A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Proposed Trade-Offs for the Overhaul of the Barricade July 30, 2014 A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Proposed Trade-Offs for the Overhaul of the Barricade John Chu Fighting Turbulence requires sacrifices. The Colonel July 29, 2014 The Colonel Peter Watts The hives are sleeping giants. <em>To Eternity</em> July 24, 2014 To Eternity Wesley Allsbrook and Barrie Potter If all things were normal, Stuart would be considered quite a catch. Brisk Money July 23, 2014 Brisk Money Adam Christopher It's hard out there for a robotic detective.
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July 30, 2014
Pull List: Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel
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July 30, 2014
Concerning Hobbits, On-Screen and Off: Why Jackson and Tolkien Can Peacefully Co-exist
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July 30, 2014
Yes, Women Want to Be Thor—So Why is the New Avengers Line-up Cause For Ire?
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July 29, 2014
Introduction to the H. P. Lovecraft Reread
Ruthanna Emrys and Anne M. Pillsworth
July 25, 2014
Huge New Cast and Bloopers. Highlights from the San Diego Comic Con Game of Thrones Panel
Chris Lough
Showing posts by: Justin Landon click to see Justin Landon's profile
Aug 1 2014 1:00pm

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “Among the Stones” and “The Fruits of Boldness”

Reading the First Law Trilogy has been a different experience this time around. The pulse pounding excitement and visceral action has been far scarcer than I remember, replaced with thoughtful trope inversion and deeply fascinating characters. In fact, before this week there had been less than five scenes where serious ass-kicking (or blood letting) took place. This trend is changing in a major way at this point in Before They Are Hanged as Logen’s crew takes on their pursuers and Colonel West’s army is destroyed by Bethod. I’m pretty excited about it!

Get your athletic tape out and reinforce those joints, we’re about to get grimdark up in here.

[Among the Stones…]

Jul 25 2014 4:00pm

Tower Bored... I Mean Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan

Tower Lord Anthony Ryan review

Books have rhythm. Narratives have rhythm. When that rhythm is disrupted things fall apart very quickly. Tower Lord by Anthony has the rhythm of Kevin James in Hitch (2003). Which is weird, because Ryan’s debut novel, Blood Song, was like a breakdancer standing on his head with a beatbox accompaniment.

Blood Song, while a little clichéd, was digestible and addicting and incapable of being put down because the rhythm of it hooked the reader like an ear worm. Without that, Tower Lord falls apart, with a brutally benign first act and a dislocating sense of time and pace.

[Read more]

Jul 18 2014 1:00pm

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “Long Odds,” “The Road to Victory,” and “Necessary Evils”

Joe Abercrombie puts us on the cusp this week in Before They Are Hanged. Ferro (and crew), West, and Glokta all sit on the precipice of battle. Rather than give the reader several complete chapters detailing the run up to the clashes of arms, Abercrombie gives three extremely small bite chapters that hit like staccato notes.

Rather than write about each of these chapters individually, I figured I’d write about them as a group. Below you’ll find summaries of each of the chapters, and then, for the rest of the post, I treat them as one chapter. We’ll see how it goes.

[Three for the Price of One…]

Jul 18 2014 9:00am

The Art of Julie Dillon

Julie Dillon

Julie Dillon. Twice nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Artist, she’s become synonymous with awards ballots. The Chesley Award, Spectrum, and the World Fantasy Award, among others, have all named her as one of the finest illustrators working in science fiction and fantasy art.

Oddly, she remains under used in the cover game, with only a handful to her credit among major publishing houses. And among cover artists, her name recognition in comparison to stalwarts like John Harris and Michael Whelan lags behind, which is a fact not long for this world. Because Julie Dillon has something few artists lay claim to, a distinctive point of view.

[Read More]

Jul 14 2014 10:00am

Grimdark for Young Adults: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie Half a King reviewJoe Abercrombie is two writers. He is the writer everyone ascribes him to be and the writer he actually is. The former is Lord Grimdark, a moniker even the man himself has adopted, in which he is accused of, or praised for, writing the most despicable characters and situations. The latter is one of the most thoughtful writers of fantasy fiction, who undermines tropes, points out their absurdity, and makes us feel good about loving them still.

I have always believed in him to be the second of the two.

[Half a review? No! Click through!]

Jul 11 2014 1:00pm

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “Prince Ladisla’s Stratagem” and “Until Sunset”

Joe Abercrombie Before They Are Hanged reread First Law trilogy I hope all our U.S. readers had a nice Fourth of July last week. I mean, I hope you all had a nice July 4th, but I figure it was just a regular Friday for the rest of you! As a result of the holiday the reread took a short break from its otherwise breakneck pace! In the interim, Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King hit the streets in the United Kingdom, debuting at number three on the Sunday Times Bestseller list. While the world enjoys his new offering, we’ll just keep picking apart the first things he ever published!

With this week’s chapters we find ourselves on the cusp of two battles. The one in the North is a situation that should be won, but won’t due to inept leadership. The one in the South is a situation that should surely be lost, but success seems possible due to Glokta’s capable hand. It’s an interesting juxtaposition Abercrombie has set up.

[First up! Ladisla’s Stratagem!]

Jul 11 2014 9:30am

Why I’m Voting for Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice Ann Leckie Hugo nomineeWhen thinking about Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, the first thing that comes to my mind is gummy worms. Sour gummy worms, to be precise, are a very specific desire. When you want a sour gummy worm nothing else will do. Seriously, nothing else. The second thing that comes to mind are macaroons, those little delicious crispy baked goods that have replaced the cupcake as the pastry du jour.

Yes, Ancillary Justice is like gummy worms and macaroons, combined. Early buzz meant that readers were craving Ann Leckie’s debut novel, and finally getting to read it was both satisfying and sweet.

[Read More]

Jul 2 2014 1:00pm

Lyrical Empowerment: Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

Memory of Water review Emmi Itaranta

I tried to describe Memory of Water to a few people in the days after I finished it. It was a bit of challenge that led to me falling back on tiresome comparisons. One example read, ‘it feels like the young adult novel I wanted Paolo Baciagalupi’s Shipbreaker to be.’ Or, ‘it’s like Rob Ziegler’s Seed if he cared a lot less about explody things.’ Or worst of all, ‘Emmi Itäranta creates a cocktail of The Hunger Games and The Windup Girl, with Susan Collins’ sense of character and Paolo Baciagalupi’s haunting image of our future.’ Bad, right?

Itäranta’s novel laughs at all these comparisons. Written simultaneously in both English and Finnish, Memory of Water is a lyrical and emotionally scarring novel of life in the indeterminate post-climate change future. Once a plentiful resource, water has become as tightly controlled by the government as nuclear material in the modern world. Wars are waged over it. In northern Europe, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio is learning to become a tea master like her father. It’s a position of great responsibility in their culture, one that affords them more water than anyone not affiliated with the government.

[Read more]

Jun 27 2014 1:00pm

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “One Hundred Words” and “The Blind Lead the Blind”

Fans of Joe Abercrombie can rejoice by listening to his interview on the Tor.com podcast this week. I had a nice chat with him on Rocket Talk, covering a host of issues from his new novel Half a King, to the World Cup, to whether or not Logen Ninefingers is half-devil or crazy. I hope you’ll check it out. If not, well, Abercrombie will write the death of many characters with your lack of listening in mind. He’s remorseless.

You know who else isn’t remorseless? The characters in the First Law Trilogy. Sure, they do bad things, but they feel really bad about it mostly. Not like the author, not at all. Onward...

[One Hundred Words]

Jun 20 2014 1:00pm

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “And next... My Gold” and “Fear”

When I’m not writing this reread, I’m the host of the Tor.com podcast, Rocket Talk. I mention this because on Wednesday, June 25, I’ll be posting the 15th episode of Rocket Talk, which, believe it or not, is an hour long discussion with our favorite author, Joe Abercrombie. We ended up talking about a host of issues, including, but not limited to: the World Cup, my deep and abiding love for his work, this reread, his new book Half a King, and whether or not Logen is a half-devil or not. If you’re a regular listener, it’s something to look forward to. If you’re not a regular listener it’s an opportunity to start!

In the meantime, let’s get on to this weeks chapters, in which Glokta gets an unexpected windfall and Jezal just falls off his horse.

[And Next. . . My Gold]

Jun 19 2014 5:00pm

The Quick and the Dead: Lauren Owen’s The Quick

The Quick review Lauren Owen

Lauren Owen’s debut novel The Quick makes a concerted effort to not mention a certain word in its cover copy. The word rhymes with campfire, which ironically enough is something this rhyming word would rather want to avoid due to combustibility.

Why do they try so hard to avoid it? I can only surmise it’s because campfires are inherently silly and this novel is serious business! No sparkling campfires here fair reader of literary fiction. No sir. These are pale, long lived, and thirsty campfires, which are not magical, just grumpy.

[Read More]

Jun 13 2014 1:00pm

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “Bloody Company” and “Long Shadows”

Debate continues to rage over Logen’s composition. There is an interesting tidbit in this week’s chapters that I’ll address here rather than later since it’s an ongoing discussion across many posts. When examining a set of glyphs carved into the ruins Bayaz says, ‘The birth of the three pure disciplines of magic.’ The three disciplines excludes that which Glustrod discovers (i.e., summoning demons and making a nuisance of himself). The three disciplines are: the Art (Juvens and Bayaz, etc.), making (Kanedias), and talking to spirits (Bedesh).

Logen can talk to spirits. He is using magic. Thus, he touches the Other Side. I’ll admit that it’s possible Logen is not a descendent of Euz, and maybe not even a partial-devil himself. We don’t have enough evidence (yet?). But, we definitely can’t rule it out. I’ll leave it at that until more substantive facts are presented.

[Let’s talk about Blood Company]

Jun 6 2014 1:00pm

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “Small Crimes” and “Rain”

There seems to be some debate in the comments the last few weeks about whether or not Logen is a devil, or half-devil, or whatever. I’m not really convinced either way. However, there’s no question Logen is capable of touching the Other Side. He talks to spirits. This is magical. All magic comes from the Other Side, per Bayaz. Bayaz also demonstrates the First Law is inherently a contradiction as all magic involves touching the Other Side. I don’t believe the spirits are demons, but they’re not benign either. As for whether that makes Logen part-devil, well…

Euz was half-devil. One of his sons received inherited a gift from him to talk to spirits. We aren’t aware of anyone else in the world who can talk to spirits. Thus, it’s at least a reasonable inference that Logen has inherited something from Euz. Can he carry the seed like Ferro? Maybe not. But, he’s something more than human and I don’t really think it’s terribly debatable.

[Let’s commit some Small Crimes]

Jun 4 2014 10:00am

Just Another Three Card Monte: Joe Abercrombie’s “Tough Times All Over”

Rogues George R R Martin Gardner Dozois Joe Abercrombie review There’s a children’s game called “button, button, who’s got the button?” The basic premise is one kid has a button and walks around a circle of other kids putting his hands in theirs’, leaving the button in one set of hands somewhere along the way. The kid then feigns continued button-leaving. Once the circle is complete, the other kids try to guess who has the button. If this sounds inane, well, it is. But, in my imagination I like to picture “button, button” as a more genteel version of “duck, duck, goose.” And by genteel I mean with less blood and sobbing.

I bring this up not to slander one of the greatest games of all time, but because Joe Abercrombie’s story in Rogues, a new anthology from George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, functions much the same, with rotating points of view depending on who has the “button” at a given moment. Of course, because it’s Abercrombie, the game is a lot more “duck, duck, goose” than “button, button,” with a sufficient amount of physical violence and broken dreams (as any good game of “duck, duck, goose” should have).

[Read More]

Jun 2 2014 4:30pm

Duck and Covers: The Art of Orbit Books

Orbit cover art Ann Leckie John Harris

Art is important. It’s important socially and culturally and, when it comes to publishing, commercially. The cover art is the first thing a potential reader reacts to. It’s what convinces that consumer to pick up a book, turn it over, and see what’s going on the page. It’s been argued that with declining shelf space in traditional retailers that maybe art is becoming less important to the buying process. The argument is the digital retailer is relying on crowd sourced reviews, and blog commentary, and algorithms to help today’s reader make a purchasing decision. What used to be a full size 6 x 9 inch image is now a 150 pixel thumbnail.

Nothing in the last two sentences is wrong, but it’s also bullshit.

[Read More]

May 30 2014 1:00pm

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “Allies” and “Campfire Politics”

Joe Abercrombie reread First Law Before They Are Hanged In last week’s comments an astute commenter quoted a passage from “The Thing About Trust” that describes Logen from Ferro’s point of view. I want to quote it again here:

You would have had to look far and wide to find anyone less beautiful than the big nine-fingered bastard. He sat in his saddle slumped over like some great sack of rice. Slow-moving, scratching, sniffing, chewing like a big cow. Trying to look like he had no killing in him, no mad fury, no devil. She knew better. He nodded to her and she scowled back. He was a devil wearing a cow’s skin, and she was not fooled.

Notice the word “devil.” As we continue through this week’s chapters, keep this in mind. I’ve asked questions at times about Logen’s nature, his ability to tap into the Other Side. Although Ferro has no knowledge of it, I can’t help but think the words Abercrombie chooses to use here are absolutely intentional.

[On to Allies]

May 23 2014 1:00pm

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “The Condition of the Defences” and “The Thing About Trust”

Before They Are Hanged Joe AbercrombieDoes anyone else find it weird that in last week’s chapter, where we saw Logen and Longfoot and Bayaz and Jezal walking around town in Calcis, there’s zero mention of what Ferro and Quai are up to? Are they taking a nap? Are they staring at each other? What are the odds those two spent time together and Ferro didn’t plant a dagger in his guts and take off? This is odd, particularly in light of this week’s chapters, which we’ll get to momentarily!

Also, two chapters this week! Can you believe it? It’s like I’m Han Solo and I just hit Stubby’s hyperdrive baby! Look at those grimdarky stars streaking by our cockpit! Hope you can keep up with us, because Chewie is kind of pissed off at Stubby’s lack of maintainence.

[Condition of the Defences]

May 16 2014 1:00pm

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “The Wounds of the Past”

This week’s chapter in Before They Are Hanged says it all, “Wounds of the Past.” The opening line, quoted later in the post, plays quite clearly into the old idiom, ‘those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.’ It’s a theme that runs throughout the chapter, but one that Abercrombie twists, which I’ll discuss in more detail below.

This is also a chapter with a surfeit of world building courtesy of three ‘as you know Bob’ sections. Despite revealing a lot of interesting information and a huge nugget at the end of the chapter, I think it’s probably one of the weakest chapters in the entire series, shoehorned in to give the reader a sense of the time and space that our erstwhile band of heroes occupy on their errand for Bayaz.

But, that’s something you’ll have to judge for yourself I suppose.

[The Wounds of the Past]

May 9 2014 2:00pm

Thief’s Magic: Now I’ll Cut This Story Into Two!

Trudi Canavan Thief's Magic

It says it right on the cover of the Thief’s Magic advanced review copy that Trudi Canavan has sold two million books worldwide—which is roughly 1/50th of the Super Bowl’s audience, or about 100 times the audience of a moderately successful debut novel. You might think that’s a common level of success. It isn’t. It’s an absurd total, demonstrating a huge commercial appeal to Canavan’s fiction.

And I get it. Heavy investment in character development and setting creates an enticing remoulade to tempt the eye-buds (those are like taste buds, but with tear ducts). Even when the narrative drags—and it does—Canavan has that indefinable knack for capturing a reader’s imagination.

[Read more...]

May 9 2014 1:00pm

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “Questions”

The first two chapters of Before They Are Hanged have been in the North, where the Union are at war with Bethod. Although the content itself is new, they’re really a carry over from The Blade Itself, resolving Threetree’s goal from the first novel—find the Union and be useful. In contrast, this week’s chapter is well into the stage where Glokta is acting on the conclusion of The Blade Itself. Not to mention it’s the debut of a new setting within the Circle of the World—Dagoska.

Like all Glokta chapters, Abercrombie delights us with an incisive inner-monologue. In other novels I find inner-monologue obnoxious because who thinks in complete sentences? But, in Glokta’s case I find his insanity and bitterness lend themselves perfectly to the technique.

[On to “Questions”]