi in this installment plus a book about sports! Includes Boy on Ice, Difficult Men, Restaurant Man, The Red Line, Cunning Plans, Seveneves, Nemesis Games, Bitter Seeds, The Mechanical, Angles of Attack, and City of Stairs.
Nic is sad about Terry Pratchett's passing. Includes No Land’s Man, Idiot America, Something Coming Through, The Burning Room, Foxglove Summer, and The Dark Defiles.
Things go dark and magical in this installment. Includes So, Anyway…, Yes Please, The Mirror Empire, London Falling, Broken Homes, Perfidia, The Peripheral, Burning Chrome, and the Bel Dame Apocrypha Omnibus.
Lots of good reads in this installment. Includes All Hell Let Loose, Metallica: This Monster Lives, 10% Happier, Onward, Echopraxia, Cibola Burn, The Getaway God, Lock In, The Red: First Light, Terms of Enlistment, and Lines of Departure.
Solid reads abound in this installment of the roundup. Includes Console Wars, Your Inner Fish, Flash Boys, Digital Wars, The Perfect Storm, Tower Lord, By Blood We Live, I am Pilgrim and Lexicon.
Some great reads and a huge disappointment in this installment. Includes The Loudest Voice in the Room, Hatching Twitter, Dogfight, Ancillary Justice, KOP Killer, The Circle, Working God’s Mischief and Where Eagles Dare.
Some solid reading awaits you in this installment. Includes The Outpost, Masters of Doom, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, The Everything Store, Bomber Command, Gods of Guilt, and Low Town.
A slimmer-than-usual book roundup is heavy on the non-fiction, including several must-read titles.
Another book roundup, including some stellar athletes and soldiers, what might be the most jaded, soul-weary protagonist ever, and some grimdark fantasy.
The Core Dump is back! Books were read during the hiatus. Includes The Coldest Winter, Oh, Myyy!, Tough Sh*t, The Revolution Was Televised, The Rook, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Gun Machine, Fortress Frontier, Standing in Another Man’s Grave, and The Memory of Light.
From a true patriot to a world-weary detective, a dead god, and a civilization about to sublime from the galaxy, this book roundup spans the gamut. Includes Where Men Win Glory, Wild, Inside the Box, The Black Box, Three Parts Dead, Red Country, and The Hydrogen Sonata.
From the heights of athletic excellence to the depths of depravity, this roundup includes The First 20 Minutes, Double Cross, The Heroin Diaries, Tattoos and Tequila, Dodger, Farthing, and Devil Said Bang.
Includes Wabi-Sabi, Making Things Happen, D-Day, Tallula Rising, Blood Song, The Americans and Amped. All in all, a happy romp through the meadows of literature.
Includes Search Inside Yourself, The Information Diet, Redshirts, The Gone-Away World, Wool, Leviathan Wakes, and Prince of Thorns. One of these may very well change your life.
Includes Shadow Ops: Control Point, The Night Circus, The Hunger Games, Quiet, The Science of Yoga, and Kitchen Confidential. Lots of good stuff in this one.
Includes Angelmaker, The Magicians, Magician King, Iron Council, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Distrust That Particular Flavor, and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran. One of these is the most important book of 2011.
Includes The Drop, Ready Player One, Moon Called, Among Others, Excession, Inferno, The Paleo Solution and I am Ozzy.
Includes Sandman Slim, Snuff, The Cold Commands, Reamde, Goodbye Darkness, Steve Jobs and The Psychopath Test.
Some books you might enjoy reading.