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Weekly Book Buzz: New Dragonriders of Pern Novel

Blazing Combat from Fantagraphics

By Tim Janson     July 25, 2010

 

Out this week is the latest novel in the long-running Dragonriders of Pern which began way back in 1967. I’ve never followed the series but I’m curious if any of you have and how the books written by Anne McCaffrey’s son, Todd, compare to those that she wrote…
 
Well of course this past week was ComicCon and one of the things that some out of the show is the announcement of this year’s Eisner Award Winners for achievements in comic books. Here are a few of the highlights as related to books:
 
Best Graphic Album—New: Asterios Polyp, by David Mazzuccheilli
Best Graphic Album—Reprint: Absolute Justice, by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, and Doug Braithewaite
Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips: Bloom County: The Complete Library, vol. 1, by Berkeley Breathed, edited by Scott Dunbier
Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books: The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures deluxe edition, by Dave Stevens, edited by Scott Dunbier
Best Comics-Related Book: The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics, by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle
 
… Samuel R. Delany and Harlan Ellison have been announced as recipients of the Eaton Award for Lifetime Achievement by the University of California-Riverside. Delany is the 2010 honoree and Ellison is the honoree for 2011.
 
It’s a very big release week, especially if you are a fan of urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Lets get right to this week’s new titles!
 
Dragongirl (The Dragonriders of Pern) Todd J. McCaffrey [Del Rey Hardcover]
 
Young Fiona, rider of the gold queen Talenth, has returned from the past, where she and a group of dragons and riders fled so that the wounded could heal from their previous battles with Thread and the younger dragons could safely grow to fighting age. Gone only three days, yet aged more than three years, Fiona is no longer a child but a woman prepared to fight against the Thread that threatens to destroy her world.
 
Fiona’s life takes a pivotal turn when a shocking tragedy thrusts her into a position of authority. Now she finds herself leading weyrfolk who have a hard time trusting a senior Weyrwoman who is both young and an outsider.
 
But even greater challenges lie ahead: Thread is falling and there are too few dragons to stem the tide. Many have died from the recent plague, and even with the influx of newly mature dragons from the past, the depleted fighting force is no match for the intensifying Threadfall. Fiona knows that something must be done, and what she proposes is daring and next to impossible. But if her plan succeeds, it just might save them all.
 
With a cast of familiar characters from previous Pern novels—including Lorana, who sacrificed her own queen dragon so that all the dragons of Pern would have a chance to survive, and Kindan, the harper Fiona has loved her whole life—Dragongirl is another triumph for Todd McCaffrey, and a riveting new chapter for the Dragonriders of Pern.
 
Wolf's Cross S. A. Swann [Spectra TPB]
 
Maria lives a simple life in a small Polish village, working for the lord of the nearby fortress. Motherless since birth, Maria has been raised by her father and stepmother. Around her neck she wears—as she has always worn—a silver crucifix, to protect her from the devil. Or so her father tells her. But when a contingent of badly mauled Teutonic knights, including a handsome and gravely wounded young man named Josef, ask for succor at the fortress, Maria’s quiet and comfortable world shatters. For the knights are Wolfjägers, an order dedicated to the extermination of werewolves, and Maria, unknowingly, is one of the creatures they hunt. Only the crucifix about her neck prevents her body from changing into a lethal killing machine. When Maria meets Darien, a wolfbreed bent on exacting a terrible revenge on humans, she will learn the truth about herself, and find her loyalties—and her heart—torn in two.
 
A Wild Light (Hunter Kiss, Book 3) Marjorie M. Liu [Ace]
 
For too long Maxine Kiss has felt an inexplicable darkness inside her-a force she channels into hunting the demons bent on destroying the human race. But when she finds herself covered in blood and crouched beside her grandfather's dead body with no memory of what happened, Maxine begins to fear that the darkness has finally consumed her.
 
The War That Came Early: West and East Harry Turtledove [Del Rey Hardcover]
 
In 1938, two men held history in their hands. One was Adolf Hitler. The other was British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, who, determined to avoid war at any cost, came to be known as “the great appeaser.” But Harry Turtledove, the unrivaled master of alternate history, has launched a gripping saga that springboards from a different fateful act: What if Chamberlain had stood up to Hitler? What would the Nazis’ next move have been? And how would the war—which Hitler had always regretted waiting eleven months to start—have unfolded and changed our world?
 
Here, Turtledove takes us across a panorama of conflict fueled by ideology and demagoguery. Nations are pitted against nations, alliances are forged between old enemies, ordinary men and women are hurled into extraordinary life-and-death situations. In Japanese-controlled Singapore, an American marine falls in love with a Russian dance hall hostess, while around him are heard the first explosions of Chinese guerilla resistance. On the frontlines of war-ravaged rural France, a weary soldier perfects the art of using an enormous anti-tank gun as a sniper’s tool—while from Germany a killer is sent to hunt him down. And in the icy North Atlantic, a U-boat bearing an experimental device wreaks havoc on British shipping, setting the stage for a Nazi ground invasion of Denmark.
 
From an American woman trapped in Germany who receives safe passage from Hitler himself to a Jewish family steeped in German culture and facing the hatred rising around them, from Japanese soldiers on the remote edge of Siberia to American volunteers in Spain, West and East is the story of a world held hostage by tyrants—Stalin, Hitler, Sanjuro—each holding on to power through lies and terror even in the face of treacherous plots from within.
 
As armies clash, and as the brave, foolish, and true believers choose sides, new weapons are added to already deadly arsenals and new strategies are plotted to break a growing stalemate. But one question looms over the conflict from West to East: What will it take to bring America into this war?
 
Waking the Witch (Women of the Otherworld, Book 11) Kelley Armstrong [Hardcover]
 
At twenty-one, Savannah Levine-orphaned daughter of a notorious dark witch and an equally notorious cutthroat sorcerer-considers herself a full-fledged member of the otherworld. The once rebellious teen has grown into a six-foot-tall, motorcycle-riding jaw-dropper, with an impressive knowledge of and ability to perform spells. The only problem is, she's having a hard time convincing her adoptive parents, Paige and Lucas, to take her seriously as an adult. She's working as the research assistant at the detective agency they founded, and when they take off on a romantic vacation alone, leaving her in charge, Savannah finds herself itching for a case to call her own. (She's also itching for Adam, her longtime friend and colleague, to see her as more than just a little girl, but that's another matter.)
 
Suddenly, Savannah gets the chance she's been waiting for: Recruited by another supernatural detective, she travels to Columbus, Washington, a small, dying town. Two troubled young women have been found in an abandoned warehouse, murdered. Now a third woman's dead, and on closer inspection small details point to darker forces at play. Savannah feels certain she can handle the case, but with signs of supernatural activity appearing at every turn, things quickly become more serious- and far more dangerous-than she realizes.
 
Stuff of Legends Ian Gibson [Ace]
 
True legend rescues maidens...pillages temples...and slaughters evil hordes... But what does he do when all the fun is over?   When an annoyingly eager young man by the name of Eliott, his Elvish guardian, and a bard-for-hire magically drop into the life of former hero Jordan the Red, the aged warrior wants nothing to do with them. He's had enough of battling the world. But Eliott wants an adventure with the legendary, sword-swinging soldier of fortune-and this hero is about to be forced out of retirement.
 
Shadow Chase Seressia Glass [Pocket]
 
In a job like this, one mistake can cost you everything.As a Shadowchaser, Kira Solomon has been trained to serve the Light, dispatch the Fallen, and prevent the spread of chaos. It’s a deadly job, and Kira knows the horror of spilling innocent blood. But now she has a new role, as the Hand of Ma’at, the Egyptian Goddess of Truth and Order, and an assignment that might just redeem her.A fellow Shadowchaser has gone missing, and so has a unique artifact imbued with astonishing magic. Unless the Vessel of Nun is returned, it will cause destruction beyond anything the modern world has seen. Kira’s got a team at her back, including Khefar, a near-immortal Nubian warrior who’s already died for her once. But as complicated as her feelings for him are, they’re nothing compared to the difficulties of the task she faces.And the only way to defeat the enemy is to trust in a powershe can barely control, and put her life—and her soul—on the line.
 
Of Saints and Shadows (Peter Octavian) Christopher Golden [Paperback]
 
Combine a Boston P.I., the Vatican, and vampires, and what do you have? A novel-and a series-that will appeal to fans of Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, and Dan Brown.
 
King Rolen's Kin: The Uncrowned King Rowena Cory Daniells [Solaris]
 
Rolencia's ancestry enemy, Merofynia, has invaded and marches on King Rolen's castle. Powerless to help, thirteen yeard old Piro watches as her father, King Rolen, listens to poisoned whispers against Bryen. How could the King doubt his second son? De­termined to prove his loyalty, Bryen races across the path of the advancing army to ask the Abbot to send the warriors monks in defence of the castle.
 
Heroes Return Moira J. Moore [Ace]
 
Being a hero is a recession-proof job-from the author of Heroes at Risk. The Emperor has personally selected Shield Lee Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish to protect the duchy of Westsea-Taro's ancestral lands. But Westsea is suffering from deadly earthquakes that resist Lee and Taro's magic and political unrest that is stoked by their arrival.
 
Guild Wars 2: Ghosts of Ascalon Matt Forbeck [Pocket]
 
250 years ago, Ascalon burned . . . Desperate to defend his land from advancing hordes of bestial charr, King Adelbern summoned the all-powerful Foefire to repel the invaders. But magic can be a double-edged sword—the Foefire burned both charr and human alike. While the charr corpses smoldered, the slain Ascalonians arose again, transformed by their king’s rage into ghostly protectors and charged with guarding the realm . . . forever. The once mighty kingdom became a haunted shadow of its former glory.
 
Centuries later, the descendants of Ascalon, exiled to the nation of Kryta, are besieged on all sides. To save humankind, Queen Jennah seeks to negotiate a treaty with the hated charr. But one obstacle remains. The charr legions won’t sign the truce until their most prized possession, the Claw of the Khan-Ur,is returned from the ruins of fallen Ascalon.
 
Now a mismatched band of adventurers, each plagued by ghosts of their own, sets forth into a haunted, war-torn land to retrieve the Claw. Without the artifact, there is no hope for peace between human and charr—but the undead king who rules Ascalon won’t give it up easily, and not everyone wants peace!
 
Face Off (Laura Blackstone, Book 2) Mark Del Franco [Ace]
 
Laura Black is a druid who can change her appearance. She is both the Fey Guild's public relations director and a secret agent for the International Security Agency. And now she'll have to choose where her loyalties lie when a political war breaks out between the fey and human populations...
 
The Chamber of Ten Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon [Spectra]
 
From two masters of dark fantasy comes a chilling tale of magic and possession, set in—and beneath—fabulous Venice, a city slowly being swallowed by the very waters that have made it one of the wonders of the world. 
 
Geena Hodge is an American archaeologist working to salvage Venice’s past from the encroaching Adriatic Sea. When she and her lover, Nico, discover the lost library of Petrarch under the Piazza San Marco, they rejoice not only at the historical significance of the find but at the opportunity to bring worldwide attention—and much-needed funding—to their endeavors.
 
But that find soon leads to another, a room buried more deeply still: the fabled Chamber of Ten, where centuries ago the secret rulers of Venice, in their quest for absolute power, met to plot betrayals and murders. After entering the Chamber, Geena and Nico are thrust into the midst of an ancient feud, a deadly battle of wills and black magic that threatens to poison the city’s future with the evils of its past.
 
Bring On the Night (WVMP, Book 3) Jeri Smith-Ready [Pocket]
 
Recovering con artist Ciara Griffin seems to finally have it all. A steady job at WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock ’n’ Roll. A loving relationship with the idiosyncratic but eternally hot DJ Shane McAllister. A vampire dog who never needs shots or a pooper-scooper. And after nine years, it looks as if she might actually finish her bachelor’s degree!
 
But fate has other plans for Ciara. First she must fulfill her Faustian bargain with the Control, the paranormal paramilitary agency that does its best to keep vampires in line. Turns out the Control wants her for something other than her (nonexistent) ability to kick undead ass. Her anti-holy blood, perhaps? Ciara’s suspicions are confirmed when she’s assigned to a special-ops division known as the Immanence Corps, run by the Control’s oldest vampire and filled with humans who claim to have special powers. To a confirmed skeptic like Ciara, it sounds like a freak fest. But when a mysterious fatal virus spreads through Sherwood—and corpses begin to rise from their graves—Ciara will not only get a crash course in zombie-killing, but will be forced to put her faith, and her life itself, in the hands of magic.
 
City of Ghosts (Downside Ghosts, Book 3) Stacia Kane [Del Rey]
 
Chess Putnam has a lot on her plate. Mangled human corpses have started to show up on the streets of Downside, and Chess’s bosses at the Church of Real Truth have ordered her to team up with the ultra-powerful Black Squad agency to crack the grisly case.
 
Chess is under a binding spell that threatens death if she talks about the investigation, but the city’s most notorious crime boss—and Chess’s drug dealer—gets wind of her new assignment and insists on being kept informed. If that isn’t bad enough, a sinister street vendor appears to have information Chess needs. Only he’s not telling what he knows, or what it all has to do with the vast underground City of Eternity.
 
Now Chess will have to navigate killer wraiths, First Elders, and a lot of seriously nasty magic—all while coping with some not-so-small issues of her own. And the only man Chess can trust to help her through it all has every reason to want her dead.
 
As Lie the Dead (Dreg City, Book 2) Kelly Meding [Dell]
 
Evangeline Stone, a rogue bounty hunter, never asked for a world divided between darkness and light . . .
 
. . . or the power to die and live again in someone else’s borrowed body. After a murder plot meant to take her out leaves an entire race of shapeshifters nearly extinct, Evy is gnawed by guilt. So when one of the few survivors of the slaughter enlists her aid, she feels duty-bound to help—even though protecting a frail, pregnant shifter is the last thing Evy needs, especially with the world going to hell around her.
 
Amid weres, Halfies, gremlins, vamps—and increasingly outgunned humans—a war for supremacy is brewing. With shifters demanding justice, her superiors desperate to control her, and an assassin on her trail, Evy discovers a horrifying conspiracy. And she may be the only person in the world who can stop it—unless, of course, her own side gets her first.
 
New In Sci-Fi
 
Nemesis (Horus Heresy) James Swallow [Games Workshop]
 
After the horrors of Istvaan V, Horus declares outright war against the Imperium. In the shadows of the Emperor's Palace, powerful figures convene.Their plan is to send a team of assassins to execute the arch-traitor Horus and end the war for the galaxy of mankind before it's even begun. But what they cannot know is that another assassin is abroad already, with his sights firmly set on killing the Emperor.
 
Mass Effect: Retribution Drew Karpyshyn (Del Rey)
 
Humanity has reached the stars, joining the vast galactic community of alien species. But beyond the fringes of explored space lurk the Reapers, a race of sentient starships bent on “harvesting” the galaxy’s organic species for their own dark purpose.
 
The Illusive Man, leader of the pro-human black ops group Cerberus, is one of the few who know the truth about the Reapers. To ensure humanity’s survival, he launches a desperate plan to uncover the enemy’s strengths—and weaknesses—by studying someone implanted with modified Reaper technology. He knows the perfect subject for his horrific experiments: former Cerberus operative Paul Grayson, who wrested his daughter from the cabal’s control with the help of Ascension project director Kahlee Sanders.
 
But when Kahlee learns that Grayson is missing, she turns to the only person she can trust: Alliance war hero Captain David Anderson. Together they set out to find the secret Cerberus facility where Grayson is being held. But they aren’t the only ones after him. And time is running out. As the experiments continue, the sinister Reaper technology twists Grayson’s mind. The insidious whispers grow ever stronger in his head, threatening to take over his very identity and unleash the Reapers on an unsuspecting galaxy.
 
The Mammoth Book of the End of the World Mike Ashley [Running Press]
 
Pre- and post-apocalyptic science fiction is on the rise, and some of the genre’s best new stories are collected here, with contributions by Stephen Baxter, Alistair Reynolds, Robert Reed, Robert Silverberg, and Damien Broderick.
 
In the Stormy Red Sky (Lt. Leary) David Drake [Baen]
 
Daniel Leary is Cinnabar's most successful space captain; his friend, Lady Adele Mundy, is its most efficient spy—but they've got their hands full this time as they face: A Cinnabar Senator furious at losing an election—and still powerful enough to make her anger deadly, The boy ruler of a star cluster who thinks he's a god—and who can sign the death warrants of even Cinnabar officials if a mad whimsy tells him to, A world of slaves and escaped slaves, where the most savage beasts in the jungle used to be human, and An enemy base that could shrug off attack by powerful battlefleets—but which must fall to a single cruiser if Cinnabar is to survive.
 
New In Horror
 
Siren John Everson [Leisure Horror]
 
Night after night, Evan walked along the desolate beach, grieving over the loss of his son, drowned in an accident more than a year before. Then one night he was drawn to the luminous sound of a beautiful, naked woman singing near the shore in the moonlight. He watched mesmerized as the mysterious woman disappeared into the sea. Driven by desire and temptation, Evan returned to the spot every night until he found her again. Now he has begun a bizarre, otherworldly affair. A deadly affair. For Evan will soon realize that his seductive lover is a being far more evil…and more terrifying…than he ever imagined. He will learn the danger of falling into the clutches of the… SIREN.
 
A Gathering of Crows Brian Keene [Leisure Horror]
 
Brinkley Springs is a quiet little town. Some say the town is dying. They don’t know how right they are. Five mysterious figures are about to pay a little visit to Brinkley Springs. They have existed for centuries, emerging from the shadows only to destroy, to kill. To feed. They bring with them terror and carnage, and leave death and blood in their wake. As the night wears on, Brinkley Springs will be quiet no longer. Screams will break the silence. But when the sun rises again, will there be anyone left to hear?
 
Reviews
 
Dante’s Inferno Christos Gage (DC/Wildstorm Comics)
 
 
This trade paperback collects the six issue limited series from DC’s Wildstorm imprint. The series is based upon the hit video game which is loosely based on of Dante Alighieri's fourteenth-century epic poem. Dante is a knight during the time of the Crusades who returns home to find his beloved Beatrice dead and her soul claimed by Lucifer due to Dante’s sin of infidelity. Defeating Death itself, Dante takes up Death’s powerful scythe and follows Lucifer into Hell. Aided by the spirit of the poet Virgil, Dante must traverse the horrors of the nine circles of Hell to try and redeem himself and save Beatrice.
 
The book follows the plot of the game almost step-for-step. Dante encounters each level’s “boss” such as King Minos, Cleopatra, Cerebus, and even the bloated, misshapen form of his own father. Lucifer taunts Dante and Beatrice the entire way, slowly turning Beatrice against her love. 
 
The book does something the game didn’t do, which is allow for some character development for both Dante and Beatrice. Not much mind you, but considering the game had zero character depth, it’s a vast improvement. Less appealing is the art of Diego Latorre. Latorre manages to capture the dismal and depressing look of the video game’s atmosphere. Hell abounds with tortured souls being vomited forth in waves.   Yet Lattore’s art has a mundane flatness to it. It’s like looking at one of those Renaissance era paintings that are interesting but lack personality. It’s a bit too abstract to capture the narrative of the story. This game, which was OK but nothing special, has been given an incredible mass-market push. Besides the comic series there’s also been an animated film produced direct to DVD. Electronic Arts is already working on a sequel so its likely we will see Dante back in the comic pages as well. Grade B-
 

 

Blazing Combat (Fantagraphics Books)
 
 
One upon a time there was a comic book called “Blazing Combat”.   Blazing Combat was put out by Warren Publishing who gave the world magazines such as Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella. Blazing Combat lasted only four issues from 1965 – 1966 but has had an indelible influence nearly fifty years later. Unlike other war comics that were being produced at the time, Blazing did not feature heroic tales glorifying war but was decidedly Anti-war which led to its early demise. The government banned the magazine on its military bases. Pressure from the American Legion kept many wholesalers from selling the magazine.
 
Fantagraphics collects the entire four-issue run, all 29 stories in this volume. This book is why Fantagraphics is one of the best and most important comic publishers in the business today. This is a series that could have easily been forgotten to the ages but Fantagraphics always is at the forefront of making sure important works of sequential art are remembered. 
 
All but two of the stories were written by Archie Goodwin with art by a host of legendary names including Alex Toth, Reed Crandall, Russ Heath, John Severin, Wally Wood, Joe Orlando, Al Williamson, Gene Colan, and Gray Morrow. In addition, all four covers featured paintings by the late, great Frank Frazetta. The stories were inspired largely by EC Comics titles “Frontline Combat” and “Two-Fisted Tales”. Not coincidentally, all of these artists had worked for EC during the 1950’s.
 
While most of the stories were set during World War II, they were not limited to that war. Blazing Combat told tales set during The Revolutionary War, Civil War, Korea, and most controversially, the Vietnam War. Blazing Combat told the human stories of war and their after effects. 
 
In “Aftermath” a Union and a Rebel soldier call a truce to bury a comrade, even shaking hands. Yet old prejudices quickly crop up and the two battle to the death. “Enemy” find two American soldiers capturing a German prisoner. When the Sergeant finds a lighter with the initials “W.K.” he thinks it had belonged to their platoon’s Captain and believes the German robbed the dead. He goes berserk, killing the soldier and then discovers the German’s name, “Werner Krauss”.
 
The story that caused the most controversy was “Landscape” by Goodwin and Joe Orlando. It shows the Vietnam War through the eyes of a simple farmer who wants nothing more than to tend his rice crop. His village deals with one faction after another who claim they have liberated them from the enemy. In the end, he is shot and left to die in his burning marsh, set on fire by yet another faction of soldiers. It’s tame by today’s standards but Goodwin showed something you just didn’t see in those days…the effects of war on the innocent civilians who just wanted to live their lives. 
 
This is a brilliant collection of stories that should be required reading. Intelligent, gripping stories and fantastic art! Grade A +

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