Carte Blanche–Awesome name, lame trailer.

Seems like they’ve been rebooting everything these days.  Batman, Spiderman, even Planet of the Apes, so it should come as no surprise that on the novel front, James Bond was due.  Carte Blanche  by Jeffery Deaver is the official reboot of the 007 series.  Bond is in his early thirties, a veteran of the Afghan war, and living in a post 9/11 world.

This being the computer age, someone at Simon and Schuster (I think) got the great idea to put a trailer on Youtube.  And it’s awesome–for about 41 seconds.  Sharp dressed man, sexy lady, meeting on a rooftop–and then cracking open their copies of the book.  Lame.

We know it’s a book.  Throw in an explosion or razor studded bowler–something!

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The Crack In the Lens–Steve Hockensmith

“He knows who done it,” Old Red said.  “I’m sure of it.  All we gotta do is get him to say the name.”

“So find a way.  Another way.  Do it like Holmes would.  Use your brain.”

Gustav tried to spin away with the shears, but I managed to hold him in place.

“It’s Holmes brought us here!” he roared. “The Method ain’t workin’!”

“It’s what we got!”

 “It ain’t enough!”

The brothers Amlingmeyer are back in town!  That town being San Marcos, where Gustav once lived as a cow puncher, having loved and lost a girl named Adeleine.  She was a “soiled dove”, a working girl whose murder made less than any impact on the rough and tumble town, but plenty on the elder Amlingmeyer, who, having studied the “deducifying” ways of one Sherlock Holmes in the interim, has finally returned to town (his younger, and self-described, “handsomer” brother Otto in tow) to give her the justice she deserves.

San Marcos is not the town he remembers.  Proselytising bands of zealots roam the streets and law and order is the rule of the day.  Even the old whorehouse has been made over into a wallpaper shop.  Yet a good time is still to be had, those delving in the fleshly trade having been moved just outside city limits, beyond the reach of either God or his lawmen.

Yet lawmen are useless to the brothers Amlingmeyer.  Milford Bales, the local Marshal (and former friend of Gustav) wants them gone.  He has his own ideas as to what (or whom) befell Adeleine, and those suspicions fall (suspiciously) close to home.  Sheriff Rucker’s in the pocket of the pimps, Ragsdale and Bock, neither of whom wish the case to be re-opened.  Bad for business, you know.  Even Gustav is proving less than useful.  His normally well honed method has fallen by the wayside, and he himself is prone to conclusion jumping.  He’s off his game, and its going to take a clear head to sort things out.  Otto seems to have the only clear head around, so it’s up to him to step up and fill the position–before “Texas Jack” strikes again.

Once again, Steve Hockensmith delivers a tale full of quirky characters, from Brother Landrigan, leader of the local parish, an autonomous sect known as the Shepherd of the Hills Assembly of the Living God (whew!  That’s a mouthful), to big Bess, a whore whose name is a bit of an understatement.  Then there’s the Krieger’s, local librarians/death portrait photographers, and of course, Ragsdale and Bock, “honest” businessmen by day, the western equivalent of mobsters by night.

Gustav and Otto are also a  pair of characters, one the illiterate follower of the Holmesian method (and partial to big whiskers, ten gallon hats and angry mumbling), the other an aspiring author and gentleman with a quick wit and flair for things genteel.  A study in contrasts, Cowboy Holmes and a jovial Watson.  

The Crack in the Lens is the fourth novel in the Holmes on the Range series, and the least “Holmesian” of the bunch.  But that’s the point of the novel.  Gustav has lost “the method,” blinded by rage and grief and the desire for revenge, and it’s only when circumstances force him to follow the method that he’s able to recapture his rhythm and solve the crime(s).   I love a good mystery, especially a mystery where the culprit is not immediately identifiable, and in this, Hockensmith once again prevails.  An added twist, the addition of a Whitechapel connection, lends  a bit of intrigue to the novel.  Is Texas Jack a copycat, or the infamous Jack the Ripper, come to America to continue his spree in the relative anonymity of the open spaces of the West?

Another thing–generally, the rule of thumb when writing is to “show”, not “tell.”  But how does that work, when the narrator is telling a novel sized story?  In this case, pretty damn well.  Otto is not one for a lot of descriptive flair, but “tells” the story as if you were sitting around the campfire.  A lot of dialogue, not so much description.  That’s where the magic lies in a Hockensmith novel–witty banter rather than long-winded descriptions.

Steve Hockensmith is the author of the Holmes on the Range mysteries and both the prequel and sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  He maintains a blog at www.stevehockensmith.com.

Angry Robot gives a sneak peek: the cover of Lavie Tidhar’s The Great Game

After reading Lavie Tidhar’sThe Bookman, I found myself hooked on his wonderful steampunk series.  However, what initially drew my eye at the local bookseller wasn’t so much the title (although it certainly caught the eye) but the wonderful cover art.

Nicely bookending (some pun intended) this wonderful piece of art was the cover of the sequel, Camera Obscura:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now comes Angry Robot’s sneak peek at the third volume, The Great Game:

 

 Kudos to David Frankland on some fine artwork!

 Look for The Great Game to be on shelves late January, 2012.

Monster Hunter Alpha–Larry Correia tries his hand at viral Marketing

 Larry Correia’s third book in the Monster Hunter series comes out today.  Monster Hunter Alpha tells the back-story of Earl Harbinger, MHI’s resident Hunter/Closet Werewolf, a  story that’s been begging to be told since way back in ’07 when Monster Hunter International was first released.

Larry’s generated a lot of fans with this kick-ass series about a bunch of civilian contractors (read that as mercenaries) who help keep the world safe from those things that go “bump” in the night, and those fans propelled the second novel, Monster Hunter Vendetta to #27 on the New York Times bestseller’s list.  Pretty impressive.

He’s also a guy who’s not shy about promoting himself or his product.  Hey, why not?  Writers write for the love of the craft, but they’ve also got to eat.  So, about a month ago, he put out the call for all us MHI fans to put out the word, “if you’re going to buy the third installment, buy it the first week.”

Why the first week? 

It’s all about stats. 

From what I’ve read on the subject, the surest (and only) way to get on the NYT’s bestseller’s list is to sell a whack of books the first week after publication.  Larry does a better job of explaining it than I can:

 “Now, on the preorder or release week thing, let me explain. Here is a little peek behind the curtain into the publishing industry.  This is a very competitive business. Making it onto a bestseller list spurs future sales and boosts your career. The biggest and toughest one to get on is the NYT. MHV made it to #27 when it came out.

Some of you may remember when I went around with an idiot about how this meant that I wasn’t a *real* bestseller. Let me break this down. The NYT is broken up into fiction, non-fiction, and young adult. We’re looking at fiction. The NYT only shows the top 35 fiction books in three categories. (hardcover, trade paperback, and mass market paperback).  So I’m competing against every paperback fiction book on sale in the country.   

This next part is important. It is based on books sold during that week.  So you can have a book that sells ten thousand copies in a week, and zero copies the rest of the year. That book will be a NYT bestseller. You can have another book that only sells a thousand copies that week, but sells a thousand every other week of the year. That book will sell way more copies than the first one, but it will not make the NYT.  That’s called velocity. 

The velocity part is why the release week (and the preorders that ship that week) are so very important.  A book will normally sell the most when it first comes out.  So, barring something that comes along later to cause a bunch of publicity (Movie adaptation, Oprah book club) you either make the list when you release or not at all.”

So, what does all that mean for us fans of the series?  It means, if you’re going to buy the book, or are just thinking about it, get off your duff and buy it NOW.  You’ll be doing yourself (and him) a favour.  If you’ve never read the books and are simply looking for something new in the horror/fantasy/awesome stuff category, you can’t go wrong picking up all three.  Hours of monster hunting fun.

Now, before I get accused of being a shill, let it be said that I’ve already bought my copy of Monster Hunter Alpha and am waiting impatiently by the mailbox for it to arrive, so there’s no conflict of interest or monetary gain/kickback or whatnot.  I’m hopping on the viral marketing bandwagon because it’s a good idea (from a marketing standpoint), because they’re great books (if you’re into that sort of thing), and as a fan, I’d like to help out.

 If you’d like more insight into Larry Correia’s books, views, and publishing schedule, check out  his blog at Monster Hunter Nation.

The Bookman–Lavie Tidhar

“A myth,” he said. “Oh Orphan. This is the time of myths.  They are woven into the present like silk strands from the past, like a wire mesh from the future, creating an interlacing pattern, a grand design, a repeating motif.  Don’t dismiss myth, boy.  And never, ever, dismiss the Bookman.”  ~Gilgamesh

Orphan is his namesake, living one step from the streets of what in any other age would be called Victorian England, but with the coming of Les Lezards and the subsequent fall of the house of Hannover, mad King George (the lizard) has the throne.  It is an age of wind and steam, man and automaton, order and anarchy, the last embodied in the form of a terrorist named, “The Bookman.”

When Orphan’s paramour Lucy is killed in one of the Bookman’s attacks, Orphan is devastated, but after an encounter with inspector Adler (Irene) and the Byron simulacrum, he learns that death may not be all there is, and that what small hope there is of recovering his beloved lies in running the Bookman to ground.  Barring that…vengeance.

There are many forces at play in his majesty’s empire: Prime Minister Moriarty and the Lizards; Mycroft Holmes’ shadow government floating high above London in their black airships; the Turk, an automaton among automatons who yearn for the translation, a device that they hope will make them equal to their fellows of flesh and blood; and of course, Orphan.  All believe the Bookman (or his death) holds the answer to their various problems and that Orphan is a tool to be wielded in that pursuit.

Yet when Orphan finally finds the Bookman, he is offered a choice.  Help his nemesis to stop Les Lezards from launching a device into space that may be mankind’s salvation (or doom) and Lucy shall be returned, hale and unharmed.  Don’t help, and Lucy is lost forever.  Really not much of a choice for a young man in love.

From the heart of Britannia to the depths of the Caribs, Orphan journeys on his mission, beset by danger and double dealings, culminating in one final meeting with the Bookman, which will either see Lucy returned to him or  the destruction of that which the Bookman covets the most.

The Bookman is everything one would want out of a Steampunk novel, blending both science fiction and fantasy, historical and fictional personages, all with a twist on the original source materials.  Irene Adler is now an agent of Scotland Yard, Moriarty is Prime Minister, and Jules Verne is both author and adventurer.  Lord Byron is a simulacrum, Karl Marx a revolutionary, and then there’s  Orphan, who has a greater role to play in the Empire than ever he could guess. 

Sometimes though, it felt as though the writing had a tendency to meander.  I spent a lot of time reading of Orphan wandering the streets of London moping about his lost love when (for my part) I’d rather just see the story advance.  It’s not really wasted narrative, but sometimes slowed the story to a crawl.  Tidhar also has a habit of skipping forward in the narrative and writing scenes in retrospective.  There is a moment near the end of the novel where Moriarty and Orphan come face to face…and next you know Orphan is on the run with no real explanation of what happened.  When it does get explained, what seems like it should be a pivotal moment simply comes across as trite.

There is also surprisingly little interaction with the lizards during the course of the novel, but the one time we meet one, it is a pirate named Wyvern, and he is entirely unforgettable.  More lizards please!

As for the Bookman and Les Lezards, when their background is finally revealed, I was pleasantly surprised to find that what was at first a fantasy novel had somehow morphed into science fiction with fantastical elements. 

The Bookman does leave a little too much unfinished by the end of the novel, but also leaves the reader (at least this one) with a desire to read more of Orphan’s exploits and to explore the Universe Lavie Tidhar has created.  Luckily for us, it is the first of a series of three, continuing with Camera Obscura  and the forthcoming The Great Game.  All in all, The Bookman is a wonderful novel and what minor flaws I’ve mentioned are just that– minor.

Lavie Tidhar maintains his own blog if ever you’d like to check out what’s new in his world.